War, Peace, and the State

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article, which first appeared in The
Standard for April 1963, is collected in
as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays

The libertarian
movement has been chided by William F. Buckley, Jr., for failing
to use its "strategic intelligence" in facing the major
problems of our time. We have, indeed, been too often prone to "pursue
our busy little seminars on whether or not to demunicipalize the
garbage collectors" (as Buckley has contemptuously written),
while ignoring and failing to apply libertarian theory to the most
vital problem of our time: war and peace. There is a sense
in which libertarians have been utopian rather than strategic in
their thinking, with a tendency to divorce the ideal system which
we envisage from the realities of the world in which we live. In
short, too many of us have divorced theory from practice, and have
then been content to hold the pure libertarian society as an abstract
ideal for some remotely future time, while in the concrete world
of today we follow unthinkingly the orthodox "conservative"
line. To live liberty, to begin the hard but essential strategic
struggle of changing the unsatisfactory world of today in the direction
of our ideals, we must realize and demonstrate to the world that
libertarian theory can be brought sharply to bear upon all of the
world’s crucial problems. By coming to grips with these problems,
we can demonstrate that libertarianism is not just a beautiful ideal
somewhere on Cloud Nine, but a tough-minded body of truths that
enables us to take our stand and to cope with the whole host of
issues of our day.

Let us then,
by all means, use our strategic intelligence. Although, when he
sees the result, Mr. Buckley might well wish that we had stayed
in the realm of garbage collection. Let us construct a libertarian
theory of war and peace.

The fundamental
axiom of libertarian theory is that no one may threaten or commit
violence ("aggress") against another man’s person or property.
Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence;
that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another.1
In short, no violence may be employed against a non-aggressor.
Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire
corpus of libertarian theory.2

Let us set
aside the more complex problem of the State for a while and consider
simply relations between "private" individuals. Jones
finds that he or his property is being invaded, aggressed against,
by Smith. It is legitimate for Jones, as we have seen, to repel
this invasion by defensive violence of his own. But now we come
to a more knotty question: is it within the right of Jones to commit
violence against innocent third parties as a corollary to his legitimate
defense against Smith? To the libertarian, the answer must be clearly,
no. Remember that the rule prohibiting violence against the persons
or property of innocent men is absolute: it holds regardless of
the subjective motives for the aggression. It is wrong and
criminal to violate the property or person of another, even if one
is a Robin Hood, or starving, or is doing it to save one’s relatives,
or is defending oneself against a third man’s attack. We
may understand and sympathize with the motives in many of these
cases and extreme situations. We may later mitigate the guilt if
the criminal comes to trial for punishment, but we cannot evade
the judgment that this aggression is still a criminal act, and one
which the victim has every right to repel, by violence if necessary.
In short, A aggresses against B because C is threatening, or aggressing
against, A. We may understand C’s "higher" culpability
in this whole procedure; but we must still label this aggression
as a criminal act which B has the right to repel by violence.

To be more
concrete, if Jones finds that his property is being stolen by Smith,
he has the right to repel him and try to catch him; but he has no
right to repel him by bombing a building and murdering innocent
people or to catch him by spraying machine gun fire into an innocent
crowd. If he does this, he is as much (or more of) a criminal aggressor
as Smith is.

The application
to problems of war and peace is already becoming evident. For while
war in the narrower sense is a conflict between States, in the broader
sense we may define it as the outbreak of open violence between
people or groups of people. If Smith and a group of his henchmen
aggress against Jones and Jones and his bodyguards pursue the Smith
gang to their lair, we may cheer Jones on in his endeavor; and we,
and others in society interested in repelling aggression, may contribute
financially or personally to Jones’s cause. But Jones has no
right, any more than does Smith, to aggress against anyone else
in the course of his "just war": to steal others’ property
in order to finance his pursuit, to conscript others into his posse
by use of violence, or to kill others in the course of his struggle
to capture the Smith forces. If Jones should do any of these things,
he becomes a criminal as fully as Smith, and he too becomes
subject to whatever sanctions are meted out against criminality.
In fact, if Smith’s crime was theft, and Jones should use conscription
to catch him, or should kill others in the pursuit, Jones becomes
more of a criminal than Smith, for such crimes against another person
as enslavement and murder are surely far worse than theft. (For
while theft injures the extension of another’s personality, enslavement
injures, and murder obliterates, that personality itself.)

Suppose that
Jones, in the course of his "just war" against the ravages
of Smith, should kill a few innocent people, and suppose that he
should declaim, in defense of this murder, that he was simply acting
on the slogan, "Give me liberty or give me death." The
absurdity of this "defense" should be evident at once,
for the issue is not whether Jones was willing to risk death personally
in his defensive struggle against Smith; the issue is whether he
was willing to kill other people in pursuit of his legitimate end.
For Jones was in truth acting on the completely indefensible slogan:
"Give me liberty or give them death" surely a far
less noble battle cry. 3

The libertarian’s
basic attitude toward war must then be: it is legitimate to use
violence against criminals in defense of one’s rights of person
and property; it is completely impermissible to violate the rights
of other innocent people. War, then, is only proper when
the exercise of violence is rigorously limited to the individual
criminals. We may judge for ourselves how many wars or conflicts
in history have met this criterion.

It has often
been maintained, and especially by conservatives, that the development
of the horrendous modern weapons of mass murder (nuclear weapons,
rockets, germ warfare, etc.) is only a difference of degree rather
than kind from the simpler weapons of an earlier era. Of
course, one answer to this is that when the degree is the number
of human lives, the difference is a very big one.4
But another answer that the libertarian is particularly equipped
to give is that while the bow and arrow and even the rifle can be
pinpointed, if the will be there, against actual criminals, modern
nuclear weapons cannot. Here is a crucial difference in kind. Of
course, the bow and arrow could be used for aggressive purposes,
but it could also be pinpointed to use only against aggressors.
Nuclear weapons, even "conventional" aerial bombs, cannot
be. These weapons are ipso facto engines of indiscriminate
mass destruction. (The only exception would be the extremely rare
case where a mass of people who were all criminals inhabited a vast
geographical area.) We must, therefore, conclude that the use of
nuclear or similar weapons, or the threat thereof, is a sin and
a crime against humanity for which there can be no justification.

This is why
the old clich no longer holds that it is not the arms but the will
to use them that is significant in judging matters of war and peace.
For it is precisely the characteristic of modern weapons that they
cannot be used selectively, cannot be used in a libertarian manner.
Therefore, their very existence must be condemned, and nuclear disarmament
becomes a good to be pursued for its own sake. And if we will indeed
use our strategic intelligence, we will see that such disarmament
is not only a good, but the highest political good that we can pursue
in the modern world. For just as murder is a more heinous crime
against another man than larceny, so mass murder — indeed murder
so widespread as to threaten human civilization and human survival
itself — is the worst crime that any man could possibly commit.
And that crime is now imminent. And the forestalling of massive
annihilation is far more important, in truth, than the demunicipalization
of garbage disposal, as worthwhile as that may be. Or are libertarians
going to wax properly indignant about price control or the income
tax, and yet shrug their shoulders at or even positively advocate
the ultimate crime of mass murder?

If nuclear
warfare is totally illegitimate even for individuals defending themselves
against criminal assault, how much more so is nuclear or even "conventional"
warfare between States!

It is time
now to bring the State into our discussion. The State is a group
of people who have managed to acquire a virtual monopoly of the
use of violence throughout a given territorial area. In particular,
it has acquired a monopoly of aggressive violence, for States generally
recognize the right of individuals to use violence (though not against
States, of course) in self-defense.5
The State then uses this monopoly to wield power over the inhabitants
of the area and to enjoy the material fruits of that power. The
State, then, is the only organization in society that regularly
and openly obtains its monetary revenues by the use of aggressive
violence; all other individuals and organizations (except if
delegated that right by the State) can obtain wealth only by peaceful
production and by voluntary exchange of their respective products.
This use of violence to obtain its revenue (called "taxation")
is the keystone of State power. Upon this base the State erects
a further structure of power over the individuals in its territory,
regulating them, penalizing critics, subsidizing favorites, etc.
The State also takes care to arrogate to itself the compulsory monopoly
of various critical services needed by society, thus keeping the
people in dependence upon the State for key services, keeping control
of the vital command posts in society and also fostering among the
public the myth that only the State can supply these goods
and services. Thus the State is careful to monopolize police and
judicial service, the ownership of roads and streets, the supply
of money, and the postal service, and effectively to monopolize
or control education, public utilities, transportation, and radio
and television.

Now, since
the State arrogates to itself the monopoly of violence over a territorial
area, so long as its depredations and extortions go unresisted,
there is said to be "peace" in the area, since the only
violence is one-way, directed by the State downward against the
people. Open conflict within the area only breaks out in the case
of "revolutions" in which people resist the use of State
power against them. Both the quiet case of the State unresisted
and the case of open revolution may be termed "vertical violence":
violence of the State against its public or vice versa.

In the modern
world, each land area is ruled over by a State organization, but
there are a number of States scattered over the earth, each with
a monopoly of violence over its own territory. No super-State exists
with a monopoly of violence over the entire world; and so a state
of "anarchy" exists between the several States. (It has
always been a source of wonder, incidentally, to this writer how
the same conservatives who denounce as lunatic any proposal for
eliminating a monopoly of violence over a given territory and thus
leaving private individuals without an overlord, should be equally
insistent upon leaving States without an overlord to settle
disputes between them. The former is always denounced as "crackpot
anarchism"; the latter is hailed as preserving independence
and "national sovereignty" from "world government.")
And so, except for revolutions, which occur only sporadically, the
open violence and two-sided conflict in the world takes place between
two or more States, that is, in what is called "international
war" (or "horizontal violence").

Now there are
crucial and vital differences between inter-State warfare on the
one hand and revolutions against the State or conflicts between
private individuals on the other. One vital difference is the shift
in geography. In a revolution, the conflict takes place within
the same geographical area: both the minions of the State and
the revolutionaries inhabit the same territory. Inter-State warfare,
on the other hand, takes place between two groups, each having a
monopoly over its own geographical area; that is, it takes place
between inhabitants of different territories. From this difference
flow several important consequences: (1) in inter-State war the
scope for the use of modern weapons of destruction is far greater.
For if the "escalation" of weaponry in an intra-territorial
conflict becomes too great, each side will blow itself up with the
weapons directed against the other. Neither a revolutionary group
nor a State combating revolution, for example, can use nuclear weapons
against the other. But, on the other hand, when the warring parties
inhabit different territorial areas, the scope for modern weaponry
becomes enormous, and the entire arsenal of mass devastation can
come into play. A second consequence (2) is that while it is possible
for revolutionaries to pinpoint their targets and confine them
to their State enemies, and thus avoid aggressing against innocent
people, pinpointing is far less possible in an inter-State war.6 This is true even with older weapons; and, of course,
with modern weapons there can be no pinpointing whatever. Furthermore,
(3) since each State can mobilize all the people and resources in
its territory, the other State comes to regard all the citizens
of the opposing country as at least temporarily its enemies and
to treat them accordingly by extending the war to them. Thus, all
of the consequences of inter-territorial war make it almost inevitable
that inter-State war will involve aggression by each side against
the innocent civilians — the private individuals — of the other.
This inevitability becomes absolute with modern weapons of mass

If one distinct
attribute of inter-State war is inter-territoriality, another unique
attribute stems from the fact that each State lives by taxation
over its subjects. Any war against another State, therefore, involves
the increase and extension of taxation-aggression over its own people.7 Conflicts between private individuals can be, and usually
are, voluntarily waged and financed by the parties concerned. Revolutions
can be, and often are, financed and fought by voluntary contributions
of the public. But State wars can only be waged through aggression
against the taxpayer.

All State wars,
therefore, involve increased aggression against the State’s own
taxpayers, and almost all State wars (all, in modern warfare)
involve the maximum aggression (murder) against the innocent civilians
ruled by the enemy State. On the other hand, revolutions are generally
financed voluntarily and may pinpoint their violence to the State
rulers, and private conflicts may confine their violence to the
actual criminals. The libertarian must, therefore, conclude that,
while some revolutions and some private conflicts may be
legitimate, State wars are always to be condemned.

Many libertarians
object as follows: "While we too deplore the use of taxation
for warfare, and the State’s monopoly of defense service, we have
to recognize that these conditions exist, and while they do, we
must support the State in just wars of defense." The reply
to this would go as follows: "Yes, as you say, unfortunately
States exist, each having a monopoly of violence over its territorial
area." What then should be the attitude of the libertarian
toward conflicts between these States? The libertarian should say,
in effect, to the State: "All right, you exist, but as long
as you exist at least confine your activities to the area which
you monopolize." In short, the libertarian is interested in
reducing as much as possible the area of State aggression against
all private individuals. The only way to do this, in international
affairs, is for the people of each country to pressure their own
State to confine its activities to the area which it monopolizes
and not to aggress against other State-monopolists. In short, the
objective of the libertarian is to confine any existing State to
as small a degree of invasion of person and property as possible.
And this means the total avoidance of war. The people under each
State should pressure "their" respective States not to
attack one another, and, if a conflict should break out, to negotiate
a peace or declare a cease-fire as quickly as physically possible.

Suppose further
that we have that rarity — an unusually clear-cut case in which
the State is actually trying to defend the property of one of its
citizens. A citizen of country A travels or invests in country B,
and then State B aggresses against his person or confiscates his
property. Surely, our libertarian critic would argue, here is a
clear-cut case where State A should threaten or commit war against
State B in order to defend the property of "its" citizen.
Since, the argument runs, the State has taken upon itself the monopoly
of defense of its citizens, it then has the obligation to go to
war on behalf of any citizen, and libertarians have an obligation
to support this war as a just one.

But the point
again is that each State has a monopoly of violence and, therefore,
of defense only over its territorial area. It has no such monopoly;
in fact, it has no power at all, over any other geographical area.
Therefore, if an inhabitant of country A should move to or invest
in country B, the libertarian must argue that he thereby takes his
chances with the State-monopolist of country B, and it would be
immoral and criminal for State A to tax people in country A and
kill numerous innocents in country B in order to defend the
property of the traveler or investor.8

It should also
be pointed out that there is no defense against nuclear weapons
(the only current "defense" is the threat of mutual annihilation)
and, therefore, that the State cannot fulfill any sort of
defense function so long as these weapons exist.

The libertarian
objective, then, should be, regardless of the specific causes of
any conflict, to pressure States not to launch wars against other
States and, should a war break out, to pressure them to sue for
peace and negotiate a cease-fire and peace treaty as quickly as
physically possible. This objective, incidentally, is enshrined
in the international law of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
that is, the ideal that no State could aggress against the territory
of another — in short, the "peaceful coexistence" of States.9

Suppose, however,
that despite libertarian opposition, war has begun and the warring
States are not negotiating a peace. What, then, should be the libertarian
position? Clearly, to reduce the scope of assault on innocent civilians
as much as possible. Old-fashioned international law had two excellent
devices for this: the "laws of war," and the "laws
of neutrality" or "neutrals’ rights." The laws of
neutrality are designed to keep any war that breaks out confined
to the warring States themselves, without aggression against the
States or particularly the peoples of the other nations. Hence the
importance of such ancient and now forgotten American principles
as "freedom of the seas" or severe limitations upon the
rights of warring States to blockade neutral trade with the enemy
country. In short, the libertarian tries to induce neutral States
to remain neutral in any inter-State conflict and to induce
the warring States to observe fully the rights of neutral citizens.
The "laws of war" were designed to limit as much as possible
the invasion by warring States of the rights of the civilians of
the respective warring countries. As the British jurist F.J.P. Veale
put it:

The fundamental
principle of this code was that hostilities between civilized
peoples must be limited to the armed forces actually engaged….
It drew a distinction between combatants and noncombatants by
laying down that the sole business of the combatants is to fight
each other and, consequently, that noncombatants must be excluded
from the scope of military operations.10

In the modified
form of prohibiting the bombardment of all cities not in the front
line, this rule held in Western European wars in recent centuries
until Britain
launched the strategic bombing of civilians in World War II. Now,
of course, the entire concept is scarcely remembered, the very nature
of nuclear war resting on the annihilation of civilians.

In condemning
all wars, regardless of motive, the libertarian knows that there
may well be varying degrees of guilt among States for any specific
war. But the overriding consideration for the libertarian is the
condemnation of any State participation in war. Hence his policy
is that of exerting pressure on all States not to start a war, to
stop one that has begun and to reduce the scope of any persisting
war in injuring civilians of either side or no side.

A neglected
corollary to the libertarian policy of peaceful coexistence of States
is the rigorous abstention from any foreign aid; that is, a policy
of nonintervention between States (= "isolationism" =
"neutralism"). For any aid given by State A to State B
(1) increases tax aggression against the people of country A and
(2) aggravates the suppression by State B of its own people. If
there are any revolutionary groups in country B, then foreign aid
intensifies this suppression all the more. Even foreign aid to a
revolutionary group in B — more defensible because directed to a
voluntary group opposing a State rather than a State oppressing
the people — must be condemned as (at the very least) aggravating
tax aggression at home.

us see how libertarian theory applies to the problem of imperialism,
which may be defined as the aggression by State A over the people
of country B, and the subsequent maintenance of this foreign rule.
Revolution by the B people against the imperial rule of A is certainly
legitimate, provided again that revolutionary fire be directed only
against the rulers. It has often been maintained — even by libertarians
— that Western imperialism over undeveloped countries should be
supported as more watchful of property rights than any successor
native government would be. The first reply is that judging what
might follow the status quo is purely speculative, whereas
existing imperialist rule is all too real and culpable. Moreover,
the libertarian here begins his focus at the wrong end — at the
alleged benefit of imperialism to the native. He should, on the
contrary, concentrate first on the Western taxpayer, who is mulcted
and burdened to pay for the wars of conquest, and then for the maintenance
of the imperial bureaucracy. On this ground alone, the libertarian
must condemn imperialism.11

Does opposition
to all war mean that the libertarian can never countenance change
— that he is consigning the world to a permanent freezing of unjust
regimes? Certainly not. Suppose, for example, that the hypothetical
state of "Waldavia" has attacked "Ruritania"
and annexed the western part of the country. The Western
Ruritanians now long to be reunited with their Ruritanian
brethren. How is this to be achieved? There is, of course, the route
of peaceful negotiation between the two powers, but suppose that
the Waldavian imperialists prove adamant. Or, libertarian Waldavians
can put pressure on their government to abandon its conquest in
the name of justice. But suppose that this, too, does not work.
What then? We must still maintain the illegitimacy of Ruritania’s
mounting a war against Waldavia. The legitimate routes are (1) revolutionary
uprisings by the oppressed Western Ruritanian people, and (2) aid
by private Ruritanian groups (or, for that matter, by friends of
the Ruritanian cause in other countries) to the Western rebels —
either in the form of equipment or of volunteer personnel.12

We have seen
throughout our discussion the crucial importance, in any present-day
libertarian peace program, of the elimination of modern methods
of mass annihilation. These weapons, against which there can be
no defense, assure maximum aggression against civilians in any conflict
with the clear prospect of the destruction of civilization and even
of the human race itself. Highest priority on any libertarian agenda,
therefore, must be pressure on all States to agree to general and
complete disarmament down to police levels, with particular stress
on nuclear disarmament. In short, if we are to use our strategic
intelligence, we must conclude that the dismantling of the greatest
menace that has ever confronted the life and liberty of the human
race is indeed far more important than demunicipalizing the garbage

We cannot leave
our topic without saying at least a word about the domestic tyranny
that is the inevitable accompaniment of war. The great Randolph
Bourne realized that "war is the health of the State."13 It is in war that the State really comes into its
own: swelling in power, in number, in pride, in absolute dominion
over the economy and the society. Society becomes a herd, seeking
to kill its alleged enemies, rooting out and suppressing all dissent
from the official war effort, happily betraying truth for the supposed
public interest. Society becomes an armed camp, with the values
and the morale — as Albert Jay Nock once phrased it — of an "army
on the march."

The root myth
that enables the State to wax fat off war is the canard that war
is a defense by the State of its subjects. The facts,
of course, are precisely the reverse. For if war is the health of
the State, it is also its greatest danger. A State can only "die"
by defeat in war or by revolution. In war, therefore, the State
frantically mobilizes the people to fight for it against
another State, under the pretext that it is fighting for
them. But all this should occasion no surprise; we see it in other
walks of life. For which categories of crime does the State pursue
and punish most intensely — those against private citizens or those
against itself? The gravest crimes in the State’s lexicon
are almost invariably not invasions of person and property, but
dangers to its own contentment: for example, treason, desertion
of a soldier to the enemy, failure to register for the draft, conspiracy
to overthrow the government. Murder is pursued haphazardly unless
the victim be a policeman, or Gott soll hten, an
assassinated Chief of State; failure to pay a private debt is, if
anything, almost encouraged, but income tax evasion is punished
with utmost severity; counterfeiting the State’s money is pursued
far more relentlessly than forging private checks, etc. All this
evidence demonstrates that the State is far more interested in preserving
its own power than in defending the rights of private citizens.

A final word
about conscription: of all the ways in which war aggrandizes the
State, this is perhaps the most flagrant and most despotic. But
the most striking fact about conscription is the absurdity of the
arguments put forward on its behalf. A man must be conscripted to
defend his (or someone else’s?) liberty against an evil State beyond
the borders. Defend his liberty? How? By being coerced into an army
whose very raison d’tre is the expunging of liberty, the
trampling on all the liberties of the person, the calculated and
brutal dehumanization of the soldier and his transformation into
an efficient engine of murder at the whim of his "commanding
Can any conceivable foreign State do anything worse to him than
what "his" army is now doing for his alleged benefit?
Who is there, O Lord, to defend him against his "defenders"?


1 There are some libertarians who would
go even further and say that no one should employ violence even
in defending himself against violence. However, even such Tolstoyans,
or "absolute pacifists," would concede the defender’s
right to employ defensive violence and would merely urge him not
to exercise that right. They, therefore, do not disagree with
our proposition. In the same way, a libertarian temperance advocate
would not challenge a man’s right to drink liquor, only his wisdom
in exercising that right.

2 We shall not attempt to justify this
axiom here. Most libertarians and even conservatives are familiar
with the rule and even defend it; the problem is not so much in
arriving at the rule as in fearlessly and consistently pursuing
its numerous and often astounding implications.

3 Or, to bring up another famous antipacifist
slogan, the question is not whether "we would be willing
to use force to prevent the rape of our sister," but whether,
to prevent that rape, we are willing to kill innocent people and
perhaps even the sister herself.

4 William Buckley and other conservatives
have propounded the curious moral doctrine that it is no worse
to kill millions than it is to kill one man. The man who does
either is, to be sure, a murderer; but surely it makes a huge
difference how many people he kills. We may see this by phrasing
the problem thus: after a man has already killed one person, does
it make any difference whether he stops killing now or
goes on a further rampage and kills many dozen more people? Obviously,
it does.

5 Professor Robert L. Cunningham has defined the State
as the institution with "a monopoly on initiating open physical
coercion." Or, as Albert Jay Nock put it similarly if more
caustically, "The State claims and exercises the monopoly
of crime…. It forbids private murder, but itself organizes murder
on a colossal scale. It punishes private theft, but itself lays
unscrupulous hands on anything it wants."

6 An outstanding example of pinpointing
by revolutionaries was the invariable practice of the Irish Republican
Army, in its later years, of making sure that only British troops
and British government property were attacked and that no innocent
Irish civilians were injured. A guerrilla revolution not supported
by the bulk of the people, of course, is far more likely to aggress
against civilians.

7 If it be objected that a war could
theoretically be financed solely by a State’s lowering of
nonwar expenditures, then the reply still holds that taxation
remains greater than it could be without the war effect.
Moreover, the purport of this article is that libertarians should
be opposed to government expenditures whatever the field,
war or nonwar.

8 There is another consideration which
applies rather to "domestic" defense within a State’s
territory: the less the State can successfully defend the inhabitants
of its area against attack by criminals, the more these
inhabitants may come to learn the inefficiency of state operations,
and the more they will turn to non-State methods of defense. Failure
by the State to defend, therefore, has educative value for the

9 The international law mentioned in
this paper is the old-fashioned libertarian law as had voluntarily
emerged in previous centuries and has nothing to do with the modern
statist accretion of "collective security." Collective
security forces a maximum escalation of every local war into a
worldwide war — the precise reversal of the libertarian objective
of reducing the scope of any war as much as possible.

10 F.J.P. Veale, Advance
to Barbarism
(Appleton, Wis.: C.C. Nelson, 1953), p. 58.

11 Two other points about Western
imperialism: first, its rule is not nearly so liberal or benevolent
as many libertarians like to believe. The only property rights
respected are those of the Europeans; the natives find
their best lands stolen from them by the imperialists and their
labor coerced by violence into working the vast landed estates
acquired by this theft.

another myth holds that the "gunboat diplomacy" of the
turn of the century was a heroic libertarian action in defense
of the property rights of Western investors in backward countries.
Aside from our above strictures against going beyond any State’s
monopolized land area, it is overlooked that the bulk of gunboat
moves were in defense, not of private investments, but
of Western holders of government bonds. The Western powers coerced
the smaller governments into increasing tax aggression on their
own people, in order to pay off foreign bondholders. By no stretch
of the imagination was this an action on behalf of private property
— quite the contrary.

12 The Tolstoyan wing of the libertarian
movement could urge the Western Ruritanians to engage in nonviolent
revolution, for example, tax strikes, boycotts, mass refusal
to obey government orders or a general strike — especially in
arms factories. Cf. the work of the revolutionary Tolstoyan, Bartelemy
De Ligt, The
Conquest of Violence: An Essay On War and Revolution
York: Dutton, 1938).

13 See Randolph
Bourne, "Unfinished Fragment on the State," in Untimely
Papers (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1919).

14 To the old militarist taunt hurled against the pacifist:
"Would you use force to prevent the rape of your sister?"
the proper retort is: "Would you rape your sister if ordered
to do so by your commanding officer?"

N. Rothbard
(1926–1995) was the author of Man,
Economy, and State
, Conceived
in Liberty
, What
Has Government Done to Our Money
, For
a New Liberty
, The
Case Against the Fed
, and many
other books and articles
. He was
also the editor – with Lew Rockwell – of The
Rothbard-Rockwell Report
, and academic vice president of
the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Best of Murray Rothbard

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