Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why Don't Libertarians favor American Interventionism on Principle?

Question: Who has done more for liberty than anyone in the last 100 years?

Answer: The Pentagon!

Seriously. American military intervention has been an incredible boon to global liberty. We fought and defeated the Axis powers in WWII, bringing liberty back to conquered Western Europe and giving it to Japan and Germany as well. We helped ensure that liberty would thrive via the Marshall Plan. We fought in the Korean War and have seen from that great natural experiment how valuable our intervention was. Indirectly via the cold war, we contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union and the spread of liberty in Eastern Europe. OK, Vietnam didn't turn out well, but the comparison to Korea shows that maybe we should have tried harder?? Iraq has not gone well either, but it's not over till the fat lady sings right?

So why do Libertarians care only about the liberty of Americans? Libertarians are OK with military force to defend liberty within our borders right? What is so special about those borders?

Before you write me off as a hata, let me show you my score on the World's Smallest Political Quiz:

The red dot is me. I didn't get 100 on economic issues because I only answered "maybe" to "replace government welfare with private charity" and to "cut taxes and government spending by 50% or more" I'd prefer to gradually reduce government welfare and see what happens and cut taxes and spending incrementally and see what happens starting say with a 15% cut. But according to the quiz, I'm a staunch Libertarian. So what's my major malfunction? Why is liberty do be defended in one location but not another?


Dirty Davey said...

"Indirectly via the cold war, we contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union and the spread of liberty in Eastern Europe."

While, in the process, bringing about the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

I think that, today, the majority of the states dominated by the Soviet Union in the 1980s are in far better shape than is Afghanistan, where the US made a concerted effort to stop Soviet intervention.

Tom said...

I've got this neighbor -- he beats his wife. She wails about it... then she stays with him. She's got no place to go, I think.

Should I go over there and kill the guy?

He's also armed, so there is a good chance of property destruction and the odd chance that the woman or one of the kids will be wounded/killed... but, I'm sure I can take him. And at least the survivors will be free.

There is no kind of national border between me and them and -- Angus is right about this much -- I wouldn't care if there were. I can go over there and MAKE those people be free...

OR -- I could mind my own business. I do have problems closer to home. How does one decide issues like this? If only there were an ethical system I could go to for guidance...

Anonymous said...

Strangely, it seems likely that if Tom killed his neighbor's husband, her crazy ass would press charges against Tom.

Angus said...

Tom: what if the wife asks for your help and the mayor deputizes you and you want to help? Don't have to kill him, just arrest and lock him up?

To me, total non-intervention in anything is more of an anarchist position than a libertarian position.

I am honestly trying to figure out how I can score so high on the economic and social parts of Libertariansim and be so confused about the foreign policy parts of it.

Tom said...

I'm at risk of being too negative about all this. I should take a breath and congratulate Angus on his excellent score on the WSPQ. I'm not at all worried cutting taxes and spending by "only" 15% -- at first. I would be worried if cutting by 50% were considered the absolute most it could be cut. I read recently (on KPC?) that the federal government is 180 TIMES as big as it was a century ago. In 1908, the U.S. was already a world power and able to bully its neighbors. Anything bigger is just a waste :-/

I'm a little surprised that a smart economist would have reservations about the government/entitlement method of aleviating poverty. Isn't the record in on the LBJ inspired War on Poverty? Povery inflicted heavy casualities and took the field, leaving unwed mothers and dependency littering the countryside.

Back to that abusive neighbor. Angus asked, "what if the wife asks for your help and the mayor [does mayor-like things]?" I think we're streaching the analogy too far. In realistic conditions of international interventions, we can't even ask the victims and getting unanimous (even whelming) consent for invasion is absurd.

And the mayor? (UN?) I have only practical concerns about his/their intervention. If that sounds "anarchist" to you, then I'm temped to respond, "Oh, did you mean that as a bad thing?" But methinks anarchism is a whole nother discussion. Anyway, we were focusing on the libertarian attitude toward international intervention. So, a last point on the mayor issue is this: libetarians tend to want to decide whether a thing is ethical first, THEN make The Authority conform to that. We do not appeal to any authority (even THE LAW) for guidance on whether a thing is ethical. If that's an anarchist attitude, then so be it.

Full disclosure: I initially favored the 2003 reinvasion of Iraq. It's a fight I still have with most libertarians and involving a long term low grade war preceding and a probable genocide... Also, I didn't know Dubyah was going to foul it up so badly.

I see this has been a long post, already. I'm going to put it up and continue after lunch.

Tom said...

Angus:  "Before you write me off as a hata,..."

Hata?  Japanese kite?

Variant of yoga?
Leviticus notion of sacrifice for sin?
tongue tied hater?

Nevermind, the real question was

So why do Libertarians care only about the
liberty of Americans? Libertarians are OK with military force to defend liberty within our borders right?  What is so special about those borders?

Libertarians want all people to be free.  But the very soul of our movement is the desire to minimize the use of coersion, violence, and indimidation (CVI).  We focus on CVI in the structure of society ('cause no one else does), but really, we don't like freelance CVI any better.

That view of libertarianism makes easier to see why we are reluctant to use the army for anything.  The army's specialty is really, really, Big-V Violence; it's the only thing they do well.  Of course you can imagine cases where the using the army is less CVI -- taking the long view -- than not using it.  I accept WWII as an example of this; Iraq II is debatable.

But Iraq II is a fine example of another aspect using the Army, ultimate violence:  it's much easier to start a war than to stop one.  And you never know where a war is going to take you, once it gets going Iraq, Somalia, Vietnam, et al; et arrrrgh!).  War is so violent, so hurry-up-and-kill-faster (no, faster faster), that a prudent person wants to examine all alternatives first.  This judgement is easier if an invading army comes here, than if we want consider sending ours on a visit.  That's why the national border is important.

Nathanael D Snow said...

This libertarian - minarchist thinks he has an answer.

First, I'm not for centrally organized military force at the federal level. In other words, bring all the troops home, divvy up the guns amongst the National Guards of the various states, and get rid of standing armies.

Second, libertarians are self-interested. They don't really care about anyone else's liberty except in terms of how it affects their own. If they believe making Tom's neighbor free will increase their own liberty, they will be motivated to do so.

Finally, some libertarians are also altruistic. In that case, they ought to take it upon themselves to spread liberty. The best way to do this is to assume full and exclusive responsibility for those who are not free. That means inviting the neighbor's wife and family to move in with you, and offering to support them until they can do it on their own.

It is this final step which most people are unwilling to make. They shirk away from any extra responsibility. But liberty is only possible when this last step is taken.

We won't be able to get rid of welfare until philanthropies assume responsibility for the poor and needy, and successfully meet the need.

We won't be able to reduce the number of abortions until pro-lifers are willing to adopt all unwanted babies, and willing to support the mothers through their pregnancies.

We won't be able to improve the immigration situation until philanthropies are willing to sponsor immigrants, Lutheran Family Services (LFS) does a good job of this now.

As for a lack of liberty overseas, the best way to help those innocents is to invite them here. Volunteer to pay their way, and to support them when they get here until they can get on their feet. LFS's experience shows most families can do this in under 6 months, and pay their sponsors back.

Assuming full responsibility is the key. Any move towards collective action under compulsion introduces inefficiencies and force, corrupting any virtue the action might have held.
Nathanael Snow

Anonymous said...

Why don't libertarians favor slavery? After all, descendants of slaves are most likely doing better in the US than they might have, had they not been liberated from Africa.