Response to Lynn Stuart Parramore: Part Two

This is part two of a three part series on an article by Lynn Stuart Parramore of Alternet. The first part focused on a contention she made about libertarians and inequality. This post discusses her take on libertarians and public goods. Our focus is on her thoughts about national defense. As she puts it:

Another public good that flummoxes libertarians is national defense. If you mention to them that the market can’t possibly supply the defense of a country, they will cross their arms and answer: “How do you know?” They will insist that if there is enough demand, supply will magically follow.

Well, history tells us that countries that don’t get their act together on national defense have big problems. It’s almost demented to think that private markets would have supplied defense against the growing threat from Germany in the ’30s, not least because as is now well documented, many private business interests in the US, Britain and France favored accommodating the Nazis.

To counter the argument about supply and demand concerning national defense, you can simply point out that the draft has been necessary in every major war. You can sometimes find enough people to volunteer during peacetime, but people have a funny habit of not wanting to get themselves blown away during wartimes. That’s why in the U.S. Civil War, recruitment was total chaos, with rich people paying poor people to go fight in their place. In 1863, New York City exploded in a four-day long murderous riot because people opposed the Civil War draft law which allowed rich people like J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie to pay off a substitute. That riot was one of the bloodiest in U.S. history.

The most glaring aspect of this passage is her apparent support for the military draft. As every left-libertarian market anarchist knows: the draft is involuntary servitude. If you can’t have a war without it, you don’t get to conduct one. It’s never ok to employ forced labor to achieve your aims. This is a moral truth that even non-libertarians tend to adhere to.

She also ignores the fact that there was no truly free market during the time period of World War 2. You can’t use an unfree market as an example of how free markets allegedly lead to a lack of defense. The business interests that supported the Nazis weren’t representative of freed market commerce. This is also due to their working with a state. No business that works with a nation-state is an example of a libertarian entity.

In addition to the above, this article displays an ignorance of the libertarian writing on defense without the state. It’s not practical or easy to conquer an anarchist society. There is no head to simply depose and declare victory over. No nation-states would exist in an anarchist society either. The issue of national defense simply wouldn’t arise.

What about the defense of non-state societies that come under attack by aggressors? Federated anarchist militias could repel invaders, but the likelihood of an invasion is slim. This is due to the internationalist character of an anarchist world. A global community would exist. Let’s work to make it a reality.


Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory