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  • Alan Stevens - AWAH - Libertarianism, Freedom.

Defending Liberty against Internal Predators

Updated: Oct 28, 2020

Free societies should appear as big states fail. They will rely on popular support for the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) to suppress criminals, including pro-state activists. Insurance companies are likely to run crime prevention.  


Free societies should appear as big states fail. They will rely on popular support for the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) to suppress criminals, including pro-state activists. Insurance companies are likely to run crime prevention.  


Any state, however corrupt, inefficient and apparently oppressive its arrangements may be, ultimately depends on the consent of its inhabitants.  Political arrangements therefore at some level reflect public opinion.


For example, if people generally accept that the point of political activity is simply to get into power so as to steal as much as possible, then you will get mediocre outcomes.  These can be seen in our own earlier history, and in today’s impoverished third world countries.


Public opinion in the first world currently supports the myth of Democratic Socialism. Here the state is the object of what amounts to a religious cult. The state is held to be both necessary and just - when it is neither.  But its priests, the politicians and officials are expected not to be personally corrupt.


Democratic Socialism is however coming down right before our eyes. The productive people are now too few, especially after the mayhem caused by the lock-downs and other medically useless interventions. Heavier taxation of producers will not change this.  It will make it worse.


Meanwhile, libertarian societies will arise and survive if they achieve a critical mass of people who subscribe to libertarian values, and act in a resolute fashion to uphold and protect them.  This critical mass may not be an actual majority.  Dedicated minorities of say 30% of a population may suffice if the rest of the population is willing to go along.


Freedom therefore depends on creating areas where abolitionist libertarianism is the predominant strand in public opinion. Such areas may coincide with the boundaries of an existing (probably smaller) nation state.  Or, more likely, they will be fragments of bigger entities which secede from the parent state.  In such islands of freedom people will prosper.  As they prosper, they will need protection from predators in their societies.


THE ENEMIES OF A FREE SOCIETY

There will always be people who prefer to live by robbing and bullying other productive people.  These enemies of society will be found in a continuum of aggressors ranging from opportunist attacks by individuals through to attempts to organise systematic large-scale predation of populations.  (I am going to leave aside for the moment the special case of external threats from state societies for discussion in future posts).

It’s important to understand that the state is – in libertarian eyes – simply a criminal association.  It gets most of its revenues from big protection rackets called ‘taxes’.


Therefore, a free society must protect itself not just from racketeering mobsters but also from political activists proposing a new state.


These enemies seem to be different in their level of threat and the kind of measures that could be taken against them.  But all these enemies, in a free society, would be countered by resolute application of the NAP by agencies based on an expanded insurance industry. 


THE NON-AGGRESSION PRINCIPLE (NAP)

Public opinion in free societies will support systems of law based on the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) and applied by competing judgement agencies.  To restate the NAP; everybody has the absolute right to live their lives as they see fit and to dispose freely of their justly acquired property.  The only proviso is you may not directly injure or damage other people or their property, or threaten to do so.


In such a system, the law is about resolving disputes.  It is judge-made law. Justice is done via compensation under restitution orders (‘damages’) arising from breaches of the NAP. There can be no legislation, because all legislation is necessarily coercive and therefore a contravention of the NAP.  Legislation sanctions actions, whether or not any harm has occurred. That means it inevitably threatens or attacks individuals who have not offended against the NAP.  So much for all schemes of social engineering and legalised theft.


Nobody can be above the law in a free society.  That includes individuals claiming the privilege of robbing and coercing others on behalf of an obviously criminal association known as the state. 


Deterring those who prefer to live by predating other people, i.e. petty criminals, mobsters and statist agitators, will require a commitment to the voluntary use of violence to deter malefactors, or to bring them to justice if deterrence fails.


Fortunately, the NAP itself drastically simplifies the task of crime prevention.  It cuts away the mass of irrelevant ‘victimless crimes’, especially illegal drugs prohibition, which sustain gang violence and profitability.  It also gets rid of the subsidy for criminals called ‘prison’.  


INSURANCE COMPANY PROTECTION AGAINST PREDATORS

In the context of the NAP, would-be aggressors of all kinds are most likely to be countered by the addition of security insurance to the existing framework of insurance, for example as part of home or property insurance policies. This is seen as the logical development of pre-state legal arrangements such as those described in Bruce Benson’s ‘The Enterprise of Law’.


Such arrangements often depended on groups of individuals banding together to ensure that they could pay restitution orders if they injured or killed others, or damaged or stole property.  It was a kind of insurance. Such surety groups could be the early Medieval hundreds in English counties, or the people of chieftaincies in Ireland.  The inhabitants collectively stood surety with their own resources.  And they naturally were careful about what kind of characters were accepted into their surety group. 


(Another example of voluntary group action to uphold non-state justice is the way that courts at the great medieval fairs used ostracism - just excluding offending merchants - to enforce judgements in an entirely private commercial law system.)


Insurance companies seem to many libertarian thinkers to be suited to fulfil this role today.  If a successful attack is made on an insured property or person, the insurance company will have to pay a claim.  It will have clear incentives to go after the wrongdoers, as indeed did members of Hundreds in early England.


SUPPRESSION OF ORDINARY CRIMINALS 

It is easiest to see how insurance companies will suppress ordinary crime.  The costs in terms of stolen or damaged property aren’t that large.  An expanded insurance industry could cover the current level of risk. And it would then be reduced once the many perverse incentives of the current system were eliminated.


The UK Home Office estimates the costs of crime to society in Britain at £50bn as a whole. That does sound a lot.  But this figure includes a lot of different costs.  It includes estimated financial losses from violent crimes such as murder and assault.  These stem from the failure to deter violent criminals.  Many crimes of violence are connected with illegal drugs and would vanish with legalisation.


Another cost is the high level of private investment in crime prevention.  That’s because the current monopoly criminal justice system is not fit for purpose.  Additional costs stem from state spending on expensive cost-push policing and prisons. Since prisons, illegal drugs and monopoly cost-push police forces will not exist in free societies, these costs will disappear.  A host of other victimless ‘crimes’ will also no longer waste society’s time and energy.


Actual property losses from criminal acts is much less.  These seem to total, very roughly, around £10bn annually.  This is tiny in relation to Britain’s annual GDP of around £2,000bn – it is barely half a percent of total production.  It’s not a huge problem and it could clearly be reduced substantially.


CHANGING INCENTIVES IN PREVENTING CRIME

Insurance companies would have a financial incentive to detect and solve offenses against the NAP.  They will want to get some money back for the claims they have paid out to victims of crime.  Companies will therefore try to solve as many crimes as possible and then seek judgements for restitution against most defendants.  Restitution orders would also include legal and court costs and the reasonable cost of apprehending (or at least serving notice on) defendants.


Insurance companies will also want to reduce the number of aggressors, or ’criminals’, in circulation to prevent future claims being made against them.  They will want criminals to move to other occupations or jurisdictions to avoid the cost of repeated restitution orders.  These will often be much larger than the money criminals made from the original crimes.  Even if not every crime is solved, a life of crime will tend not to pay.


Those defendants who cannot pay restitution orders will be in a quandary.  Courts and plaintiffs are likely to insist that they agree to the equivalent of indentured servitude to pay off the restitution over time.  Companies could well emerge to help people earn the money to pay their restitution debt, perhaps by managing them in a secure facility. That would be the only form in which anything like a prison would exist in a free society.  

 

Wrongdoers who neither pay up nor agree to a period of indentured servitude will be outlaws.  That would be another reversion to earlier non-state legal practice.  By definition outlaws are people who cannot go to law to get redress for attacks on their persons or property - up to and including their murder.  (In that case their heirs could not seek redress.)


Outlaws forfeit the right to membership in a free society by failing to make restitution. This is the price of re-admission to society.  Such people would be well advised to leave free society jurisdictions.


PREVENTING THE EMERGENCE OF A NEW STATE

Once a free society is established there will still be some people in its territory who retain pro-state habits of thought and belief.  Whether motivated by misplaced idealism or by the hope of personal gain, they will try to re-introduce organised robbery and coercion, which are the bases of state activity.


The state uses force in flat contravention of individual liberty, and basic morality, to do harm and to enrich its supporters.  From the point of view of a libertarian society, suppressing start-up protection rackets is tantamount to suppressing proto-state activity.


The state is fundamentally just a criminal association organised to rob and bully productive people.  It is a protection racket hallowed by age, long habit and constant propaganda. It basically came into being originally as a result of conquest of territories by invaders. They wanted to collect a steady long-term income from them – i.e. rob the peasants. 


People wishing to re-establish a state will take two apparently widely different forms.  But deep down they are the same. There will be mobsters seeking to establish or protect protection rackets. And there will be pro-state agitators whose aim is much the same as organised crime, i.e. to obtain a position of power and profit at public expense. 


SUPPRESSING ORGANISED CRIME

A free society will have much less to fear from organised crime.  Organised crime is generally a creature of the state.  It is apparently a truism in criminology circles that there can be no organized crime without an organized monopoly police force to corrupt.  Organised crime amounts to groups of criminals who chip in jointly to pay off members of the state’s judgement and enforcement monopolies. 


Without a state, most organised crime activities are not financially worthwhile.  That’s because they depend on state prohibition, regulation or taxation of things like drugs, booze, whores and gambling. That pushes up prices hugely and protects mobsters from more competent legitimate competitors.  The state thus creates big profit opportunities for its mobster cousins.


These currently controlled activities do not contravene the NAP.  They are, in modern parlance, victimless crimes.  Neither victimless crimes nor the profits they create for criminals can exist in a free society.  So there will be little scope for organised crime.


But protection rackets are organised crime businesses that are undoubtedly contrary to the NAP.  The protection racket involves extorting money from business owners and householders.  The apparent promise is that the gangsters will actually provide an element of protection against criminal attack.  The threat is that non-payers will be harmed.


Helpfully, a free society’s competing detection, judgement and enforcement agencies will be very difficult for organised criminals to intimidate or bribe.  Any justice company suspected of becoming corrupt would rapidly lose credibility and business to the point of bankruptcy.  Attempts to establish widespread protection rackets would be easy to spot and hard to deny.  We can be reasonably confident that few protection rackets could be set up.


SUPPRESSING PRO-STATE AGITATORS

The libertarian Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) described above is a very far cry from the dogma of the dominant modern religion of the liberal interventionist or Democratic Socialist state.  A state is little else but constant aggression against its citizens. 


Anyone who proposes that a state system be re-established in a free society, in effect a statist or socialist agitator, would be an enemy of liberty.  They could not be tolerated.  In this matter I am taking, however imperfectly, a leaf out of several books by Hans Herman Hoppe, one of the leading libertarian thinkers at the moment. (See his ‘Getting Libertarianism Right’, as well as ‘Democracy, the God that Failed’ and ‘A Short History of Man: Progress and Decline’.)


He believes that a free society could not admit or tolerate those who would restore the state.  Free (i.e. no-state) societies will become extremely prosperous.  That is exactly because their populations subscribe to libertarian ideals. Free societies will attract migrants who are fleeing poverty in countries where public opinion supports dysfunctional state intervention.


Unfortunately, however industrious they may be, such migrants will often bring their culture’s support for corrupt and destructive statist politics with them. That’s why Democratic Socialist politicians are so keen to import economically marginal third world migrants who will support ever growing state intervention. 


To survive, a free society must protect itself by maintaining its adherence to liberty. It must suppress the expression of statist views and plans to ensure that no state apparatus, however small, comes into being. Once established these tumours only grow bigger.


In some newly established free communities, it could be a condition of membership that nobody could promote statist views on pain of expulsion.  But in a society which has become free over time that would not be practicable.  Would the NAP help here too?


THE NON-AGGRESSION PRINCIPLE APPLIES TO THREATS

‘Now hang on Alan’, you may be thinking.  Surely in a libertarian society you have absolute rights to freedom of speech and all the other rights enumerated in the US Bill of Rights, especially in its first article, the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States?  After all it is all about Liberty. You can’t go around suppressing people who express the wish to re-establish the state. 


Well, in a free society you would only have the rights enshrined in the NAP as enumerated above.  You have the right to live your life and use your justly acquired property as you see fit, free from attack, injury or damage – or the threat of them.  You don’t have the right to (conspire to) threaten others’ persons or property. 


So how would a pro-state agitator or conspirator stand in relation to the law, that is to say, to the NAP?  Well he contravenes the NAP.  It’s that simple.  He wishes to establish an agency which will have legal impunity to rob and coerce others.  In other words, in so doing, he is necessarily threatening nearly everyone else’s property and persons, big time.


Obviously, it depends on how serious the intention to promote a new state is.  An off the cuff pro-state comment is one thing, a concrete statist plan or proposal is another.


How much restitution would the agitator have to pay to each individual affected by his admittedly remote threat?  It would be a matter for the judges at the various judgement agencies to discover where to draw the line.  When would promoting the re-creation of a state became a believable threat?  Given what so many people have experienced at the hands of previous states, it is likely that pro-state agitation would quickly be defined as a realistic threat.


Each individual restitution payment and costs award against such an agitator might well be small.  But threatening to reintroduce the state, i.e. licensed robbery and coercion, into a society of hundreds of thousands or millions of people is a big deal.  There is obvious scope for big class actions, since the state steals from most everyone. 


It cannot be ruled out, again, that associations of concerned citizens, perhaps associated with private militias, would make it their business to take socialists to court.  (Such militias would themselves represent an obvious obstacle to attempts to implement a new state or indeed to attempts to impose one from outside.)


It would get rather hot for would-be promoters and founders of a renewed state pursued by expensive restitution (and costs) orders.  Many would decide discretion is the better part of valour and become useful members of society in some other line of work.


Or they might stick to their guns and go into exile.  In a neighbouring state society, they might try to convince its rulers to support their desire to predate their fellows by re-establishing the state.  Which brings us on to the subject of forthcoming posts on protecting Free Societies from external aggression by state societies.

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