A Porcupine's Worth
by John T.
article is reprinted from the No
Treason web site with permission of the
"The value or worth of a man is,
as of all other things, his price.." - Hobbes
Government is a predator. Those who seek to secure their liberty
face the problem of how to avoid being prey. Some look at the leviathan
state and despair that they will never have sufficient force at their
disposal to defeat such a predator. They need to learn from the
lesson the porcupine teaches is that you don't have to be strong enough
to defeat a predator to avoid being that predator's lunch. It suffices
to be an expensive meal. Predators tend not to dine on porcupines
because a serving of porcupine tends not to be worth the mouthful of
quill that it costs.
Theory David Friedman writes:
"... the essential objective in any conflict is neither to
defeat your enemy nor to make it impossible for him to defeat you but
merely to make it no longer in his interest to do whatever it is that
you object to ."
nations seek overwhelmingly to resolve disputes peacefully rather than
by force? Because war is usually more expensive than it is worth to the
party that initiates it. The reason that Communist China doesn't
take Taiwan by force is not that it cannot do so, but rather because
China judges Taiwan will cost more than it is worth to take by force.
Taiwan does not need to be anywhere near as powerful as the predator to
survive, it just needs to be more expensive than it is worth to the
who fought for American independence understood the lesson of the
porcupine. One of the most powerful symbols in the war for
independence is seen in the Gadsden flag.
message of the Gadsden flag is not that we can defeat all predators, but
that we will cost them dearly. The colonists did not seek to be more
powerful than the British, they sought simply to be too expensive for
the British to rule.
advocates of anarcho-capitalism think that to achieve liberty from
government we need to convince a majority or some critical number of
people that anarcho-capitalist society will be better for them than
porcupine teaches a different lesson - that men will be free from
government whenever they become too expensive to govern.
the crucial insight which makes me optimistic about the chances for
anarcho-capitalist society. I'm not optimistic about converting masses
of people to accept anarcho-capitalism through any sort of rational
evangelism. I'm not optimistic about persuading large numbers of people
to be more moral or to use better judgment. But I am optimistic that in
the long run people can be made too expensive to govern.