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by Neville Kennard, veteran preaching and practising capitalist

“War is the health of the State” ~ Randolph Bourne (1886-1918)

Governments like a crisis. “Don’t waste a good crisis” was an expression heard quite a lot during the Global Financial Crisis. A good crisis gives government the excuse to regulate, and of course to tax. Politicians can be seen to be “doing something”. Bureaucrats can enhance their positions, their departments, their “importance”, their reguslating, taxing and spending.

There is no better “crisis” than a war. Citizens don’t like wars , unless they feel threatened. The Territorial Imperative of all animals, humans included, is instinctive — we are hard-wired to protect our turf. The ability of a smaller and weaker animal, or human, to defend its territory against a bigger aggressor is well-known (hence the “Home Game Advantage” which sporting teams experience).

When a nation is threatened by an invader the “natives” defend like crazy. When such an invasion threatens the government has little trouble rousing the citizens to defend as they are already feeling that their territory, families, homes, property are under threat. But when a government wants a war —  could I even say “needs a war” — and there is no imminent territorial, life or property threat, then it takes more manipulation of the people to engineer a “threat”.

The recent invasion of Iraq was an example of governments engineering a threat, with false information and intelligence. The “Weapons of Mass Destruction” threat that Saddam Hussein was supposed to possess, spruiked up and given the right “spin” by George W. Bush, Tony Blair and followed obsequiously by John Howard and many allies, was just what they needed to create a potential threat and an excuse for a war. It was fairly safe war they created here — long way from home, a weak opposition, a scary Islamist population, the Al Qaeda bogey man so soon after the September terrorist attacks on New York — an easy sell to the populace at the time.

The military like wars. They train and equip and get ready so to be a soldier and not having a war is like a fireman not having a fire. A good little war, like a good little fire, is the opportunity to put all that training and equipment to use.

Patriotism and Nationalism can be brought to the fore, flags can be waved and a good cause created. In the case of the Iraq war there was ridding the world of an ugly dictator, liberating the Iraqi people, and let’s not forget “Making the World Safe for Democracy”! The Making the World Safe for Democracy has been around for a long time and the excuse for many Crusades.  “Democracy” has replaced Christianity as the Just Cause for Crusades and Just Wars in the last hundred years.

Another “Just War” was the invasion of Afghanistan. Here were Al Qaeda and their leader hiding in the hills conspiring to strike again and the horrid Taliban with their repressive beliefs and behaviour. And of course they were Islamists and “different” to us. This war too was a long way from home with the a risk of only slight casualties and the opportunity to use all that good training and gear. (The cost to tax-payers was never considered, nor the possibility of the wrongness of invading another country (call it a Police Action, and call the military “Peace Keepers” helps to make it sound it like a Just War). Nor were the unintended consequences of such an invasion, war and occupation such as actually increasing the recruitment of Al Qaeda potential terrorists considered.

And to illustrate other examples of governments liking wars, when there is no apparent external threat they can create internal threats and declare “War on Drugs”, “War on Terror”, even a “War on Poverty”. Many bad guys can be discovered — Drug Lords and Money Launderers, Terrorist Cells, Al Qaeda Members.

War on Poverty? A bit more problematic to find some Bad Guys here, but hey, the government and its apparatchiks and political supporters can always trot out Big Business and Capitalism; the Multi-Nationals Corporations are always good for a scare and scapegoat —  they are faceless, unaccountable, and are headquartered in Switzerland or Wall Street or The Bahamas.

What is illustrated by this propensity for war is the very nature of The State. Whether States are Autocratic, Communist, Monarchist or Democratic, by their very nature they are controlling, plundering and oppressive of their citizens and can easily ramp this up to become war-like. The bigger and more powerful The State the more is its propensity for wars. Many Mini States, City States, Non-State jurisdictions, Cyber-Nations, Sea-Steads, that give people choice, that provide competition between States and jurisdictions, and offer alternatives and innovations and degrees of freedom are the best chance to reduce wars.

Wars not only kill people, they make us less prosperous, less free. Wars waste lives and resources. The Twentieth Century was the century of huge Nation States, and it was also the century of the most murderous wars and genocides (200 million slaughtered). Let’s hope the twenty-first century sees a break up of big Nation States, a greater choice in countries and jurisdictions in which people may live and a consequent diminution on the propensity to go to war.

“Walk softly and carry a big stick” — perhaps the Swiss have got that somewhat right.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Welcome from Neville Kennard
  2. Think Tanks Don't Work
  3. "Market Failure": Just what the government ordered!
  4. The Tragedy of the Tax Pool Commons
  5. Corporate Welfare
  6. Citizenship for Sale?
  7. I Don't Vote
  8. Voting: Right or Privilege?
  9. Stockholm Syndrome and our Love-Hate Relationship with Government
  10. Civil Disobedience: The Rules of Engagement
  11. Should Respect for Law Extend to Bad Laws?
  12. Jaywalking as a Demonstration of Individuality
  13. Government Likes War
  14. Collusion is Our Right
  15. Why Not the Drug Olympics?
  16. Unconventional Wisdom
  17. Tiger Farming: An Alternative to Extinction
  18. Looking Backwards: Mont Pelerin Society Conference, Sydney, 2010
  19. Tax Avoidance is a Patriotic Duty
  20. Kennard Writes to IPA Review Editor
  21. Genocide by Welfare: A Tragedy from the Aboriginal Welfare Industry
  22. Separating Sport and State
  23. Your Home is Not an Investment
  24. Dick Smith, Celebrity Philanthropist
  25. A Libertarian's New Year's Resolution
  26. Extend Politicians' Holidays to Create Prosperity
  27. Entrepreneurs are Disruptive, and Bureaucrats Hate It
  28. What is a good Australian?
  29. Governments Like Employment But Hate Employers
  30. The Market Failure Industry
  31. Neville Kennard: The Tax Avoidance Imperative
  32. Wot if ...?
  33. The Tribal Chief and the Witch Doctor
  34. The Tannehills
  35. Democracy versus Property Rights and Prosperity
  36. Government Doesn't Work, and That's the Way They Like It
  37. Minarchy vs Anarchy
  38. Euthanasia and Self-Ownership
  39. The Right Policies to Fix a Depression
  40. Is Howard Our Best PM?
  41. Tax Producers vs Tax Consumers
  42. Where There's a Queue, There's a Business Opportunity
  43. Authoritarian Freedom
  44. Why Classical Liberals Should Debate Anarchocapitalists
  45. The Tyranny of the Majority
  46. If you could choose to whom you paid your tax
  47. Business Should Exploit Boat People
  48. The Immorality of Trade Unions
  49. "America" vs "The United States"
  50. Sweet Anarchy
  51. The Illusion of "Job Creation"
  52. Gold Is Money
  53. Guilty Capitalists
  54. Bureauphobia
  55. Prosperity vs Growth
  56. Capitalism vs Democracy
  57. More people = More fun
  58. Self-Ownership - the very idea!
  59. Government will murder Neville Kennard if he doesn't back away
  60. The Australian Dollar Has Been Cowardly and Criminally Devalued, Harming the Poor Particularly
  61. Is Taxation Theft and Government a Tax Cheat?
  62. My Journey to Anarchy:
    From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
  63. Government Needs Bad Guys –
    that's why they like wars
  64. What Is Obscene?
  65. Traffic Economics
  66. Wayne Swan stands on the shoulders of other intellectual pygmies
  67. Neville Kennard Obituary
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