Anti-Genocide Militia

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The situation in Syria raises the question of who will deal with bad guys in a libertarian non-state world. Laurence Vance has correctly written that this is to be done voluntarily. It shouldn’t be done by states that compel the financing of the resources they devote to military activities, that create new political problems by their interventions, and that are subject to political interests that create perverse incentives. States are singularly poorly arranged to deal with perceived injustices beyond their borders.

In a libertarian world, any of us could start an organization to deal with injustices. There would be competition in providing justice services (as well as policing services) of various kinds. People would subscribe to the services of their choice. Many writers have sketched out how this might work.

Suppose I am concerned with genocides and wish to stop them. I start a company called AGM, standing for anti-genocide militia. It’s financed by concerned people who subscribe as they would to a charity. I hire young men and women who wish to serve in the armed militia part of the enterprise. The success of AGM will depend on how well I deliver what the subscribers want. I will face competition from other AG providers. I cannot afford to waste my limited manpower in cases where stopping the genocide is unlikely. Furthermore, I will be intent on devising low-cost ways to stop the genocide. This might mean novel ways of capturing or otherwise inducing the leaders of a genocide to stop it. It might mean arming resisters. Using the militia as a force is expensive. I will want to create an effective, mobile force, and I will have to care very much for their training and safety in order to deliver the services at low enough costs to assure the viability of the enterprise. States do not have these incentives.

In sketching out this kind of system, none of us knows what innovations will occur or how effective they might be. It is impossible to provide a blueprint. What we are saying is that the incentives of such a system will work better at achieving the objective than does the existing system of states. We know that AGM will have a focused mission, supported by focused financing and ways for subscribers to evaluate the job being done. None of this focus is present in the system of states because it does a broad range of programs via collectivized financing. In fact, the incentives of the state system are for states to engage in genocide, usually under war or warlike conditions of isolation. The incentives are also for states to avoid getting involved in another state’s genocide, for fear of dragging the whole nation into war. AGM would not have that problem.

To avoid having a host country be blamed for AGM’s activities, it should make itself an international or world organization at the outset. It should not have an incorporation in any one country.

To overcome the perverse incentives of the state system, the world is moving toward a UN system and a responsibility to protect doctrine. This seemingly beneficent solution is actually extremely problematic. If it leads to a world government and a world militia managed by a single world government, that could not be more dangerous to liberty. What’s more likely is that the UN system, as in the past, becomes a political tool for coalitions of states. No matter how you look at it, the UN is very distant from each of us as individuals. Whereas a company like AGM is directly tied to its subscribers and therefore has a great deal of consent built into it, the UN has no such immediate connection. Government by consent goes out the window.

The system of states should not be directed into being perfected as a world state or a monopoly provider of justice or anything else. Instead it would be better if the character of the state were altered. States right now have control over a territory and all the people and resources in that territory. Those controls need to be relaxed so that borders lose their significance. When people can easily move themselves and their goods anywhere in the world without being subject to the range of taxes, regulations and controls that states typically impose, this changes the nature of the state. It defangs it.

This is only a brief sketch.

11:37 am on September 1, 2013