Saying “Good-Bye” to War
A voluntary society would be a society without the institutionalized aggression of war.
Organizing our interactions with each other on the basis of genuinely voluntary cooperation wouldn’t eliminate violence, of course. People who would rather achieve their goals through the use of aggressive force than through rational persuasion won’t vanish once we find ourselves in Libertopia. And people would surely associate to protect themselves against aggressors. But the organized evil of war would be absent.
It would be absent both because institutions in a voluntary society would lack the means to engage in war and because they would lack incentives to engage in war.
States are able to make war because they tax, borrow, and conscript. Institutions in a fully voluntary society could do neither.
People would contribute to defense providers’ costs—whether by paying service fees or by donating to help others—at their own discretion. They couldn’t be forced to do so. And most people would be very unwilling to pay for aggressive violence, given its moral unjustifiability, its high costs, and the bad reputation anyone associated with it would be likely to acquire.
States can borrow enormous sums of money to fund their wars—and pay back what they borrow by creating fiat money. In a voluntary society, lenders would be unlikely to provide the funds needed for ongoing, open-ended military campaigns without clearly demonstrable pay-offs or to accept payment in inflated currency.
Conscription is a variety of slavery. No institution in a voluntary society could enslave, so none could conscript. And without conscription, it’s hard to see, again, how a program of large-scale aggressive violence could be undertaken in a voluntary society. In light of both the wrongness of and the risks associated with aggressive violence, who could be expected to volunteer?
Defense providers in a voluntary society would lack the incentives states confront to engage in wars, too. Perhaps most importantly, while they would, of course, need to offer protection against invasive thugs, they would not be, and would be known not to be, would-be aggressors against whom others would need to defend and against whom others might be tempted to strike preemptively.
War claims untold lives, destroys property, and interferes with productivity constantly throughout the world. What better reason could there be to seek a voluntary society than to say good-bye to the awfulness of war?
See you in Libertopia!
Gary Chartier is Associate Dean of the School of Business and Professor of Law and Business Ethics at La Sierra University. He is the author of four books, including The Conscience of an Anarchist and Anarchy and Legal Order, and the co-editor (with Charles W. Johnson) of Markets Not Capitalism. The Libertopia festival is his favorite public event every year.