Peace Requires Anarchy

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

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.


Stateless Societies: Ancient Ireland

By Joseph R. Peden

April, 1971 The Libertarian Forum [PDF]

Libertarians have often dreamed of escaping the tyranny of the State; some have sought to do so by seeking refuge in distant and uninhabited lands where they could live in solitary hermitage or in small communities held together by the principle of voluntary association and mutual aid. But historians know that such experiments seldom survive in peace for long; sooner or later the State finds and confronts them with its instinctive will to violence, its mania for coercion rather than persuasion, for compulsion rather than voluntarism. Such has been the fate of the Mormons and Mennonites, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Amish people, among others.

As exploited peoples all over the world are beginning to realize, their true enemy is always within their midst – the coercive violence of the State – and it must be fought constantly in the very heart of its dominions. Every libertarian must fight the State from where he is: in his home, his place of business, in the schools, community and the world at large. His task is to resist the State and to dismantle it by whatever means are at hand.

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.

Yet the historian, if he but chooses to look and report his findings, knows that many societies have functioned successfully without the existence of the State, its coercive apparatus and monopoly of organized violence. It is my purpose here to present one example of such a society, one that existed for more than a thousand years of recorded history, terminated only by the massive military efforts of a more populous, wealthy and aggressive neighboring State. I will describe for you the millennial – long anarchic society of Celtic Ireland – destroyed after a six-century struggle against the English State in the wake of the military victories, confiscations and genocidal policies of successive English governments in the 17th century.

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Our Enemy, The State | Albert Jay Nock

I recently read the short book Our Enemy, The State written in 1935 by Albert Jay Nock, a self-described philosophical anarchist.

Nock’s insight into the nature of the State as well as his well-researched analysis of the history of America from when the first Europeans settled there in 1607 through his present time is definitely worth checking out. He ends with predictions about future growth of State power in the United States. As the 21st century reader will notice his predictions have been very accurate so far. I definitely plan on writing a more detailed blog post about this classic  in the future, but for now I just want to get it out there: this is definitely a book worth reading.

A quote from the book that I added to the Quotes page:

[The State is not] a social institution administered in an anti-social way. It is an anti-social institution administered in the only way an anti-social institution can be administered, and by the kind of person who, in the nature of things, is best adapted to such service. [page 37]

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James Holman, The Blind Traveler

Recently, libertarian anarchist Jeff Berwick mentioned one of his favorite books in his JuneA Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler 20th Dollar Vigilante newsletter blog post Let Go, Live Free. The book, A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveler by Jason Roberts, is about the extraordinary life of James Holman, The Blind Traveler (15 October 1786 – 29 July 1857).

Jeff said to read the book…

…if you think you are just too disadvantaged to be able to travel and make a life for yourself somewhere else.  Born in 1786, Holman was completely blind and suffering from debilitating pain and limited mobility, he undertook a series of solo journeys that were unprecedented both in their extent of geography and method of “human echolocation”. In 1866, the journalist William Jerdan wrote that “From Marco Polo to Mungo Park, no three of the most famous travelers, grouped together, would exceed the extent and variety of countries traversed by our blind countryman.”

He traversed through most of Europe, across Siberia in Russia, through Australia, China, India, Africa and to Brazil, just to name a few places.  Blind.  With no money.  In debilitating pain with limited mobility.  Before the advent of the airplane, automobile, or Internet.

I never thought that I was too disadvantaged to go somewhere unknown and make a life for myself, but I did perhaps think that I was too afraid to do so. That fact combined with Holman’s seemingly remarkable life story captured my interest and I immediately bought a hardcover copy of the book for $0.50 plus $3.99 shipping and handling here on It arrived to my home in New Hampshire from across the Atlantic in less than a week and I read it soon after. I must say that I am very happy that Jeff recommended the book in his blog post and that I choose to buy a copy. It is now definitely one of my favorite books.

Now that I have read the book I can critique Jeff’s above paragraph slightly. First, James Holman did not literally have “no money.” He did have some money, but very little—certainly not as much as people would expect him (or a sighted man) to need to travel nearly as far and wide as he did. Second, to make it clear, Holman was not born blind, but rather lost his sight over a “short time—weeks, if not days” when he was twenty-five years old (A Sense of the World, p. 56). Having said this, he indeed made his great travels after he became blind and while suffering from his condition of debilitating pain and limited mobility. Jeff did not exaggerate these points.

If any of this sounds remotely intriguing, then allow me to pass on Jeff Berwick’s recommendation to you. A Sense of the World is an astounding book about a truly fascinating man in history. It is an easy read and is highly enjoyable and inspirational. There will never be another James Holman. I would love to write about some of my favorite aspects of his life here, but I do not wish to spoil anything for you. Jason Roberts does a wonderful job. I’d rather you hear about Holman from him.

The cover of my copy of the book gives the following review:

“Brilliantly executed… alive, magisterial, suspenseful. Full of wonder and with a commanding sense of narrative, this is one of the best and most life-affirming biographies I’ve ever read.” — Dave Eggers

I could not agree more.

Lastly, I will mention that I could offer some libertarian anarchist commentary on Holman’s travels. I could talk about how he managed to use his charm to gain special benefits from men with government privileges. I could also talk about how governments often impeded his travels and made his passage across various imaginary borders very difficult, if not impossible. However, such an analysis would miss the point of learning about his extraordinary life. James Holman is the quintessence of a certain kind of freedom. It is this freedom that Jason Roberts brings to life for our benefit in the pages of his book.

I will thus refrain from such a political analysis and will instead end this blog post with a bit of poetry.

Some difficulties meet, full many
I find them not, nor seek for any.

— James Holman, The Blind Traveler

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“Sophie Scholl: The Final Days” (2005)

Last night I watched the 2005 German film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.

The film portrays the life and death of student Sophie Scholl, a member of the non-violent resistance group the White Rose in Nazi Germany. On February 18, 1943 she brought a suitcase full of anti-war leaflets to the University of Munich and distributed them along the corridors between classes. A janitor noticed her and reported her, leading to her interrogation and conviction of high treason. Four days later, on February 22, 1943, 21-year-old Sophie Scholl was executed by guillotine.

I no doubt could write a long blog post about how peace, liberty, and anarchism are so much better than the violence, slavery, and statism that lead to the murder of Sophie Scholl for exercising her right to speak, but I will save you the time and just say that I highly recommend this film. Write it down so the next time you are looking for a movie to watch you will remember.


Frederick Douglass’ “Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave”

I was afraid to speak to any one for fear of speaking to the wrong one, and thereby falling into the hands of money-loving kidnappers.

Frederick_Douglass_Money-Loving_KidnappersThose are the words of Frederick Douglass recalling his state of mind upon his arrival to New York as a fugitive slave on Monday, September 3, 1838.

Yesterday I read Frederick Douglass’ 1845 autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave in one sitting starting around 10:00 pm. I did not intend to read it all at once (I meant to go to bed after reading the first chapter), but I got drawn into it and was not able to put it down until I finished reading about four hours after I started.

The book begins with an introduction by William Lloyd Garrison and a letter from Wendell Phillips. I had read some of each of their works previously and knew that they both were famous for their abolitionist writings and speeches. Upon finishing their introductions and beginning the first chapter of the book, I was thus surprised to find that Douglass’ writing style was more poetic and pleasing to read than either William Lloyd Garrison’s or Wendell Phillip’s writing.

The effect that this had on me as I read Douglass’ narrative of his life as a slave was powerful. Douglass describes how part of the strategy to keep slaves subdued was to make sure that they did not learn how to read or write. As Douglass tells the story of how he learned about this and set out in defiance to learn to read and write no matter the risk, the reader knows, by evidence of the current work that he or she is reading, that Douglass succeeded with flying colors. As I read his narrative I could not help but realize not only how truly remarkable it is that he succeeded at learning to read and write while being treated so inhumanely by all who enslaved him, but also how miraculous it is that he learned to write far better than most people who are brought up free and given access to means of education.

While some readers may use the rarity of Douglass’ case as an excuse to continue holding their belief that children need to be forced to learn to read, write, do math, etc, as many students uninterested in learning these things are forced to do in most schools, I for one see Douglass’ life story as yet another reason to adopt the unschooling philosophy that children have a natural desire to learn and should be free to learn what they want when they want, rather than be forced to learn a certain curriculum grade after grade that does not necessarily even interest them. Parents and educators should provide an environment conducive to learning and help children learn when they want help, but they should not try to force a child to learn something that he or she does not want to learn by imposing a curriculum on them and grading them.

Frederick Douglass’ narrative is inspirational, emotional, educational, and captivating. I highly recommend it.

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David Friedman On Medieval Iceland

David Friedman, son of Milton Friedman, is an economist and anarcho-capitalist.

In his 1979 essay Private Creation and Enforcement of Law: A Historical Case Friedman examines “the legal and political institutions of Iceland from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries.” These political institutions of medieval Iceland are of interest to the anarchist because, as the title of the essay suggests, they involve private enforcement and private creation of law. Once one understands how the service of law can be provided privately in a society without a government, then everything else seems to easily fall into place. (Note: Medieval Iceland was not quite anarchy, but the fact that creation and enforcement of law were provided privately means that an examination of medieval Iceland can be a good way of understanding how an anarchist society could potentially provide law.)

Upon completion of his examination, Friedman reaches the following conclusion:

Whatever the correct judgment on the Icelandic legal system, we do know one thing: it worked–sufficiently well to survive for over three hundred years. In order to work, it had to solve, within its own institutional structure, the problems implicit in a system of private enforcement. Those solutions may or may not be still applicable [to today’s societies], but they are certainly still of interest.

According to his Wikipedia page: “Friedman advocates an incrementalist approach to achieve anarcho-capitalism by gradual privatization of areas that government is involved in, ultimately privatizing law and order itself.” He offers how this gradual privatization might occur in the appendix of his essay:

The first step in applying the Icelandic system of private enforcement to a modern society would be to convert all criminal offenses into civil offenses, making the offender liable to pay an appropriate fine to the victim…. The second step would be to make the victim’s claim marketable, so that he could sell it to someone willing to catch and convict the offender…. Once these steps were taken, a body of professional “thief-takers” (as they were once called in England) would presumably develop and gradually replace our present governmental police forces.

Unlike some anarchists, I am optimistic that one day governments will be abolished and peace and anarchy will be achieved. Having said that, I would not be too surprised if 100, 200, 300 or more years from now, most societies are still ruled by coercive governments. So anarchy may be a long way off, but I am optimistic that one day the status quo will be that the vast majority of people will not consider government aggression acceptable. While it is possible that humans will go extinct before this stage in our social evolution I do not think it is very likely. Truth has a way of spreading, slowly but surely.

So having said this, what is the most likely way that a free society will be achieved? Perhaps it will be achieved by gradual privatization as Friedman advocates. Who knows? In any case, a necessary first step will be to spread the idea of anarchy far and wide to everyone.