A Visit to Rhinegold
By Harry Browne
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.
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
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.
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?”
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
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.”
the way, what is a government?” asked Mr. Sell.
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
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 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.
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.
after a couple of days, they stole some cheese and headed into
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
is a government?” insisted Mr. Sell.
all decide such things,” said Mr. Product.
I said. “You mean you vote on such questions.”
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?”
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.”
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.
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.”
how do you defend yourselves?”
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
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
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
thank you, Mr. Browne, no national defense for us. It is too
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.