As an anarchist, I am accustomed to getting grief from conservatives, progressives, and Statists of other stripes, but among libertarians, I occasionally get significant grief from those with whom should otherwise be on much friendlier terms: minarchists.  Generally speaking, there are two types of minarchists.  The first kind of minarchist sees the State as an essential part of a functioning society, albeit a dangerous part, (i.e. a necessary evil).  To this kind of minarchist, the key to a successfully governed society is a well constructed constitution that restrains the State from overstepping its bounds.  When a minarchist of this variety objects to my anarchist inclinations, I am not the least bit surprised.  (For a refutation of this brand of minarchism, read the U.S. Constitution, and then read any modern legislation.)  The second kind of minarchist would love to dispense with the State but can not see a way to provide certain essential functions without it.  More often than not, the one essential function that keeps him or her from full fledged anarchy is security.  “How,” they ask, “can you defend against an invasion from a foreign army without having a State run army in place beforehand?”

First, I would suggest that we are looking at the wrong end of the problem, if we start by asking that kind of question.  The question assumes that security is a collective problem.  It’s not.  Security is an individual problem.  In fact, it’s the most important problem that an individual must resolve.  After all, it doesn’t do me any good if the State resolves a security problem after I have been killed.  When we view security as a collective problem for the State to address, we necessarily make the security of individuals a secondary issue, but in an anarchist society, the exact opposite would be true.  How you, your family, your property, etc. are being protected from harm would be the primary way that you would evaluate your security options from an anarchistic point of view.

Now, imagine that in some anarchistic future you are offered two different options for your security.  In the first option, a security company that has one central office in your city will send its employees out to patrol the neighborhoods in your city.  The security officers will be in your particular neighborhood once or twice a day as they pass through looking for security threats.  If you have an immediate security need, you can call their emergency hotline, and they will send security officers as soon as possible.  This will usually take several minutes and is not often in time to stop any personal injury or property damage.  However, they will take a report and try to find the security threats after the fact.  In the second option, the security provider will have an office, or a regular post, in your neighborhood.  Your house will be monitored twenty-four hours a day, and the security company will alert you if any suspicious activity is detected.  In the event of an actual security threat, security officers will be on the scene in seconds and any threatening individuals will be apprehended and removed.

If this seems like an easy choice, it’s because it is.  The first option is the collectivized view of security as represented by your (best case) State run police force.  The second option is an amalgamation of private security options that already exist today, (e.g. security guards in gated communities, private home security systems with 24-hour monitoring, etc.).  In an anarchist society, the latter option would like be improved upon several-fold as more people get their primary security from private security firms and stop relying on the subsidized, socialized version that currently provides them a false sense of security today.  With competition would come improvements both in cost and effectiveness.

Of course, this still leaves us with the question, “How can you defend against an invasion from a foreign army without having a State run army in place beforehand?”

Here’s the irony: State run militaries are easier to conquer than a country full of individually secure people.  Central armies make for easy targets, and any society that bases it’s political system on whoever controls that central army is vulnerable to being taken over by a foreign invader with a more powerful army than theirs.  Consider France during World War II, for example.  Once the French army was conquered, the French people were conquered as well.  They became compliant German subjects until they were “liberated” by another stronger army.  In contrast, consider the Iraq War, where Iraq’s outgunned military was defeated in a few short weeks.  Yet, because the people of Iraq gave no deference to this new authority,the real Iraq War was what happened after Saddam Hussein’s army was annihilated.  There was no way to fully conquer this new Iraqi opposition, because the opposition was varied and numerous.

Obviously, Iraq is not overrun with philosophical anarchists, nor were the people of Iraq employing personalized security before being invaded.  Imagine the U.S. army invading an advanced anarchist society.  There would be no leader to capture and kill, only neighborhood after neighborhood of people unwilling to defer to its authority.  To succeed, they would essentially have to kill everybody.  In the meantime, your personal security company would respond to an invading force that threatens your neighborhood by arming itself appropriately.  The likelihood that this would end well for the foreign invader is extremely low which is why very few, if any, would ever try.  Even crazed tyrants can do a cost-benefits analysis.

Ironically, the one thing that the reluctant minarchist believes that only the State can provide is the one thing that should never be entrusted to the State.  Security is personal, and the sooner we organize society around that idea, the better off we will all be.

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