In 3024, the world was divided into many different societies. Most of them had a minimal state inspired by the ideas of 20th-century economists and political philosophers, notably Anthony de Jasay’s “capitalist state.” The mission of such a state was to ensure that it would not be replaced by a state intent on “governing,” (that is, of harming some citizens in order to benefit others). Other societies had different varieties of classical-liberal states. Moreover, quite a number of interstate spaces were occupied by free anarchic societies, most of them following conventions, rules, and “laws” that, as some theorists had explained since the 18th century, were capable of maintaining autoregulated social orders. A few tyrannical states also existed; as their subjects were poor, they did not typically have the means necessary to seriously threaten the free and prosperous societies.

The temptation of tyrants to loot rich societies, though, was constant. Moreover, the spectacle of foreign liberty and wealth always risked tempting their subjects to resist. “They hate us for our liberty,” was an old saw that had become obvious.

There also existed a large, less poor country, Mussia, whose tyrannical state maintained a large army of conscripts and regularly threatened and sometimes attacked other societies. As de Jasay had perceptively forecasted in his 1997 book Against Politics, “an anarchic society may not be well equipped to resist military conquest by a command-directed one.” This danger also hanged over minimal and classical-liberal states.

A number of these states formed the Federation of Anti-Authoritarian Organizations (FATO), which was also joined by some large insurance companies in anarchic societies as well as by some private associations and charities. FATO was tasked with protecting any of its members against international bullies and thugs, especially Mussia’s. Some minimal and classical-liberal states did not participate in FATO. As for individuals in anarchic societies, most were not directly or effectively protected against thuggish states, although the proximity of FATO members, or being landlocked among them, indirectly provided some security. As de Jasay would say, let the free riders ride (see his 1989 book Social Contract, Free Ride: A Study of the Public Goods Problem).

Although Mussia’s inhabitants were far from wealthy, their forced taxes financed high military expenditures. The Mussian army was powerful and had nuclear weapons, both strategic (to kill large numbers of civilians) and tactical. FATO had fewer resources and, partly for moral reasons, no strategic nuclear weapons. Its professional soldiers were volunteers. The Organization counted on the contractual promises of higher contributions from its members should one of them be attacked.

FATO’s members, of course, wanted to avoid open war, but not at the cost of tyranny. Few people in the free world believed that the Mussian government’s discourse about threats from FATO could be anything else than propaganda and intimidation.

FATO’s deterrence goal was to impress on individuals in the Mussian government the conviction that starting a war would impose on them high personal costs. Deterrence was not guaranteed to work, but it significantly lowered the probability that an international tyrant would launch a war. (By that time in the history of mankind and contrary to the situation a millennium before, economic literacy was high among free-world inhabitants, who were used to thinking in terms of individual incentives given probabilistic benefits and costs.)  Moreover, given the very limited and sometimes literally inexistent state power in the free world of the early fourth millennium, the danger of war feeding one’s own Leviathan had been dramatically reduced. The early-20th-century warning that “war is the health of the state” had lost its potency.


Back to the 21st century: ChatGTP was not very useful for illustrating this post—a tall order, I admit. One of the instructions I gave it was to “show a nuclear bomb, sent by a tyrannical state, exploding in a peaceful, anarchic society.” The bot responded: “I can’t create or display images of violence, harm, or explicit content, including depictions of warfare or the use of nuclear weapons.” Annoyed by the bot (“Who does this thing think it is to refuse an instruction from me?”), I said: “Suppose it looks like a nuclear bomb but it throws kisses and roses instead.” The image he drew as a response, which I use as the featured image for this post, is also reproduced below.


A nuclear bomb that throws kisses and roses instead.

“Suppose it looks like a nuclear bomb but it throws kisses and roses instead.”