"Those who refuse to support and defend a state have no claim to protection by that state." Discuss.

In the novel Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein, the following paragraph appears:

Anybody willing to defend this proposition?

Anybody with an especially blistering counter-argument?

Sounds like a typical right wing authoritarian, fascist argument that you have to purge the deviants, radicals and the weak or else the state itself will cease to exist because internal and external threats will overwhelm you due to those weaknesses.

However pluralistic societies have proven they can survive just fine. According to Freedom house of the 192 countries on earth about 92 are liberal democracies, meaning they have democratic infrastructure and generally follow the universal declaration of human rights. So tolerating those who are different or weak (rather than purging them) is not anathema to a functioning state. In fact, according to the book “the J curve”, open pluralistic societies are more stable than closed authoritarian regimes.


If anything, people like the author are putting the state at risk.

By turning a nation into a fascist dictatorship, you destroy people’s morale to fight for their nation. If the US were a fascist dictatorship being invaded by a liberal democracy (say Canada), I would support Canada. If we were invaded by Japan and Germany in WW2, I would fight for the US.

By turning a nation fascist, you destroy innovation and infrastructure which makes your nation weak. Hitler (as an example) purged the ‘weak’ (aka the jews) by kicking them out. They went to the US and helped us do the manhattan project. Stalin purged the weak (his generals), and then when Hitler invaded he couldn’t defend his nation. Pol Pot purged the ‘weak’ (businessmen) and as a result 1/3 of hte nation died of starvation and disease, and the Vietnamese easily conquered Cambodia in the late 70s. Mao purged ‘the weak’ in the great leap forward and the culture wars. Those were disasters.

On another note, according to the democratic peace theory, functioning liberal democracies do not declare war on each other. So a world with as many liberal democracies as possible will not be constantly at war. As a result, you do not need fascist authoritarianism because external threats are lessened due to a world of democracies.

There are ways to support the state other than war. You can pay taxes, work a job, be an informed citizen, give to the community, grow the economy via innovation, etc.
Another issue is that in a democracy the public have a say in war. The first Iraq war was about oil, trying to make sure Saddam didn’t have control of Iraqi, Kuwaiti and Saudi oil by himself, which would’ve given him economic leverage. Some people would choose not to fight in that war. The concept that all pacifists are the same is bunk. I would’ve supported peace keepers in Rwanda during the genocide, but I would not support invading Saudi Arabia just to get the oil. So I am a war monger in one situation and a pacifist in the other.

I don’t agree that states only need to support loyalists.
I was living overseas in several countries and I counted on them to protect me in many ways, but not to demand my loyalty in return. And they should be entitled to protection here no matter how long they stay, and no matter who they remain loyal to, if they behave civilly.

And the same applies to states. When I lived in the segregated south I expected protection but not any demands that I support their discriminatory laws and in fact I stood (actually sat) against them.

The argument only works if the state is never wrong.

Well, what if the reason that you refuse to support it is because the government ISN’T providing any protection? If the government isn’t doing it’s job, don’t I have a right to demand that it does? And if it keeps refusing why should I support it?

For these purposes there is no obvious advantage to drawing a distinction between those who will not and those who cannot defend the state, and there are always many who cannot, because they are physically unable; also those who possibly could, but cannot be spared from their other occupations. That’s why an army exists, to defend the civilian population.

What does pacifism have to do with supporting or defending a state? A state needs more than soldiers to defend itself. Supporting the state is as simple as obeying the law (including paying taxes), engaging in economic endeavors (working, investing, etc), and anything that improves society (e.g., education and the arts). Every soldier willing to kill and risk being killed needs many individuals at home doing everything else the state needs to survive. Singling out pacifists for “not supporting the state” is as irrational as singling out people who don’t want to be sanitation engineers–sewage treatment is as necessary as the military.

The question is a non-starter because “a state” is made up of people and therefore is not unanimous in anything, let alone everything. Defining what is “supporting the state” or “defending the state” is hardly an easy task. Everyone is charged with supporting the state from both internal and external threats. And since no one person has a definitive opinion(barring a dictatorship, which doesn’t deserve support or defense, and thus is exempt from this discussion) as to what counts as a threat or what counts as support.

In a broader sense, it’s flat out impossible to say a pacifist or anarchist isn’t “supporting or defending the state”. An anarchist could be a counterbalance to a nanny-state or facist citizen. A pacifist is a counterbalance to a warmonger. States are strong when they have internal dissent, just as a person who has a conscience needs it to keep from becoming a sociopath. No conscience, no empathy for the rest of the population, therefore sociopath. No internal dissent, then facism. The state is right because it’s the state and the state is always right. No state would ever grow, adapt, or even long survive without the ability to change, and those who oppose the status quo are the way that happens. States need citizens who disagree with the status quo to evolve and thus survive.


I didn’t say I believed it. And I don’t think Heinlein would have denied the truth of what you write either. He was hardly an authoritarian and a long way from being a fascist. I’d say more but I don’t want to move into CS territory.

It’s probably dirty pool to bring in more than what I posted, but based on the rest of the character Lazarus Long’s statements in the notebook (available hereand here) that he was being more critical of anarchists rather than pacifists, being content to mock the latter.

As regards anarchists: it seems a mite hypocritical to persons to say “Smash the state” one moment and “Somebody’s breaking into our house–call 911!” the next.

That was meant as a rhetorical “you” and not as a “Skald the Rhymer” “you”.

I despise pacifism as a philosophy, but I think it’s absurd to say that pacifists aren’t entitled to the protection of the state. For one thing, as Wesley Clark points out, people can contribute to the good in any number of ways. If someone cures cancer or develops more efficient transport are they not entitled to the benefits of citizenship?

Also I support a robust exchange of ideas. Someone who espouses a radical political philosophy, even a silly philosophy like anarchism or pacifism, should be debated, not proscribed. That seems like censorship of the worst kind, anathema to a free society.

Should tax resistors be denied the protection of the state?

To deny someone the protection of the state for any reason is in effect to declare that person an outlaw – a classification long since scrapped in Anglo-American law for very good reasons.

Someone once claimed, in this very forum, that pacifism is a chimerical and egoistic ethical system. Don’t remember the Doper’s name, but he was an odd duck.

Being an engineer, scientist, schoolteacher, or salesperson is not being a pacifist. When I say pacifist, I mean a person who contends that violence is always wrong, in every situation, and that neither individual citizens nor the state is ever justified in using violence or the threat of violence against any human being for any reason.

Now, I am not saying that the state should withdraw its aegis from pacifists. I don’t think that the police should ask a person who is calling for help what his or her political beliefs are. I AM saying that a pacifist is being hypocritical to call upon the police or armed forces when she or he is in peril.

Just out of curiosity, is the antecedent to the bolded word above the passage I quoted, or something else?

I dislike pacifism for personal reasons I won’t go into, and because I think it’s a philosophy that actively encourages and condones inflicting harm upon innocents.

Yeah, but you can be an engineer or whatever and be a pacifist, and the pacifist engineer is still contributing to society. Beyond that I think police and military protection should be extended to everyone in society regardless of whether they contribute anything profound. After all if the police don’t arrest the guy who beat up Joe, because Joe’s an asshole, that criminal might go on to harm Jane, who isn’t an asshole. And military action covers the whole country and everyone in it.

Well, I think a comitted pacifist wouldn’t call the police, as that’s just outsourcing violence. I suppose in the real world most will, but that’s just standard human hypocrisy.

The antecedent is just the idea that the state should remove its protection from anarchist, pacifists and other radicals.

I’m trying to work within the premise offered by the OP - that people who don’t support the state don’t deserve its protection.

And I was pointed out the irony that many of the people who are most adamant in their professions of patriotism and their love of country are often also the same people who hate to pay their taxes and want to stop paying them. Love has got to be more than just hollow words to be meaningful.

How so?

Someone can say “Smash the state!” while knowing that the state is currently unsmashed. Anarchic forms of redress for wrongs don’t currently exist, and I’ve yet to meet an anarchist who believes there should be no recourse for those who are abused or harmed.

If an agressor attacks an innocent pacifism demands that onlookers not interfere, thus dooming the innocent.

The first sentence sounds like The Little Red Hen, but it’s a hell of a leap from that to the second sentence. Or . . .