The idea of private citizens forming themselves into military units and corporations having access to military equipment, for many conjures up images of a dystopian future where McDonald’s and Burger King compete with tanks rather than on the popularity of their burgers, and Toy’s R’ Us preserves their market share with machine guns rather than water pistols.
But consider our current system where access to military grade weaponry is the exclusive preserve of central governments. If a government wishes to instigate an armed conflict, they assess the capability of the opposition and decide where and how to attack the targeted territory. They attack government and civilian infrastructure, seize strategic resources and try to find the best way to subjugate and enslave the population. Military occupation is never cheap and only way to sustain the enormous cost is through the financial extortion of the population – i.e taxation. Conversely, the defence of a country consists of a few leaders at the top who centrally control the national armed forces, deciding which property is to be safeguarded and which lives are to be protected (no doubt their own).
In an Anarcho-Capitalistic society, arms would be free to be traded and accessed by private firms. Without a centralised government authority to expropriate resources from the population and a large standing army to unleash as it saw fit, an Anarcho-Capitalist society would never and could never threaten life or violate property abroad. In addition to which, a private firm which must survive as a commercial enterprise would far less likely to threaten life or attack property due to the multitude of negative repercussions this would have. Aggressive arbitary actions by a private company would not only bring them into direct conflict with another private defence company, but would have a hugely detrimental impact on their own reputation – and therefore their business. Also, unlike a government army, their employees are private individuals who are free to decide for themselves about the morality and justification of their actions.
Like any private firm, the only way they will have access to a sustainable source of income is by entering into voluntary contracts with anyone who feels the need to employ their services. In a period of peace, where any military or terrorist threat is small, the military industry would be correspondingly small because few companies would consider it necessary to employ their services so the industry would shrink. However, in a period of relative tension, the industry would expand to accommodate the heightened security atmosphere. Anybody who owned tunnel, port, factory, airport, housing estate, national park etc and feared a possible attack would be free to decide who to outsource their defence requirements to, in the same way that the owner of a bridge would decide who to outsource their maintenance to. Due to the creative and competitive nature of the free-market, money and resources would naturally gravitate to those companies with the best reputations and which offered the most effective and comprehensive defence at the best price. As in any free-market economy, companies with mutual interests – such as other defence companies or private security firms, intelligence, logistics, transport, utilities etc. would be free to form partnerships where it maybe expedient, in order to defend a particular industry or locality.
Consequently, any domestic or foreign aggressor in an Anarcho-Capitalist society, would be met with a bewildering number of enemies. Each with access to the best resources, possessing their own doctrine and each constantly looking for ever more innovative ways to fulfil their defence obligations to their clients. The robust and de-centralised nature of the opposition would make the sustained subjugation of the civilian population in an Anarcho-Capitalist society, impossible.