The Bureaucratic Profession of Arms
Only free market activities can produce professionals. Bureaucracies only stifle professionalism. This is especially true in the production of security and the ‘profession of arms’.
I know this is contrary to the giant propaganda machine propping up the nation-state through its intellectual cheerleaders (the high court priests of our day, justifying the divine right of kings through near mystical proclamations on social media and television).
Having passed through the Age of Reason it’s hard to believe people still fall for such ambiguous definitions and intellectual non-sequiturs, meaning the intellectual leaps that ignore all logical inconsistencies inherent to a bureaucratic monopoly on the use of force as a legitimate property protection agency.
Take for example:
US Army Doctrine Reference Publication 1: The Army Profession
A profession is a trusted, disciplined, and relatively autonomous vocation whose members,
- Provide a unique and vital service to society, without which it could not flourish.
- Provide this service by developing and applying expert knowledge.
- Earn the trust of society through ethical, effective, and efficient practice.
- Establish and uphold the discipline and standards of their art and science, including the responsibility for professional development and certification.
- Are granted significant autonomy and discretion in the practice of their profession on behalf of society.
The US Army cannot simultaneously uphold item 1 of this definition alongside the US Constitution. The Second Amendment clearly states that well-regulated militia are necessary to the security of a free state, whereas an army can only be constitutionally funded for two years at a time.
The militia are the only governmental institution under the US Constitution deemed necessary; not the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, or any other component of the republic. Only the militia are constitutionally declared necessary.
Therefore, society can flourish and provide this vital service without a standing army.
Historically speaking, the concept of a standing army is a relatively recent phenomenon and such institutions have not long stood along, or within, Free States. This is why the American framers deplored standing armies.
I will not quibble about item 2, for now, however, the very nature of tax-funded bureaucracy precludes a standing army from ethical and efficient practice. So item 3 in the US Army’s definition is not valid for itself.
As bastions of socialism, bureaucracies are numb to consumer preferences (the society they are supposed serve) and, absent the information only available through market prices, cannot efficiently manage resources and employ them toward their highest valued ends.
That these entities derive their funding through coercive property confiscation also precludes ethical practice in service to society. One cannot loot people and rightly call it serving them. Following this perverse line of reasoning, in alignment Lysander Spooner’s description, any band of robbers can simply declare themselves a government and claim they are acting for a people’s own good. If people submit and accept this robbery as a “necessary evil” it does not change the ethical proposition. Legitimized stationary banditry remains a manifestation of Charles Tilly’s analysis: state making as organized crime.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe has rightly pointed out that a tax-funded property protection agency is a contradiction of terms. In order to legitimately produce security, consumer choice needs to be demonstrated through voluntary transactions. Service in the local militia may be legitimately compelled as a condition of settling within a political community, and this compulsory service can, ideally in a free state, be deferred or outsourced to a contracted agent. However, the choice of entering into that political community needs to also be voluntary.
One might argue that the system of representative government present in the United States is a voluntary political community that people have the option of leaving…and these voices are completely wrong. Again, the market solution of free entry into the marketplace of alternative options is the key feature absent from the present order.
Just as gated communities bundle services into a required monthly dues package, usually including lawn care, cable television, central pool maintenance, and fitness centers, and also mandate certain behaviors from their residents, such as only being able to paint their houses certain colors or not leaving trash and abandoned cars on their front lawn, there are a variety of choices as to where one can live. Gated communities can dissolve or amalgamate, moving their fence and umbrella of services based on voluntary negotiation and transfers of property. There is no monopoly gated community provider.
This is contrary to a “state” defined, by Max Weber, as a territorial monopolist on the use of force coupled with the power to tax. A monopoly state claims decision making authority over a given geographic territory and denies free entry to any alternative security providers, while also unilaterally determining the price it will charge for its protection and adjudication services.
This leads to Item 5 in the US Army’s definition of professionalism. The US Army was never granted autonomy in its practices, nor was the US general government for that matter: It was arrogated through force.
Under the Constitution, the US Army is anything but autonomous. It is, at all times, subordinate to civil authority.
The US Constitution clearly designates that the militia is responsible for executing the laws, repelling invasions, and repelling insurrections. Congress can raise an army to supplement these tasks in time of crisis, again, only for two years at a time. The US Army is not constitutionally autonomous, but subordinate to both the Congress and the militia.
The militia is the practical mechanism through which people complete the circuit of self-government. Since only portions of the militia are “called forth” by Congress for service to the union, and the remaining portions continue operating at the local level and can, in that sense, be considered autonomous, or at least should be.
I know that reality experienced today is completely contrary to the constitutional order described here.
It may even sound ridiculous that some rag-tag militia would hold higher status than the spiffy uniforms and strict discipline portrayed by regular military formations. I get it. It’s hard to conceptualize.
However, we have to rise above ‘what is’ in order to envision a higher level of good or greater degrees of operation. Einstein once said that one cannot solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it. So too must we apply this expansive thinking to overcome the current trajectory of decline, de-civilization, and increased unrest playing out in our world today.
Still, the constitution remains the “supreme law of the land” and all ratified amendments, at present, have not altered the fundamental structure for producing security. Americans at least have a decent framework for restoring decentralized federalism and republican order, if it were but heeded.
I also recognize that some may claim the US Constitution prevents border shifts, community reorganizations, or alternative affiliations. Some also claim that the ‘Civil War’ or Texas v White settled the matter of secession. Again, this line of reasoning cannot stand up to a moment’s logical scrutiny.
A contract, voluntarily entered, among free and independent political communities, such was the US Constitution, remains severable and must be so to hold any credible claim of respecting “human rights”.
For what is a political community but a group of individuals working collectively for their mutual benefit? Ludwig Von Mises rightly pointed out that true liberalism means that whenever a body of people make it clear that they wish to change their political affiliation a liberal order must let them go. This is the same train of reasoning that led to the Declaration of Independence. It’s what the right and duty to alter or abolish a government and installing new safeguards for liberty is all about.
The delegated roles and responsibilities within the contract known as the US Constitution did not preclude the reformation of political units. West Virginia, after all, seceded from Virginia after ratification. This reformation, reconstitution, dissolution, and alternative formation of political communities is essential to professionalizing the production of security which, according to Locke, is the main purpose of government.
Markets Discipline Security Firms
The need to satisfy customers, economize resources, and constantly refine operations is what drives professionalism. Earning trust through consistently delivering in an environment disciplined by continuous voluntary dealings requires alternative consumer options. The absence of alternatives for the consumer leaves the provider ignorant as to what services actually promote human flourishing.
As previously discussed, the price mechanism, only available through free markets in the exchange of private property titles, using a money standard, is the only way to convey information about the relative scarcity and demand of goods, services, and resources. This includes the resources involved in producing security, and it is even more so as a firm expands or scales its operations.
The more a firm garners control over resources, meaning the more resources under a firm’s command, in the absence of competition and the discipline imposed by market-based exchanges, the less information it has about the effectiveness of its operations. This is why market competition, signaling profit, and loss, naturally limit a firm’s ability to vertically integrate and internally organize.
In short, free markets, when left unimpeded, limit the size and inefficiency of a company (Klein, 2005).
It’s important to remember that corporations in the present order are reflections of government intervention, particularly those connected to military bureaucracies. It is the licensing, legal structuring, regulation, and taxation imposed by government that makes corporations operate bureaucratically.
This is characteristic of the Military Industrial Complex and, as more and more companies vie for the stability and consistency of government contracts or shielding from competitors available through regulation, the more businesses, in obeisance to fascist dictates, begin to look more and more like bureaucracies.
Large, politically connected corporations benefit from a highly regulated environment because it limits their exposure to market based competitors. They happily absorb compliance costs in exchange for the insulation government intervention provides. Interventionism may somewhat detract from their profits, but it is a relatively small price to pay for the stability these corporations enjoy.
Markets are Embedded in the Nature of Reality
Free markets are what happens in the absence of intervention. Self-interest is sufficient to explain why people want to trade with one another. The division of labor, social cooperation, and beneficial mutual exchange, facilitated by a common medium, are inevitable outcomes from the axiom of human action. That is, human beings move toward a perceived improvement in their state of satisfaction.
Market exchanges, just like the action axiom, are embedded in the very nature of human life in the realm of time, space, and form. Human desires are infinite, yet readily available goods are finite and natural resources are unevenly disbursed throughout the known universe. People must take action to satisfy their biological imperatives and desires by transforming resources into consumable goods.
The ability of all sentient beings to perceive improvement to their state of satisfaction involves means and ends. They desire an elevation to their well-being and envision a practical way of achieving it before they act.
No matter how briefly, there is always an ends-means calculation. Some decisions are made by sudden realization or flashes of insight. Others are made reflexively or impulsively, while still others are made through deep contemplation and analysis. The proportions may vary, yet existence in a material world requires the use of resources.
People can be wrong about their estimations. Some means are employed for silly ends or what others may call mere folly. Yet, the individual who acts believes that taking an action and employing a resource will improve their condition. As an aside, it is important to remember that only individuals can act; not abstractions like nations, ‘a people’, or society.
The consideration of means and ends, cause and effect, to achieve desired improvements within a community inevitably includes interaction with others. It is reasonable to conclude that people can achieve greater satisfaction through cooperation with those around them. Indeed, human beings are born dependent upon others for their shelter, security, and sustenance. It should come as no surprise that individuals automatically include other people in their consideration of means.
Therefore, trade and free exchange requires no external direction. People do not need to be told about free markets. Market transactions have been a part of humanity since antiquity.
During my first military deployment to Iraq, in 2004, I stood upon the ruins of the childhood home of the Biblical “Father Abraham”, just outside the Ziggurat of Ur, near modern day An-Nasiriya. Abraham’s father was a wealthy merchant selling idols to the faithful making pilgrimages to the pyramid-like structure established about 2100 years before the current era.
The city of Ur was part of the Neo-Sumerian Empire. I knew nothing of Sumerian culture at the time, despite my Christian upbringing and frequent bible study as required for Lutheran church confirmation. However, the visit sparked my curiosity and when I became interested in political economy and libertarian theory it was a curious epiphany when I found the cuneiform writing “amagi” as the symbol for Liberty Fund.
Literally translated, amagi means to return to the mother, or to return to a natural state of being. The symbol is associated with a popular reform movement calling for eliminating taxes, land seizures, and other state interventions in the Sumerian city-state of Lakash around 2350 BCE. The reforms also released people from compulsory service to the king.
So, the concept of liberty and freedom from intervention in the marketplace is as old as human civilization. Since Mesopotamia is considered the ‘cradle of civilization’ and the Ur-Nammu code is the first documented occurrence of written law (around 2100 BCE), we can see how people have been trying to figure out ways of living peaceably together in pursuit of a ‘good life’, as Aristotle surmised, since ancient times.
Professionally Honing the Security Edge
Law is the coercive means of securing justice, or just and proper conduct, in human relationships. The American attempt at forming a “more perfect union” recognized that whenever the orchestration of law fails to deliver justice, the right and duty of its constituents is to alter or abolish it and implement new safeguards for liberty.
Security is the sole function of government and war is the ground of survival or extinction for a nation, as Sun Tzu rightly posited. However, the means of providing for that security requires the employment of finite resources to achieve desired ends. Resources need to be economized. In this, humans must constantly search for the most efficient institutional arrangements for producing the required level of security.
A standing army is inimical to liberty. Niccolo Machiavelli knew it as did the framers of the US Constitution. Republican theory is characterized by citizen militia-based security structures and, despite being short-lived, the American republic was premised upon militia-provided security and law enforcement.
Militia based law enforcement fell out of favor almost immediately after ratification when the locals refused to collect an unconstitutional tax on whiskey in western Pennsylvania. Targeting a specific commodity with a direct excise is anything but uniform or apportioned among the member states, after all.
From this episode, the politicians realized they couldn’t rely on the people to look their neighbors in the eye and loot them. Western Pennsylvanians were using whiskey as a medium of exchange and had a completely distinct culture from the eastern political elite. Ignoring subsidiarity and local self-government, Hamilton needed to send in foreigners to scare off the rebels, yet the tax was eventually appealed and the offenders were pardoned.
The people, for their part, did not want to be henchmen for a corrupt political racket. They saw the misuse of the militia from both sides (invading another’s jurisdiction and ignoring the self-governance of the militia that refused to collect an unlawful tax). It should come as no surprise that militia ceased to be ‘well-regulated’ by the time of the War of 1812.
Restoring Constitutional order, for what it’s worth, requires decentralizing law enforcement authority to the most local level technically feasible. It requires a revitalization of the militia system.
Still, in a highly evolved, complex, and modern economy most people are more inclined to outsource militia duties rather than devote their time to a weekly muster. There are many reasons for this and it all boils down to incentive structures.
Politicians and bureaucrats have devised various technocratic means for distracting people from governmental encroachment and, undoubtedly, the governmental promotion of professional and collegiate sports following the failed war of southern secession, 1861-1865, is the modern equivalent to Roman bread and circuses. How much more so in an age where people are busy keeping up with the Kardashians?
Joe Stromberg estimated that a free society would be secured by a “rough combination” of militia and contracted defense firms. Others believe complete outsourcing to ‘rights enforcement’ or ‘insurance’ agencies is feasible.
The Profession of Arms
Earlier, I showed how the US Army, due to its bureaucratic, tax-funded nature can never be an organization of professionals, all of its professional development literature notwithstanding. The same holds for every other tax-funded bureaucratic military organization. This hasn’t stopped bureaucrats from taking intellectual leaps toward justifying their existence with an air of professionalism. This, however, is a fairly recent historical phenomenon.
Mick Ryan describes the nature of “The Profession of Arms” in this article:
‘Regularization’ of military forces is a product of the nation-state system established after the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia and only began to take shape in the early 1800s. Like many of the institutions present in America today, the western model of military organization derives from Prussian experience. Significant losses at the hands of Napoleon led the Prussians to develop a Kriegsadademie in Berlin in 1810 and walked hand in hand with the paternal despotism of Frederick William III that also included the compulsory state education system imposed on all children as detailed by Murray Rothbard.
I go at length to describe this because it shows how free markets are a much older concept than that of ‘professional' militaries, which are also impossible under bureaucratic management; and, further, are performative contradictions in motion when juxtaposed with the principles of natural rights and the ‘laws of nature’ appealed to by the US Declaration of Independence.
Trade is very much a product of human action and natural forces, whereas bureaucratic militaries are contrived through unnatural organization and exist through encroachment upon the rights of citizens to enjoy their lives, liberties, and property.
Tom Cruise’s character in The Last Samurai, set during the Meiji Restoration, notably stated that the sole occupation of the samurai for the past thousand years was war. While highly impressive sounding, this assertion is entirely false.
Anyone familiar with the two hundred and fifty years prior to the Meiji Restoration in 1868 knows that Japan experienced a relative lack of hostilities compared to the raucous Sengoku Jidai period of warring states. The Tokugawa Shogunate solidified its rule through bureaucratizing the samurai and keeping potential challengers to their rule financially strapped. Samurai were relocated out of the countryside and into castle towns by way of decree, known as hei-nou-bun-ri.
The Tokugawa not only wanted the samurai consolidated within castle towns, so they could be more readily surveilled and, more importantly, separated from their source of independent income in a mostly agrarian economy. This indorses the historical mechanisms of samurai remuneration and their real profession as rentier landlords.
Historically, following the collapse of the Chinese styled Ritsuryo system and the establishment of the Kondei (Stalwart Fellows) system in 792, official warriors were derived from two main sources. The first source was the warrior houses emerging from longstanding security alliances in the countryside. The second was the dispatched, retired, or dispossessed nobles (the Yamato family had a surplus of princes) sent to administer territories as proxies for capital based property-owners.
When the Ritsuryo national conscript army fell apart, the provincial and district offices of the central court came to rely upon these quasi-corporate warrior houses (buke) to carry out its will and collect taxes on its behalf. The warriors were granted a fief to lord over and protect. They protected their own lands and the peasants that cultivated the fields on them in return for a percentage of the crop yield. They forged alliances with other houses to form networks of warrior bands, each with their own hierarchies.
These warrior bands, as Professor Karl Friday explains in his excellent book Hired Swords, were the real way security got produced prior to or in the absence of official government.
Prior to the Tokugawa period, which can be considered the slow descent into stagnation, decay, and ultimate failure of warrior rule, samurai income derived from the rents collected from the farmers within their fiefs. Based on assessed potentials for each plot of land, conducted by the central court and the provincial officers, each family and village was responsible for tax payments to the fief holder, who was in turn liable to pay the domain, district, and provincial offices, as well as whatever special arrangements they may have had with court nobles and their warrior networks.
This is, of course, a simplified explanation for systems of payment that varied from area to area and changed repeatedly over time. However, the general thrust remains that, prior to the Tokugawa period, Japan’s bushi and samurai derived their income mostly as landlords. Their real profession was protecting the assets under their care and looking for way to expand their “working capital”.
During the ascendancy of samurai leadership, warriors could increase the assets enfiefed to them by performing heroic acts in battle. Warriors would often be rewarded with increased titles and gifts for collecting heads or felling a renowned opponent. However, the real prizes came from land grants sourced by dividing the territory of a vanquished rival.
Samurai dependent upon stipends, kuramai or houroku, was mainly a later invention and the result of policies that separated warriors from the countryside and traditional means of making a living. It was also a method for placating warriors in an age when class distinctions and occupations were rigidified by law.
Again, the Tokugawa Edo period marks the beginning of the end for samurai as “professional” warriors. Samurai under the Tokugawa ceased to be warriors wielding swords and became bureaucrats bearing swords. They no longer derived income from administering a fief as part of an affiliated network of warriors, based on mutual advantage, and instead became kenneled subordinates locked into an occupation by force of law.
Market exchanges are a natural occurrence stemming from human nature and the desire to improve one’s condition. Trade is as old as civilization and social interactions toward the satisfaction of human desire continue regardless of legal environments. The Sumerian “amagi” cuneiform symbol indicates the ancient desire for freedom to produce and trade without government interference.
Political economy is the study of institutional arrangements conducive to the maximization of wealth. A political-legal regime can either hinder or allow wealth creation but governments, by their inability to allocate resources toward their highest end based on authentic consumer demand, cannot create wealth. Everything tax-funded governments have must first be taken from property owners and producers, regardless of their preferences. These exchanges are, by definition, negative sum, only one side of the equation can accurately be said to benefit.
Governments are human institutions contracted into existence, at least in the Enlightenment tradition at the heart of the US Constitution, tasked with protecting citizens and their property. Unfortunately, tax-funded, bureaucratically managed, and politically controlled security organizations cannot protect the property of the people they were created to serve. A tax-funded property protection agency is a contradiction of terms. Moreover, a bureaucratic organization will inevitably lose sight of its organizational purpose and begin to serve its own interests.
Samurai history, while fully recognized as a peasant expropriating institution from inception, illustrates that even the most “professional” warriors derived their income mostly from activities other than combat. Further, samurai under the Tokugawa monopoly became bureaucrats, ever increasing the cost of their services despite no longer protecting farmers in the countryside. The samurai in the Tokugawa era were a deadweight loss upon the tax-paying people of Japan.
The disconnect between providing services to a client and financial remuneration is what creates distorted outcomes in the production of security. Rather than protecting people from encroachment in their domains, Tokugawa era samurai were figuring out new ways to exploit farmers, practice tea ceremony or other leisurely pursuits, while ignoring the evolving security threats that ultimately led to Japan’s subjugation at the hands of Western colonialism.
Citizen based militia are the primary means of security in republican theory and an essential check valve in the cycle of self-governance. Unfortunately, the United States abused these institutions, necessary to the security of Free State, very early in the history of the young republic and they soon morphed into ineffectual relics.
When greedy politicians and ambitious schemers realized the militia would not serve their designs to live at the expense of others through the force entrusted to government, they began laying the ground work for a permanent bureaucratic military establishment. This is how law became perverted, following Frederick Bastiat’s model, in the American experience.
Law is simple, it is scientific and can readily be discerned when private property boundaries provide clear lines of ownership: Do all you have agreed to do and do not encroach upon people or their justly held property. Using natural law, society can enjoy harmonious and productive social interactions using contract and criminal law.
Government too is a contract. Government is a service, an insurance firm if boiled down to its essence. Viewing government this way is Enlightened Western civilization’s unique contribution to humanity and to political philosophy. Such notions were unknown to Japan during the bulk of its history.
Putting the notion of individual rights and self-government into operation requires refining the contract to put private property as the central unit of analysis. It also requires actively participating in the performance of services to ensure adherence to that contract because greed and envy remain perennially within the human heart.
The warrior, the one willing to violently rebuke anti-social behaviors, will also be necessary in human society. The question at hand is what arrangements promote the sprit and principle of individual rights. In other words: How can the contract for governance be maintained to maximize human flourishing and minimize negative sum parasitism?
The one thing we can know, as posited by the science of political-economy and illustrated through samurai history, is that bureaucratic management cannot deliver the security it is tasked with. People can never be secure in themselves or their real property when protected by a monopoly tax agency.
This is why training in the martial arts is essential to people that would be free. In modern society, shooting is the pass-time of a free people. As the great Bill Buppert rightly quipped, “drive a rifle or ride a boxcar”.
Being prepared, physically, mentally, logistically, and strategically is all part of security readiness.
However, no man is an island. People who cooperate with one another can thrive, so long as the exchange is voluntary. That is where positive sum effects come from. Human beings are social creatures. It is natural that people maximize their output and increase efficiencies by working together toward their mutual security. That is what government ideally is, and what a federated republic is designed to orchestrate.
The framers of the US Constitution were very correct to note that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state. That is, in a properly functioning republic the people are organized, armed, and disciplined to work together to execute the law, repel invasions, and suppress insurrections in service to themselves and their communities.
Turning over these functions to a tax-funded bureaucracy makes security impossible. There really is no such thing as a professional warrior and certainly not within a tax-funded bureaucracy. Historically, a warrior was a landlord drawing income from real estate.
Today, the real warrior must also command assets to generate passive income and fund a lifestyle dedicated to the dual path of scholarly and martial arts. Warriors today must shed the bureaucracy and return to their entrepreneurial roots.