Today the U.S. Protected Us in the South China Sea, or Did It? (REVISED)

U.S. warships protected us today in the South China Sea. We’re supposed to believe that, not just because of a Chinese threat to keeping the sea lanes open, but because protection of us is what the U.S. does and why it exists. The act of the U.S. moving U.S. ships through the contested waters is justifiable, not as something that the State does for itself, but as an act done for us Americans. The State is supposed to exist and act for us. That’s its justification. This premise falls apart on examination, however.

The basis of the State, its justification, owes to three fictions. The first is that we the people have come together of our own accord in order to achieve peace and security. The second is that we believe this peace and security can best or only be achieved by creating a State, meaning the organization with a territorial monopoly of violence regarded as legitimate. The third is that, of our own accord, we have delegated our powers of property protection to the State.

The three assumptions are that we act as a people voluntarily, that we need a State to protect us from ourselves and foreigners, no other arrangement being feasible or workable, and that we willingly give up our freedom to protect ourselves by designating the State as our agent. Each of these three assumptions is false.

The State’s monopoly on its claimed legitimate use of violence comprehends foreign affairs as well as domestic. In foreign affairs, these fictions imply another fiction, that the State in its relations with foreign states and powers looks out for our peace and security and acts to achieve it.

But this cannot be true, because none of the premises are true. We do not act voluntarily as a people. We are not presented with an option of endorsing or not endorsing the State; and we are held to its government within its territorial confines. We do not need a State to protect us, or at least many of us reject this arrangement. We have other free market alternatives, but they do not see the light of day because the monopoly state prevents them from emerging. We have never signed a contract that delegated our powers of property protection to the State.

The State conducts all of its foreign (and domestic) affairs while assuring and teaching us that it is looking out for our peace and security. It assures and teaches us that it has a right to act on our behalf, which we have delegated to it and which we influence through periodic elections. The fact that many of us believe this story doesn’t make it true. Belief in fairy tales doesn’t make them true stories.

The fact is that the State has no right to act on our behalf, and we know that it has no such right because each of the premises that supposedly imply such a right is false. If we do not act as a people voluntarily and do not choose the State to protect us, and if we prefer other arrangements to be freely chosen by us, even as the State represses them, then we cannot possibly, of our own accord, be delegating the State as our protector.

As for the property rights in sea lanes, China in 2016 refused to be bound by voluntary arbitration over its claims. But on lesser grounds, China was ruled against by an international tribunal. The U.S. is putting its muscle behind that ruling.

It is supposed by anarcho-capitalist theory that contending protection companies will rationally select arbitration in certain kinds of disputes that otherwise will lead to costly wars. Peaceful decisions are more likely to occur when the costs of war fall upon a company’s subscribers. Wars are not entirely precluded, however. Some people, in their rapacity, may prefer to invest in the accumulation of power, that is, fight and form a state by conquest, in which case anarcho-capitalism is jeopardized or even breaks down. Another cause of breakdown can be contests over unappropriated resources, such as we observe in the South China Sea. China rejected arbitration. The U.S. rejects China’s claims and supports the 2016 decision. China has homesteaded some land in the ocean, however. The tribunal accorded these outposts 12 mile limits, not according them a full territorial status as islands. They were rocks or reefs that China built up with landfill such as concrete. China has seasteaded, and now it wants the standard 200-mile limits. However, it has not seasteaded those huge regions of open waters. The tribunal may have ruled on the basis of rocks vs. islands, but the homesteading criterion looks at the matter from the view of who has actually mixed labor with the resource. If ships of many nations have been plying these waters for centuries, then they have mixed their labor with the ocean and established a public right-of-way, so that China has no case for expansive 200-mile limits around the rock-lets or isle-lets.

The other basic question the U.S. enforcement action raises is exactly what limits there are on the territory that the U.S. chooses to protect. Also, how far will the U.S. militarily go in a given situation of enforcement? Almost anything and any situation in the world and outer space is fodder for U.S. protection, because property conflicts are everywhere we look. Every state in existence thwarts the rights of its citizens to some extent. All such invasions can be regarded expansively by the U.S. as open season for its own protection so as to diminish a threat to “liberty” or “freedom” here at home. There is no clearly limited stopping point if the U.S. determines for itself what foreign actions it will undertake on behalf of its home population or that of some allied nation. The U.S. is, as matters now stand, engaged across much of the world in various wars, conflicts, military exercises, threats, and disputes, all in the name of countering threats, providing protection, enforcing laws, and creating national security. Sailing a fleet of U.S. ships near the 12-mile limits of distant nature-made and man-made islands is but one small example. Even if the U.S. is more in the right than China on this case, the questions of limits on U.S. activities remain, in places like Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Ukraine, Poland, Israel, Niger, etc.

A dominant protection company in an anarcho-capitalistic world will be tempted to become a state. A limited state is tempted to become an unlimited state. A dominant state is tempted to become an empire. An empire is tempted to become a world government. A group of states is tempted to become a world government. A limited government is tempted to become an unlimited government.

There is only one solution, and it’s costly. It involves constant vigilance. When people delegate powers of protection to others, they still have to be ready and able to secure their own protection by alternative means at any time while withdrawing their resources from any given protection provider. Only this readiness accompanied by constant monitoring helps prevent a given company from exploiting its position. If, on the other hand, people become lax or if they become greedy and rapacious and support a company’s aggression, war will result. A state may result.


6:04 pm on May 27, 2018