Private militaries

In a recent article in The Intercept, titled, “Echo Papa Exposed: Inside Erik Prince’s Treacherous Drive to Build a Private Air Force,”  Jeremy Scahill and Matthew Cole report on the efforts of Erik Prince to modify the Thrush 510G crop duster into an aircraft capable of carrying a range of bombs and gun pods.  The magazine was founded in 2013 for investigative journalism and cultural criticism.

Prince is the founder of Blackwater, the private security company that has gone through a variety of name and ownership changes in recent years.  His current endeavor, Frontier Services Group, focuses on logistics and security for “under-developed markets in Africa,” and according to The Intercept article, the armed aircraft are to be of use for this company.  Why exactly a government like South Sudan would have a contract with FSG is a reasonable question to ask, and Prince’s history offers obvious answers.  But the larger concern from my perspective is the increasing reliance of governments, ours and those of other nations, on private security firms in carrying out public policy.

There is a parallel here with private prisons.  While most people recognize the need to remove violent offenders from general circulation for a time, we should all be disturbed by the idea of companies making a profit from this.  Holding another human being captive should always be something we have great reservations about doing, but the profit motive makes this moral stand harder to remember.  In the same line of thinking, there are good reasons for having a military and for the broader exercise of specific kinds of power by governments.  This, at times, includes having to destroy property and kill human beings.

Why?  Corporations answer to their owners.  They must comply with regulations, and they have to sell their products or services to customers, but ultimately, they exist to make money for shareholders.  They are not answerable to all of us.

I don’t mean this as an attack on capitalism.  Corporations do exactly what they ought to do.  When we’re talking about actions of governments, though, a free society is premised on the assumption that those actions and the agents or politicians doing them are accountable to all of us.  This is not to suggest that private security has no place in our society.  If someone wants to hire bodyguards, go for it.  Spend your money as you please.  But when all our tax dollars are being employed to enforce the law or promote official policy, that’s a different matter.

A final point to consider here is that the merging of public and private illustrates exactly why gun rights are an essential expression of individual liberty.  At the same time as our government and other governments are making their actions less accountable, we are being told that private citizens have no business attending to their own defense.  This attitude is one that we all have to fight.  Openness in government and individual autonomy depend on each other, and if we value one right, if we value one principle of good government, we have to stand up for all of both.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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