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  A Visit to Rhinegold

By Harry Browne

This is an excerpt from a story that Harry Browne wrote about a fictional European country called Rhinegold for his 1974 #1 best-seller You Can Profit from a Monetary Crisis.

It illustrates the point that, contrary to what most people think, strong national defense doesn't come from its military; it comes from a population that's well-educated in liberty and that doesn't respect unnatural, coercive "authority." In fact, a strong military is probably the biggest threat to the well-being of the average person.

As a timely example, without its huge military, the U.S. never could've provoked 9/11, which not only killed 3,000 innocent, average Americans; but the aftermath of which has been an explosion in the growth of government, which threatens ordinary people the most.


Anxious to change the subject, I turned the conversation back to the war. “How in heaven’s name did you manage to stay out of World War Two? Here you are right between Germany and France. Didn’t the Nazis occupy Rhinegold while they were occupying France?”

They tried to,” said Mr. Product. “A large band of soldiers in tanks moved in and said that Glitter City was now under Nazi occupation. That is, they tried to say it, but they could not find anyone to listen to them. They posted signs on the buildings and went looking for something called the ‘City Hall’ to take over the government.”

Then what happened?”

You see, we do not have a government. No one here respects any authority except his own self-interest and the self-interest of any person with whom he might have some intercourse.”

By the way, what is a government?” asked Mr. Sell.

Ignoring him, Mr. Product went on with his story. “So that meant they would have to set up a government. They sent home for more troops; but since no one here had any concept of what a ‘government’ is, it meant they could control us only if they had one policeman for every Rhinegolder. At first, they tried stationing a solider on every corner with a tommy gun -- but people just went about their own business.

Finally, they realized they would have to have 160,000 soldiers here to guard 160,000 Rhindegolders. And for what? Just to say they had conquered a little country of 1,000 square miles. That did not make sense -- even to them. So they stole some cheese and went on to France.”

That’s very inter--”

Wait, that’s not all. In 1945, it happened again -- sort of. Then the American soldiers came. They had even more tanks and soldiers than the Germans had. They rode into town and a man in uniform with some artificial silver stars on his shoulder stopped me in the street and said, ‘Take me to your leader.’ So I took him home and introduced him to my wife.

Well, either I had misunderstood or he misunderstood, because he threatened to shave my head and denounce me as a collaborator. Fortunately, he changed his mind -- but I do not think he ever comprehended our way of life here, and I certainly do not understand his.

So after a couple of days, they stole some cheese and headed into Germany.”


This was all a little too much for me to grasp. “But you must have a government. Who decides when prices get too high or how much is a fair profit?”

What is a government?” insisted Mr. Sell.

We all decide such things,” said Mr. Product.

Oh,” I said. “You mean you vote on such questions.”

I guess you could say that. I vote when I buy something. I am telling the seller that his price and profit are not prohibitive. If enough other people also vote for the product in that way, the seller keeps offering it. If not, he is voted into changing his prices or doing something else for a living. Is that what you mean?”

No, but we’ll se that aside. Even if you don’t want a government to control your economy, you have to have one for national defense. If nothing else, that’s a necessity.”

I disagree with you. In fact, I see it to be exactly the reverse. If we had a government running our economy, we would survive. We would have to put up with the recurring price distortions of inflation and the inevitable depressions that you people take for granted. Our standard of living would go down considerably with such a government running our lives, but -- as I said -- we would still survive somehow.

But the one thing we would not tolerate would be a government responsible for our defense. Depressions are bad enough -- but wars! Wars that send our people off to fight the personal battles of some stupid politician; large shares of our production taken away from us to buy guns and fortifications; bombs raining down on our cities. I am surprised that you imagine that we would want that.”

But how do you defend yourselves?”

By minding our own business. Oh, we have had people wanting to conquer us a few times. But a nation is conquered only when the government surrenders; then the people surrender. A people who do not respect any authority but themselves have no one to surrender for them. That means they would each individually have to surrender. No conqueror has the resources to waste trying to conquer 160,000 different and individual enemies.

Each time the foreigners have come to make war, they have left soon enough. And yes it is true that they killed a dozen or so people before they left. And we all mourned -- because I doubt that there is a single person in Rhinegold who does not consider such deaths to be senseless.

But fortunately we did not have a government. If we had, the ‘great’ ruler would have called for blood and vengeance ‘on behalf of an injured nation.’ He would have drafted half of the population and send thousands off to die. If a dozen people killed is such a tragedy, then why bring on the even greater tragedy of thousands killed?

No thank you, Mr. Browne, no national defense for us. It is too dangerous."

Harry Browne (1933-2006) wrote 12 books that sold over two million copies, and was a popular public speaker from the 1960s until his passing. He was the Libertarian Party's candidate for President of the United States in 1996 and 2000. For more information on his life and work, please visit his website.


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