The only way to prevent the initiation of violence is by a countervailing source of violence—preferably, by a constitutional state under the rule of law. But this solution itself is problematic, for reasons that have to do with the tendency of free governments to come under the sway of people who are not good at using force. Consider how Pareto frames the issue:
Suppose a certain country has a governing class, A, that assimilates the best elements, as regards intelligence, in the whole population. In that case the subject class, B, is largely stripped of such elements and can have little or no hope of ever overcoming the class A so long as it is a battle of wits. If intelligence were to be combined with force, the dominion of the A’s would be perpetual… But such a happy combination occurs only for a few individuals. In the majority of cases people who rely on their wits are or become less fitted to use violence, and vice versa. So concentration in class A of the individuals most adept at chicanery leads to a concentration in class B of the individuals most adept at violence; and if that process is long continued, the equilibrium [of society] tends to be come unstable, because the A’s are long in cunning but short in the courage to use force and in the force itself; whereas the B’s have the force and the courage to use it, but are short in the skill required for exploiting those advantages. But if they chance to find leaders who have the skill—and history shows that such leadership is usually supplied by dissatisfied A’s—they have all they need for driving the A’s from power. Of just that development history affords countless examples from remotest times all the way down to the present. [§2190]
Now Pareto wrote that passage nearly a hundred years ago, before the advent of tanks and tear gas and other such devices that make is very much easier to control violent crowds. So one could argue that Pareto’s framing of the issue no longer applies to contemporary domestic politics. But even if it no longer applies domestically, there is still the issue of foreign aggression, which remains as serious as ever:
These considerations must to some extent be applied to international relations. If the combination-instincts are reinforced in a given country beyond a certain limit, as compared with the instincts of group-persistence, that country may be easily vanquished in war by another country in which the change in relative proportions has not occurred…. People who lose the habit of applying force, who acquire the habit of considering policy from a commercial standpoint and of judging it only in terms of profit and loss, can readily be induced to purchase peace; and it may well be that such a transaction taken by itself is a good one, for war might have cost more money than the price of peace. Yet experience shows that in the long run, and taken in connexion with the things that inevitably go with it, such practice leads a country to ruin. [§2179]
In other words, a commercial society, a society dominated by people who live by their wits and have become increasingly habituated by market forces to think almost exclusively in terms of profit and loss, becomes, over time, less fit for using force to defend the country and prevent the “initiation of force” by foreign aggressors.
Consider, in this respect, the threat posed to the United States by Iran. It may be thought Iran, a country governed by zealous yet primitive Islamic clerics, could not possibly pose any serious threat to America. Not necessarily so, however. There are reports of the Iranians attempting to shoot scud missile from ships in the Caspian Sea. Why would they be doing such a thing? The speculation is that they are rehearsing an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack against the United States. Such an attack would cripple, if not destroy, America’s electronic infrastructure. According to Dr. William Graham, the former White House science adviser under President Ronald Reagan, “70 to 90 percent of the population would not be sustainable after [an EMP] attack.”
Why is it that the United States is so vulnerable? At least part of the reason is that people have acquired “the habit of considering policy from a commercial standpoint and of judging it only in terms of profit and loss.” The U.S. electronic infrastructure could be hardened to withstand EMP attacks; such hardening, however, would cost billions of dollars and require massive government interference, in the form oversight, of the commercial electronic infrastructure. In other words, defending a nation against EMP weapons is not compatible with the small government, laissez-faire, anti-tax ideals embalmed within the Objectivist politics. Nor is it compatible with the ruling elite generated within nations dominated by a market-based economy, where Pareto’s “combination instincts” dominate the ruling elite at the expense of group-persistence sentiments, and men of courage and force are marginalized by lawyers, bureaucrats, capitalists and entrepreneurs.