Mexico Rising: The Myth of National Defense and the spread of Mexican Vigilantism

Johnny Harrelson
Jan 20, 2014 at 11:12 AM

imageThe fight for liberty which is underway within the Mexican state of Michoacán, is a complex tale filled with all the high drama and intrigue of a great Hollywood western.  Yet while this tale appears to be a heroic effort by the people of Mexico, it is also an exceedingly complex story that has far reaching repercussions, not only for the people of Mexico, but also for the more politically radical ideas concerning the necessity of defense production.  These events beg the question; who should produce defense?

The story of agrarian Mexican militias taking up arms first appeared, to my knowledge back in February of 2013, when a group of farmers in Michoacán; tired of paying protection money and dealing with rampant murder, abuse; fed up with police corruption, compliance, and inaction, decided to take the law into their own hands.  After a series of battles over the past year the farmers and other citizens forced the corrupt officials to flee the towns and battled against the Knights Templar drug cartel.  After seizing several towns and restoring peace and security the Federal authorities and military moved in.  For the most part the state, unable to restore the people’s confidence in light of their corrupt connection with the drug cartels, have only till recently, allowed the militias to persist.

The militia movement has grown over the past year and is now offensively besieging larger towns and even cities vital to the Knights Templar cartel operation.  These developments have lead some to speculate that the militias could be sponsored by rival cartels.  The Templar cartel and some official sources contend that elements of the militias are in fact sponsored by drug cartels based on circumstantial evidence implied by the type of arms the militias use.  Yet other reports indicate that 60% of their armaments were confiscated from Knights Templar forces that had been defeated in battle.

One of the most prominent leaders of the militias, Dr. Jose Manuel Mireles, a former Mexican expatriate and California doctor, is reportedly the man responsible for organizing the militias initially. After deciding to move back to his Michoacán roots he then decided to rally his community and organize the militias in order to combat the kidnapping, extortion, rape, and government corruption.

The importance of these events for our purposes is the empirical light it has shed on a host of theories and ideas which countless philosophers, social critics, ethicists, and historians of our lineage have founded, proclaimed, and refined for the past couple of hundred years.

The plight of the Michoacán people is a logical outcome of monopolized and centralized defense production.  A system easily corrupted and consequently incentivized to be corrupted by the statist criminal policy of drug prohibition and the wider “War on Drugs.”  

It is an unfortunate and universal irony which again illustrates what occurs when States intervene in markets.  Under the pretext of ‘protection’ the State has denied free entry into the production of defense and has also arrogated unto itself the protection of society from narcotic addiction which has led the Mexican people to deal with a brutal loss of 77,000 lives since 2007!

Belgian born French philosopher Gustave de Molinari was the first man to strike at the heart of the very racket for which the state ultimately derives its supposed legitimacy.  His Production of Security (1849) is regarded as the first genuine and pointed critique of the modern state and its primary role as a keeper of the peace and defender of its citizenry. Other writers and philosophers from the 19th century Laissez-faire movement, leading up to Ludwig von Mises, Murray N. Rothbard and Hans Hermann-Hoppe, have continued to rigorously prove and provide further insights into the means of defense production, the role of the state, and the recourse which the governed population has at their disposal to secure their property.

This Mexican uprising is not vigilantism, but rather is a perfectly honorable and just popular rebellion which appears to employ a concise and logical liberty ethic which draws upon the unalienable and universal rights of people everywhere to throw off oppression against person and property.  It is a contemporary example of nullification, the right to self-defense, secession, and most importantly the right to first appropriation.

In order to put the Mexican uprising in Michoacán in perspective, I will first outline the three political means by which defense is produced and then discuss some economic alternatives to defense production. 

Hans Hermann-Hoppe in his Myth of National Defense (2003) outlines the issues thusly:

Every "monopoly" is "bad" from the viewpoint of consumers. Monopoly here is understood in its classical sense as an exclusive privilege granted to a single producer of a commodity or service; i.e., as the absence of "free entry" into a particular line of production. In other words, only one agency, A, may produce a given good, X. Any such monopolist is "bad" for consumers because, shielded from potential new entrants into his area of production, the price of his product X will be higher and the quality of X lower than otherwise.

Secondly:

The production of security must be undertaken by and is the primary function of government. Here, security is understood in the wide sense adopted in the Declaration of Independence: as the protection of life, property (liberty), and the pursuit of happiness from domestic violence (crime) as well as external (foreign) aggression (war). In accordance with generally accepted terminology, government is defined as a territorial monopoly of law and order (the ultimate decision maker and enforcer).

With Hoppe, I agree that these two propositions are completely incompatible.  How can an agency (the State) deny ‘free entry’ into defense production, arbitrarily determine appropriation via taxation, and yet also be given the steadfast duty to defend the very property they arbitrarily appropriate for said defense?  This is preposterous and completely incompatible with reason.

The third proposition reads thusly:

[W]henever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, their wishes are to be respected and complied with. This is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and international wars.

As we can see, the Michoacán people have made it well known via their tribunals and their arms that they certainly will not tolerate a rogue state which serves as nothing more than another enforcement agency for drug cartels.

Initially, the Mexican state appeared somewhat willing to recognize this popular uprising in the same terms as outlined by Ludwig von Mises. This realistic and diplomatic alternative was tenable. Early reports indicated the military and militia checkpoints operated in an uneasy relationship with each other in the area.  The various rural towns and cities of Michoacán, after driving out the drug cartels and forcing the corrupt government officials to flee, could now practice in peace to determine what type of government they should have and in what way they should defend their private property.

Yet, with the siege of Nueva Italia and the militia's encroachment on the city of Apatzingan, it appears that this militia has now blossomed into a curiously well financed operation. Calls by the Michoacán Governor and Federal authorities to disarm do not appear to blunt the growing populist support for the militia:

If (authorities) say they won’t allow us to advance but they do nothing, then they can’t stop us. Our people are ready to die, including against the state government if necessary, because they are infested with criminals,.

Here is an empirical illustration of the outcome and instability fostered by a willingness to adhere to the propositions of any monopolistic means of defense production.  The Misesian insight that these erroneous prescriptions will only foster “revolutions and international wars” is laid out here in full view for the world to see. We do not know how this story will end, but we do know that the root of this problem is a systemic manifestation of centralized, exclusive defense production, paired with the unmitigated disaster of the farce known as the War on Drugs.

The plight of the Michoacán people also illustrate why the right to keep and bear arms is so crucial and so necessary to have enshrined in law.  This story does have parallels here in the United States. If we look at the unruly border with Mexico and its ‘Constitution Free Zones,’ or the Murder Capitol of Chicago with its major drug trafficking operations pair this with heavy gun prohibition policies and corrupt political elements, it is conceivable that the seeds of the same type of social disintegration faced by the people of Michoacán have been sown here.

Solutions?

It first must be mentioned that in order for the people of the Michoacán to succeed, they must first found their resistance on sound principles based on private property.  There is no other way to first break the hegemonic bonds of the State and Federal authorities and thus the drug cartel infiltration of said authorities. Any remedy short of honoring private property rights will only exchange one set of exploiters for another. 

In maintaining a system of justice, free of private property exploitation, protection rackets, and arbitrary taxation for ‘defense’ of the territory; the people should seek to establish free access and competition in defense production and insurance. By incorporating a means of procuring security which is antithetical to the State’s monopoly, the people may be able to procure security which is immunized against systemic problems of central authoritarian corruption, arbitrary justice, and selective administration of defense privileges.

The ability for a competitive defense market to be established could conceivably allow and encourage the application of just arbitration and a universal application of the rule of law independent of political conflicts of interest. By organizing the territory with economic means as opposed to the political means, the territory will be able to rebuild their economy and their social order. The ability for such a sophisticated economic order to take root, it must be rigorously defended so that it may metastasize within the culture.

Only by honoring the private property rights of the men and women in the Michoacán territory can this order be defended and this militia uprising continue to be successful.

Content published on the Young Americans for Liberty blog is only representative of the opinions and research of the individual authors. It does not necessarily reflect the views, goals, or membership of YAL.