In Search of Peace
was published in 1951, at the height of the Cold War and the hot
war on North Korea, by the libertarian economist who went on to
found the Institute for Humane
pacifism are likely to be hurled at anyone who in these troubled
times raises any question about the race into war. If pacifism means
embracing the objective of peace, I am willing to accept the charge.
If it means opposing all aggression against others, I am willing
to accept that charge also. It is now urgent in the interest of
liberty that many persons become “peacemongers.”
that great advocate of liberty, in a speech before the Virginia
Convention in 1775, said: “I know of no way of judging of the future
but by the past.” Were he with us today, he might well repeat that
advice to a nation confused and woefully mired in the problems of
war and peace – a nation acting in a blind panic.
wealth and effort have been squandered in a fruitless search for
peace by the present generation than by any other in the history
of man. For nearly half a century the increasing tempo of war and
preparation for war has found the world further and further from
peace. Time after time it has been asserted that if only we could
crush some particular dictator by the use of military might, the
safety of man’s freedom would be assured. “One more supreme sacrifice,”
again and again. And each time dictators “more ruthless than anything
the world has seen since Genghis Khan” arose out of the refuse of
war, leaving liberty and peace the loser after each bloody conflict.
Not only that,
but in nations like the United States and Britain most of the trappings
of dictatorship, under different names, have been accepted until
the plight of citizens in a “free” country is much the same as that
of citizens in a “dictatorship” country. To test this, merely make
a detailed comparison, ignoring reasons given in one’s own country
for this or that abridgment of liberty.
We speak of
the impending threat of World War III, even while we are still officially
engaged in World War II. The guns have hardly cooled from a war
in which we joined Russia to help defeat Germany, Japan, and Italy.
Now the veterans of that war are again commanded to pick up arms
to defeat Russia, which is operating under the same management and
with the same policies and methods as when we were her ally – if,
in fact, we are not still officially her ally.
All the while
our diplomats have been hastening to arrange something that will
pass for a peace agreement with Germany, Japan, and Italy. Unless
that is done, it is especially awkward for our legislators to appropriate
our money to replenish a military might that we have just finished
destroying in these former enemy nations.
A Tito or a
Franco or a Peron is one day an “enemy” of liberty and the next
day its “friend.” Ships frantically rush here and there, first giving
and then threatening not to give our wealth as bribes to “friends”
and “enemies” alike. And there is no telling which will be which
While all these
banners and alignments of nations have been shifting back and forth
as with the changing winds, the liberty of the people in “our haven
of liberty” has been constantly eroding, until it has now reached
the lowest point in the history of this nation. It makes one feel
as if he were being whirled through space until he has lost all
sense of direction.
confusing picture, it would be well to heed the words of Patrick
Henry and pause long enough on a road strewn with the wreckage of
liberty and peace to see if we may not have been treading it in
the wrong direction. Perhaps the problem of peace should be approached
from a new and unconventional direction. On the record, at least,
the solution would seem to lie elsewhere than in the methods that
have been tried again and again without even a semblance of success.[i]
We must not
let pleas for unity paralyze our minds and prevent any review of
our past acts. There is no virtue in a unity attained by blinding
people and inducing them to join in a mass stampede. Uncommon courage,
not cowardice, is demanded of anyone who will remove himself from
the stampede long enough to see where he is going.
Let us start
on the problem this way. Many persons consider war to be an evil,
but they support it on occasion as necessary “for the long time
good.” But how can good be attained by means of an evil? That defies
A review of
the historical consequences of war, so far as its effect on liberty
is concerned, supports the belief that war is an evil and that no
long time good results from it. Why, then, do we keep getting into
war? One study reports that war has engaged the major countries
of Europe for about half the time since the year 1500.[ii]
What mistakes are made in preserving the peace and the liberty
War is conflict
on its largest scale. Conflict in all its forms – murder, rebellion,
riot, insurrection, mutiny, banditry, war – has caused the death
of 59 million persons in the world during the last century and a
quarter. Of this number, four-fifths died as a direct result of
the larger wars, which are by all odds the major cause of death
from conflict. Murders and all the other lesser forms of conflict,
though highly numerous, have accounted for only one-sixth of all
deaths from conflict in the world during this period.[iii]
Conflict probably never can be wholly eliminated, because man
is imperfect. But these figures suggest the importance of preventing
it from growing into wars.
Only if we
identify the cause of conflict can we keep it at a minimum and prevent
its growth into war. The cause of conflict is the moral delinquency
that allows infringement on liberty and on the rights of men; it
is that alone. If liberty were complete, and if each person were
to restrict himself to what is his proper scope and concern, there
could be no conflict. What would there be to fight about if liberty
were thus universal?
when freedom of choice is restricted. If one is free to choose his
work and his leisure, to use what he produces and to spend what
he earns, to select his own associates, and to choose in all other
aspects of his life, he does not have to fight his way out of anything
or to maneuver around restrictions and repressions beyond those
of his own conscience. This concept may be tested on the everyday
conflicts we know best – with one’s child, with one’s neighbors,
in community affairs, between employer and employee. In every instance
it is some prohibition, or control, or monopoly that gives rise
to conflict. These are the things which prohibit free choice and
which therefore generate conflict.
It is true
that to whatever extent we violate the rules necessary to a peaceful
society, there cannot be unrestricted freedom. That is why the general
acceptance of certain rules, governing the use of things that are
in limited supply, is necessary to a peaceful society. The concept
of private property is one of these, and freedom of exchange is
another such rule.[iv]
conflict results from slavery in some form or degree or from the
violation of rules of a peaceful society. Problems of war – all
conflict – are exclusively problems of abolished liberty. Thus the
prevention of war, or of the threat of war, must take the form of
cutting the bonds on liberty wherever they exist.
exist only as liberty is increased in all its forms among individuals
throughout the world. There is no other road to peace. This means
that any building up of power anywhere in the world in any of its
forms, and under any excuse, leads toward conflict in its worst
form – war.
humans may be compared with the physical fact of friction. We know
that friction exists, but it is one of the most difficult phenomena
of the physical world to explain thoroughly. It occurs as the result
of contact. Since complete separation of objects is difficult if
not impossible, lubrication is necessary to reduce friction to a
All human relationships
are also potential friction. Voluntary arrangement in these relationships
acts like a lubricant: It will not eliminate all friction but reduces
friction to a minimum. The use of force removes this lubricant and
generates heated conflict, because persons then cannot withdraw
from contacts not of their liking.
at its origin, is a matter between only two persons. One person
may be using force against the other or trespassing on his property.
If this conflict cannot be resolved in any other manner, a murder
may occur. The outcome could be no more serious that the loss of
one life, unless somebody intercedes who is not directly concerned.
then, as a result of anything which causes opposing sides of any
controversy to amass into growing numbers. The larger the number,
the greater and bloodier the conflict becomes.
We can see
how this works by observing a football game. Someone violates the
rules, and two players start to battle it out. If all 22 players
joined in, the conflict would become serious. What if 100,000 spectators
I was deeply
impressed by a scene in a recent movie. Two contenders for the kingship
of a tribe of uncivilized “savages” in the deepest recesses of Africa
were in conflict for possession of the throne. Finally, the two
contenders battled it out to the death. The other members of the
tribe laid their preferences and their weapons aside, and all stood
on the sideline as observers. They had learned that if persons other
than the two concerned were to join in the battle, there would be
unnecessary bloodshed. Uncivilized? Perhaps we would be more humane
and civilized if we were to resolve the present world conflict in
some such manner – at least a “victor” by combat could be selected
without so much bloodshed and destruction of property.
always be some conflict even among free people, but it would be
small and localized. There would be a murder now and then, but death
would not be nearly so prevalent as from the mass conflict of major
squabble between two persons in China, for instance, might lead
to one of them murdering the other. But if we are left to use our
individual judgment, not many of us would volunteer in behalf of
one or the other and cause it to grow into a war. Numbers do not
become amassed that way into a major conflict unless persons are
forced to join in.
are always some volunteers in foreign wars. In fact, fighting in
foreign wars used to be an accepted hired occupation. But this sort
of thing never became prevalent enough to be featured in the history
It is a fact
that small conflict develops into major war only as a result of
involuntary servitude. We can see this much better if we look afar
at the “dictatorship” nations.
There is no
escaping the fact that some men have a lust for power. And war or
the presumed threat of war seems to surpass all other devices by
which a ruler can induce the people to thoroughly enslave themselves
under his “leadership,” to lose their liberty and all rights of
choice, to answer to his beck and call. Power becomes concentrated
at one end of a long line of authority, which at the other end terminates
in complete subservience on the field of battle.
said that loss of liberty always occurs “under some delusion.” By
some strange twist of reasoning, fear of losing liberty drives persons
to enslave themselves and surrender their liberty in the hope of
keeping it. It is argued that this is necessary “to protect the
people.” How can slavery make them any more brave? This presumes
the people to be too ignorant or cowardly to act voluntarily in
their own behalf, that they must be forced to protect themselves.
It is indeed
a strange notion that I should be compelled by others to protect
myself. This “self protection” then becomes labeled “sacrifice,”
and tribute is paid me, my dependents, and my descendants by those
who forced me to “defend myself.” Something is wrong there, somewhere.
Power is grasped
by the dictator because of the urge to be “great.” Lord Acton, the
British historian, said: “All power tends to corrupt, and absolute
power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”[v]
He was speaking here of “great” in the sense of a Caesar or
of a Napoleon – whose moral degradation was reflected in one of
his remarks. After hurrying back to France from a campaign in Russia
that cost the lives of over 500,000 of his countrymen, he rubbed
his hands before the fire and said: “Decidedly it is more comfortable
here than in Moscow.”
are evil because power corrupts them, as Lord Acton said. Or perhaps
evil men gravitate to the administrations of power, as Hayek said
in one notable chapter in his book, The
Road to Serfdom.[vi]
I do not know which, but it seems certain that a part of the
strategy of maintaining “leadership” in this sense is to keep up
a series of crises and emergencies and a confusion that seems to
demand the action of a strong and ruthless autocrat. “Greatness”
may even be acquired by chasing a series of one’s own mistakes,
as “leader,” into eventual war – backing into “greatness,” so to
It is no coincidence
that large-scale wars are the product of dictatorships or of the
acts of aspiring dictators. Power is first grasped in internal confusion
and conflict; then later it bursts into an external conflict, and
the dictator calls for national unity.
At this point
we should take a look at the “balance of power” theory. It calls
for bolstering up a lesser power as a protection against a greater
power, until it equals or exceeds the power that is “threatening.”
This theory has been widely followed in international affairs, in
labor-management affairs, in politics – everywhere.
It is strictly
a power concept. Rulers are given more and more power to guide and
control the actions of others, to sound the bugle call of battle
at whatever time and place they choose. The persons over whom they
rule are first presumed to be incapable of acting voluntarily in
their own defense and are then bound in controls and servitude until
they actually are unable to defend themselves, even against their
Let me illustrate
how the balance-of-power theory works, by a hypothetical case. A
threat to peace arises between two persons at a church social. Deacon
Jones suspects Deacon Smith of planning to do him some harm – “…so
it is said, by sources usually considered to be reliable but which
cannot be revealed for reasons of religious security.” Smith is
powerful enough to do so, if he chooses. So Jones propositions Deacon
Brown to come to his defense. Brown, who sincerely wants peace to
prevail, agrees to a treaty whereby he is to be subject to Jones’
call to arms in case of aggression by Smith. Notice of the treaty
is released to the “public” through Jones’ Department of Public
Defense – or perhaps privately to Smith through the “proper” process
of a “diplomatic note.” Smith, finding himself threatened with a
superior force, then proposes the same balance of power theory,
in turn, to Deacons Solcefoskiski and Chin, and they sign a treaty
with Smith. A counter “diplomatic note” is sent back to Jones. This
goes on and on, with personal liberties declining more and more
as power accumulates on both sides under the rule of Smith and Jones.
Tensions increase more and more on both sides, until a wholesale
brawl can be started by someone sneezing or shouting “Boo!” Or perhaps
the brawl is intentionally started by one side or the other, as
it becomes clear that the burden of “defense” under conditions of
an armed truce is too costly and threatens them with starvation,
if continued. Going to war then becomes “a matter of self-defense
against encirclement and starvation.”
War or the
threat of war becomes self-generating under the balance of power
theory and builds up and up, until abandoned out of sheer exhaustion
from battle or from the costs of “defense.” But this brings no settlement
of the underlying causes of the conflict. The certain outcome is
total loss of liberty by individuals on both sides of the conflict.
Losers become serfs of the winning side; and on the winning side,
all other individuals remain subjects of the ruler, who finds no
reason to abdicate at the victorious height of his ruling glory.
This “route to liberty” thus becomes a route to servitude.
out the balance of power idea, it is of course necessary to shift
alignments of “allies” and “enemies” on frequent occasion. Treaties
and money are both used as the medium of exchange. We should have
learned by now that an “ally” bought with dollars will demand a
steady stream of dollars in a one-way deal and even then does not
stay bought. One who can be bribed by us can also be bribed away
from us. He is not a friend.
What is to
be the guide of proper defense, then, that is consistent with the
ideals of liberty? Has the libertarian no rights of self-defense?
Must he stand idly by while murderers, thieves, and vandals ravage
his person and property, his family, or his friends?
My reply is:
No. So far as my rights are concerned, the right to life carries
with it the right to defend my life. And since my property is the
economic extension of my person, it is likewise within my rights
to protect my property from theft or destruction. I may, within
my rights, protect these in whatever manner seems to me to be the
soundest from the standpoint of strategy. I may or may not use force
to resist an aggressor or evict a trespasser. When one is forced
to decide between preserving his life and protecting his property,
he may without cowardice decide that protecting his life is his
initial duty. He would, if forced to make that choice, let his property
go and keep his life rather than say: “Take my life, but leave me
Now we come
to a more perplexing question. Is it my duty to throw my weight
against the oppressors of liberty in any instance where it is others
rather than myself whose personal rights are being violated? Should
I protect my infant child in this respect? My wife? My neighbor?
Your neighbor? An Englishman? A Chinese? A Russian peasant who feels
oppressed by the iron hand? An officer of the Russian army who is
happy in his status? A conscripted soldier of our own army? Where,
if at all, is one justified in employing the tools of force to remove
trespass on the rights of others?
Since I am
responsible for the care and protection of my family, I am also
within my rights to defend each of them against an aggressor, a
thief, or a vandal by whatever means seems best – assuming, of course,
that they agree and want me to help protect them. As for neighbors
and others, it is proper to help defend them against acts of crime
against their person and property, if I desire and they want me
to do so. There should, however, be mutual agreement on the need
as well as the means. So far as I can see, this applies to one’s
next-door neighbor or to a person anywhere else in the world.
One is not
necessarily obligated to assist everyone whose liberty is being
transgressed. I am certainly not obligated to give my life to protect
the property of someone who differs with me as to the nature of
liberty. Nor am I morally obligated to assist those who agree with
me about the design of liberty and the nature of its violation,
if they themselves have not first exposed their lives in its defense.
Indeed, I have no right to intervene by the use of force to defend
something they have chosen not to defend.
It is also
proper for me to induce another to resist trespassers on his own
or my liberty. But in doing so I must use only voluntary educational
means. His rebellion must be sincere and stem from a personal conviction
on his part. It is illiberal for me to use authority over him “to
force him to protect his own liberty” or mine.
It is frequently
said in defense of wartime controls and centralization of power
that liberty is a luxury to be enjoyed in peacetime when things
are normal, that we cannot afford the luxuries of liberty during
emergencies like the present. One who makes such a statement, if
he makes it seriously, does not really understand and believe in
liberty. He is one who cannot be depended upon to act in its behalf.
He is one who will willingly enslave his fellowmen “in order to
defend their liberties.” His devotion to liberty is a sham, and
he can be expected to conclude later that, if controls and centralized
power are desirable in wartime, they are also desirable in peacetime.
One who believes
in liberty and who understands it enough to act in its defense does
so because he considers liberty to be superior to its alternative
– slavery in its various forms. Why does he believe it to be superior?
Because it is more just, more in harmony with the design of a good
society, more productive. This makes it stronger because it embodies
justice and those incentives which bring out the best in man. If,
on the other hand, he believes liberty to be less just, less strong,
and less productive than slavery, he is on the other side of this
great issue even though he salutes the same flag and is one’s friendly
liberty for purposes of defense in an emergency? Why? It would seem
that in an emergency, of all times, one needs his greatest strength.
So if liberty is strength and slavery is weakness, liberty is a
necessity rather than a luxury, and we can ill afford to be without
it – least of all during an emergency.
a clergyman were to admonish the members of his flock to abandon
the practice of Christianity during every emergency because it is
a luxury, good only for normal times. If he were to say that, we
would certainly believe him to be a religious quack and of negative
worth. We would conclude that he did not really believe justice,
goodness, and strength to be embodied in religious faith. It is
the same with all self-styled lovers of liberty who call for its
abandonment during every emergency. They must be counted out of
the forces for liberty. Indeed, should they not be counted among
the enemies of liberty?
The only person
who can effectively defend liberty is one who believes in it and
considers it to be the embodiment of strength rather than of weakness.
All others will do the wrong thing and support the wrong cause when
the chips are down. If by this test the defenders of liberty turn
out to be few, then the cause of liberty is that much more desperate
than we had assumed.
The first necessity
in any defense is to identify the enemy with precision and accuracy.
Lacking that, defense measures make no sense. It is like shooting
at an unknown target. Could it be that our past efforts for the
defense of liberty have failed for the reason that we have failed
to identify the real enemy?
What is the
basic issue in this conflict? What do we wish to fight against?
It is slavery, the enemy of liberty. It is simply that and nothing
on many forms and goes by many names. But no matter what its form
and name, the enemy is anything that prevents man from being free.
The enemy of
liberty is, at its base, an idea – the idea that the enslavement
of man is a superior and stronger form of social arrangement than
is an arrangement of free men acting together voluntarily. It is
the idea that men of a community or a nation can better themselves
and strengthen themselves if some of them will enslave others. That
idea is the real enemy.
the enemy of liberty by the use of force, as is commonly assumed
to be necessary, how might one proceed? The enemy is basically an
idea, which is an abstraction. It has no nose to be punched and
no heart to be pierced. The nearest you can get to an idea by the
use of force is to attack its host – the person who believes it.
This explains the great temptation to personify the enemy of liberty,
to recast it in the form of certain persons who can be attacked
by the use of force.
shall be attacked? Every person violates at least some of the tenets
of liberty and to that degree is an enemy of liberty in practice.
Every person is, then, partly the friend and partly the enemy of
liberty. Realizing this, one should abandon the attempt to personify
the enemy of liberty and to attack it by force. If he persists in
the attempt, he will at this point have already gone astray in its
defense. The project will be doomed to failure in the enactments
of “necessary wartime controls,” no matter what words are emblazoned
on the banners of the marching columns.
In the attempt
to personify the enemy, who will be tagged? Will they be selected
after a careful examination of the beliefs of each of the world’s
3 billion inhabitants? To attempt to do so would preclude war, because
the political leaders are incapable of doing the testing and because
the job is so large that it would never be completed by any central
examining committee of this type.
is to be done? The leaders ignore the fact that they are incapable
of examining even one person and hide their incapacity behind a
grandiose façade of decoys. They label entire nations, or continents
or races, as the enemies of liberty when, in fact, they are unable
to judge even one person in this respect and do not even know the
questions to be asked.
So the nation
goes to war and, while war is going on, the real enemy – long ago
forgotten and camouflaged by the processes of war – rides on to
victory in both camps. The real enemy is, in fact, immune to the
weapons of physical combat used in war.
that in war the attack is not leveled at the real enemy is the fact
that we seem never to know what to do with “victory.” When guns
are silenced by the white flag of surrender, what is to be done
with the victory? Are the “liberated” peoples to be shot, or all
put in prison camps, or what? Is the national boundary to be moved?
Is there to be further destruction of the property of the defeated?
Or what? The fact that those responsible for the settlements of
“liberation” have themselves acquired the disease while administering
the processes of war, makes any logical solution even less likely.
can be attacked only with counter-ideas, facts, and logic. There
is no other way. It is necessary to realize that an idea cannot
be forced into submission by kicking it in the shins or by beating
it over the head. Nor can you shoot an idea.
It is worth
remembering that the Roman legions were never able to defeat the
Christian idea by this method two thousand years ago. The British
military might never was able to defeat Gandhi, the little man without
weapons. Christ and Gandhi were both killed, but their murder seemed
to give impetus to the spread of their ideas rather than the destruction
Karl Marx perhaps
more than any other person developed the body of thought that is
today the leading enemy of liberty. It would have made no difference
if Marx had died a year earlier or a year later, because the ideas
had been put into circulation and were not mortally a part of him.
Nor can these ideas of his be destroyed today by murder or suicide
of their leading exponent or of any thousands or millions of the
devotees. On the contrary, persecution seems to unite those of one
faith and spreads their ideas as nothing else will do. Least of
all can the ideas of Karl Marx be destroyed by murdering innocent
victims of the form of slavery he advocated, whether they be conscripts
in armies or victims caught in the path of battle.
be met by ideas, on the battlefield of belief.
in this country was designed as an agent to protect persons and
property, to maintain peace and order by resolving conflict through
a judicial system. And it was supposed to administer resistance
to threats from outside the country, but without ever becoming an
aggressor in the outside world.
during the last half century, however, has become the captain of
military excursions all over the world. In these wars, the citizens
are compelled to give up essentially all their liberty and to respond
to the call to arms at the command of one person – one who is presumed
to be their servant and not their master. Our war excursions are
coming more and more to be without the consent of the people or
of their elected representatives. So long as this procedure is tolerated,
liberty is at an end in this nation.
was originally supposed to serve as policeman and to punish those
within the borders who use force or violence against the person
or the property of their neighbors. When a government, however,
uses force or violence against the person or the property of national
neighbors, the process is honored by terms such as “national defense,”
“victory,” and the like.
acts that are the same in the eyes of God, a person may be either
executed or decorated, imprisoned or promoted – depending on whether
the act is in peacetime against a near neighbor or in wartime against
a more distant neighbor. How can either of these properly go by
the name of justice and the maintenance of peace?
stated, self-defense is the right of any person. But it seems that
many of us are unable to distinguish between a defense properly
within this limit of rights and the use of the same tools to generate
a “war of self-defense.” Perhaps a reason is to be found in the
failure to understand how proper defensive measures may become diseased
and develop into a cancerous growth of illiberal power. This can
best be seen by reviewing the usual nature of war from the standpoint
When at war
or in preparation for war, the pattern of affairs in any nation
includes all the devices of the socialist-communist state. A centralized
power gains control of the economic affairs of the nation and of
the acts of the citizens. The armed forces, and perhaps others,
are conscripted. Priorities and subsidies, and all such authoritarian
devices, become “tools of defense.” Capital and its uses “must be
controlled, else the selfish interests of the capitalists will sap
the defense of the nation.” Intellectuals and high executives are
drawn into the program of administering socialism in the form of
these powers and controls, as a “patriotic duty” and amid great
fanfare of flag waving. Power, which first was granted reluctantly
in the belief of its necessity during an emergency, soon becomes
thought of as a virtue in itself and at any time. All this is financed
either by taxes drawn from the smaller and smaller remainder of
private enterprise of the nation or by money counterfeited by means
of inflation by those in control. The entire process of war is always
the direct antithesis of liberalism.
R. Hopkin Morris, Member of the House of Commons from Wales, who
has great understanding of the subject of liberty, has aptly expressed
the present world situation thusly: “War is pre-eminently the breeding
ground of the Planned State… Liberalism, silenced as it always is
in war, has now in peace time been paralyzed by the prevailing atmosphere
of the time.”[vii]
are found embracing, approving, and supporting the process of war.
Why? I suspect that it is because, in an atmosphere of panic, they
are drawn to an objective which they can comprehend – the defeat
of a personalized “enemy” on the field of battle. In the heat of
a generated hatred, that objective seems to them to be commendable.
be considerable satisfaction to the promoters of the collectivized
state in the fact that, heads or tails, they win: that while still
being officially at war and preparing at terrific cost to defeat
our recent partner in the continuing conflict, we have more and
more contributed to the strength of the enemy – compulsory collectivism.
Suicide it is, however unwitting. If one were to attempt to design
a scheme whereby an easy victory would be handed to the foreign
managers of the collectivized state, the pattern of events now being
followed could hardly be improved upon. Why should one lend his
support to the process or even tolerate it?
If power be
an evil, how can the employment of this evil possibly beget a good?
Power can, to be sure, be used to displace one power with another
that is greater. Displacing one power with another in this manner
does not destroy power; it increases the scope of illiberal power.
And if power be evil, this process merely increases the magnitude
of the evil.
of history show how great dictatorships have been built on pleas
for defense against some vague, external threat or “enemy.” I see
no reason to assume that the eventual outcome of now pursuing similar
ends can be expected to be any different here. Democratic processes
as such are no protection, as Ballinger so well proves in his book.[viii] That we possess no miracle of protection
against the evil conduct or misuse of power should by now be clear
to any person capable of observation. The fact is revealed in a
growing and entrenched bureaucracy. It is also revealed by our increasing
participation in distant wars – wars sanctioned under the cloak
of national defense, but nonetheless the handmaiden of dictatorial
power and a factory for the collectivized state.
It is frequently
argued these days that force must be used to stop aggression before
it starts. That is an untenable position. It is impossible for anyone
to tell a future aggressor from one who is not going to be one.
Such use of force is never justified, and in engaging in it there
will have been opened a floodgate of mayhem which, in its release,
can be followed logically to the ultimate obliteration of the human
for this rule of restraint can be seen by reducing it to the simple
form of its elements. If aggression were to be allowed against an
anticipated aggressor, you would not only fight off the murder-in-progress,
and perhaps kill him, you would kill him as he comes over the hill
for that presumed purpose; you would not only kill him as he comes
over the hill for that purpose, you would kill the one assumed by
you to be planning to do so; you would not only kill the one presumably
planning to do so, you would kill all who might plan to do so –
and that includes everybody.
be something wrong in that theory of defense, at its start. Once
a person practices aggression, he finds no logical stopping point.
It must end in his own defeat. The time to stop it is before starting,
no matter what seeming justification may be at hand for initiating
We are told
that to get at an “enemy” and “prevent his attack on us,” we must
set up “defense” at some distant point. So a foreign battleground
is selected. Suppose A and B are neighbors, each of whom violently
disapproves of the way the other operates his household. The difference
is great; the enmity is bitter. Each considers the other to be a
serious threat to another neighbor, C, who is not concerned beyond
letting A and B each run his own household as each desires. Both
A and B know that if there should be battle in one of their own
houses, windows would be broken and furniture wrecked and blood
would be splattered on the wallpaper and the rugs. Yet each is watching
for an opportunity and excuse to attack the other so as to rid the
neighborhood of a “dangerous enemy.” Finally an occasion arises
when both happen to be on C’s property. So they go at it, wrecking
his house and killing his wife and baby in the process – on the
basis that in so doing they are liberating C from the threat of
aggression and trespass. It may be seriously questioned, I believe,
whether this is the way to generate good will among one’s neighbors,
even though the action was started for the avowed purpose of neighborhood
defense. It is a violation, I believe, of the proper and right conduct.
is for a similar reason, in connection with present world tensions,
that most foreign countries seem reluctant to have us mess up their
living room by using it as the battlefield for another war. They
may not see why, if we want to fight someone, we should not be willing
to wait until we have been attacked and then defend ourselves as
we see fit in our own house. After all, the people of Europe have
had considerable experience in this sort of thing in recent decades,
seemingly to no avail.
And what is
more, most of these peoples now live under governments that allow
very little liberty anyway – governments which we appear to favor,
as evidenced by our giving them continuous support to protect them
against the effects of their suicidal economic policies. So, obviously,
we do not seem to be interested in liberating these people from
their own governments. The people themselves probably do not see
enough difference between their present governments and the communism
that “threatens from without” to warrant fighting a war. So why
should they either join the fight or again allow their homelands
to be used as battlegrounds in what probably seems to them to be
a contest for world power?
That must be
the way our neighbors look at it. Deeds, not words, will be necessary
to convince these people otherwise. We ourselves must first consistently
and for a considerable time live by the principles we espouse and
which we claim to be trying to preserve by such wars. What, for
instance, must the average Korean citizen think has been the issue
of the war in his homeland? Lofty principles and the freedom of
man? The one thing that he can see clearly is that his cities and
towns have been destroyed and his innocent countrymen killed. The
view of these people is likely to be: “Isn’t the United States merely
fighting for its own power in the world and, in doing so, preferring
to have the bloodshed and destruction take place in my dooryard
rather than on its own soil?”
proposal these days is to send a “limited” number of warriors to
various other countries. Supposedly this is to protect these countries
from aggression, perhaps by frightening away the would-be aggressor.
If there were to be no aggression, this would be trespass without
a purpose. And if there were to be aggression, a token resistance
would be futile.
of a token force probably induces the aggression it is intended
to prevent. The “enemy,” if he is not so weak as to be no threat
anyhow, is thereby invited to become an aggressor on the basis of
exactly the same argument used for sending the force there in the
first place, except that this aggression then becomes more clearly
justified as a counter measure. And others may join him in a consolidation
of enmity against us.
a few” rather than many is a compromise proposal having as a doubtful
virtue the fact that it is certain to be wrong because of being
either too much or too little. The crucial question is resolved
when the first soldier is sent officially. I am not speaking
of soldiers who wish to volunteer for service with the army of their
choice; they are on their own, and I would allow them their full
rights of participation as private individuals on that basis. What
I am speaking of is the matter of our government forcing some of
our citizens to participate in armed trespass. Once the first one
has been sent, the second becomes all the more “necessary” to defend
the first, the third to defend the second – on without end and without
any place to call a halt with any logic whatsoever.
between sending a few and sending many is a distinction without
a difference. The lack of difference becomes clear later when the
sending of just a few has become ridiculous and when it has become
too late to reconsider the basic issues. We would by then have become
involved in a foreign war to an advanced degree.
can be induced to fight some distant “enemy” they do not know, over
some issue they do not understand, while in the abundant company
of kinsmen who likewise do not know what the grandiose affair is
all about. People are much less inclined to engage in conflict with
an “enemy” who is their next-door neighbor, where the issue is clear
to both parties; this form of dispute is much more likely to be
settled out of conflict, because they can see the issue and resolve
A strange thing
happens when people are in a panic of fear over something they neither
see nor understand. For instance, they can be induced to give up
their liberty by delegation of power over their affairs to others
– who also cannot see or understand. They fall for a plan of “collectivized
liberty,” which is a contradiction in terms. They trade their liberty
for the false claim of saving it. This is the same as a person who
hands his wealth over to someone who convinces him that it is unsafe
in his own hands and promises to take care of it for the victim,
but who is a robber using this device for thievery. We know how
liberty has thus been lost in Germany and in many other countries.
It can happen under any form of government, if the people allow
power to grow and rob them of their liberty. It can happen here.
In fact, it is happening here.
Defense of Liberty
Russia is supposed
to be the enemy. Why? We are told that it is because Russia is communistic,
and our enemy is communism. But if it is necessary for us to embrace
all these socialist-communist measures in order to fight a nation
that has adopted them – “because they have adopted these
measures” – why fight them? Why not join them in the first place
and save all the bloodshed?
Is it any wonder
that a person who is charged with a governmental responsibility
for defense, and who does not know the real nature of the enemy,
is surprised to discover that many of his close ideological friends
are card-carrying members of the Communist party? Why not? They
have merely formalized the basic beliefs which both of them share,
in the form of allegiance to and membership in the Communist party
– which is in no sense an illogical act for anyone who holds those
basic beliefs. The only question at issue between them would seem
to be that of who is to be the captain of the totalitarian ship
– a distinction of no great importance.
If it were
possible for more curbs on liberty to become the tools of liberation,
why not conclude that slavery is the best route to emancipation,
that positives can be created by the accumulation of negatives?
But I insist
that ideas rather than persons are the real enemy. If one is not
already familiar with this enemy, it can be seen in brief outline
in the “ten points” of the Communist Manifesto, together
with a few paragraphs of comments immediately preceding the listing
of the ten points.[ix]
are to be found in operative forms everywhere in our midst, as well
as in proposals for further extension. They are to be found in the
form of numerous laws and regulations in the United States. A person
who does not know the forms in which this enemy is already in our
midst is in no position to urge our support in a further surrendering
of our liberty at home to protect us against this same enemy in
some “communist” nation afar. There is no sense in conjuring up
in our minds a violent hatred against people who are the victims
of communism in some foreign nation, when the same governmental
shackles are making us servile to illiberal forces at home.
One who would
serve the freedom of man is bound by his honor to do everything
within his power to re-establish liberty and justice at home before
concerning himself with its demise elsewhere. On a purely military
basis, I believe, it is supposed to be good strategy always to attack
the enemy at the closest and most vulnerable point of contact.
For any person
who would use force at all, within the limits of his rights of defense,
it would seem that the logical place to start defending his liberty
is in any area where he, personally, has been reduced to the status
of slavery. He need not look afar for an enemy that is still merely
a threat to his liberty on his own soil. There are, here and now,
specific things to be attacked, things within the proper scope of
his action in self-defense. In doing so, he will not be violating
the principle that he should never aggressively use force or the
threat of force against what is merely a possible future trespasser
on his liberty.
And as to preparation
for defense against future trespass on his liberty, the best form
of preparation is to cut those shackles on his liberty that now
exist. If he is to defend remaining liberties, hadn’t he better
throw off those shackles which now enslave him, rather than to further
enslave himself? As more and more individuals do so and engage in
opposing the shackles that bind us here and now, there will most
certainly emerge a high degree of cooperative defense of liberty
without any compulsory planning and without the need of binding
us in obedience to any domestic master.
If I am to
be servile, one way or another, I find little reward in battling
for a better master – if, in fact, there can be such a thing as
a better master. I care not about the color of his hair, or his
name, or his ancestry, or the language he speaks, or where he may
happen to reside. I would not shed blood over such differences,
and I would not ask others to do so. Why quibble over who is to
administer an evil? There may be something harmonious and proper
in having an evil administered by an evil person, if in fact it
could be otherwise.
Those who want
action because they are in a panic, and who point to “the lateness
of the hour,” are free to start throwing off the yoke they now endure
at any moment they wish. They may use all the fearlessness and boldness
they demand of others. Let them throw caution to the winds, if they
wish, and wade in! Why don’t they? Why do they hesitate to take
action against the elements of illiberalism here at home, while
demanding haste in squandering money and blood for “defense” against
its foreign forms? The reason is, I fear, that they do not know
the nature of the enemy.
In view of
all the misunderstanding and confusion about liberty and its defense,
the thing most to be feared at this time is enslavement from within
the nation rather than from without. Slavery from within is no vague
threat; it is rapidly approaching a full victory. But the “enemy”
from without is still only a threat, and I doubt if a nation of
free people could be conquered by him, even if it were to be attacked.
The theme of
this analysis has been that liberty and peace are to each other
as cause and effect; that war is an evil; that good cannot be attained
by evil means; that war is the cancerous growth of minor conflicts,
which would remain small if dealt with as issues between the individual
persons concerned but which grow into the larger conflict of war
as a consequence of amassing forces by means of involuntary servitude;
that a person has the right to protect his person and his property
from aggression and trespass and to help others if asked and he
wishes to do so; that liberty is lost under guise of its defense
in “emergencies”; that in emergencies, of all times, the strength
and vitality of liberty is needed; that concentrating power in wartime
is as dangerous as at any other time; and that power corrupts those
who acquire it.
are the reasons why war always seems to demoralize those who adopt
its use; why human reason seems to go on furlough for the duration
of serious conflict, and in many instances thereafter; why liberty
seems always to come out the loser on both sides of war. Bentham’s
definition of war as “mischief on the largest scale” then comes
to have a deeper meaning.
fully sympathetic with the unwilling victims of conflict, we must
not lose sight of the greatest heroes – the heroes of wars unfought
because of what they did to prevent them. Largely unsung and unrecorded
are the truly great persons whose wise and timely acts have stopped
the makings of aggression at its source and who in this way have
prevented major wars. Their greatness, we may trust, is safely recorded
in more important places and in a manner more substantial than mere
popularity and common renown, more permanent than statue and shrine,
in forms where human errors of judgment cannot tarnish or pollute
their greatness. Those most deserving of glory are the persons who
prevented the battles from being fought. It is such as these whose
council we should follow.
being what they are, there are always those among us who will use
force and trespass against others. The problem of peace is that
of how to deal with them and those who blindly serve them. The solution
does not lie in doing the same thing under guise of “self-defense,”
which is usually the use of force and violence offensively against
should use force and violence even in self-defense, where it seems
to be within one’s right to do so, may be open to question. The
decision of whether or not to use it is a matter of strategy and
moral right. When Christ’s method met the force of great military
and political power two thousand years ago, its defensive strength
was impressive. It would seem that the Prince of Peace has demonstrated
the secret of both peace and defense, for which we search, even
though the reason why it works so well may defy some of our instincts
and surpass our full understanding.
[i] Chang Hsin-hai, "The Moral Basis of World
Peace,” The Annals, Vol. 258 (July, 1948), 7989.
[iii] Lewis F. Richardson, “Variation of the Frequency
of Fatal Quarrels with Magnitude,” Journal of the American
Statistical Association, December, 1948.
[iv] F. A. Harper, Liberty:
A Path To Its Recovery (Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Foundation
for Economic Education, 1949), Chap. 3; reprinted in volume one
of The Writings of F. A. Harper.
[vii] R. Hopkin Morris, Dare or Despair (London:
Liberal League of Youth Trust, n.d.), pp. 35.
[ix] Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto (Chicago:
Regnery, 1954), pp. 367.
© 1951 F.A. Harper