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Privatize National Defense

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/3/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,464 times Debate No: 35264
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)




I start this debate to challenge the almost universally accepted idea that national defense can only be provided by government. I will show that not only could the free-market provide protection from foreign attack, it would be far more efficient and enthusiastic than any state-run defense.


I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


Any reader will likely be very skeptical of the idea that the private sector could provide something as large and as important as national defense. How could it be financed? Who would set up its infrastructure? Wouldn't private defense agencies cut corners to increase profit? These are all valid questions that we will address specifically regarding their application to defense. But these doubts also beg the question as to how ANY quality service is set-up and financed on the free-market? Certainly food is a vital commodity, but theory and history have shown us that government-run food production is a sloppy, inefficient, and typically corrupt service. On the free-market, food growers and merchants must be willing to provide quality food at a reasonable price; if they do not, they will lose their customers to competing merchants. This is the essence of the free-market: delivering a high-quality and demanded product or service at a competitive price. This principle fits as aptly for national defense as it does for food production.

If the government ceased to provide defense services, entrepreneurs would step in to meet demand. Open competition among the private protection agencies would ensure that they remain plentiful, efficient, and affordable. These defense agencies may range from neighborhood watches to large insurance firms coordinating with each other over a region. Each individual would pay for or volunteer in the protection he desired. A farmer in Kansas may be content with just having a personal rifle handy. A factory owner in Texas may hire round-the-clock guards to patrol his property. Pacifists would not pay for any protection(nor be forced to pay for it through taxation).

At this point a skeptic may say "Okay, I can see this panning out at a local level, but how on earth would individuals provide vital military hardware like tanks, jets, mortars, etc.?" This is a valid argument worth exploring. It is true that several hundred neighborhood militias would be quickly overrun by an invading army, but to limit private defense to "neighborhood militias" would be to grossly underestimate the financial and infrastructure capabilities of a free-market. In the absence of government armies, the most likely candidates for the coordinating of large-scale regional defense are insurance companies. Individuals would be able to pay monthly premiums for "War Insurance" for themselves and their property. For every dollar of damage done by a foreign invader, the insurance company would be obligated to repay to the victim. It is immediately plain that, wanting to protect profits, insurance companies would have a huge vested interest in preventing a foreign invasion. They can dramatically reduce the probability of having to pay war damages via maintaining an investment in a defensive readiness of tanks, jets, troops, etc. And since it would be in their interests, it can be expected that the different insurance providers would combine their efforts to ensure repelling the foreign army. This full-time readiness force combined with an armed populace, would be a nightmare for any invader.

This system would encourage moderation and efficiency, a stark contrast from government defense. Rather than losing money because of an attack, government armies receive MORE money, which presents a very dangerous incentive for them to allow or even to intentionally incite foreign attacks. On top of this incentive, government armies also have no profit-and-loss mechanism to measure their actions by. How big should the army be? How big should the navy be? What weapons should be used? Where should the troops be deployed? How can governments answer these questions in any way that is not arbitrary guessing? Any waste by an insurance company would immediately affect profits and quickly be corrected, government can not do this and can bumble along wastefully without realizing it for long periods of time.


The notion that something as important and vital as national security should be provided for by something as fickle and disingenuous as private sector corporations and Insurance companies is throughly absurd. And I intend to prove with my arguments that a private military would be both ineffective and unenthusiastic in the role of providing for the common defense.

To begin, my opponent mistakenly argues that the food-service is on par with the same level of complexity, professionalism, and importance as national defense. He is badly mistaken. Your everyday McDonald's employee who flips my hamburgers for $8.50 an hour is the last person on earth I would want to flip the switch on a Minuteman III ballistic missile. And actually, yes it does have something to do with his or her qualifications and trust factors as much as it also has to do with the fact that free-market principles, such as competition, supply and demand, cost-benefit analysis, and profits, are incompatible with national security needs that demand a much more selfless type of service; and I'm not talking about the old school feudal system of neighborhood watch gangs peasants would payoff because they could offer protection from the other gangs.

A life insurance company -or in this case "war insurance" of which no insurance company would dare provide for anyway - will only underwrite coverage for people who are rated for preferred risks, the intent of course is that after claims and administrative costs, the company must still make a profit. An actual army however, must be able to deter and overcome all risks and security threats, not just the ones that it prefers. The idea that you can set a premium or a market value to a national security threat, like to a terrorist attack, or Iranian nuclear strike, or even an alien invasion, is insane! Are we really to advertise security threats to the public with the intent of making a profit? How can you possibly underwrite foreign policy or fight a war with that kind of mentality? What id to stop a company from starting or joining a war just to compete for profit? And how would we thwart the dangers of a mercenary army that is more loyal to its stock holders and policy owners than to its own government? My opponent must answer for these questions before again proposing a privatized army.

But for the sake of furthering the debate, I agree with my opponent that the private sector has a solid track record of typically being more cost effective than the federal government,and I argue that its because private businesses have the added interest of making a profit. But this has not been the case with the moral decay and greed associated with the military industrial complex and defense contractors like Lockheed-Martin, Northop-Grumman, and Blackwater. Northrop-Grumman has in the past been convicted in federal court several times of knowingly selling defective equipment to the US Military; Lockheed-Martin has also scandalously inflated the cost of its most expensive weapons programs (like the F-35) with delays, cost overruns, unmet needs, and must have software upgrades that may as well be the military equivalent to the DLC that we pay for in video games but at the added insult to taxpayers everywhere; And Backwater, meanwhile, has proven repeatedly to show disregard to all respects to civilian casualties, international law, and rules of engagement in their security tours in Iraq and elsewhere. But my opponent argues that we should let these guys dictate defense policy for us, and perhaps even more so then they already do! I really think not! And I know I'm being pretty critical of defense companies here because one can argue that congress tends to be just as guilty for the corruption with government contracts as the bean counters at Lockheed-Martin, but the point here is that this is just a taste of some of the themes we could expect if we were to privatize the military and expand the mission of defense companies beyond supplying equipment and hardware to actually defending our flag and way of life.

A member of the armed forces must be loyal to his constitution and to his country and not to his pay check if national defense is to be effective. True cost efficiently on the battlefield cannot be measured in number of dollars saved and profits gained, but number of actual lives saved and in the willingness of soldiers to pay the ultimate price for a cause greater than themselves. The greatest defect we could expect from any private army would be to put a price tag on that kind of service. My opponent argues that the essence of the free-market is "delivering a high-quality and demanded product or service at a competitive price." Yet when it comes to national security and defending our freedoms, the essence must be to win at any cost - and that is something no mercenary army and insurance company can ever understand.
Debate Round No. 2


National Defense is too important to be left to the whims of government bureaucrats.

I will address what appears to be my opponents three top criticism: 1. How would the poor acquire defense? 2. What would stop private protection agencies from being corrupt/violent? 3. What would give private defense companies motivation to fight?

It is true that the poor would have more difficulty acquiring defense than the wealthier would-but that's true of any service. And government defense is not "free" it is paid for by taxpayers-many of whom are the poor themselves who would likely pay less in voluntary fees to more efficient private defense companies. Free-markets favor the poor. This is so because in order to attract customers business must be constantly lowering prices, innovating, and fostering a respected reputation. So long as government does not step in and restrict competition anyone could start a defense business anywhere and at anytime; this totally open competition would ensure high quality defense at a low price. For the very poor it's conceivable that "Defense Aid" charities would open up, similar to the current "Legal Aid" societies that offer legal assistance free of charge. Governments on the other hand, have been known for targeting the poor and minority groups because they know they are easy targets.

Very well, but wouldn't all of that make no difference if the defense agencies were constantly warring and selling out to foreign governments? To the advocates of private defense this is a very odd question. Aren't government militaries constantly warring and murdering their own people? And aren't those wars and murders compounded by government's ability to tax and conscript? When governments fire on their own people there is no alternative for the people to call upon. If a Private Defense Agency(PDA)attempted to extort and oppress the populace then their customers would be free to immediately seek out more peaceful PDAs to put down the coup. Without the ability to tax and conscript no private army would be able to muster the resources to establish a dictatorship(unlike government). The force of competition would punish corrupt agencies with losses and reward quiet, honest agencies with gains. It is really that simple.

As for the underwriting process, if insurance companies can underwrite large and destructive events like floods and earthquakes then why can it not underwrite the probability and liability of terrorism, nuclear strikes, or a ground invasion of Communists? If the insurance companies calculate a high probability of a hijacking then they will invest in airport security. If there's a likely-hood of a nuclear attack they will invest in bunkers and a missile defense shield. It can be expected that, because of profit motive, the intelligence of private companies will be far more thorough then their government counterparts(who lack profit motive).

But how on earth would a private company afford a billion-dollar missile shield? This brings us to the nightmare of the military-industrial complex. Contrary to popular belief, the current military-industry is far from an example of the free-market. Actually, there is no greater distortion of the free-market than the government contracts, taxes, controls, and privileges that corporations like Lockheed-Martin and Blackwater receive. The military-industrial complex is an example of government purchasing from private firms(Prior to WWII that was known as Fascism). I am describing private firms purchasing from other private firms(capitalism). Since government has no incentive to limit its spending it is willing to grossly overspend its resources(remember those $600 toilet seats?). Military hardware(and toilet seats)sold on the open market would be priced at affordable levels-lest competition should step in and win away customers. If Northrop-Grumman knowingly sold defective equipment to Metropolitan Insurance then Metropolitan would simply not buy from Northrop-Grumman again. If Lockheed was slow and dishonest it would quickly go out of business. If particularly heavy hardware such as defense shields, tanks, or fighter jets, are needed in a particular region then it is likely that several large firms there would pool resources and purchase them or post reward that "We will give X million dollars to anyone who can produce a missile shield of our chosen level of quality".

But through all this comes the why question. Why would private firms, pursuing profit, have any enthusiasm to give protection? My opponent talks of the need for patriotism, and he talks as if it is not subject greed, propaganda, and profiteering. Patriotism and defense of country has been used to justify many atrocities. A product or service that is sold on the open market can certainly be driven by greed, but if a greedy defense company competently halts a Chinese invasion at a reasonable price do the customers really care about the CEO's personal agenda? But who is to say that there would be nothing but greed involved? When individuals purchase healthcare it shows that they care about their personal health. If individuals purchased war insurance wouldn't that show that they care about themselves, their families, and way of life? It can be expected that insurance protection would actually foster more enthusiasm for defense because the companies would offer discounted premiums to clients who were willing to arm themselves, train, and be at-the-ready to repel an invasion(minute-men style). These minute-men would be voluntarily fighting to protect themselves and their homes from a direct attack from a bunch of foreign conscripts fighting for "their country". Need there be any debate about who would be fighting more enthusiastically?

History and theory have long showed us that it is government who has the incentives to waste resources and bring about mass murder while using propaganda to justify itself. Free-market competition among armies would drastically reduce these abuses and drastically improve the quality of protection individuals would receive.


The actual quote my opponent refers to is "war is too important to be left to the generals." Which was first said by George Clemenceau, prime minister of France during WWI. But I'm not sure what's worse, letting fast-food workers arm nuclear missile silos or actually letting a French man conduct a war effort.

My opponent also errors tremendously with his facts and with his fantasies. No private insurance company has ever done the job -or could ever hope to do the job- of covering all the costs from a disaster like a major earthquake or flood. It's not possible, and that's why we have FEMA, whose expressed mission statement is to provide federal relief and assistance to homeowners and businesses in the event that a disaster overwhelms the state's and population's means to cope. And according to the economic cost for Hurricane Katrina was $125 billion dollars, which effected 15 million people. What my proponent is proposing to cover - which is only one event- is three times the customers of auto insurance claims per year at a price that is more than the total world arms sales (2010 numbers) of the top 5 defense companies combined, and would constitute today the entire defense budget of China. And before my opponent argues that one can be more cost effective and still have a cheaper army with free market principles - nobody does things cheaper than China!

According to one study in USANews the estimated costs of the wars is Iraq and Afghanistan will range anywhere from $4 to 6 trillion dollars when they are finally over. Even if private companies could do things marginally cheaper, this number still represents a whopping 25 to 38% of GDP. My friends, there's a good reason we let governments fight our wars, and that's because when they at least go into massive debt they do not go bankrupt.

I think it's interesting my opponent also brings up history, because history is clearly against him. Was it not the Spartans who first proved over the Greek City states that a state sponsored army -with superior discipline, zeal, conformity of training, institution, and tradition triumphed over thier cilvilian counterparts? Was it not Caesar and Sulla, who with their client armies, -bribed with higher salaries and paid for in plunder- that overthrew the Roman Republic? And what of the ineffectiveness of the feudal system to national unity, rule of law, and collective defense where a peasant paid the Lord or swore fealty in exchange for the protection of his knights? It took Charles Martel -a king in all but title- to unite all the lords from fighting each other to save the whole of Europe from Muslim invasion. And don't even get me started on how culturally backwards and militarily inferior were the Japanese Shoguns when it came to uniting or protecting all the people of Japan until the Meiji reforms. The French Revolution really did well too... until Napoleon took them over.

My opponents only saving grace historically could be the British East India Company, whose privateers and private armies made colonialism economically possible, but just like the mercenaries Machiavelli lamented in Reniscessonce Italy, they were only motivated by profit, and would leave their British constitutes hanging for their defense as soon as the danger outweighed the money, leaving the acutal British military to intervene and the government to ultimately nationalize the company. Which also happened again with Cecil Rhodes's little venture in Africa. But if my opponent still cares to lecture about the "dangers of patriotism" and curruption of state armies, he should know who actually contributed to the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany, because it was none other than Hitler's tan shirts and Mussolini's black shirts, by all definitions, private armies.

Today the United States is actually at its smallest military-to-civilian ratio in its history. The point here being that the military has been overstreched and has had to reply more and more on private contractors, like Blackwater and the Senior Executive Service do its job. These companies however have made the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more dangerous by targeting civilians and infuriating the country with their personal disregard to anything cultural or mission related - and they do this because they can get away with it, they are not uniformed members, do not care, and can rarely be prosecuted under UCMJ or international law.

And to close, my George beats my opponent's Georges!

"To place any dependence upon militia, is, assuredly, resting upon a broken staff"
- General George Washinton

War is too important not to be left to the military.
Debate Round No. 3


The crux of my argument has been to advocate the separation of war and military affairs from the state, much in the same way that we (ought to) have separation of religion from the state. My opponent has fallaciously attempted to refute the effectiveness of this separation by using examples where either states directly hired independent fighters(Feudalism, Military contractors) or where independent fighters directly sought control of the state(Caesar, Hitler's Tan Shirts, French Revolutionaries). He may as well have used the Spanish Inquisition to "prove" that the separation of church and state would lead to religious oppression.

He also greatly underestimates the capabilities of insurance protection, capabilities summed up by Professor Hoppe of UNLV who writes: "Indeed, although restricted and hampered by the state, even now insurance agencies provide wideranging services of protection and indemnification (compensation) to injured private parties...They operate on a nationwide or even international scale, and they own large property holdings dispersed over wide territories and beyond single state boundaries...all insurance companies are connected through a network of contractual agreements and mutual assistance and arbitration as well as a system of international reinsurance agencies, representing a combined economic which dwarfs that of most existing governments". If the state gave up its monopoly on weapons of war the insurance companies would surely step in and coordinate with such armaments for the sake of protecting their own investments.

And historical examples exist of such private defense. Celtic Ireland, relying solely on insurance agencies to protect their homes and families, was able to repel English invasions for five hundred years before being conquered by Cromwell. Also, prior to the existence of FEMA, if a city suffered disaster it would mobilize and rebuild itself. Without interference by and dependence on FEMA the recovery from Katrina via the spontaneous order of the free-market would have been much faster.

It is true, largely due to costs, that America would have to adopt Swiss-style neutrality in its foreign policy, but this should be enthusiastically welcomed. American Imperialism in the name of the military-industrial complex has caused international destabilization and the incitement of terrorism-all at an enormous cost to taxpayers. The withdrawal of American forces from ALL countries around the globe would be a remarkable step towards global stability. The same is easily said for the Chinese military as well. The enormous aversion to fighting in foreign nations or having an excess of armed forces would be a built-in asset of private defense which would focus on strategies for being ready to repel actual invasion and occupation of its own soil. If foreign threats did exist, the private companies would focus on neutralizing the threat as quickly and cheaply as possible, most likely with precision strikes and commando raids towards very specific targets. The scope of private defense would need only a small fraction of the hundreds of billions required by the American or Chinese militaries, and with this fractional budget it would do far more for national defense than government ever could, what is there to lose?

Governments like to have large standing armies and constant warfare because it is very good for stirring up hysteria and devotion to the central state-bringing the politicians and their friends enormous power and wealth. Often after creating enemies through foolish politics, governments call on their citizens to "protect your country" and "join the cause" in marching, killing, and being killed. It is also often when governments confiscate civilian weapons for "security" leaving an unarmed populace vulnerable to the now militarized government. This could all be avoided by keeping to strict neutrality and then there would be far less need for defense(government or private). Has my opponent not considered that government acts for profit as well? Won't government limit its defense only to the people that serve the interests of the state?

A large part of the support for government defense is the common misconception that wars are fought by the government to protect the people, the truth is the exact opposite. Governments, fearful of having their rule taken from them by another government, call on the people to protect them while propagandizing that the war is for "the sake of the people". Falling to this fraud, the people become willing to tolerate an increase of tax-coercion and sometimes a draft. How can an institution that forces its populace to pay for and fight in wars be called a protector? If a private insurance company was fraudulent or forceful like this it would quickly be driven out of business by more honest companies.

The bloody and counterproductive record of government imperialism and lies should make it plain that the state will abuse the power to raise and control armies. The only way to prevent this abuse is to take this monopoly power from them and totally separate government from defense; the resulting spontaneous order of the free-market for demanded protection services would create a dramatically cheaper and infinitely more efficient framework for national defense.


First off, I would like to thank my opponent for a very spirited debate. This is my first debate on these forums, and I could not have asked for a better first opponent.

And before I begin again, I would just very quickly point out that my opponent has brought in imperialism into this debate. To my opponent, is the root of "evil imperialism" not spurred by free market principles and private sector companies hoping to make a profit by opening up new markets? My opponent's proposals to privatize national security and cut the government out of the military industrial complex equation would actually lead to imperialism as unregulated defense companies would instigate wars and advertise threats in other countries in order to make a profit.

You see the biggest pitfall of private armies and the -never before done- war insurance companies my opponent proposes is that they just really aren't a smart or viable idea - sociably, militarily, or economically. And I have used history to explain the ineffectiveness of defense companies and private armies - paying particular attention to examples where special interest, ideology, and greed outweighed any obligations to defending the state; while also trying to explain with some math the huge financial costs of defending a country and why it would not be economically possible or convenient for insurance companies to assume the financial risks. At the end of the day, it is still federal agencies who are "invited in" (not depended on) to assume the burden of risks deemed too great for the insurance companies to handle. The federal government cannot go bankrupt from war debts and total war the same ways that private companies would.

The government and its armies at the end of the day is also held accountable and safeguarded by elections from the people, it cannot be "bought out" the same way a private company and corporation can. It can be lobbied, but not bought out.

I also stand by the troubling history of mercenary groups making wars more dangerous for their sponsoring nations - from the Hessians in America to Backwater in Iraq. And I also believe Hitler's brown shirts is a fair and important example of moral misconduct from security establishments. Though my opponent challenges the context of these examples as "directly hired independent fighters by states" or as independent paramilitary groups, "independent of the government" by definition makes them private armies where a government has had no responsibility in the organization, direction, or use of force. And while not all my examples were legalized firms or security establishments, -which my opponent correctly suggests- many were - including Hitler's brown shirts; and their nature and history is what we can expect if we privatize defense and let private entities dictate defense policy.

I say again, National Security is too Important not to be left to the military.

My opponent has admirably defended his proposals with free-market principles, but in the real scheme of things, true cost efficiency in war and disaster is not measured in dollars saved or dollars gained, but actual number of lives saved and problems solved. So long as insurance and defense companies are driven to make a profit, which they must in order to survive, they will always come up short when it comes to assuming the risks and responsibility for national defense. These are two important areas where the need to make money is incompatible with the need to win a war, which must sometimes be fought at any cost.
Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by halonenmark 2 years ago
Anarcho-capitalist, i agree with most of what you have said. What you need to ask is, "Why do we need national security? Who would invade us?". The answer is that nobody would invade us because it would disrupt our trade with them. If we were a free-market nation, we would be trading with everyone in the world, and trade is the best defense against war. Even if you pretend some communist state invaded the U.S., they could never succeed. Our advanced military could not subdue rural Vietnam, do you think anyone could subdue the US, with lightening fast communication and millions of guns?
Sorry, but you have fallen victim to the state's lie that there is always an outside threat to be protected against with a large military.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by ModusTollens 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Con was correct to say that disaster would follow from allowing privatization of the military. That, incidentally, is exactly what has happened in Sub-Saharan Africa.