Could Private Defense Be Any Worse?
Michael S. Rozeff
by Michael S. Rozeff: Why
the West Is Attacking Gaddafi
What we have
now is socialized defense. Could private defense be any worse?
means either that you choose a privately-owned and operated defense
company for your defense services, or else you join a voluntary
defense association. It means either you hire the defense company
you want or join the association you want. You pay directly for
the service or create the service with others. You can change from
one defense company or association to another as you will or as
you have committed through contract. You, the consumer of defense
services, have choice in the defense services.
means there are several or many defense companies or associations
to choose from. They are rivals for your patronage or business.
They want your business. That makes them customer oriented. They
want to provide you the services you want at a price you are willing
are rivals in business hold down costs. They donít spend money on
defense services that their customers do not want. If they do, their
competitors can undersell them and take away their customers.
As rivals they
are under competitive pressure to innovate. They keep seeking to
provide better and better defense services at lower and lower costs.
They place pressure on those companies that supply them with resources,
equipment, and manpower. They recruit and train their own personnel
means that you the customer or association member know exactly how
much you are paying for the defense services or what services you
means that there is a market for defense services. Markets provide
differentiated products. Defense in Seattle differs from defense
in Atlanta. Local wants get satisfied to the extent possible.
in a market that is free allows for cooperation of defense companies
if such cooperation is what provides an efficient delivery of services.
Companies can compete and cooperate at the same time. If companies
decide to share risks to engage in big projects, they can. If they
decide that some aspects of defense are usefully done by a pooled
or large-scale geographical effort, they can do that. In a market
with companies and associations, the scope for various arrangements
enlarges even more.
is flexible defense. Market discipline produces flexible responses
to changing conditions and changing wants.
in a market causes companies to respond to changing conditions and
wants more quickly. The more alert that a company is to such changes,
the more profitable it can be by responding more quickly.
in a free market allows for entry of new companies and associations
at any time and any place to any set of customers and while offering
any new or improved services. Existing companies and associations
go downhill at times. They sometimes become bureaucratized and unresponsive.
Their organizations sometimes become outmoded. They may fail to
keep up technically. New companies and associations can enter and
bypass these issues.
If a private
defense company engages in an unnecessary battle or war, it loses
money. If it defends its customers badly, it loses them. The company
that makes poor decisions loses out in the market.
defense companies, what the customers want by way of defense drives
out what the customers do not want. In that sense, good defense
drives out bad defense.
The main alternative
to private defense organizations is what we have now, which is public
defense or government defense.
defense is socialized defense. It is collectivized defense.
defense means that there is a single supplier of defense services:
the national government. It is the monopoly supplier. All the benefits
of the rivalry of accountable companies vanish.
benefit noted above about private defense goes into reverse when
we talk about government defense. Everything good about private
defense becomes bad with government defense.
You do not
get to choose your defense options. You have no role in shaping
those services. You must take them. You canít leave them. You must
pay by taxes. The tax system is so complex and there are so many
different taxes that you donít know how much you are paying for
defense. There is no connection between what you pay and what you
There is no
price system in a collective defense system. The government is not
attempting to create value for customers. The von Mises critique
applies. The government has no way of knowing if itís creating defense
value or not, even if it wanted to.
The word "defense"
applied to the governmentís military operations is actually a misnomer.
Government defense is accomplished by government force. The government
takes resources from the population by force. Taxation is a forcible
taking. Taxpayers are not customers or willing joiners of associations.
customer wants for defense is not the objective of socialized defense.
The system is not organized that way.
of socialized defense are (1) a strong State that projects power
beyond its borders, (2) using the military power at opportune times
and in opportune ways so as to glorify the State, to maintain power,
and to get elected, (3) a set of military and industrial bureaucracies
and companies that benefit from the wealth diverted to them, (4)
satisfactions to those who idolize the State, war, violence, military
toys, and military matters, and (5) satisfactions to those who harbor
various hatreds that these institutions gratify, even if vicariously.
not among the objectives of socialized defense. Again, the term
defense as applied to government defense is really inappropriate.
It is stretching the language even to say that the voters or citizens
or inhabitants of a country with government defense are "recipients"
of defense services.
been times in American history when a good part of the population
engaged in peace movements that influenced the parties and the rhetoric
of candidates. However, once an administration takes office, even
on a platform of peace, it typically finds ways to move the country
toward greater militarization and war. It does this in the name
of defense, but, for the third time, government defense is not defense.
even been periods of American history when warfare was not a major
preoccupation of the government. However, these periods were times
of preparation for future wars. In 21st century America,
war is now the norm. Peace is an aberration.
It should not
be thought that choosing between the two political parties in America
is in any way comparable to the customer choice of a private defense
company. In theory, these two processes are worlds apart. In practice,
neither party champions defense. Each party shares the objectives
of socialized defense listed above, and they exclude defense.
example, America a few years back. This was a nation that had turned
against the Iraq War. This preference didnít matter. Government
defense always finds another place, another enemy, and another war.
If the average
American in the capacity of voter had looked into the matter in
2006 or 2007 or 2008, he or she would have known that the Democrats
were planning to expand the war in Afghanistan while promising a
lower profile in Iraq. Their policy papers and think tanks were
recommending this. Their main candidates were saying this.
called Afghanistan "the forgotten front line in the war on
terror." She said "NATO officials [are] predicting that the
country could fall back to the Taliban in six months." And: "The
stakes are unbearably high for Afghanistan, for Pakistan, for the
country's northern neighbors in central Asia, for the reach of Al
Qaida and for our own credibility and leadership."
on August 1, 2007 said of Afghanistan "Our troops have fought
valiantly there, but Iraq has deprived them of the support they
need Ė and deserve...as President, I would deploy at least two additional
brigades to Afghanistan to reinforce our counterterroism operations
and support NATOís efforts against the Taliban." In 2008, again
and again he repeated this and more. For example, on July 20, 2008,
he mentioned sending "two additional brigades, maybe three,"
and he added "this [Afghanistan] has to be our central focus,
the central front, on our battle against terrorism."
defense means that half of the country doesnít get the defense it
wants but is forced to pay for this defense that it doesnít want.
The CNN polls in 2006 and 2007 asked Americans "Do you favor
or oppose the U.S. war in Afghanistan?" Half favored it and
half opposed it. The half that opposed it still had to pay for it.
No one actually knew what they were paying or what they were getting
polls asked a similar question in a way that linked Afghanistan
to 2001. The result was a more favorable response to the war. Gallup
asked "Thinking now about U.S. military action in Afghanistan
that began in October 2001: Do you think the United States made
a mistake in sending military forces to Afghanistan, or not?"
In 2007 and 2008, 63 to 70 percent of those polled said it was not
persists. In a Gallup poll taken after reports of bin Ladenís death,
59 percent say that "the U.S. has accomplished its mission
in Afghanistan and should bring its troops home." A decision
on that is slated for this coming July. At present, Hillary
Clinton has declared "We must take the opportunity to redouble
our efforts...we will continue to take the fight to al Qaeda and
its Taliban allies." She doesnít pay attention to polls. That
was also true when she was the architect of her infamous health
boss, reads polls. He has said that heíll withdraw some troops starting
in July. Thatís what his right hand will be doing. His right hand
will get headlines. Meanwhile, his left hand will be keeping
the U.S. in Afghanistan. He said that too.
If the U.S.
government didnít have the constitutional powers it has in the military
arena, could private defense be any worse? Itís highly unlikely.
Even if the country had stayed with the Articles of Confederation,
we would have been better off.
Who has a convincing
argument that private defense will not be better? Where is that
argument? What is that argument? Who has a convincing argument that
socialized defense is superior to private defense? Who with clear
and unbiased vision can argue that the historical record is consistent
with a superior or even well-performing provision of defense by
the national government?
There are a
good many obstacles to moving from government defense to private
defense. Ignorance of private defense as an alternative is an important
There are also
deeper religious-philosophical problems. Iíd like to speculate about
one of these.
When it comes
to government (and a great deal more than that), most Americans
have self-enslaved themselves. They view what is around them, be
it the society or the state, as objective realities that are of
a higher order than their own personalities or spirits. They look
upon government as not only dominant over them but as primary. They
behave in a subordinate way. Indeed, many Americans actually idolize
But of course
the State is not a living being. It doesnít breathe, eat, or think.
It has no emotions. It has no personality. It is not a creative
being. The State is a creation of living personalities. Therefore,
it is not primary. It is secondary. It is only in a secondary or
derivative role that we recognize its reality, which is as a coercive
When we are
coerced, other people are coercing us. There is nothing there in
the State that should be idolized or even can be idolized. There
are only other people behind the curtain.
is no reason to accept government defense because the government
is thought to be higher than any of us individually in rank, or
quality, or importance, because it isnít. To do so is to subordinate
oneís own personality to those of others. This is self-enslavement.
The governmentís reality is actually secondary to our own reality.
reality remains in you as a person and in your capacity to choose.
The important primary reality in life and in the human being is
something invisible or subjective. It is not material (or flesh)
but spirit. This is a very difficult thing for most of us to comprehend
because reality seems to be everywhere in the flesh.
means that you retain choice. You become important.
You are primary. You reduce the importance that you
have given to government. By giving it that importance, we have
constructed a kind of reality that appears to us as superior to
ourselves. This is a reality that government otherwise could not
have, since it is not a living being.
S. Rozeff [send him mail]
is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.
He is the author of the free e-book Essays
on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book
The U.S. Constitution
and Money: Corruption and Decline.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
Best of Michael S. Rozeff