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The Myth of National Defense: Essays on the Theory and History of Security Production Hardcover – October, 2003
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About the Author
Hans-Hermann Hoppe received his Ph.D. and his "Habilitation" from the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. He is currently professor of economics at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Auburn, AL, and editor of the Journal of Libertarian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly Review. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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From the introduction:
"Even aside from day-to-day security risks, the reality of terrorism and its resulting mayhem has demonstrated the inability of government to provide adequate security against attacks on person and property. The lesson of September 11 is indisputable: government had not only failed to act as a guardian of security and protection but had actually been the primary agent in creating insecurity and exposure to risk, and, moreover, did not achieve secure justice once the crime had been committed.
"However, this was not the lesson that was drawn from the affair. Instead, the political elite successfully exploited public fears to vastly increase government spending, central credit inflation, bureaucratic management, citizen surveillance, regulation of transportation, and generally wage an all out attack on liberty and property.
"Meanwhile, US foreign policy pursued in the aftermath became more aggressively interventionist, violent, and threatening (the US refused even to rule out the employment of nuclear weapons against enemy regimes) than it had been before, thereby increasing the number of recruits into the ranks of people who are willing to use extreme violence as a means of retribution.
"In the same way that government intervention in times of peace can generate perverse consequences in markets that do not tend toward clearing, in times of war, military intervention can thus have the effect of harming the prospects for peace and security and bringing about a permanent state of violence and political control. Truly, the political affairs of our time cry out for a complete rethinking of the issues of defense and security and the respective roles of government, the market, and society in providing them."
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This book begins with an Introduction by Hans-Hermann Hoppe in which he re-examines the Declaration of Independence as written by Thomas Jefferson. Hoppe argues that rather than securing rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as maintained by Jefferson, the United States government has largely ignored this mandate and become ever more tyrannical. Hoppe further shows how national defense as offered by the state monopoly has largely failed in light of the attacks of September 11. Hoppe considers the case of monopoly, showing how monopoly is largely viewed as bad in nearly all cases by mainstream economists and philosophers, except for the case of the state and the production of defense. Hoppe considers a thesis of Ludwig von Mises that in order for government to fulfill its primary function it must be democratically organized and it must allow for unlimited secession. But, as Hoppe argues this would in effect render the state a voluntary membership organization. Hoppe then outlines the essays which appear in this volume, arguing against a coercive state monopoly on the production of defense with the power to tax.
Section One of this book is entitled "State-Making and War-Making". The first essay is entitled "The Problem of Security: Historicity of the State and "European Realism"" by Luigi Marco Bassani and Carlo Lottieri. These authors consider the development of libertarian thinking concerning the state and the role of the state in anthropological and sociological literature. The authors consider the conquest theory of the state and discuss such individuals and theories as those of Max Weber, Oppenheimer, the Italian elitist (Gaetano Mosca and Vilfredo Pareto), the European Realists (Carl Schmitt and Otto Brunner), and modern libertarian thinkers (such as Murray Rothbard). The authors show how the modern state originated in feuds between Germanic princes and show how world government and the New World Order has arisen. The second essay is entitled "War, Peace, and the State" by Murray Rothbard. This essay takes an extreme view on the role of the state in war, arguing that the state has no right to make war, and maintaining that in self defense of self or property it is necessary to pinpoint violators. Section Two of this book is entitled "Government Forms, War, and Strategy". The third essay is entitled "Monarchy and War" by Erik von Kuenhelt-Liddehn. This essay written by a European aristocratic thinker argues that monarchy is superior to democracy (noting how Western civilization rests on the death of two persons, Socrates and Jesus Christ, and that both were murdered by the popular will). The author explains how monarchy led to wars which were less violent and more humane than the era of democratic war and total war. The author also considers some of the horrors of the Second World War showing Allied atrocities, as well as the rise of the totalitarian movements. This author maintains that the state is the result of Original Sin and argues the case for monarchy over democracy. The fourth essay is entitled "Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation or Monopoly?" by Bertrand Lemennicier. This essay argues against monopoly of nuclear weapons and for proliferation through analyzing the situation using game theory. The fifth essay is entitled "Is Democracy More Peaceful than Other Forms of Government?" by Gerard Radnitzky. This article considers the case of war and the state showing the role of democracy. In essence, the author shows the horrors of state involvement in war, mentioning the results of Rummel showing that governments are responsible for countless deaths ("democide") but arguing against Rummel's democratic peace theory. The author argues against the widely accepted "democratic peace theory" arguing that democracies are not more peaceful than other forms of government (and in fact are far more violent) and considers the case of monarchy showing how democracy has led to an era of total war. The author also shows that the idea that democracies do not go to war against each other is false and shows how supposed democracies get to define what constitutes democracy so that they can fight to "make the world safe for democracy". Section Three is entitled "Private Alternatives to State Defense and Warfare". The sixth essay is entitled "Mercenaries, Guerrillas, Militias, and the Defense of Minimal States and Free Societies" by Joseph R. Stromberg. This essay attempts to show various private alternatives to national defense by considering the cases of mercenaries, guerrillas, and militias and showing their role in the American War for Independence, the Southern War of Secession, and the Anglo-Boer War. The author shows how such private means of defense allow for pinpointing of violators as suggested by Rothbard thus eliminating damage done to the lives or property of innocents. The seventh essay is entitled "Privateering and National Defense: Naval Warfare for Private Profit" by Larry J. Sechrest. This essay shows the role of privateering as a private alternative to state produced naval warfare. The eighth essay is entitled "The Will To Be Free: The Role of Ideology in National Defense" by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel. This essay shows the role of conquest in the development of the state which arose in the capture of hunter-gatherer bands and the rise of the Agricultural Revolution. The author maintains that ideology is essential to maintaining the power of the state. Section Four is entitled "Private Security Production: Practical Applications". The ninth essay is entitled "National Defense and the Theory of Externalities, Public Goods, and Clubs" by Walter Block. This essay argues against all so-called public goods, maintaining that they can be produced privately, and argues that the state is coercive unlike voluntary private clubs. The tenth essay is entitled "Government and the Private Production of Defense" by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. This essay begins by showing the failure of the state to protect rights and property. Hoppe shows how the state interferes both domestically and abroad and results in countless violations of rights and erodes the institution of property. Hoppe shows how the right to exclude has been systematically eroded and with it the right to property. Hoppe argues that instead of a state monopoly on defense production, that private insurance companies would be ideal candidates to offer protective services. Hoppe maintains that such private production of defense would lead to a more peaceful society in that there would finally be disincentives for aggressing. The eleventh essay is entitled "Secession and the Production of Defense" by Jorg Guido Hulsmann. This essay considers the case of secession and shows the necessity of defining this term carefully. The author argues for secession and considers various secessionist movements and the role of guerrilla fighters. The author argues that secession can be used to achieve political reforms, establish a free society, and further break up schemes towards global government. However, it must be pointed out that in order for a secessionist movement to survive it is frequently necessary to appeal to some overarching religious, nationalistic, or ideological motivation. The author does not find this problematic in that it unifies secessionists against the intrusive state.
This volume offers a series of fascinating essays which attempt to offer real anti-statist alternatives to the state monopoly on production of defense. The authors show how private means can be used (such as private insurance companies offering protection, private militias, or individual self-protective measures assured through the right to own weapons) to defend individuals and their property from assault. While some of the arguments made here may be troublesome and may need further development, I believe that the contentions made are certainly interesting and worthy of consideration for those who realize that the performance of the state in protecting life, liberty, and property has been deplorable.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe in his book, Democracy: The God that Failed, took on several of these cows. He took on the ideas that the state is necessary for the production of defense, that democracy was a positive progression, that democracy and freedom go hand in hand, that democracy has no link to tyrannical systems like communism and fascism, and so on. He advocates in this book a system of natural order or anarcho-capitalism. In this system, fundamental private property law applies and the free market has assumed the production of goods that were produced almost exclusively by the state (education, roads, national defense, etc.).
Now Hoppe is back with plenty of assistance. The Myth of National Defense is an expansion of the ideas found inDemocracy:TGTF. The attention this time is primarily on defense. The questions "Does the state do its job of producing defense well?", "Will a free market defense alternative work?", "Would it be preferable to the state institutions?", "Is there any historic precedents?", "What are some of the potential problems involved?", "How can this system be implemented?", "What will keep such a system turning into a state?", "Could such a system adequately defend against states?", and others are raised and answered in this book. This does not mean that all angles are covered and this is the end of discussion. The idea of the free market providing defense is not new (this book is dedicated to precursor Gustave de Molinari 1819-1911), but you will be disappointed if you expect to find a large library of literature devoted to this subject.
Is this book for the casual reader? Not quite. Like Democracy: TGTF before it, The Myth of National Defense can only be fully understood by those who have a bit of economic knowledge under their belt. While this is a great book involving sound Austrian economic theory, it is not to be confused with good economic primers likeEconomics in One Lesson or Economics For Real People. Hopefully, we will see a book that covers the subject of the state and national defense in a way that is accessible to the layman.
One of my favorite essays in this book was Privateering and National Defense: Naval Warfare for Private Profit. Larry Sechrest shows how private enterprise being involved in national defense is not without precedent. In the War of 1812 and many wars prior, it was taken for granted that private ships specially licensed by their government to capture or (rarely) destroy the ships and cargo of the enemy existed. These privateers would capture merchant or military ships from enemy lands, take them to port, and (depending on the outcome of courts which examined whether ships captured were enemy vessels or not) sell the ship and cargo at auction. This practice was not always but often profitable for the ship shareholders and crew (who earned a percentage of the take). It also had the added bonus of being a successful form of defense. So successful that large nations with large navies feared smaller nations with privateers to the point of outlawing the practice via treaty. The whole essay is very enlightening to me. I had never heard of the practice even though 800 American privateer ships participated in the American Revolution!
This book is a great read and welcome continuation of the theories rendered in Democracy: TGTF. If you enjoyedDemocracy: TGTF, then The Myth of National Defense is a must read. Highly recommended.