Why Guns are not a Libertarian Paradise


Somewhere on a discussion group I subscribe to, a discussion on the elements of a libertarian society is taking place. Here is what someone said: “…Libertarian utopia – all the guns you can carry (missile launchers if you want them), private police forces, no governments, no taxes, no silly regulations and bureaucrats trying to keep your health or your environment safe….”, someone else said … ” No government, guns for everyone, and no taxes are not the essential characteristics of a libertarian society. The institutions of a free society –strong civil society, rule of law, methods of peaceful resolution, and strong well-defined property rights –are all necessary ingredients…” I agree with the latter.

The term Libertarian stands for a political ideology that basis itself on freedom. Believing that this implies no government or governance at all is a rather low level of argument. Government have always existed- in fact as Locke puts it they are the natural outcome of a healthy process of civilization and civil society. What we are talking about is a State. A government so large that it strangles people out of choice or the right to govern themselves. Ownership of forest resource by tribals for example is local governance or self-rule. Anarchy or the lack of a single authority does not mean lack of governance.

Let’s look at guns for all or (missile launchers) if we please… For one- It was the State or Union government under Indira Gandhi who decided to allow Pokhran for the first time, the next time it was PM Vajpayee and the BJP. Both are acts of violence on the people (read hungry, naked, ill and illiterate) inflicted via remarkably undemocratic means, both were governments! I venture that if governance was truly in the hands of the people- voluntary associations of civil society will never allow for guns for everyone.

It is the government that flaunts the deterrence theory not the people. It is the government that does not see the fundamental flaws of the deterrence theory- 1) That it is not possible to possess complete knowledge of the psychology of the enemy. It presumes that everyone is deterred by fear- what about those who aren’t? 2) The very ‘fear’ that this theory bases itself on what the people lack in a State-governed society. The average man does not possess knowledge of what the real horrors of a gun-ridden society is like. A libertarian society basis itself on the rule of law and more fundamental to that on the principle of an individual’s liberty limited to the non-coercion of the other!

I venture that voluntary associations of civil society will find trade more useful than the arms race, crops better than guns, music better than the sounds of bombs and fireworks better than mushroom clouds.