The Worst Protection

You feel safe in your neighborhood, but worry about the small chance of a break-in or act of vandalism. To protect yourself from these risks, you pay a security company to look after your house. It costs a little more than you’d like, but you determine it’s worth it.

They put an unarmed guard in front of your house at night, just to keep an eye out. It seems a bit unnecessary, but you rest easier knowing he might deter would be thieves. The guards start coming earlier and staying longer. It seems silly to have them there before sundown, but you ignore it. Soon, they’ve got someone there almost around the clock. Then they send you a bill with a new higher rate for their services. You suggest going back to night only guards, but they assure you this is necessary to protect you, and also tell you the neighborhood is getting a bit more dangerous. You pay.

The next week, not only do they have a guard around the clock, but he’s armed. Then there’s two or three patrolling at a time. Rates go up again. You’ve been hearing more stories about how dangerous the neighborhood is, so you pay. Before long, they have a constant cadre of armed guards patrolling not just your sidewalk, but the whole neighborhood. They start randomly knocking on your neighbors’ doors and searching their houses for anything they might use against you. They set up permanent stations throughout the area, manned 24/7. Guards constantly patrol and conduct random searches, without permission, and occasionally they cage or kill someone. They assure you; there was reason to believe these neighbors had it in for you. It’s a jungle out there. They raise their rates.

Some of your neighbors object. Some devise ways to protect from being searched or bullied. All become suspicious of you, and a little angry. After all, the guards are invoking your name when they do this. The more the neighbors resist or lash out at the guards, the more the company explains just how unsafe you are unless you purchase the latest upgrade. You do. They deploy more street walkers. They pre-emptively kill and cage more neighbors. It seems a fight breaks out every day. Bands of neighbors form for the sole purpose of combatting you and your security team. Their children grow up afraid of you and they hate you, and your children, for it.

The company says more is needed; threats can come from anywhere. Now guards are groping your guests and your children each day before they enter or exit your house. They search your house on occasion, just to be sure your conspiring neighbors don’t have an inside man. They treat you like a suspect on your own property. You pay the new fee with the only credit card you haven’t yet maxed out.

Every day you wake up scared of your neighbors, suspicious of your guests, leery of your own children, and irritated by the guards who may or may not rummage through your belongings. You juggle money around just to keep the lights on, meanwhile the guards roll around in tanks, thanks to your borrowed money. You remind yourself that they’re here to protect you from an increasingly dangerous neighborhood. It’s worth it. Sure, they could cut some costs, but it’s a struggle to convince them of anything, and it’s a little intimidating to try. Besides, what’s a few dollars overspent compared to the imminent danger you’d face if they scaled back too far?

One day it hits you: you’re not safer. You’re paying a lot of money, not to insure you against unlikely violence, but to stir it up. You’re paying to create enemies, not defend against vandalism. You’re paying to be treated not like a customer, but a criminal in your own home. You’ve been ripped off. You have fewer options when it comes to social circles, since you’ve made a lot of enemies. You can’t travel down certain streets, because there your name has become a byword. You’ve learned to fear your neighbors and you’re not really sure why, or what threat they pose except to the guards that harass them.

You fire the company and begin the long task of putting your life back together.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy in the real world. You can’t fire those that provide supposed security. You have to pay, and you have to obey, or else. Don’t be mistaken: just because it’s done on a grander scale and wrapped in a lot of fuzzy feelings and national myths, doesn’t make it different from the neighborhood story above. States are supposed to provide protection; instead they poke people with sticks and incite them to violence.

The United States has enemies. I do not have enemies. There is no one in a far flung place in the world looking at a map and saying, “Here, on the Atlantic coast where the Cooper and Wando rivers come together. The people who have chosen to live on this bit of land are terrible. Let’s invade them. Let’s kill them.” Every international threat to me is a threat to me because I am associated, whether I like it or not, with the United States government.

Acts of terrorism and war are strategic acts. They are intended to pressure the state into changing its policies, or to make it pay for previous policies. Attackers know that the state ultimately responds to the views of its people and the interests that form around it. They attack civilians because they believe it creates impetus for the state to do what they want. We are the pawns in the game of states. We are at risk because we are seen as leverage with which to manipulate the political class.

The state is often defended as necessary to secure individuals against foreign aggression. Yet foreign aggression has no target if there is no state. The state does not make us safer, it makes us less safe. It kills in our name, with our money. It harasses us in our own country in the name of protecting us. It makes us suspicious of people we’d otherwise never know, or know only through Tweets or peaceful commercial interactions. It makes us hated.

The sooner we can forge an identity separate from the states that claim to protect us, the safer we will be. If the state is a kind of security provider, or insurance against international aggression, it’s the worst form of protection I can imagine. You wouldn’t stand for a company that marauded through the neighborhood in your name; you shouldn’t stand for a nation that does either.

A Citizen by Choice

This excellent post by Jeff Tucker over at Laissez Faire Books got me thinking about citizenship.  Per Jeff’s suggestion, I visited Tweetping.net and sat mesmerized as I watched communities grow across the globe, irrespective of arbitrary government borders.

Odd isn’t it; we’re born into citizenship of counties, states, and countries, which are little more than organized crime gangs with layers of bureaucracy, and we are supposed to feel allegiance to these.  Yet everywhere you turn, people are constantly joining myriad associations to get the benefits, both practical and sentimental, that state citizenship is supposed to confer.  States are an anachronism, and more so every day.  Exist costs and lack of alternatives have long been the primary reasons states maintain as many citizens as they do.  Technology is smashing both barriers.

Now you can exit the state and become the citizen of a place that meets your needs and provides a voluntary community far superior.  Most people today have overlapping citizenship in dozens of digital commercial and social jurisdictions.  You can join a better community from right where you are.  Technology has not (yet) provided a way to completely opt out of states, at least without significant risk of being pursued by armed agents, but it offers alternatives to services supposedly only states can provide, including intangible things like a sense of community.  This is exciting.

When states lose the power of patriotism we can see them more clearly for what they are: violent, inefficient and corrupt monopolizers who force us to use services of inferior quality and make us pay even if we don’t.  When state operatives have a harder time winning affection by appealing to the “us vs. them” mindset in citizens because citizens are a part of so many “us’s” and with stronger bonds than they have with the state, the edifice begins to crumble.

Far from being atomistic, critics of the state desire a world of strong and genuine social bonds.  They know the truest of such bonds are forged by cooperation not force; by choice not dictate; by mutual interest not lines on a map.  The more ties formed voluntarily, the weaker the chains of the state.

Some bureau somewhere considers me a citizen of Mount Pleasant, and South Carolina, and the United States.  They take some of my money because of it.  Whatever they need to tell themselves to feel better.  I consider myself a citizen of Amazon Prime, Facebook, Visa, The Institute for Humane Studies, my church, Netflix, Google, Twitter, LFBC, The Hartford Insurance, home school associations, etc. etc. and on and on.  I joined each of these entities to meet specific needs.  Some offer valuable services.  Some offer education.  Some offer security and protection.  Some offer comradery.  Some offer many things at once, while some offer only one.  I have different levels of love and loyalty for each, but all of them render something that terrifies states because they can never offer it: choice.

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