Thursday, September 10, 2009

Free Market Defense and Protection

How would a free market defense system work? That's a question statists immediately come up with when faced with the proposal of abolishing the state. Here's some ideas on the matter, and on the matter of defense and protection only; investigation, arbitration and restitution are a different pair of shoes.

Before we start with anarchic defense, I must remark that it's somewhat intriguing how much statists cling to their model of protection. What does it even promise to accomplish? Police is not here to protect you from crime (even though this is commonly assumed), but to investigate crimes after they have occured. Sure, if police happen to come along while you're being victimized, then you're lucky. But how likely is that? There is this classic gun lobby scare story of a murderer standing in your bedroom and the police being "only minutes" away. Unfortunately, that's not a scare story, but the truth. Even worse, contemporary states tend to be hostile towards gun owners, thereby making it difficult or outright impossible to acquire effective tools of self-defense. What'cha gonna do when you're barred by law from defending yourself and police take their time to arrive at your destination in case of a crime? Getting raped, that's your only option. State defense equals getting raped not only in this sense. Since states are monopolists and claim a monopoly on defense, you can expect, just like with any other force-backed monopoly, the price of defense to rise while quality decreases. Worst of all, you won't be able to do anything about it. In other words, state defense as a system fails.

Now to free market defense. The bedrock of free market defense is yourself. Free markets are all about individuals taking responsibility, and this is what's expected of you as well. You are your last line of defense and you're well-advised to take heed of your personal safety first. Staying in good shape, maybe acquainting yourself with a martial art, being familiar with common defense tools and using your territory to your strategic advantage (especially important for people with large properties out in the country) is always the best choice to keep criminals at bay. Hans-Hermann Hoppe once made the point that free market insurance companies would most likely reward qualified gun owners with more attractive premiums. I would add that any accredited improvements of one's self-defense or danger prevention abilities would better your rates since a customer that can safely take care of most perils himself is every insurance broker's wet dream.

But of course, you're most likely not alone against the world. The details of your mid-level protection structure would, I guess, depend on where you live. Sovereign property holders in thinly populated areas (farmers, hermits, nature-lovers, you name it) would be best served with a farm patrol-style guarding system. Depending on how big the protected area is, this could either be organized along the lines of a volunteer fire department with a few farm boys driving their daddy's trucks around their friends' farms, equipped with some CB radios and looking for imminent danger, or, if it's a rather large area, with a commercial defense provider cruising in the air with one or more helicopters and some sort of mobile rapid deployment force on the ground in case of an emergency. Restrictive covenants would have a wide range of defense possibilites at their disposal, and that's one of the reasons why I think that RCs would be fiercely popular in the absence of the state. There's the classic "gated community" style protection mechanism with checkpoints at entry and exit stations, making sure that at least vehicle traffic in the area is unlikely to cause trouble. This can be complemented by the presence of a few friendly and smiling constables who take a look around the streets and help strangers find their way in and out of the community. Enormously timid folks could opt for a RC with cameras on every street corner, but I doubt this would be a common sight. I could name all the shadings and nuances to that, but you get the picture: RCs can cater to any kind of security demand and experiment with varying policies to try out which one enhances the well-being of its citizens the most.

Now, one may ask, where's the difference between that and a state? The difference is one of status: security personnel hired by RCs depend directly on the satisfaction of RC inhabitants. Angry, abusive police agencies would go bust in no time due to contract annulations by RC entrepreneurs, or else people would move out of the covenant / refrain from moving there in the first place and the covenant entrepreneur would be left holding the bag. Since suppliers of living environments are able to cater to nice demands as well, it is much more likely that liberty-oriented folks will also find their place of choice with no cameras, no checkpoints, no restrictions on personal habits and so on. This can be implemented much easier in a state of markets than in a state of states.

One last area to cover for mid-level protection is non-RC city areas. Generally, protection in a city will probably be much more individualized since no police force could ever credibly promise protection of such large numbers of people. Now, apartment buildings could opt for a doorman who regulates entry. Individual property owners would best be served with a fence or a gate and knowledge of personal protection techniques. In more suburban areas, mid-level protection would most likely be completely individualized, maybe combined with a neighborhood militia, depending on how good neighbors get along. If there is still a demand for on-call protection services similar to today's police, it will be mainly in these suburban and city areas, though I doubt it. In the absence of an ideologically regulating state, property owners will most likely pragmatically discriminate in favor of civilized behavior, thereby making concerns about inner-city safety a thing of the past. For the rare occasions when trouble does arise, arms-carrying citizens will be able to defend themselves or a fellow sovereign against a criminal. I believe that organized protection is much more useful in the country than in the city and that many security concerns of today's cities are caused by state regulation of transport, tenant choice and personal protection. Whatever the problem will be, market participants will be incentivized to figure it out.

But what happens in case of an invasion? That's top-level protection and private military contractors will most likely emerge to deal with it. I don't think they will look like today's military; their most important personnel will be engineers and pioneers, special forces-type units and negotiators. Engineers and pioneers will be used to study the area around a client's position before conflicts heat up to figure out strategically important positions and apt locations to install appropriate defense facilities in case of an emergency. Of course, this will be much easier if the client owns the land (for example, in case of a RC) than if contractors have to negotiate agreements with neighboring property owners, thereby increasing the premium for the individual customer due to these additional expenses. Anyhow, if a heavily armed group of villains does threaten to invade, engineers will be rapidly deployed to the scene of action to prepare all kinds of traps and gadgets to hinder their invasion's progress. At the same time, negotiators will be activated to seek out the leaders behind the invasion and talk about conditions of peace. To improve their bargaining position, the defense contractor will also send out special forces units to take out the most important parts of the invasion, namely vehicles and the command structure. Open combat will be actively avoided to reduce costs. Blood will primarily be shed among those who claim responsibility for the aggressive invasion (the command structure). If negotiators cannot come to an agreement with the invader that suits the preferences of a customer (or matches the conditions previously defined in the contract between customer and contractor), the situation will unfortunately turn into a Guerilla war. We do, however, know from recent history that an oppressing group that is not viewn as legitimate cannot sustainably occupy a certain territory, especially if its inhabitants were not brainwashed by a state into giving the means of protection out of their hands. This will most likely turn into a completely disaster for the invader and become a warning to all prospective aggressors to just beat it.

Keep in mind, these are just ideas how this problem could be solved that I came up with while eating Easter Eggs. How much more creative will a guy be whom you'll actually pay to figure stuff out?

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