Reprinted with permission Mises Institute
By Jason Morgan
In late May we learned that, after a five-month deployment to one of the most dangerous cities in the world, the American military would finally be going home.
Well, not really. They already were home. The dangerous warzone was the American federal capital, Washington, DC. And the “danger” that the military was supposed to be countering was entirely government made. The military—the National Guard—was on a mission to “secure the capital” after a few hundred rowdies had a Jacksonian moment on Capitol Hill. People who obviously had no plan beyond their afternoon tear through the halls of Congress were somehow presented as an existential threat to the American government, and so the statists in Washington ordered the National Guard to remain deployed. Apparently, the guy who stole a piece of stationery from Nancy Pelosi’s office in January was so terrifying that it took thousands of troops to make sure he didn’t come back and do it again.
Of course, on every other day besides January 6, 2021, Washington, DC, is not dangerous because of people like the stationery thief. It’s dangerous because it’s run by the government. The National Guard standing watch against some takeover by the boogaloo bois was all a show, meant to deflect from the government’s failures by making it seem as though it were ordinary Americans, and not their leaders, who are the real threat to peace and security. (It also didn’t hurt to have the National Guard on the steps of Congress so that the purge of patriots from the ranks by woke apparatchiks could continue apace. The last thing the military needs these days is anyone actually dedicated to preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution.)
What is most troubling about this whole situation is that it was never supposed to be this way. The rationale behind a militia (of which the National Guard could be deemed a modern-day extension) is to defend people and their property, not the government which sponges off both. But over time Washington co-opted the militia spirit of the National Guard and turned it into a ward of the state. The Dick Act of 1903, for example, was but one key turning point of several in the transition from American militia to federal police force. Seen in this light, the spectacle of the National Guard occupying Washington was a complete inversion of the intended order of things. The militia is supposed to protect us from the government, not the government from us.
There is an important lesson in this for those of us who, unlike Washingtonians, still love our God-given liberties. The American empire is coming apart at the seams. God willing, the damned thing will collapse with a shudder very soon. Many around the country have long since been preparing for this day, and also taking measures against the government while it still functions by exploring the possibilities of private security. Private security is surely necessary now, and will be even more necessary as the American Leviathan turns belly-up. But beware. History teaches that private security works for a while, but almost always ends up increasing oppression in the long run. As Americans rediscover the honorable militia traditions of their past, they should also take in the notes of caution which that history also contains.
Perhaps the best place to start to understand how and why private security tends to become statist oppressor is to look at foreign history first. Take the samurai, for example. The samurai are probably most often thought of as swordsmen of the Tokugawa martial law order, and that is certainly true. But the samurai started out, not as state agents, but as private security forces. The Heian Period (794–1185) was a time much like the hedonist period (December 23, 1913–present) in the USA today. The central government in ancient Japan, just like the central government in the USA today, was filled with courtiers and well-connected girly men (not that I’m thinking of Hunter Biden as I write this) who were infinitely concerned with their own social schedules and could spare very little time for administration. Because of the self-absorbed nature of central government politicians, the provinces were increasingly left to fend for themselves.
But countryfolk in Japan are made of sturdy stuff, just like good old boys in America. The Japanese locals didn’t just roll over and whimper when things got bad. They did what any sane group would do—they stocked up on weapons and took the law into their own hands. The toughs who emerged as peacekeepers and eventually kingmakers from all this were the bushi, the samurai. While the samurai were originally government-backed warriors mustered to help defend Japan during a period of strife with China-backed forces in Korea, the tradition of bearing arms continued long after the danger had passed, and the martial men in the hinterlands were able to fend off government predation when the central administrative apparatus began to fall apart.
Had it not been for the original samurai, the provinces would have been as bad as the capital when the inevitable governmental rot set in. For a time, the samurai were the saviors of Japan. As it turned out, though, the samurai were not satisfied just keeping watch over rice paddies. They, too, eventually grouped under banners and warred for control of the center. And when, after a long series of bloody and destructive wars, one group of samurai finally emerged victorious, they instituted martial law. This process then continued until the last military government, the Tokugawa, formed in the early seventeenth century. Private security became statist nuisance. Just like in Washington, a militia had devolved into a statist monstrosity.
Back in American history, take the Pinkertons as another example. The Pinkerton Detective Agency was a private security firm, too. The Pinkertons began as henchmen for railroad executives against organized labor, for which they probably deserve a great deal of praise. However, they soon discerned that the real money and influence came from Washington, so their first big assignment was to provide Secret Service detail, avant la lettre, for the newly elected Abraham Lincoln as he traveled to the capital. A generation later, the 1893 Anti-Pinkerton Act forbade the federal government from hiring private security forces, but the need for security detail of which the Pinkertons initially convinced Lincoln led to his approving legislation which created the actual Secret Service, on his very last day in office, before state-run security signally failed to secure Lincoln’s private balcony in Ford’s Theater.
The Secret Service’s original remit, incidentally, was mainly to chase counterfeiters of US currency, and as such it was part of the Department of the Treasury. Ironically, these duties continue today, long after the counterfeit currency known as Federal Reserve Notes became legal tender in the United States. And the Secret Service now lances under the banner of the Department of Homeland Security—if you have ever carried more than a few ounces of toothpaste with you on a flight, then you have automatically incurred the wrath of the people whom the government employs to protect your “freedom.”
Examples of private security working for government gain—call it the Pinkerton-samurai rule—could be multiplied virtually ad libitum. The Praetorian Guard, for instance, eventually dropped the pretense of protecting the Roman emperors and went all-in on the business of choosing and disposing of them. The Janissaries were the Ottoman version of the Praetorian Guard, groomed first as Christian boy slaves and later formed into a fanatically loyal bodyguard for the sultan. The Sikhs, too, sold their formidable military skills to the highest bidder, first the Hyderabad State Forces and later the British. Academi, formerly known as Blackwater, is a “private security” firm which advanced Washington imperialism in the Middle East. Whether security begins as a basement start-up or with the wave of a sovereign’s hand, it almost always ends up suckling at the teat of the central state.
In the summer of 2020, some Americans may have thought they were getting a glimpse of real “private security” in the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ, also known as Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, CHOP) in downtown Seattle. However, as investigative journalist Andy Ngo details in his new book Unmasked, CHAZ/CHOP’s security detail was enmeshed in a welter of global socialist and worldwide communist organizations. Left-wing terrorists have been plotting world socialist revolution since the beginning—the Seattle “private security” was about as “local” and “private” as the Cheka. The “anarchists” breaking windows on the West Coast were really just auditioning to be the KGB for the communist government that they hope to install.
The problem is that private security will almost always choose to work for the highest bidder. And the highest bidder is almost always going to be the bidder with the monopoly on piracy, brigandage, and graft: the state (or the socialists, who are just the state in training). The linkup is the most natural thing in the world. The state steals our money and needs people to help with the stealing. The more the state steals, the more money it will have, and also the more help it will need. And also, not coincidentally, the more unpopular it will become. So, security will flock to the insecure. Likewise, whoever rebuilds a state after the old state has withered will turn almost inevitably to the men with the swords or the pistols to do the dirty work of restatifying an actual free people. Private security will nearly always find it more lucrative to work for public criminals (politicians) than for local communities. Corn farmers just can’t cut the same kinds of checks that tax farmers can.
There was a very good solution to this once, though. A militia. Militias were one of America’s greatest strengths. Every able-bodied man was expected to have a gun and to know how to use it. He also had to know when to use it. He didn’t necessarily need to wait for orders so much as a reason. If some statist punks came poking around their property, then the militia would see to it that that business ended in a hurry. If an army was dispatched, then that too could be met. The American militia was perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments in all of human history. For centuries, long before the actual on-paper founding of America, militias kept statists in line—the way it should be.
But, alas, as the Tale of Heike about the late-Heian samurai wars in Japan puts it, “[N]othing lasts.” One of the many devilries of Mr. Lincoln was that he made soldiering into a profession. Before the Civil War, people fought largely to defend their homes and then went back to those homes when the danger had been neutralized. An imperialist war in Mexico gave the Washington devils another idea, though. They could use a standing army to impose the federal will. Lincoln deployed that little insight with devastating results. A hateful relic of the Civil War is the standing army—the author of our enslavement, just when we thought that it was the author of emancipation.
Americans have a healthy respect for military service, which I share. But the military today is the opposite of the militias of old. The military in 2021 destroys our freedom; it does nothing to protect it. Today, the American military is basically the armed wing of Sesame Street, a zombie force of woke Storm Troopers ready to firebomb any country (including ours) that doesn’t toe Washington’s utopian-socialist policy line. Anyone who disagrees with the woke agenda is going to get a visit from the army, and probably also from several of the other armed federal agencies (even the Social Security Administration and the post office have their own armed guards). The feds’ rampaging through free people’s land used to happen only in places like Chad, Yemen, Lakota country, and Japan, places that the federals could raze for sport. But now it happens in Washington, too. The militia got co-opted. The minutemen got turned into time-serving Hessians for statists. Patriots became patsies for Jen Psaki and her crew.
There is a way to undo this, but it will take hard work and vigilance. We must form militias again. We don’t need to have any silly initiation ceremonies or wear any uniforms. Militia is a culture more than a chain of command. The whole point of a militia is to instantiate—to borrow the title of James C. Scott’s 2009 study of the Zomia highlanders in Southeast Asia—the “art of not being governed.” Don’t talk to anyone from the government, keep your powder dry, and if things get hairy, then, well, you know what to do.
The American empire is falling. The only way the federals can keep order is by turning citizen against citizen, deploying the National Guard to Washington, and surely deploying it to your city, too, if you get out of line. But as the American empire falls, let us rediscover perhaps the best American tradition of all—the patriot with the gun and the good sense to choose his family and community over the blandishments of the rapacious state.
Author: Contact Jason Morgan