Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Sunday, August 29, 2004

Pro-war Libertarians?
Written by: Beck

The phrase "Libertarian foreign policy" should be recognized, but generally is not, as an oxymoron. As a regular reader of the libertarian blog Samizdata, I've been consistently (and pleasantly) surprised at the extent to which they seem to support the American & British invasion of Iraq.

Strict Libertarian (both big 'L' and small) orthodoxy opposes all forms of initiating force against others, whether internal to the state or externally. The only form of war justified under strict libertarianism is the defensive variety.

The problem is that libertarianism is basically an abstraction derived from idealistic first principles about individuality and human behavior. One could fairly accurately sum up Libertarian philosophy as, "No one has the right to infringe the free exercise & pursuit of life, liberty, and property of another individual." In other words, do whatever you want so long as you don't interfere with anyone else's rights, those rights being life, liberty, and property.

The problem here is two fold. First of all, it fails to recognize the extent to which human nature is brutish and nasty. Still, I believe you can make a strong case for a libertarian-leaning state which takes into account people's innate inclination to take "short cuts." That's a discussion for another time.

When it comes to foreign policy, however, there is really very little that Libertarian idealism can do to instruct, guide, define, or explain international relations or interactions. States and their leaders, quite simply, do not behave like individuals interacting in an anarcho-capitalist marketplace. A strictly Libertarian foreign policy consists of strict isolationism. Many Libertarians would argue that the United States should never have become involved in either WWI or WWII (the assumption being that had the USA never embargoed Japanese oil imports, Pearl Harbor never would have happened). I won't bother to take the time to explain why those arguments are exceptionally foolish.

Now, back to where I started--Samizdata has frequently surprised me with their pro-war outlook. This strikes me as the proper and rational way to apply libertarian basic principles to a real life understanding of human nature. Jonathan Pearce has a post in which he discusses this very topic, which is the entire reason I've written the preceding paragraphs. That's right, you slogged through all the above so that I could say, "I agree with Jonathan Pearce." And now, what he says that I find so agreeable:
A smart and thought-provoking blogger I have recently come across, Perry Metzger, who seems to hail from the anarcho-capitalist bit of the libertarian intellectual universe, does not like the way this blog has supported the military ouster of Saddam Hussein...

Metzger asks how it is that folk who are so ardently opposed to the State can possibly countenance the use of force, including appropriation of wealth via taxation, to topple another regime deemed to be dangerous. Well, it is actually quite easy to answer that question in my view. First of all, not all libertarians believe a free society can exist without a minimal state, including one with the ability to provide external and internal security, which may include the need to take out violent and hostile foreign regimes.

Second, the supposedly sacred libertarian principle that thou shalt not initiate force against another is not very useful when it comes to judging whether regime X or Y poses your country a particular threat or not, and whether action of a Bush-style pre-emptive sort is justified and perhaps even more important, whether it is prudent. Good people will and do differ a lot about that.

Such disagreements cannot in my view be arbitrated solely by referring to abstract moral principles--although principles are of course crucial--but have to be also judged on events, by weighing up the possible consequences of an action or taking no action. In fact, taking no action and adopting a purely reactive approach to defense will also have consequences, not all of them necessarily good ones...
Couldn't have said it better myself.

Contact The Author:

John Beck

Feedback Welcomed

Greatest Hits

The Complete United Nations Posts
Immoderate Moderates
Marketing Myopia
In defense of the Republic
UKIP in America
Playing Connect the Dots
A Point So Often Missed: The Presence of an Administered Rate
Reagan Remembrance
Dr. Wolfowitz, or How I Supported the Right War Waged in the Wrong Way for the Wrong Reasons
Divine Right of Kings and UN Mandates
A Fantastic Idea, If I Do Say So Myself
Why We Were Right to Liberate Iraq
The Crisis of Conservatism

Blogs Worth Bookmarking

Steal The Blinds
Poor Dudley's Almanac
Protein Wisdom
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
New Sisyphus
Jim Treacher
Ace of Spades
Captain's Quarters
Rambling's Journal
Neolibertarian Blog
LLP Group Blog
The Llama Butchers
The Castle Argghhh
The Politburo Diktat
The Dissident Frogman
In Search of Utopia
Aaron's cc:
You Know You Wanna
Classical Values
Clowning Glory
Vice Squad
Hit & Run
Link Mecca
The Corner
Power Line
Michelle Malkin
Mises Institute
marchand chronicles
Enlighten - New Jersey

More Top Reads

SlagleRock's Slaughterhouse
This Blog is Full of Crap
Who Tends the Fires
The Bleat
Outside the Beltway
Small Dead Animals
Kim du Toit
Tman in Tennessee
Hog On Ice
Pardon My English
Mr. Minority
Speed Of Thought
La Shawn Barber
Right Wing News
USS Clueless
Belmont Club
Shades of Gray
Seldom Sober
Roger L. Simon
Tacoma Blaze
A Small Victory
Murdoc Online
Iraq Elections Diatribe
Winds of Change
Enlighten - New Jersey
Random Fate
Riding Sun
The Daily File
Matt "The Man" Margolis
Bastard Sword
Roller Coaster of Hate

News Links

Blogger News Network
National Review Online
Tech Central Station
The Drudge Report
Reason Online
Mises Institute
The Weekly Standard
Front Page Magazine
Town Hall

Affiliations, Accolades, & Acknowledgements

The Neolibertarian Network


Image Hosted by
"More tallent than a million monkeys with typewriters."
--Glenn Reynolds

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Life, Liberty, Property Community

Reciprocal Blogrolling

Accidental Verbosity
Conservative Eyes
The Moderate Voice
Perpetual Three-Dot Column
Sudan Watch
Mystery Achievement
Le Sabot Post-Moderne
Comment Me No Comments
New Spew

Links That Amuse the Writers

Huffington's Toast
The IFOC News
Dave Barry's Blog
Drum Machine
Something Awful
Cox & Forkum
Exploding Dog


March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
August 2006
March 2007
May 2007
June 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
September 2008
November 2008
December 2008
March 2009
April 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009

The Elephant Graveyard

We Are Full of Shit
The Sicilian
The Diplomad
Insults Unpunished
Fear & Loathing in Iraq
Right Wingin-It
Serenity's Journal
Son of Nixon
Rachel Lucas


Site Design by Maystar
Ask not for whom the blog tolls...
This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by

Listed on Blogwise
Blogarama - The Blog Directory


Image Hosted by

Email Questions and Comments

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
eXTReMe Tracker