An Ancient Historical Lesson Repeats Itself

What happens when a government hands weapons to men and trains them to kill? It establishes a military. What happens when the same government ceases to pay this new military? The military uses its weapons and skills to prey on defenseless people:

The situation in Venezuela has become so bad that even soldiers are struggling to support themselves.

Over the weekend, six members of the Venezuelan military were detained by local authorities for stealing goats, the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional reported Sunday. It said the soldiers confessed to stealing the goats and said they did it to feed themselves, since they had no food left in their barracks.

“It’s not a good sign when your military doesn’t have enough food, and when the military has been relegated to guarding and protecting food lines,” said Jason Marczak, director of the Latin America Economic Growth Initiative at the Atlantic Council. “This is endemic of the problems going on across the country.”

If you’re a student of history you’ve probably read about this happening numerous times. It shouldn’t be surprising either. The primary skill of a soldier is using force. That is, after all, their job. When they suddenly find themselves impoverished and starving they use the skills they have at hand to do what they believe is necessary to survive.

A notable difference between professional militaries and militias is that the latter are generally employed in another field and only act as soldiers temporarily. Since they’re not reliant on the government for the entirety of their income they have other skills to fall back on if the government stops paying soldiers. Professional soldiers, on the other hand, often lack other skills as well as experience in operating in a market. When they stop receiving a paycheck they, like a militia member, rely on the skills they have. The difference is the skills of a militia member are often honed in a market environment whereas the skills of a professional soldier are not.

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