have previously discussed
"liberventionism" in this space. By this newly-minted word I refer to the
doctrines of those libertarians who find little wrong with the general trend of
U.S. foreign policy, before – and especially – after 9/11, The Day When Everything
Changed. To start with the last item, there is probably a good film plot in 9/11
for a scary early Cold War sci-fi thriller to be called "The Day the Defense Department
Stood Still," or "The Day the Jets Couldn't Be Scrambled For Quite A Long While."
Or how about "The Day the President Went Missing"?
again, one is entitled to be skeptical that "everything changed." This seems to
be untrue. Indeed, many trends already in place merely picked up speed. The desire
of American governments at all levels to know everything we say and do certainly
did. The Homeland Sicherheitsbüro, in the works for several years before
the date that I am tired of repeating, was just the iceberg of a kinder, gentler
police state coming into full view, the TIP having been in sight for decades.
INVITATION TO POINTLESS WRANGLES
just yesterday I received an email inviting me to join something called WarLibertarians.
This was said to be a forum in which pro-war and anti-war libertarians may quarrel
to their heart's content. I suppose there is some kind of implicit John Stuart
Mill moral here about the better argument prevailing, or some such nonsense.
some us have thought that "pro-war libertarian" is, speaking broadly, an oxymoron,
a contradictio in adjecto. In the extremely rare case of actual defensive
war against real invasion, a libertarian could have no problem with violent resistance
against the invaders. Such a view, which I take to be the real libertarian
position, centers on defense of concrete persons and property rather than on big
abstractions like "our way of life," etc. It is thus "pro-defense" rather than
why split hairs when we can split whole world outlooks? On the face of it, liberventionist
writers have, thus far, taken a position that actually is "pro-war." There was
a time when such behavior would have led to a questioning of their libertarian
bona fides. Now, they may be numerous enough to steal the label, just as sundry
post-liberals stole "liberal" from real liberals at the end of the 19th
be it. I am not going to fight the liberventionists for a mere label, unless they
invade my property in the course of stealing it. They can "free ride" all they
wish on whatever little prestige the term may still have.
means, I guess, that they can impose on their opponents the costs of finding and
popularizing another name for the genuine, anti-imperial libertarian position.
This seems a bit unfair but that is life. The only alternative would be state
intervention to make the political nomenclature market more "efficient," and we
would have to oppose that.
to my chance to wrangle, in J. S. Mill's shadow, with liberventionists in order
to find the truth, I shall probably give it the go-by. I have already seen numerous
productions by such worthies and remain suitably unimpressed. Their common thread,
aside from lockstep adoption of the current administration's sloganeering, is
the rejection of theory and a view of American history so narrow as to fit inside
a size one hat.
REDUCED TO A SYSTEM
not wanting to share a forum with these people is not the same as not wanting
to discuss their opinions. Their arguments differ little from those made by many
people who talk the free-market talk but walk the neo-con walk. This might not
be so bad except that neo-conservatives are the keenest advocates of eternal U.S.
imperial intervention anywhere and everywhere.
err, I think, in constantly "dropping the context" of what has been under discussion
the last few months. I borrow this useful term from the Objectivists since they
make little use of it and will hardly miss it. Of course the whole present interventionist
coalition, from NRO over to the Latter-Day Crolyites at the New Republic,
drop the context, but few of them claim to be libertarians.
the word-bold, desk-bound bombardiers at National Review there is no distinction
that matters between state and society. They are metaphysically one, especially
when Republican boneheads are in office. Libertarians might be expected to have
some notion that the state differs from society and, indeed, is inimical to society,
even if they only picked it up in an LP brochure or heard about it in a chat room.
(You can't expect them to read Nock, Mencken, or Rothbard, can you?)
from the liberventionist literature so far, these libertarians do indeed
conflate state and society. This is pretty important case of dropping the context.
It soon leads to moronic discussions about giving up x amount of liberty in order
to have y amount of security.
gave up liberty, bit by bit, through the whole twentieth century. It did not make
us safe on the date to which I am tired of referring. Yet the interventionist
coalition, libertarians included, ask us to trust the global used-car dealers
one more time.
I'm sorry, but liberty-killing measures do not become liberty-saving measures
just on the strength of promises from misborn-again libertarians who have lost
their bearings and cast off their heritage. It is precisely U.S. foreign policy,
aka U.S. imperialism, that has made us unsafe, to the extent that we actually
are unsafe, – "unsafe," I mean, from foreign enemies, mostly supplied courtesy
of Uncle Himself; but, further, it is the domestic spillover from Uncle's Very
Own Foreign Policy, that is making, or wishes to make us unsafe from His Own runaway
police operatives, domestic sniffers and snoops, and state power generally.
should probably not speculate aloud whether foreign entities or domestic ones
present the greater threat to our liberty and safety, intentionally or
otherwise. A mathematical model with curves and percentages would be interesting.
I don't think we need it.
hardly need to spell this out in detail, here and now. Read the newspapers. Listen
to the new commissars. Study their faces.
Democrats were running this show, instead of merely going along with it, even
the amateur fascists at a certain "conservative" web forum would sit up and take
notice. When the present process has run its course, or (more likely) takes a
short break, a few years hence, it will be a bit late for libertarian warmongers
to regain their appreciation of the difference between – the opposition between
– state and society, state and liberty, court and country. Still, a few of them
may come to wonder if John Taylor of Caroline had a point, in 1822, when he wrote
other power can despotism need, after it has obtained a complete control over
all the physical interests of the individuals who compose a nation? It boasts
in the United States, that it leaves the mind free. The criminal extended on the
rack still retains the freedom of his mind. Though confined in a dungeon upon
bread and water, he may be of what religion he pleases. So bodies, impoverished,
and sometimes starved by being encircled with the magical chains of exclusive
privileges, may boast under the hardship of deprivations, that their minds are
still free; that they can adore, though they cannot enjoy, those republican principles,
which teach that governments ought to be instituted to secure the right of providing
for our own wants, according to our own will, and not according to the will of
the government; because such a power in the government, however it may leave the
mind speculatively free, is a real despotism over both mind and body, since they
are indissoluble except by death."(1)
was mainly worried about the rise of a consolidated mercantilist elite, which
would use expanded federal power to control the political economy. But is his
point less valid when, having already created a corporatist economy and matching
world empire, such an elite turns to the home front to round off its control of
literally everything? Is it enough, for a libertarian, to remain "speculatively
free" within the confines of Washington think-tanks?
but we shall also be speculatively secure from foreign entities; and this
speculative security is surely worth the price of being certainly insecure
at the hands of, well, you know who. If you don't know by now, you have no business
being "libertarian" and little business being American. Immigrants who have been
here a few days or weeks might be forgiven for not understanding such things;
it passeth all understanding how native-born Americans could have so little regard
for their birthright.
a methodological footnote, it bears saying that it is not any one legal innovation
now coming down the pike that will reduce American freedom to Soviet-style "freedom."
Rather, it is these new measures combined with existing abuses enacted
over decades(2) which, together, will systematically produce
that unhappy result. If the libertarian war brigades could see that, we might
have more to talk with them about. Of course they would have to give up context-dropping
to see this pattern, and I doubt they will care to do so.
John Taylor of Caroline, Tyranny Unmasked (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund,
1992 ), pp.
See Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton, The Tyranny of Good Intentions
(Roseville, CA: Prima, 2000). The authors note that many of the worst inroads
on Anglo-American legal principles were made by Republican administrations.
By now, no one should find this surprising.