Skip to comments.Defense of Liberty
Posted on 09/23/2001 6:57:38 PM PDT by annalex
This is not the article I intended to post this week. Instead, I decided to put together some thoughts on the essence of libertarianism as applied to this war. I believe that the theoretical foundation of libertarianism: individual rights and freedoms, primacy of the individual over the collective and distrust of democratic government unrestrained by strict constitutionalism, -- will continue to animate American conservatism through this crisis and for years to come. In fact, when the President speaks of America as a force of good, hated because of her freedom, -- he speaks of libertarian values.
Defense of Liberty
I also believe that the future of libertarianism in American political thought is in danger. There is a distinct possibility that the libertarians as a group of thinkers will blunder into irrelevance, --not because of their principles, but because of a cultural bias that has rendered them blind to the reality of the war that just started.
What is the bias and what is the reality?
Among all nations, America is uniquely dedicated to the proposition of individual freedom. It also has a powerful government, that is, as is its nature, intrusive and often violative of individual freedoms. There is no paradox here: it is the normal tension between the individual and the collective. Libertarianism is one-directional: no matter what is the present condition of individual freedoms vis-à-vis the collective coercion, libertarianism will pull for the individual just because the government will always pull for the collective. In absence of a recognized theoretical foundation and an analytical attitude, the pulling becomes a cultural bias: if the government does something, it must be wrong. If the individual wants something, it must be his right.
Thus a review of the recent offerings from the usual sources of libertarian thinking: Harry Browne, Lew Rockwell, Future of Freedom Foundation, -- reveal an amazingly myopic view of the conflict. It boils down to the assertions that the government has created the crisis with its imperial foreign policy; that punishing the terrorists is a matter of law, not war; that a rapid retreat from America's global positions is the road to victory; that any wartime measure that the government may adopt is a further assault on our freedoms.
The government exists to protect individual rights. I cannot think of a greater violation of individual rights than having an airliner explode over you as you reach for your morning coffee. Our country has been invaded. The individuals that make up this country have their lives in danger. Thousands already lost theirs. We don't know how many future victims we'll mourn before it's over. The perpetrators of this atrocity are organized: they are a country in all but geography. From September 11 on, our government is waging a just, defensive war. It is doing precisely what a government should be doing. Every libertarian should be out on the street with an American flag and a lit candle. Any assistance should be given the government in prosecuting the war. Any impeding of the government's warmaking function is an assault on individual rights.
So, isn't the criticism of American foreign policy prior to September 11 valid? Some of it is. But it now belongs to the past. The important thing is that nothing in our foreign policy was aggressive in nature. The worst, the cruelest blunders of the Clinton's administration were reactions, -- often, misguided or self-serving reactions, -- to someone else's greater cruelty. This war is between civilizations. In that it is similar to the Cold War. It is not between nations, -- it is between ideologies. Our libertarian ideology of individual freedom is at war. Note that the enemy didn't strike Europe, where freedoms and individual rights are handouts form the state; it didn't strike Israel where the actual fighting for territory takes place; it didn't, in all likelihood, come from Iraq, which is our enemy as a nation. Its bloodiest attack was against peaceful traders of property. Of all political colors and stripes we, libertarians should be in the front, and we haven't been.
This is a war and not a police action. Those who perpetrated the atrocity are already dead. At the root of this is an ideology that will breed new atrocities just as fast as we punish for the old ones. This is a war. Call it a war. Fight it like a war. Go on the offensive: invade countries, topple regimes, install friendly governments. For every mullah out there, afraid of his own women, we have a General MacArthur. Godspeed.
We can be certain that the forces of statism will exploit this tragedy to their nefarious ends. War surtaxes are likely; a citizen database is a virtual certainty; a taxpayer bailout of the airline industry has already happened; a thorough bashing of political opponents of strong central government or imperial foreign policy as unpatriotic and outright treasonous should be expected. It is our duty to fight such encroachments of freedom, not only because of what they are, but because they do not make America stronger, and we need strength.
At the same time, we should remember what rights really are. No libertarian can seriously say that a private transaction that happens between the airline and the passenger is a matter of rights. There is no right to a steak knife or a gun in a carryon luggage - unless you put it in the trunk and drive. Anyone can rightfully refuse service to a customer without identification. It is not clear to me, and I think of individual rights a lot, what "right to privacy" precisely is. At most we can say that a national ID and a citizen database are dangerous tools in the hands of a hostile government. But they are not necessarily violations of individual rights per se; their misuse is.
The libertarians like to think in proximate causes. Thus we have an aversion to foreign policy, because it is all about preemptive actions, choosing sides early, and making prognoses based on cultural proclivities rather than concrete deeds. For the same reason we have a difficulty understanding nationhood and war. We need to learn very fast.
I changed the tag of our series from "Pursuit of Liberty" to "Defense of Liberty". I will continue the topics that we have started: individual rights, nature of property, moral defense of capitalism, just taxation, proper role of government, liberty and God's law. I will post as much as I can on nationhood, civilization, civil society and culture. I will have to slow down from a weekly publication to, perhaps, monthly, unless someone is willing to be my partner in this. That is because, sadly, I don't anticipate much help from the libertarian publications any more, and doing my own writing or researching sources that are not on the surface of the Internet takes time.
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Please drop me a note if you want off the list, or if you are presently off and want on (the limit is ten volley bumps). The previous posts are on my Freeper profile.
The previous thread, and the last thread under the Pursuit of Liberty label, is Pursuit of Liberty: Right to Roam or Licence to Trespass?. The topic of property rights in the context of natural rights will be resumed.
The bumps are from The Song of Roland in the translation of Charles Scott Moncrief.
This lies at the feet of the professional politicians who have made us an Imperial nation rather than a republic. Our policy has been wrong and only gets worse.
As a Christian I know that my response would not be accepted. I say that we ask for forgiveness and offer forgiveness. My son on the other hand is eager to use his training to kill people and break things. I cry for my country and mankind.
From their comments, I can only hope that their ideas regarding foreign policy never get the chance to be implemented.
I can believe that we've supported quite a bit of aggression, especially sincerely perceived aggression, mostly by paying for others doing the dirty work.Not that injustice motivates Bin Laden & Co, but perhaps their recruits.
As an individual, you are certainly within your right to give forgiveness. But you cannot offer forgivness in the name of this country or the names of those injured or dead. It is up to them to offer the forgiveness and up to the terrorists to offer an appology. (But you live in a dream world if you expect either to occur.) Your son, and soon mine may have to defend our way of life, and our ability to worship in the religion of our choice. (I would not expect a choice if Osama is the victor.)
Go on the offensive: invade countries, topple regimes, install friendly governments. For every mullah out there, afraid of his own women, we have a General MacArthur. Godspeed.
As does the "Song of Roland" analogy. Get the terrorists who did this by all means, but Holy War isn't a good prescription. It will alienate allies, provoke the hatred we seek to dispel and leave us isolated. I can understand your anger and feel angry myself, but if we can achieve our goals without a thirty or hundred years war to subjugate other countries I would count that a victory. McArthur was an admirable man and leader with commendable virtues, but I'd want to avoid another savage racial, religious or ideological war. I don't think we need a war of cultures, a Stalingrad or an Iwo Jima to get the killers. It would only complicate and compromise the necessary military operations.
Total war ends up overshooting the mark. Total war for Christianity or America may end up benefiting World Government, or Multinational corporations, secular humanism or other powers which exploit it to achieve their ends. What triumphs in long wars aren't the values of the boys who fight them or the folks back home, but the managerial apparatus that's formed to organize the war -- or those who stay out entirely and pick up the spoils afterwards.
During the Gulf War, the Wall Street Journal advocated the course you support here. It might have been the right course, but I'm not sure that all their reasons and expectations for this plan would be shared by all of us. Kill the murders, but don't throw away young Americans on a plan to remake the world as a monoculture.
...a citizen database is a virtual certainty...
At most we can say that a national ID and a citizen database are dangerous tools in the hands of a hostile government. But they are not necessarily violations of individual rights per se; their misuse is.
And that's the problem with the entire idea.
We will overcome and you will be our slaves. We will be your masters. You will do our bidding. You will bow before us. You will kiss our feet. You will suck our fort dix at our command!
And if that ain't enough, your mothers and your daughters will suck our fort dix til we are satisfied!