WTC - solutions to terrorism

From: Phil Osborn (
Date: Wed Sep 12 2001 - 21:22:58 MDT

As I have discussed before, both here and elsewhere (since about 1978, when Conrad Schneiker presented the idea at a monthly dinner party meeting at Anthony L. Hargis & Co., a free-market "bank"), probably the only solution to terrorism is universal surveillance. The problem of exponentially growing powers of destruction, relative to powers of defense, unless those curves change radically, leads to inevitable catastrophe - in fact, one of the hypothetical answers to the Fermi Parodox (Where is everybody? All the millions of alien civilizations that should be out there in our own little galaxy? They all self-destructed.).

As Conrad quickly added, this - universal surveillance - could only work long-term in an anarcho-capitalist society. In a state society, it would inevitably multiply the problems we already have re corruption, who guards the guards, etc., and end up in tyranny. In such an ideal anarcho-capitalist society, people (and this is me talking, not Conrad; I don't know his position on these issues) would post bond or pay insurance to cover risks they created by any behavior.

Many radical libertarians - Sam Konkin prominent among them - have argued that anyone has a perfect right to keep a basement nuclear weapon at their home. In fact, in a survivable society, no one would keep a basement nuke - they wouldn't be able to pay the insurance. In fact, any insurance company would probably look at such a person as certifiably insane, and therefore a risk of 100%, meaning they would charge for the entire restitution costs of actual use of the nuke up front.

No central authority would be necessary - or probably desirable - in such a system. Instead, insurance companies would doubtless include huge penalty clauses in their contracts to cover people who did attempt to secretly store terrorist weapons. Given the profit possibilities, freelance surveillance experts would then try to find such people, taking a cut of the penalty premium when they succeeded.

A natural balance would sort itself out. A good engineer would not aim for zero terrorism. That would literally cost infinite money, to begin with. Perfection is just not possible, at any cost. Instead, the same marginal returns assessments that govern other markets would apply here. Occasionally there might be periods in which new threats were poorly assessed and then a rash of terrorist incidents would cause a swing in the other direction, as security people jumped into the market to try to catch terrorists. Markets are like that. Long term, however, they work pretty well, as they have natural corrective mechanisms to keep them on track, unlike states, who tend to spend more and more money on whatever ISN'T working.*

*Credit to Jerrit Wollstein on this one, 1971, Ist Southern Libertarian Conference, Atlanta, GA. Ask yourself, do police departments get bigger budgets when crime is down or up?

The problem re the WTC attack is hardly new. I just finished reading Harsch's wonderful "Pattern of Conflict," possibly the best, most prescient analysis of NAZI Germany's strengths and weaknesses. Written mostly in 1940, published in 1941, Harsch, then the Christian Science Monitor's foreign correspondent in Berlin, pointed out, among many other cogent observations, that Hitler's big advantage was that he was on the attack.

Being on the attack means that you can choose the time, place and method. The Wehrmacht, which was a generation ahead of any other military on the planet, had perfected the methodology of attack. Careful planning, constant detailed rehearsals, excellent organization - all based on promotion (or demotion) purely by demonstrated ability, contingency plans, etc., made them virtually invinceable - so long as they were attacking.

When they would run into problems, according to Harsch, would be when they hit natural limits to expansion. Then they would have to set up a perimeter defense, which would leave them open to the same strategy used against Napoleon. Then the allies could attack on one side of the continent, forcing Hitler to move his troops there, and then hit the other side. This of course is exactly what happened and the Normandy invasion succeeded because Hitler was not convinced in time that it was the real attack.

The attacker has the advantage. That advantage will increase, as per Conrad's analysis. Thus, only by eliminating the rewards perhaps and creating adaptive systems, such as freelance terrorist bounty hunters, who will effectively be on the attack themselves, will we have a real chance here.

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