We’ve heard the jokes, we’ve seen the memes, and there are even some places that claim to make the dream a reality. Yes, I’m talking about recreational nukes, or McNukes they’ve come to be called. While, thankfully, talk about them usually remains in the realm of humor, there is a serious question to be answered about the private ownership and potential use of such extremely destructive devices in a libertarian society, and I’m hoping I’ll be able to clarify those here.
Looking at it from an ownership perspective the answer, as shocking as it would be to those outside the libertarian sphere, would be that yes, people can own nuclear bombs in a libertarian society. With government restrictions taken away, people could very well decide to create or at least trade preexisting McNukes for massive profits from those so interested. With the internet accelerating people’s access to global markets and information, it would be no stretch to assume that handy online guides for the development of such devices similar to the spread of the 1971 edition of the Anarchist Cookbook (which, as a side note, is practically the only complete version).
Luckily, the building of and procurement of all that is necessary to make these McNukes of the future are excessively expensive, realistically preventing random whack-jobs from ever possessing one. That said though, for those that possess one when could such a device be used?
For this, we have to look to Rothbard. In the 25th chapter of Ethics of Liberty, Rothbard tackles the usage of McNukes (though, thankfully, he doesn’t use that term) and other forms of mass destructive weapons as follows:
“It has often been maintained, and especially by conservatives, that the development of the horrendous modern weapons of mass murder (nuclear weapons, rockets, germ warfare, etc.) is only a difference of degree rather than kind from the simpler weapons of an earlier era. Of course, one answer to this is that when the degree is the number of human lives, the difference is a very big one. But another answer that the libertarian is particularly equipped to give is that while the bow and arrow and even the rifle can be pinpointed, if the will be there, against actual criminals, modern nuclear weapons cannot. Here is a crucial difference in kind. Of course, the bow and arrow could be used for aggressive purposes, but it could also be pinpointed to use only against aggressors. Nuclear weapons, even “conventional” aerial bombs, cannot be. These weapons are ipso facto engines of indiscriminate mass destruction. (The only exception would be the extremely rare case where a mass of people who were all criminals inhabited a vast geographical area.) We must, therefore, conclude that the use of nuclear or similar weapons, or the threat thereof, is a sin and a crime against humanity for which there can be no justification.”
There is no way to employ these devices that would not wholly be against the very basis of libertarian non aggression, and general human morality. Thankfully, this is one of those issues that will be a far off contemplation, but one in a vein of discussion that needs answering in our defense of unrestricted ownership of armaments.
Read more from Killian at Think Liberty here.