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Editor’s note: This is part two of a three-part series.
In part one of our interview with Robert Wenzel, the editor and publisher of Economic Policy Journal and Target Liberty described what a private property society is, how the role of government changed in America, and how legal disputes would be managed. In this installment, we discuss some of the pushbacks to his book, how national defense would work, and what would occur in a nuclear fallout.
LN: One of the pushbacks against your book, as well as in your blog over the past couple of years, is that of a property owner shooting a child who roams onto someone’s property without permission or a person stealing that property owner’s apples. Could you elaborate on how a PPS would react to the killing of an innocent child and remedy such situations?
RW: First of all, I just think it’s a bizarre situation that it would occur. I point out in the book that recently a child in New York City was playing with a stove and seven people died in the house. So, you don’t really have a lot of people after that calling for the banning of stoves. If you have some bizarre situation where a child wanders on – and I can’t imagine where this is going to happen – to a property where a property owner shoots him, you basically have a situation that is unusual. And to actually call for the deliverance of a government to stop that, you’re calling for the creation of a structure of society that has killed hundreds of millions of people.
So, it would be absolutely terrible and horrific if a child was killed that way. However, the people who are focused on that are suffering from looking at a specific rather than a larger perspective. It’s pathological altruism. What’s going on is that they fear a bizarre situation – again it’s hard to understand how that can occur; it would occur less often that a child starting a fire from a stove that killed seven people – when the only alternative where you have some structure where you demand rules beyond the respect of private property, which then results in a type of government – and we know the government structure has killed hundreds of millions.
We’re not talking of a perfect world here. We’re looking at the balance. You look at this bizarre situation versus the fact that hundreds of millions of deaths in China, the Soviet Union, and Germany that occurred because of a government structure.
LN: Towards the end of the book, you write that a non-profit may seek out donations to construct appropriate defense apparatuses to protect from, for example, a foreign invader. Considering how immense the current U.S. military is, do you fear that these defense mechanisms developed by non-profits would be too inadequate to stave off an invasion from China or Russia?
RW: First of all, I don’t say that it will be a situation where you’ve got to only have non-profits. You may have situations where a group of builders in a part of the country that want to develop some kind of a defense system. One point I made in the book is that what we have now is a bureaucratic defense system. In many cases, it’s an offensive system where we have bases in hundreds of countries and where we are conducting offensive operations. The cost of defense would be smaller, but it would be more in line with actual dangers.
If China attacks Pearl Harbor, the people in New Hampshire are going to be somehow responsible for taxes if you start a war with China over Pearl Harbor. What would happen in a PPS is that defense would be based upon what actually might happen. People in Texas might, for example, fear some kind of an attack from Mexico (unlikely). That would be sort of a real thing, while somebody in Maine may not be concerned about what’s occurring at the Texas-Mexico border at all. So, you would have a defense system paid for by landowners most likely on the Texas border area, which would be a lot cheaper and wouldn’t demand funds from everybody else. There would be places where there would be great risk and places where the would be very little risk and the cost would adjust to that.
You wouldn’t be looking at this sort of macro military situation where it’s the government protecting everyone everywhere, demanding taxes from everyone for these defenses. The defenses would be based upon the cost. In some cases, the cost might be too expensive and the area might not be worth developing. Although I think it would be a situation that would not occur often because defense systems in a PPS would cost less because you don’t have bureaucracy, you don’t have that offensive weaponry, and you’re only protecting for what might be real threats in your specific geographic area versus global threats that really don’t have a lot to do with you.
LN: There may also not be as much blowback because you have fewer regions imposing their will on other countries, correct?
RW: Correct. You would have a lot less than that because you won’t have the offensive attacks going on now by the U.S. military throughout many parts of the globe.
LN: You discuss how an invasion by Mexico into Arizona or Texas would be a concern for those two states but not for a state like Maine or New Hampshire. Let’s say North Korea shoots off a nuclear missile into the California region and the nuclear fallout would travel east. How would a PPS handle that scenario? Using your hurricane example, you note that some people might just leave the land. Is this something you would expect happening?
RW: First, as far as the North Korean threat, I see that more of a threat right now because of U.S. instigation on the peninsula. I don’t see much more of a threat if the U.S. got out of that area. But if there is some world regime that really wants to attack California, I don’t see any problem with a PPS group getting together and taking those weapons out. I have no problem with that. But it wouldn’t be a demand on everyone to pay taxes to do it. It would be a self-financing thing if they thought it was a threat. In regards to California, where you have beautiful and expensive property, I see builders wanting to protect that property and they would be the primary people involved in developing a defense system or some kind of attack on some of those nuclear weapons aimed at the California coast.
In the third part of our series, Robert Wenzel explains PPS in a small town versus a large city, the differences between legendary economist Murray Rothbard’s anarcho-capitalism theory versus PPS, and if a PPS could emerge anytime soon.