What if we had our defence handled on a for-profit basis? This is an interesting question, since national defence is considered to be one of the most fundamental functions of a state. Any aspiring stateless society needs to think hard about its implications. There are two observations I’d like to make on this subject.

First, this arrangement would certainly mean that military capacity would be in the hands of those capable of paying, rather than in the hands of democratic institutions. I would argue that, since democracies are quite capable of abusing their power, this arrangement could be a viable alternative. Certainly the discussion can be framed solely around the concept of legitimate violence, as if democratic countries’ use of violence were somehow more justified from a moral point of view. But in the end democracy is just a group of people imposing their will on a smaller group, no matter what you want to call it.

So, wouldn’t privatized defence lead to rich  people being free to wage war against the poor? This would be unlikely, since unlike, say, Hitler, these people whould pay for the whole war effort from their own pockets. And they would have very little to gain. As the saying goes: “Rich men shouldn’t pick quarrels.” On the contrary, by taking defence from the hands of the government, this arrangement would serve to decrease opportunistic warfare. Think weapon manufacturer lobby!

But let’s suppose a crazy billionaire would do it anyway. A hawkish Richard Branson going on a genocidal rampage, perhaps. Then the little-less rich would just have to pool their resources to organize a defence. At least they could, unlike the subjects of a rogue state, which could just make its subjects do just about anything. You might say it would achieve the republican maxim: “A well-armed populace is the best guard against tyranny.” And this without the implicit arms-race between the private citizens and the police.