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The Fantasy of State Protection
Excerpt f/ Stefan Molyneux column,

This one comes to my attention from Dandy Dan Stuart of the Free State who's a huge fan of Stefan Molyneux. The column is a February 2006 piece, and as you'll recall, George Bush II is the president and has not even experienced the brushback from that year's midterm election. The Military Commissions Act was passed in 2006, which is highly pertinent to what Stefan is writing about: namely, that we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that the government is here to protect individuals from military aggression. What anarchist said, "The government is not here to serve you, it is here to enslave you." That fact is becoming more and more obvious as we all pay attention.


A few days ago, I was at lunch with a colleague, an ex-military man, and the talk got to politics. I mentioned that the government was never going to voluntarily shrink in size; it would only collapse in on itself through bankruptcy. He said that he had a lot of respect for Paul Martin, Canada's ex-prime minister, because Martin made some progress tackling the budget deficit in the 1990s. "I was very relieved," he said grimly, "because all our training in those days centered on containing civil revolt."

Despite my two-decades-long investigation into the nature of the State, I was shocked. I asked him what he meant. "Oh," he shrugged, "the government was expecting a revolt, so we were all being trained to contain that. They really thought they were going to run out of money, so they wanted us ready to deploy just in case Canadians got real pissed off at them."

I found that fascinating. And revealing, of course. As the Canadian government was trying to rein in its debt, it was also training its soldiers to turn their guns on Canadians, just in case that didn't work. Or in case it did work, but the Canadian people didn't like the effects. No welfare checks. No old-age pensions. That would be a recipe for revolution.

It is entirely to be expected, of course. Governments protect their own interests, not those of their citizens. However, it does illuminate an interesting point, which is that – despite the evidence of the entire 20th century – people still believe that governments exist to protect their citizens. It is an interesting – and eminently testable – theory. To put it to the test, let's look at some of these State "protections" throughout history. If State power exists to protect citizens, then State power should rise and fall relative to the threats those citizens face. If I say that my dentist drills my teeth because they have cavities, then obviously he should drill less – or not at all – if they don't have cavities.

The first and gravest danger to a citizen is war. It is governments, of course, that always start wars, but those governments always say that they are protecting citizens from the aggression of other governments. In other words, other governments are bad, therefore war cannot be avoided – and so we must be partially enslaved by our own government to protect us from these inevitable wars.

This premise is easily testable. If governments exist to protect their citizens from other governments, then as a particular country becomes more secure, its military should shrink proportionally. So, for instance, after the fall of the Soviet Union, U.S. and NATO military budgets should have been massively reduced. Furthermore, a country like Switzerland, buried deep in the middle of fractious Europe, should spend far more per capita on its military than does America, which has oceans to either side and friendly neighbors to the north and south. Japan, for instance, should have been a peaceful country throughout its history, since it is largely immune from invasion. The same goes for England.

If you were able to run a magic survey throughout history, which government do you think people would be most frightened of? Would it be (a) their local State or lord, or (b) some State or lord in some other country? What about in ancient Rome – would it be (a) the local rulers, who forced young Romans into brutal military service for 20 years or more, or (b) the Carthaginians? What about England in the Middle Ages? Were the peasants more alarmed by the crushing taxation and strangling mobility restrictions imposed by their local lord, or was the king of France their primary concern? Let's stop in Russia during the 18th century, and ask the serfs: "Are you more frightened of the czar's soldiers or of the German Kaiser?" What about German soldiers on the Eastern Front in 1942? Were they more afraid of the Kremlin or of their own officers, who would shoot them if they faltered? Let's go to a U.S. citizen today and ask: "Are you more frightened of foreign invaders or of the fact that if you don't pay half your income in taxes, your own government will throw you in jail?"

Of course, we also have to stop at the Second World War, which has had more propaganda thrown at it than any other single conflict. Didn't the British government save its citizens from German domination? That's an interesting question. The British government got the country into World War I, helped impose the brutal Treaty of Versailles on Germany, then contributed to the boom-and-bust cycle of the 1920s, which destroyed the German middle class and aided Hitler's rise to power. During the 1930s, the British government supported the growing aggression of Hitler through subsidies, loans, and mealy-mouthed appeasement. And then, when everything had failed, it threw the bodies of thousands of young men at the German air force in the Battle of Britain. Finally, it caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands more British citizens by defending Africa and invading France, rather than letting Nazism collapse on its own accord – as it was bound to do, just as every tyranny has done throughout history. (The German army was doomed the moment Hitler decided to invade Russia.) Can it really be said, then, that the British government protected its citizens throughout the first half of the 20th century? Millions killed, families shattered, the economy destroyed, half of Europe lost to Stalin… and after spending more than half a decade fighting National Socialism in Germany, the British state then imposed massive socialism in England after the war! Can we consider that a great success? I think not. Only States win wars. Never citizens.

Another way of reviewing the claim that governments exist to protect citizens from external violence is to simply measure the degree of freedom that citizens experience both before and after an external threat manifests itself (or at least is claimed to). For instance, if a doctor claims that he is treating you in order to make you better, then the best way to verify that claim is to figure out if you are either better off or worse off after he has treated you. If you find out that after every "treatment" your health deteriorates significantly – but that your doctor's income has increased significantly – then you may be forgiven for being skeptical about his claims of expertise and benevolence. Similarly, governments that claim to be protecting your freedom should not, as a direct result of that protection, diminish that freedom thereby. Yet no war in history has resulted in even equal – let alone greater – freedoms after the war than before. In every case where false protestations of State virtue can be subjected to any kind of empirical test, those claims are always found to be false.

The truth of the matter is that we do not face threats to our lives and property from foreign governments, but rather from our own. The State will tell us that it must exist, at the very least, to protect us from foreign governments, but that is morally equivalent to the local Mafia don telling us that we have to pay him 50 percent of our income so that he can protect us from the Mafia in Paraguay. Are we given the choice to buy a gun and take our own chances? Can we hire private security guards to protect our property? Of course not. Who endangers us more – the local Mafia thug, or some guy in Paraguay we've never met that our local Mafia guys says just might want a piece of us? I know which chance I'd take.

Even the most cursory examination of history shows that no correlation can be made between a country's security and its military spending. Since there is no relationship between military budgets and external threats, there can be no causality between the two. Thus, governments do not have militaries in order to protect their citizens from external enemies. Militaries must exist for some other reason...

[for remainder of Stefan's column please visit this link at]

2010 October 05
Excerpt posted by The Coffee Coaster™ w/permission of
State Protection | War | Stefan Molyneux | | Peace

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