Peace Requires Anarchy

How An Anarchist Society Would Provide National Defense: The Solution to Libertarianism’s Hardest Problem | Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

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How an Anarchist Society Would Provide National Defense: The Solution to Libertarianism’s Hardest Problem

By Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

This lecture was delivered at the University of Texas at Austin on April 7, 1980. It was recorded by Jim Cartwright, who subsequently marketed it as three audio cassettes. The lecture was recently edited and converted into an MP3 audio file with meticulous care by Bill Courtney.

The audio of this speech was obtained from:

Jeffrey Hummel is a Professor of Economics at San Jose State University:

Here is a recent interview of him by in 2013:


Overall I thought it was a very good lecture. I especially liked how Hummel stressed the importance of “ideological” factors (see 56:34 to 1:10:45 in the video). I agree with him that these ideological factors can play a very significant role in determining whether a government can be imposed on a given society or not, either from within or from the outside via a foreign state.

If Hummel’s position is correct, as I believe it is, then improving these ideological factors can be an effective way to strengthen the “national defense” of a society. In a libertarian anarchist society the ideological factors would likely be so strong against statism that it is very unlikely that the society would ever be ruled by a government again. The ideological factors would have to change again, but that would be about as likely as people in America in the future deciding to enslave black people due to a belief that black people are inferior to white people. Just as that form of slavery will almost definitely never be accepted again by our society, so to would governments never again be accepted once we achieved a libertarian anarchist society. If a foreign state could not take power once it invaded a libertarian anarchist society—if a foreign state could not extract taxes from people once it invaded or enslave them or do any other parasitic governing—then it would have little incentive to invade. The amount of national defense that a libertarian anarchist society would need to deter attack would therefore probably be much less than the amount needed in an equivalent statist society, since there would be no power structure to take over and profit from. If a state attempted to invade the anarchist society anyway then it would soon find that it could not succeed since the population would refuse to be ruled. Upon learning this, the invading state would eventually have to stop waging its costly war against the society.

I have collected several quotes in the How to Achieve a Free Society section of my Quotes page on the subject of governments requiring the voluntary support of many of the population they rule in order to maintain their power. Governments cannot form without this support and whenever they lose it they lose their power and collapse. No government can maintain its power using brute force alone. Once one gains an understanding of the sources of state power it becomes easier to see how to get rid of governments. Further, it makes it clear why the ideological factors in a libertarian anarchist society would probably be an insurmountable obstacle for a foreign state looking to conquer a libertarian society. The state would probably only be able to succeed if it was far larger than the libertarian society and had far more resources to employ and if its population was sufficiently bent on invading the libertarian society. Even then, if the ideological factors were ideal in the libertarian society, I am skeptical that the invading state would be able to successfully impose its rule. To better understand why I am skeptical, let’s see those insightful quotes I mentioned on a significant source of government power.

How To Achieve A Free Society

“Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.” – Etienne de la Boetie, The Politics of Obedience, p. 47

“It is necessary to recognize that the ultimate power of every government—whether of kings or caretakers—rests solely on opinion and not on physical force. The agents of government are never more than a small proportion of the total population under their control. This implies that no government can possibly enforce its will upon the entire population unless it finds widespread support and voluntary cooperation within the nongovernmental public. It implies likewise that every government can be brought down by a mere change in public opinion, i.e., by the withdrawal of the public’s consent and cooperation.” – Hans-Hermann Hoppe, On the Impossibility of Limited Government

“Why don’t we have libertarian anarchy? Why does government exist? The answer implicit in previous chapters is that government as a whole exists because most people believe it is necessary.” – David D. Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom, p. 83

“Historically, States do not dismantle willingly or easily. While they can disintegrate with startling speed, as in Russia in 1917 or France in 1968, almost always new States arise to take their place. The reason for this, I believe, is that men cannot bring themselves to believe in the practical feasibility of a society in which perfect liberty, security of life and property, and law and justice can be attained without the coercive violence of the State. Men have for so long been enslaved by the State that they cannot rid themselves of a Statist mentality. The myth of the State as a necessary part of social reality constitutes the greatest single obstacle to the achievement of a libertarian voluntarist society.” – Joseph R. Peden, Stateless Societies: Ancient IrelandApril1971 The Libertarian Forum [PDF] p. 3

“If states have everywhere been run by an oligarchic group of predators, how have they been able to maintain their rule over the mass of the population? The answer, as the philosopher David Hume pointed out over two centuries ago, is that in the long run every government, no matter how dictatorial, rests on the support of the majority of its subjects.” – Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty, p. 66 (PDF page 77 of 432)

“The vigilante movements that were so common in the American West and the decisions by many to establish and enforce their own custom-based laws illustrate an important point about a valid legal system. Vigilantes re-established law when government officials were ineffective or corrupt and, therefore, in violation of the law. The power of law is not absolute, even when it is in the hands of a government authority. As Hayek observed, ‘the allegiance on which this [rules established by a legislature, or government] sovereignty rests depends on the sovereign’s satisfying  certain expectations concerning the general character of those rules, and will vanish when this expectation is disappointed. In this sense all power rests on, and is limited by, opinion.'” – Bruce L. Benson, The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State, p. 321, quoting F. A. Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty, vol. 1, p. 92

“Contrary to popular opinion, even totalitarian dictatorships are dependent on the population and the societies they rule.” – Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy, p. 20 (PDF page 28 of 102)

“[A]ll governments can rule only as long as they receive replenishment of the needed sources of their power from the cooperation, submission, and obedience of the population and the institutions of the society. Political defiance, unlike violence, is uniquely suited to severing those sources of power.” – Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy, p. 30 (PDF page 38 of 102)

“The degree of liberty or tyranny in any government is, it follows, in large degree a reflection of the relative determination of the subjects to be free and their willingness and ability to resist efforts to enslave them.” – Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy, p. 20 (PDF page 28 of 102)

“There’s one thing that’s been ‘learned’ maybe from Tunisia and Egypt that I think is a mistake. And that is that the existing ruler has to resign. He doesn’t have to resign. You take all the supports out from under him; he falls. No matter what he wants to do. This is the distinction in the analyses between nonviolent coercion in which he has to resign, but he’s forced into it, and disintegration when the regime simply falls apart. There’s nobody left with enough power to resign.” – Gene Sharp, How to Start a Revolution (2011) documentary

“The [hunger] games provide that key elements that every state, no matter how powerful or fearsome, absolutely must have: a means of distracting the public from the real enemy. Even this monstrous regime depends fundamentally on the compliance of the governed. No regime can put down a universal revolt.” – Jeffrey A. Tucker, Democracy Is Our Hunger Game

Also see the 6-minute viral animated video The Tiny Dot by Larken Rose.

Author: PeaceRequiresAnarchy

“A consistent peace activist must be an anarchist.” – Roderick T. Long

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