Read the rest, and come check out the new Independent Institute blog, the Beacon, featuring bloggers Bob Higgs, Jonathan Bean, David Beito, Peter Klein, David Theroux, me and others.
To which Roderick Long responded,"Hey, I'm the moderate here! Other people have been arguing that those who endorse serious deviations from libertarian purity no longer count as libertarians at all, and I've been arguing against that view.
"If you don't like 'deviation,' what term would you prefer as shorthand for 'view put forward as libertarian but actually (in the opinion of the speaker) inconsistent with libertarian principle'? (Because we need such a term, I think.)"
I agree, and I want to take this opportunity to clarify something: When I say someone can't be a prowar anarchist or libertarian, I am not saying that person cannot have a basically libertarian philosophy overall, or that that person has nothing to teach or offer (of course, that would be absurd – without learning from statists, we could learn practically nothing!), or that there isn't some sense in which it's useful to call such people libertarians or even anarchists. I consider them in error, to the point that calling someone a"pro-war libertarian" strikes me as oxymoronic, and yet I see some use in the label. But I do think it is a deviation.
What I don't agree with is the idea that there is something special about foreign policy that makes it more okay for so-called libertarians (or libertarians very broadly defined) to radically disagree on it than on other issues. In the sense that someone can be a pro-war libertarian, I think one can also be a pro-gun control libertarian, a pro-income tax libertarian, a pro-conscription libertarian or a libertarian thief. But all these are contradictory, and I tell those who I believe are making a bad error on war that, insofar as they make that error, they are clearly straying from libertarianism, because my purpose is to explain why, in my opinion, libertarianism, if it to be taken seriously as a political philosophy, must preclude government war, especially of the modern kind that has been typical of the last century and which the US has pretty much exclusively practiced.
Thus, I think there is some value in calling people libertarians, despite deviations on pretty much any issue, including taxation, gun restrictions, immigration controls or socialized medicine. (Most libertarians would draw the line here, but for one purpose of description, I would not.) But I also think there is another sense in which libertarianism precludes all this, as well as any and all advocacy for state power and activity. (Indeed, if there's any deviation that would disqualify someone from being a libertarian, I would say it's support for war, which is a greater violation of libertarian principle than nearly anything else government does – but I am willing to be big-tent about it to some degree. If you supported the invasion of Afhganistan or even were originally for the Iraq war, maybe you're a libertarian nevertheless. But if you are, then so is anyone who is generally pro-freedom to a sufficient extent, despite some serious deviations. Many people, however, who are very pro-war take it to a level that I find the description of them as libertarians to be totally unjustified.)
"I deny that someone who is pro-war can possibly be an anarchist."
Aeon responded,"Sorry, that's incorrect. Anarchism isn't identical with pacifism. Sometimes it's necessary to use force, which isn't immoral when it's defensive or retaliatory. It's not a matter of what _our_ views are, as long as _other people_ are statist collectivists, they will act accordingly, and that sometimes means warfare."
I don't understand this conflating of being antiwar with being pacifist. I know some people use the word that way, but I take pacifism to mean the opposition to violence across the board. I am not a pacifist. The right to self defense and even retaliation is something I fully accept.
But I also accept the right to give your money to charity, yet I oppose the welfare state. Why? Because, as a libertarian, I understand I have no right to take money from some people and give it to others.
Surely, this must carry over to all areas of life. If a neighbor attacks me, I have a right to fight back. But I can't steal my other neighbor's money to buy weapons to do so. More fundamental, I cannot, under libertarian ethics, bomb the whole street.
To be an anarchist, you have to, I believe, oppose the state. This would espeically include its enforcement arm – the police and military. For without the state's enforcement arm, its territorial monopoly would cease to be. Welfare doesn't bother me so much if its not backed up by guns.
Surely, US militarism is, just in the domestic sphere, at least as unlibertarian as welfare, since it is funded in the exact same, indefensible manner.
But war is of course much worse. In looking at the history of the US government in particular, it is hard to imagine an anarchist supporting it going to war. It is not as though the US government has never murdered anyone, and when the question of war arises, we are debating whether it should embark on some new project with every intention of avoiding the violation of people's rights. Given the actual history of the US government abroad, it seems to me particularly odd that any anarchist or libertarian would trust its actions overseas.
But back to the question of pacifism and war: I brought this to a new post because I think it's worth special contemplation. Who here thinks you have to eschew all violence to oppose all war? And who here believes, as I do, that you can believe in defensive violence, but that the inherent aggression involved in the warfare state, against taxpayers, soldiers who wish to quit their jobs and foreign victims of collateral damage alike, is enough for libertarians and anarchists to oppose government war out of principle?
And if this is not so, on what basis can we anarcho-libertarians oppose more mundane statism like welfare handouts, which are no more coercively financed than the military?
For all those American troops who wished to quit their jobs, but were forced to keep fighting under Stop Loss or just the plain threat of being tried for"desertion," there is a moral element to their deaths rarely grasped: Under the principles of the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence, the right to liberty is an inalienable right. This was enshrined in the 13th Amendment, which banned not just chattel slavery but involuntary servitude, including indentured servitude. What this means is in America, everyone is supposed to have a right to quit his job, at any time. He cannot sell himself into slavery, even for a term of service. If he violates a contract and quits, he can be held for damages, but he cannot be forced to keep working. Except in the military, where once you sign up, you cannot change jobs, even after your nominal term expires. What this means, in terms of morality, is everyone who is fighting in a war but would rather quit, and is held against his will to keep fighting, is a slave, and should he die while fighting, he is, morally speaking, a victim of murder by his own government. We do not have a fully voluntary military unless people can quit.
However, we can at least say these people, while often manipulated by recruiters, opted to sign up in the first place. But the Iraqis – what did they do to ask for this war? Nothing. This war has been a war of aggression against the Iraqi people, and so we must sympathize with not just Iraqi civilians but also the Iraqi soldiers who were killed in a war of aggression – on top of the possibly more than one million civilians killed as a result of this war, up to three times as many Iraqi soldiers died when compared to American soldiers.
A million civilians? If you think the number sounds too big, cut it in half – or even by 90%. There is something fundamentally dysfunctional about the way Americans tend to view their government's role in world affairs, to think that 100,000 Iraqis, by an extremely, perhaps even irresponsibly low, estimate, have perished in this war – and yet most focus, where there is any focus at all on the human costs of war, is centered on the American deaths.
There never was an excuse for this war, and there certainly is no excuse to stay. Four years ago, we began hearing the argument that if the US were to withdraw, there would be more violence and more death. There have been more violence and more death since – much more. The supposed success of the"surge" has been a return to the horrific levels of violence a few years back, back when the goal was supposedly to plant the roots of democracy and leave Iraq better than the US found it. Now the goal seems to be keeping the death toll to one or two Americans per day, while ignoring completely the mounting Iraqi death toll.
The US empire supported the horrible Saddam Hussein, encouraged his war of aggression against Iran, leaving hundreds of thousands dead, imposed through the United Nations a regime of sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands more, and now has the blood of many, many thousands more on its hands. For nearly three decades, the US has been the greatest enemy of the Iraqi people, for even when we could say it was Saddam, the dictator was being sponsored by the US government. The idea that more American intervention in Iraq is going to bring about peace and stability should seem pathologically absurd on its face by now. It is time to end this atrocity and begin the long process of reconciliation with the Iraqi people. The US government should take this as an opportunity to finally stop being the global policeman.
Of course, the Islamist theocracy that persists in the Middle East is no joke. But it does seem as though many Americans look the other way when a nation we are ostensibly allied with, or helped secure freedom for, engages in such totalitarianism.
And they are engaging in glorious commerce, it seems, trading food, livestock, electronics and more. How exciting! Thanks to Lew Rockwell for the link.
To say this would be a messy affair would be an understatement of magnificent proportion. SWAT-style assaults and home invasions would be the order of the day. Today's ruthless, tyrannical drug raids would actually look tame in comparison as government thugs went door to door seeking out suspected illegal aliens. The right to privacy of citizens and non-citizens alike would consequently evaporate as property rights became a thing of the past. Chaos would ensue. Racial tensions would intensify as primarily brown targets would be ensnared by their primarily white captors. Protests and riots would erupt, the merits of which would be hard to dispute.
Children born as American citizens would be seized from their parents, automatically rendered homeless and converted into wards of the state as a result of such totalitarian behavior (Huckabee once seemed to understand the demerits of such atrocious behavior). Human beings who have come to this country to make a better life for themselves and their families would be treated like animals as they were hunted, captured, incarcerated, and eventually deported. And this would merely be the fate of those who complied.
This is really wonderful radio. I love listening to Scott's great show regularly, but this is particularly grand. He really corners Bykofsky, dismisses the warmongering nationalism, and makes a great concise case against Bush's war on terror, Clinton's foreign policy, the bipartisan extraConstitutional surveillance state, and American warmongering nationalism in general. Bykofsky tries to make Scott look like a leftie hypocrite. Of course it doesn't work against this intimidatingly well informed Rothbardian dove."Whichever administration is working against my liberty, they are the target of my criticism," Scott says, as he educates his guest.
It's a powerful 18 minutes. Give it a listen.
I address the effects of war on liberty, the futility of intervention and other matters. But here I take on the nationalist ethics implicit in pro-war libertarians, thereby circumventing the charge that we peaceniks are"sovereigntarians" who believe in the sovereignty of foreign governments. All governments, and this certainly includes the US government, have no rights. It's my concern for individual rights, first and foremost, that leads me to oppose war:
Most of the killing is just part of the policy. Bombing Baghdad or Belgrade has what legal theorists might call a"substantial certainty" of killing innocent people. Modern war is in fact in practically every case an example of mass murder. It must be opposed by the libertarian first and foremost for this reason. For not just Americans have individual rights to life, liberty and property; so too do all foreign non-aggressors, and so killing them, which is a predictable outcome of today’s typical military tactics, is gravely immoral according to libertarian ethics.
Some argue that when the fight is against a truly ghastly foreign regime, any innocents killed by the supposedly"good" government of the U.S. are" collateral damage." The true aggressor, according to this argument, is the enemy regime, not the U.S. government, which is acting in supposed defense of Americans.
One response is that historically, in most of its wars, the U.S. government has invaded or attacked a country that never attacked or credibly threatened to attack Americans on U.S. soil. Even by a collectivist analysis, whereby we look at nations, rather than individuals, when assigning guilt, the U.S. has more often than not been an aggressor.
However, to the libertarian, this is all of secondary importance. Libertarianism concerns individual rights and individual actions. States, nations, communities and so forth are abstractions and social constructs which do not act independently of the individuals they comprise. Only individuals act and only individuals have ethics or rights, and so it is a violation of an innocent person’s rights to bomb him, even if the government he lives under is aggressive and tyrannical. Certainly, the U.S. government was itself quite aggressive in the Middle East before 9/11, yet that in no way legitimized the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which killed innocent Americans for the crimes of their government. So, too, is it immoral to bomb a country with the substantial certainty that it will kill innocent foreigners, even if their government is aggressive.
Read the rest.