27 Jul 2012

How Would a Free-Market Society Provide Law and Military Defense?

Economics, Shameless Self-Promotion 33 Comments

We answer these central questions in my new online Mises Academy class, which starts August 1. Summer pricing: the 6-week class is only $59! Full infomercial here.

33 Responses to “How Would a Free-Market Society Provide Law and Military Defense?”

  1. Major_Freedom says:

    This recent story might be relevant to discussion.


  2. Gene Callahan says:

    This is fairly simple: In the beginning of a “free-market society,” people would band together in small defensive groups. Gradually, these would form coalitions against each other, based on cultural or strategic considerations. Finally the largest of such groupings would gain monopolies on the legal use of force over large territories. Finally, after a lot of death and suffering, we would achieve… the world we have today!

    I can’t wait to get started!

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Yeah, Rothbard already poked holes in the immaculate conception of the state theory from Nozick, and Mises already crushed the inevitability of socialism theory from Marx. You used both in the same argument. Kudos.

      Next thing we’ll see is Callahan playing Hegel in a sandbox for some other loony absolutist platitude.

      We are not chained to a single inevitable fate. Humans can learn and improve on the past. Not all of us see humans as having to sit back and watch as Providence takes us down a path we cannot deviate from. I know of some 19th century European slaves who have something to say about that nonsense.

      • Tel says:

        Not that I’m a great Gene Callahan supporter or anything, but you are being unfair. We only ran the experiment once and 100% of the outcomes are what we have today.

        Most of the nations on Earth came about via conquest, thus proving the conquered people did not provide sufficient military defence to be able to protect themselves. The only conclusion we can come to is that all the remaining nations did provide a quality military (at least good enough for the time being).

        Of course, if we started again from fresh right now, then we would have technological advantages, but that wouldn’t really be starting from fresh, and besides, we all know the existing powerful people ain’t about to hand it over.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          How am I being unfair? How is pointing out that we are not chained to our past, unfair? How is pointing out that humans learn over time, unfair?

          It doesn’t matter even if there is 1 trillion years of human anarchist experiments that turned statist. It still would not prove that humans are inevitably predisposed to statism as a fact of “human nature.”

          Human history is unique. There are no constants in human action. There is repetition for sure, but it’s by choice, not Providence.

          I agree that those with existing power won’t just hand it over nicely. But then neither did any other rulership type hand over power nicely. Warlords didn’t easily give way to Princes. Princes didn’t easily give way to Kings. Kings didn’t easily give way to Parliaments.

          I am in agreement with Mises when he said that the power of rulers rests entirely on the support of the masses, implicitly or explicitly.

          I think you are too partial to the epistemology of historicism, where history isn’t what we make of it, but is rather a book that we’re reading, and that this book cannot be anything else other than a particular story, and we can only ever pause our reading of it, which can only delay the story as it unfolds. That we can never write our own story.

          • Bob Roddis says:

            Isn’t it interesting how every statist myth is based upon some alleged hokey a priori iron law of the universe” People must invariably create “states”. Just cuz. Entrepreneurs are too dumb to know how much stuff to make that will clear the market but central planning funny money bureaucrats do. Just cuz. It’s an a priori law of the universe, didn’t you know?

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Why isn’t there a world monopoly state? Not all countries are not going to war. In fact, it’s only a handful that are fighting wars.

      We can go 250,000 years without a world state, and we can go 250 million without any state.

      • Blackadder says:

        Why isn’t there a world monopoly state?

        A world monopoly state only became technically feasible recently. Give it a little time.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Don’t you mean intellectually feasible? All the technology in the world cannot bring about a monopoly state, either at the world or local level, unless enough individuals value such a transition.

          What you said is a neoMarxist, historical materialism (dialectic) argument that somehow makes a world state inevitable on the basis of materialism.

          • Blackadder says:

            Don’t you mean intellectually feasible?

            No, I mean technically feasible. Throughout most of human history you couldn’t have had a single world-state even if everyone on earth had been predisposed to it.

            That doesn’t mean world government is inevitable, of course. Just that the absence of a world government until now is not significant.

    • Dan (DD5) says:

      ” Finally, after a lot of death and suffering, we would achieve… the world we have today!”

      Because under Statism, we won’t ever have over 100 million deaths like we did during the 20th century. Of course, that was all just the free market going bad on us.

    • Silas Barta says:

      Yeah, private law systems would just reproduce the Soviet communism we currently live under. What’s the point?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      I can’t wait to get started!

      Gene, I don’t see your name on the class roster. I hope you don’t think you can take the class w/o paying, just because we’re buds.

    • Mattheus von Guttenberg says:

      I’ll take it by this submission that you have read effectively no literature on stateless societies. How you manage to justify ridiculing a position of which you are uneducated must be due to your gargantuan intellect.

      Nevertheless, in case you ever feel like being intellectually honest, here are some prelimninary works you can breeze through and get back to us:

      Rothbard, For a New Liberty
      Murphy, Chaos Theory
      Hoppe, Private Production of Defense
      Tannehills, Market for Liberty
      Rothbard, Power and Market
      Benson, The Enterprise of Law

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Mattheus, Gene had a blurb for the back cover of the first edition of Chaos Theory. I hope he read the book.

        • Mattheus von Guttenberg says:

          I’m not convinced Gene reads books, frankly.

          • Bob Murphy says:

            Well then you are incredibly bad at interpreting evidence, unless you are just making a joke. Gene clearly reads books. He also clearly has a huge chip on his shoulder (now) when it comes to Rothbardian anarchy and his critiques of it.

          • JFF says:

            You’re confusing Callahan with Tyler Cowen.

      • Blackadder says:

        I’ve read Chaos Theory and For a New Liberty. Both well written, creative works that are ultimately unpersuasive.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Blackadder that was a very hurtful thing to write.

          • Anonymous says:


            I am a hard man. I am a cruel man. Never forget this.

            • Blackadder says:

              That previous comment was by me.

  3. Bharat says:

    But who would build the roads??

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Who will take care of the children while the roads are being constructed!

      Who will answer my question if everyone is building roads and taking care of children?

      Who will provide food to those people who answer my question?

      Who will be my master? Anyone? Please, I can’t deal with reality by reason. I was never taught how to use it! Violence, save me!

  4. Blackadder says:

    How would military defense be provided in a plum
    line libertarian society? Easy: taxes.

    The taxes would all be voluntary, of course. But people would gladly pay them because they recognize the value of liberty and the need for a military to defend it.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      Those won’t be taxes. They’d be sales revenues.

      Taxes are by definition involuntary.

      • Tel says:

        Obviously you feel that the protection of the state is worth paying for, and better than anything you could provide for yourself… else you would just stop paying that protection money.

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