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News Link • WAR: About that War

The Endless War Against People


War is like a big machine that no one really knows how to

run and when it gets out of control it ends up destroying
the things you thought you were fighting for, and a lot
of other things you kinda forgot you had.
– Anonymous

When I discuss with others the idea of living in a peaceful, stateless world, I am most frequently asked: "but what about national defense? What if the Chinese, or North Korean, or an aggressive Islamic state, wanted to invade America, destroy our way of life, and enslave us to their regime? How might we defend ourselves from those who want to use force to take us over?"

While such questions reflect legitimate concerns, they overlook one disturbing truth: what people fear took place centuries ago. America was "taken over" by powerful interests who used the machinery of the state to reduce all of us to their violent control; that we might be the resources for the accomplishment of their purposes. That one of the most popular Broadway shows is based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, reflects just how thoroughly most of us have internalized the grasping purposes of the so-called "Founding Fathers." Should anyone put together a show on the life and thinking of Sam Adams, please let me know!

The problems we encounter through the politicization of society arise from confusions concerning the benefits of organizing ourselves with others. Because we are social beings who could not survive without the help of others – who would have cared for you immediately following your birth? – we have become lazy in distinguishing the organizational forms available for our benefit. We humans have long known of the advantages derived from a division of labor. Beyond living at a subsistence level, in which we consume all of our production just to survive, we are able to generate surpluses that we can exchange with others to increase our well-being. It is this reality that underlies the economic means by which we organize with others. 

The economic means are an expression of the private property principle: owners decide for themselves how – and if at all – they choose to share or exchange their respective claims to what is theirs. They require no superintending authorities to impose rules and other costs upon their transactions. One of the most familiar examples of this marketplace behavior is found in "farmers' markets" that exist in almost every community, as well as in roadside stands where farmers offer their produce for sale to passing motorists. What is noteworthy in these, and other marketplace transactions, is that the parties internalize all of the costs of getting their produce to the market. The farmer prepared the ground, planted the seeds, watered and protected the crops from predators, kept out weeds, harvested and cleaned the crops, and then transported them to the market. All of such costs were borne by the farmer in the expectation that the prices he or she realized from customer purchases will exceed the total costs invested to make his or her farming a profitable undertaking so as to continue the processes.

But there are others who see that energies driven by self-interested men and women using spontaneously-ordered organizations, can be corrupted by those who can use coercion for their benefit. There is nothing new in this, although our so-called "primitive" ancestors were too sophisticated to trust power in the hands of tribal leaders. Those interested in pursuing this topic might want to read the late French anthropologist, Pierre Clastres' book Society Against the State. It was our more recent ancestors who concocted the street-gang looting-party known as the state. In selling this institutionalized violence to its victims with the pretense that the arrangement was the product of a contract, the state actually arose through conquest.

In order to bamboozle their intended prey, political schemers must fabricate threats which they, alone, are capable of overcoming. The threats may be of domestic origin: murderers, rapists, burglars, or people who use the wrong pronoun in speaking of others. Some threats are genuine, for which an intended victim must always rely on his or her methods of protection. Whether a threat is genuine depends upon  whether a property trespass is visited upon an owner. But who pays attention to the property principle any more, right?

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