What would we do without the state?

The most unreasonable objection to libertarianism is the claim that liberty will not fix problem “x” or problem “y.” This objection is made while ignoring the fact that government is not doing such a great job with “x” or “y” either.

A good example is the “drug war” where government prohibition has nurtured a massive black market run by organized, violent criminals. Then the government created a police state to catch, prosecute and house the same criminal gangs that their laws coaxed into existence, all of which is paid for (involuntarily) by the taxpayers; and after which, the problem is worse than when the “war” started.

When we look at it that way, it seems clear that giving liberty a try might no be so bad. After all, could anything be worse than the current situation?

The same question must be asked about other problems. How can we have a peaceful society without government police, courts and prisons? Won’t criminal gangs take over and turn the whole world into Somalia. Many smart people have given reasonable solutions for these problems, but sometimes these are just guesses, because we cannot be sure how a free society will solve every problem.

The worrying question seems to be, if we get rid of the state what will we replace it with? Perhaps we worry too much. As in the drug war, we need to step back and look at what government does and ask: If they weren’t doing this stuff would the world be better or worse? So–for the moment–forget drugs. Forget homosexual unions, gambling, prostitution and animal cruelty. Let’s cut straight to the gold standard of evil: Murder.

Individuals can be shockingly evil, and the harm they do to each other is in the news every day. The notoriety of serial killers lives long after them.

Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 victims; John Wayne Gacy killed 23; Ted Bundy, 35; and there were the Columbine and Colorado movie theater killers. History records many such monsters, some believed to have killed hundreds. Such horrors could seem insignificant, however, when set against the death toll when governments go to war.

In the 20th century, governments exceeded all previous wars by destroying more than 60 million human beings in World War II. In World War I, there were 10 million dead, not counting civilians. Dozens of wars have killed a million or more people. Even history’s most infamous serial killer, Soviet Major General Vasili Blokhin, in shooting 7,000 Polish officers in the space of 28 days in 1940, reached that record only with the aid of his government. Thirty of Stalin’s NKVD agents were needed to bring the victims before Blokhin and then remove their bodies.

Finally, even war cannot match the most prolific murderers of history: government against its own citizens. R.J. Rummel, in Death by Government, estimated that in the 20th century, mass murder, genocide and political murder by government caused the death of 169 million souls, not including war dead.

Compared to the state, mankind’s most accomplished serial killers have been embarrassingly ineffective.

So back to our question: If we get rid of the state what can we replace it with?

Does it matter?