There are a number of plausible Libertarian solutions to everyday political problems. The initial allocation of natural resources, or dealing with crime, are rather well covered. However, all of those solutions are based on the availability of some kind of legal system.

There are a fair amount of decently argued Libertarian justifications for new kinds of legal systems. I have, however, been unable to find a response to those who like to kill the justifiers of legal systems before they can finish their argument. Warlords, despots, conquerors, and their potentially numerous, skilled and well-organized henchmen.

Convential wisdom has it you need an army. But if you have an army, are you not a state in all but name? And if you don't have an army, who protects citizen's rights from the non-enlightened barbarians who do?

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    the run-on sentences in your post make it difficult to read. Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 17:56
  • @SamIam I tried to reduce them, better?
    – John Woo
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 11:22
  • Some people just like to watch the world burn. And some people just like to be the sheepdogs, and see it as their responsibility to resist the despots (Brutus, if you go by ancient history).
    – user4012
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 17:05
  • You don't really need an army per se. Many countries have very weak armies (and some even don't have any standing army at all) and the most stable countries are probably those where the army stays out of politics and is not involved in policing. What you need is simply a state.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Mar 8, 2015 at 2:02
  • I believe that being well-armed is the defense that most libertarians prefer against despots. :) This was also the solution used by the colonists in the U.S. Revolutionary War and the one promoted by the framers of the U.S. federal government as a last resort if the federal government became tyrannical.
    – reirab
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 14:22

2 Answers 2


Libertarians don't argue against the state protecting citizens from coercion and fraud. They don't argue against the existence of a state; they are minarchists who argue that providing protection against coercion and fraud is the only valid cause for the state to pursue.

Now, if you really mean anarcho-capitalists, who argue against the state entirely, then their answer is that private protection agencies can provide protection better than a state can. The argument is that the state is essentially a monopoly on protection and that, by abolishing it, we create a free market for protection. Free markets are seen, from the classical liberal position, as always being better, both better serving the customers and doing so more efficiently. So the private protection market, being more efficient than the state monopoly, could necessarily prevent anything the state could.

You can read more on the ancap view in Rothbard's Libertarian Manifesto. Note that, when it was written, libertarian was a broader word than it is now. It encompassed any view with classic liberal foundations that opposed the state. The argument Rothbard is making would be considered anarcho-capitalist in modern terminology.

It seems you want a hypothetical view of how this would work. I'm concentrating on how to privatize the market for armed forces of the type that fight overseas wars, though I would question whether such a thing could be maintained in a free market. (I personally don't think it would be profitable -- too few people interested in funding it when the funding comes out of their pocket. But, of course, it is up to the market to decide what is profitable and what is not.) Supposing there would be demand for it, there would be companies that would attempt to fill that demand. They would propose goals to people interested in paying them, and those with popular goals (and a good track record) would be paid. They could then work just like any other military contractor that already exists. This is better in that, there is not a monopoly and that funding is voluntary. If a privately funded military contractor sucks at accomplishing their goal, they loose funding and potentially go out of business. There is a feedback mechanism that directly ties resources allocated to the actor with their performance. This doesn't exist with a minarchist state that publicly (i.e. involuntarily) funds war. Taxes collected aren't directly tied to performance (or tied at all if you take today's situation in the US as empirical evidence), so there is no direct feedback. Caveat: If the state is voluntarily funded and doesn't exclude competition in the protection market, then it is a non-issue.

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    I have found nothing on the Libertarian Manifesto that goes beyond "private protection works better because we said so", or how a private protection agency would be different form a minarchist state.
    – John Woo
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 11:34
  • I described why they work better in my answer: because they are privately run and thus have to bend to meet demand. The state, on the other hand, doesn't. It's impossible to know how they would be different in terms of actual policy, because it's impossible to know what the market would demand. The point is that it would be closer to what the market demands.
    – Tyler
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 17:00
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    A protection market is special in the sense that the strongest player in that market can unilaterally set the rules of the whole system, for example, enforcing a death penalty for "choosing a competing service provider". It means that a free market for proection is sustainable if and only if that free market is the optimal selfish choice for the dominant entity; but economic theory generally agrees that a rational market-dominant company would benefit if the market would become monopolistic.
    – Peteris
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 0:30
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    @Tyler Yes, but the very presence of a market implies trade which implies rule enforcement. The corruption incentive of enforcing your own rules could easily outweigh any efficiency gained.
    – John Woo
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 12:41
  • @John, that assumes it's profitable to enforce your own rules. The argument in the link in my answer is that is not.
    – Tyler
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 17:45

People in a free society do not accept despots, and so they would not support them and might actively resist them.

Wouldn't Warlords Take Over? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ak3TwNXA0w&index=31&list=PL3nwqCE5fVLdu9ogVRGnyQZLa3MRbMVn7

In Mexico, despost angered so many Mexican farmers that they formed a vigilante group and fought back against the drug cartels.



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