Monday, November 21, 2016

Ideas on National Defense

David Henderson at EconLog has posted on Semi-Private Production of National Defense. Thus he adds to the discussion which we hosted in the Free Nation Foundation (FNF) during our active years. He stimulates me to post this update.

Proceedings of the Forum on Security now Available Online

During 1993–2000 FNF held 13 semiannual forums. Each forum focused upon a topic which seems critical to the creation and survival of a new free nation. The first two topics were Constitutions (October 1993) then Systems of Law (April 1994).

David Henderson’s recent post would have contributed to the third forum topic. While planning for that third forum we announced:
... we will study insurance. We will try to understand how, and to what extent, the inhabitants of a free country, with no government regulation (strangulation) of insurance, might be able to rely upon private institutions of insurance to satisfy their needs for security, both domestic and national. (Formulations, Vol. I, No. 4, p. 2)
So national defense was included in that broad topic which we named Security in a Free Nation. After that forum met (October 15, 1994) we published the proceedings, mailing a copy to each FNF member. Now I have gotten the originals of the proceedings scanned into a PDF file and posted here in the FNF Archive. This 61-page document contains papers by Roderick T. Long, Scott McLaughlin, Bobby Yates Emory, and myself. It also contains a section by Robert LeFevre as an appendix to Scott McLaughlin’s paper.

I want to add a few ideas about national defense which have taken shape for me during the decades since that forum. But first to prepare the ground:
  • I will outline the FNF Work Plan;
  • then I will sketch the historical context in which we (who work within the FNF work plan) should probably understand our work.

FNF Work Plan

We in FNF aim to advance creation of a new free nation by clarifying the vision of the critical workings (institutions) of that new nation. We want the institutions to be as libertarian as possible and we welcome theoretical inputs which remind us of our values. But we must also work with our feet on the ground to create an image which can attract a critical mass of investors. To particular investors our image has to seem within reach in this world.

The Historical Origin of National Defense

In The State (1908) Franz Oppenheimer tells a sociological history of development of the state. Perhaps this book should be required reading. All who would participate in the FNF effort should, I believe, either accept Oppenheimer's view or be prepared to argue from an educated stance (in light of Oppenheimer's view) for an alternative view. Here I will give a short summary from my memory, parts of Oppenheimer's view that pertain especially to national defense.

In the human history of a geographic region, before any states have developed there may exist tribes of people, some tribes which live by agriculture and other tribes which live by herding nearby. I will call these two populations the farmers and the herders. The herders discover that they can raid and steal parts of the crops of farmers. The raiding is often accompanied by violence, at first, as the farmers try to defend their baskets of harvest.

Herders, as a consequence of their usual occupation, are more skilled than farmers in movement and use of weapons. The farmers realize they cannot completely defend against the raiding, and that they often suffer casualties when they try to fight off the raiders. So after passage of some time the farmers start to leave out some baskets for the herders to take without a fight. The herders accept this, realizing that if their raids are too successful then the farmers will die off and the herders would thereafter get nothing. The herders and farmers fall into an uneasy sort of truce with minimal violence.

Up until this time the herders have been living out in the sticks and moving with their herds night after night to new camps. But after some time, with regular input of food from subjugated farmers, the herders realize they can settle down in a location near the farmers.

First Hint of National Defense
Early in this developing history the farmers were subject to raids from any nearby tribes of herders. But at about the time when one tribe of herders settles down near a group of farmers, then those herders have an interest in defending those farmers’ crops from other raiders. This is the birth of national defense, I propose. National defense starts as raiders defending their territory.

But it is not quite that simple. Some mingling of the two groups occurs after the herders settle close by the farmers. Intermarriage joins some of the families. And some among the farmers take intermediate roles. They manage for the ruling class, collecting transfers, and thereby come to have interest in the subjugation, in the continuance of both classes. The whole may be viewed as a feudal estate or a little nation state.

This History is Forgotten
After passage of enough generations this arrangement becomes taken for granted. The historical origin in plunder, with one group robbing from the other group, is no longer remembered. Those who occupy privileged positions in the state create a different, self-serving view of history in which the raiders become benevolent.

Perhaps almost every member of this whole may feel some interest in defense of the whole from outside raiders. Even the farmers, or their descendants among the subjugated class, may appreciate the defense insofar as they probably suffer less violence in the settled arrangement than they would suffer at the hands of raiders from the outside, at least during a possible invasion. But of course, on the question of which class will feel most interested in national defense, it seems the rulers more than the farmers would feel threatened by outside raiders.

Here are the points that I hope a reader of Oppenheimer will understand:
  • The state originated in raiding.
  • The purpose of national defense is to defend the income stream of the founding raiders, to keep outside raiders distant from the spoils.
  • Most people in most national populations have lost sight of the above two points and have come to believe the contrived history which portrays the state as necessary and good.
  • National defense serves at best to minimize plunder.

Additional Ideas on National Defense

  • I have argued that for us to proceed in the given world we probably need to aim for creation of what most outside observers will perceive as a nation, standing as a peer among other nations. This perception may require some sort of national defense. 
  • We should not lose sight of the fact that in the present world there exist many little nations which could easily be overrun by any of the major powers, but which carry on with a measure of neighborly amity enabled by treaty or friendship with one of the major powers. Our envisioned free nation should be able to establish one or more such protective friendships.
  • We need more clarity about what we suppose would exist at the border of our free nation. It worries me somewhat that a completely open border, which we are apt to advocate, would be easily crossed by an invading army which entered one person at a time, each individual traveling under peaceful disguise, then to organize a threat once inside.
  • In The Art of Community, Spencer Heath MacCallum suggests the model of a hotel as provider of all services needed by a community. Being privately owned, a hotel hires guards and polices the corridors and entrances. This model of a business providing defense on behalf of its customers needs further development.
  • Our vision building work has barely begun.