Libertarian Theory – The Libertarian Standard Property - Prosperity - Peace Wed, 27 Apr 2016 06:16:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. Libertarian Theory – The Libertarian Standard clean Libertarian Theory – The Libertarian Standard (Libertarian Theory – The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace Libertarian Theory – The Libertarian Standard TV-G Green Shoots Among the EcoReds Sun, 09 Nov 2014 16:24:16 +0000 A Brief Background


I recently began leasing a Nissan LEAF. The $7500 Nissan takes off the top of the price, along with the $5000 tax credit issued by the state of Georgia, which is available even to lessees, made the car economically attractive for my daily commute. For those who are unaware, the LEAF is a fully electric vehicle which, when fully charged can provide 60-80 miles of range in typical driving. With practice, and with the right mix of traffic flow (electric vehicles typically benefit from stop and go traffic due to the regenerative braking they employ to recover power back into the battery), it is possible to go over 100 miles on a charge. But, range anxiety is a factor, and few people are willing to push the battery so much as to go so far between charges.

The Charging Issue


The Time Factor

Charging electric vehicles is the blessing and the curse of employing one as your daily driver. On the positive side, you can fuel your vehicle more cheaply, and from the comfort of your own home. On the negative side, charging takes much more time than filling a car’s tank, and the charging rate is much more important than the flow rate on a gas pump, as a 20% increase in time matters little when the difference is 10 seconds on gas, but becomes a big deal when the difference is 10 minutes to half an hour. Still, with planning, that issue is not as huge a deal as it seems. I’m comfortable with 90+% of the driving I do being in the LEAF. As I’ve looked to avoid having car notes, I keep one more car than is absolutely needed, so that one can be undergoing maintenance while I drive another. This lifestyle choice works well when owning a LEAF.

The Tragedy of the Commons

Many businesses offer free EV charging. That was the norm, outside of the home, a few years ago. Free charging, of course, caused paid options to be adopted more slowly. As the vehicles have become more popular, however, the crowds at the free charging stations have become larger, and the waits to use them have become longer. Waiting for an hour so that you can charge for another hour and go home is not a terribly appealing scenario. This fact has not been lost on LEAF aficionados, and many are now praising the availability of pay-to-charge sites. Many are lamenting the overuse, with people using the free chargers for too long, simply because they are free. Additionally, while Nissan’s own navigation system, included in some LEAFs, will direct drivers to a nearby Nissan dealer when the battery level becomes dangerously low, there are some dealers who apparently restrict the use of the EVSEs to their own customers only. And this phenomenon has generated some interesting discussions on forums such as My Nissan LEAF Forum. While there is outrage, there is also the understanding that businesses have the right to dispose of their own property as they see fit.

Welcoming the Free Market

The immaturity of the EV market has led to something of a crash course in economics for many on the left. Rather than decrying “money grubbing corporations,” many are celebrating the end of the scourge of “free” charging. There is finally recognition that resources are finite, and must be allocated through some means, and that trade is a vastly superior method for that allocation than “first come, first served.” Around Atlanta, there are pay stations popping up in various places, including in places where they used to be offered for free, such as at businesses. When businesses offer free charging, we see the same kind of resource hogging and lines that we see under socialism. When there is a fee, even if that fee is very modest, we see much more efficient allocation of resources. The difference in attitude between free and $3.00/hr is much greater, effectively, than the difference between $3.00/hr and $10.00/hr would be. When I took my family out last weekend to Ikea, we used one of the pay stations in the parking lot. There were two. They were both unused and available. A short walk away, at a free group of chargers, there was a significant line which would have required a wait (I only found out about the free charging after the fact, but it does fit in with my wife noticing a bunch of LEAFs grouped at one location as we were driving to Ikea). Charging the LEAF is typically not pricey. It costs less than $3.00/hr for “level 2” charging, which will typically add 20+miles/hr to the range. This works well for charging while you shop. There is also an option for very high speed DC charging, which can accomplish that same level of charging as L2 in a quarter of the time. Most of these stations are pay stations. The ones which are not are typically at Nissan dealers. There is also a free one at Agnes Scott. The usage on these chargers is lower because the ability to utilize them requires a paid-for option on the LEAF, and many owners do not have this option. One thing which I have noticed about the free DC chargers is that they tend to be broken much more frequently than paid ones. The equipment itself may require more maintenance, and it is certainly the case that an owner who generates income from the equipment is much more likely to provide that maintenance than one who does not.

Economics in One Lesson


The development of electric vehicles has been good. While not superior to their petroleum-fueled brethren, there is a role for the EV in cities and for people with very regular, predictable, and short-range driving schedules. The experience of owning or leasing one is also something of a crash course in economics for many who do not normally ruminate on such matters. This awareness may well mitigate some of the most socialist impulses among the environmentally conscious moving forward. Certainly, learning the lesson through such an experience is better than never learning it at all. The actual experience with poor resource allocation does more to increase the understanding of the importance of market forces than any textbook.

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Salon’s Seven Misconceptions About Libertarianism Fri, 05 Sep 2014 21:34:37 +0000 Lately it has become fashionable for political partisans to bash libertarianism. These “critiques” are vacuous and do nothing but demonstrate that the authors haven’t bothered to do basic research about what libertarians believe and why.

A recent example of this is Salon’s list of 7 strange libertarian ideas. Every single one misses the mark and requires only a limited response. More in depth information on these issues can easily be found with Google.

  1. “Parents should be allowed to let their children starve to death.”
  2. First off, most libertarians don’t actually think this. The issue is a strawman. Second off, even the people who believe that parents have no obligations to their children also believe that other people should be allowed to take custody of the neglected kids and care for them.

  3. “We must deregulate companies like Uber, even when they cheat.”
  4. Libertarians don’t think taxis should be regulated either. So the idea that it’s unfair that Uber isn’t regulated while taxis are cuts the other way for us. Nor does libertarian opposition to regulation imply approval of Uber interfering with Lyft’s business operations. Rather, libertarians think that violations of terms of service should be private and not state matters.

  5. “We should eliminate Social Security and Medicare.”
  6. These are massive transfers of wealth from the young and poor to the old and rich. We oppose them b/c we oppose intervention and wealth transfers (and the state in general). Of course the practical way of getting rid of them does it in a way that phases them out without leaving the poor who do depend on them hanging.

  7. “Society doesn’t have the right to enforce basic justice in public places of business.”
  8. We believe that people have the right to do what they want as long as it doesn’t involve using aggression against others. That doesn’t mean that we think racism is okay, it just means that we don’t think that a civilized response to racism is threatening to shoot the racist or to lock him in a cage against his will unless he does what we want.

    Furthermore the argument Salon gives is wrong and circular. Wrong b/c the constitution doesn’t apply to private citizens and so private acts of discrimination can’t be “unconstitutional” (and for most of the country’s history, the constitution was read as preventing this kind of legislation). Circular b/c you can’t say it’s “against federal law” when the argument is about whether such a federal law should exist in the first place.

  9. “Selflessness is vile.”
  10. Objectivists go out of their way to make it clear that they aren’t libertarians. This is one of the areas where they disagree with most of us. Furthermore, Objectivists oppose altruism as a philosophical principle, but that doesn’t mean that they oppose helping others. So in principle, they can support aid workers and organizations like Doctors Without Boarders; they just don’t think that you should support them out of a sense of obligation to others.

  11. “Democracy is unacceptable, especially since we began feeding poor people and allowing women to vote.”
  12. This isn’t really a libertarian issue. Salon brings it up because Peter Thiel wrote about it in a blog post on Cato’s website. And while Thiel may support libertarianism financially, that doesn’t make him libertarian. I’ve never seen Thiel admit to being an anarcho-capitalist. Instead I’ve seen him support a bunch of other approaches, many of which are discussed in the article Salon references.

    As for the claim itself, the idea that our kind of representative democracy is fundamentally flawed goes back to ancient Greece. (The Athenians wouldn’t even call what we have a democracy). Plenty of modern mainstream political scientists and public choice economists have written extensively about the structural problems with our democracy. It’s ludicrous to pretend that well known and documented problems don’t exist. It is similarly absurd to make it sound like someone is a racist or a misogynist for pointing out that all of these structural problems are exacerbated as the number of voters increases.

    Finally, in wrapping up its criticism of Thiel, Salon raises the strawman that the state created the internet. This is a popular myth. The internet was created by mergers between a bunch of large private networks. The government portion of the resulting network was relatively small. (IBM alone had more computers than the entire government network.) But even if the state did create the internet, that doesn’t obligate future generations to support the state. The British monarchy gave us the Magna Carta, but that doesn’t mean that we are obligated to stick with the government of medieval England for the rest of eternity.

  13. “We can replace death with libertarianism.”
  14. This has nothing whatsoever to do with libertarianism. Some people think that if economic growth goes far enough, we’ll have the technology to make immortality an affordable medical possibility. They happen to support libertarianism because they think that it will lead to the kind of economic growth this development needs.

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Of Morality and Failed Business Strategies… Fri, 15 Aug 2014 21:13:35 +0000 Some time ago, back in 2013 in fact, Richard Branson published a piece on LinkedIn, under the heading of “Big Idea 2013: This Year the Drug War Ends” wherein he positied, among other things, that if the War on (Some) Drugs was a business strategy, it would long ago have been scrapped.  He’s absolutely correct. And he’s also absolutely incorrect.

The War on (Some) Drugs is not a failed business strategy, and it is dangerous to even suggest that it is. Instead, it is a failed moral strategy. If it seems counter-intuitive to you that the government should be in the business of applying moral strategies, you win a prize. The control of what enters one’s body is, at root, the very basis of self-ownership. (Admittedly, the phrase “self-ownership” is not quite the correct nuance. I don’t “own” me, I “am” me, but anyway…)

The apparent failure of the War on (Some) Drugs speaks just as much to its actual goals as to its legitimate chances for success. In other words, if the goal was to criminalize large portions of an entire generation, then it has been a raging success. However, if the goal was to prevent people from freely consuming that which they know is their right anyway, it had no hope of success in the first place, and that lesson was obvious from alcohol prohibition.

On the more general issue of business strategies, why is it is dangerous to draw such a parallel to the War on (Some) Drugs? Such a suggestion–that just because the War on (Some) Drugs is failing that we should stop it–is a trap. It is a great example of the argument from effect, a veritable fat, shiny, Red Herring waiting for the obvious, “well, people still murder each other…” retort. Let us be clear, murdering someone is an attack on them, which is morally prohibited, dare I say malum in se anyway. Me putting a substance that you don’t like into my body has nothing to do with you.

Drug prohibition is unarguably malum prohibitum and therefore simply the attempt–misguided and puritanical–to impose the choices of some on the behavior of all. Ergo, it was destined for failure. By the way, this in no way suggests that drugs are good, but then again, neither are Twinkies. Now, if one wants to argue about the possible negative results of drug usage–crime, sickness, whatever–those ostensibly resultant actions, at least those that actually infringe on others, are ALREADY against the law. They are, in fact, malum in se regardless.

If you’re in your own home getting baked or shooting up, and don’t bother anyone else, it should be no one else’s business. I might also argue that most, if not all, of the crime supposedly endemic to illegal drugs occurs commensurate with the distribution of said substances despite their illegality. Make it legal on one day and that crime stops the next day. And, if the lessons of places like Portugal are any indication, with very little, if any, increase in widespread drug usage.
Was Robin Hood a Marxist? Mon, 16 Jun 2014 14:37:33 +0000 FreemanRobinHood300

Simon Schama could use a dose of classical-liberal theory. Most of us can be forgiven for knowing Marxist theory better than the liberal tradition — it’s hard not to drink Marxism in with our schooling and culture — but popular historical narrative really does suffer by the omission of the "bourgeois historians" whom Marx himself credits as the precursors of his class theory.

In the BBC TV series A History of Britain, Schama asks about the English Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, "Was this a class war, then?" (A term, he explains parenthetically that "we’re not supposed to use since the official burial of Marxism.") A pause, while the camera angle changes to closeup. "Yes," he says plainly. "It was."

"Not surprisingly," writes Schama in the print version of A History of Britain, "it was in the second half of the fourteenth century that the legends of Robin Hood … first became genuinely popular."

But as I write in "Class War in the Time of Robin Hood" in today’s Freeman, Schama is appealing to the wrong class theory if he wants to explain the mindset of the commoners marching on London in the 14th century.

I’m far from the first to offer a libertarian revision of Robin Hood’s politics, but where I focus on the ideology of his earliest historical audience, most other treatments focus on the particulars of the legend.

Some examples:

On the other hand, Ayn Rand seems to have been happy to leave Robin Hood to the socialists:

"It is said," Rand has Ragnar Danneskjöld concede in Atlas Shrugged, that Robin Hood "fought against the looting rulers and returned the loot to those who had been robbed, but that is not the meaning of the legend which has survived.

What do you think: is Robin Hood worth claiming for our tradition?

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What Explains the Brutalism Uproar? Tue, 18 Mar 2014 13:35:47 +0000 Trellick Tower iconic sixties new brutalist architecture

“Best article I’ve read in decades.”

That’s the message I received from so many people when my article “Against Libertarian Brutalism” first appeared.

A day later, I started to receive a different message.

“This article is evil and you are evil for having written it.”

Actually, the critics didn’t quite say that in those words. Mostly the language of the article’s detractors is unprintable. If I had any doubts that my piece was necessary, the reactions, some of them give new meaning to the phrase “violent prose,” removed them all. In fact, many people said that they had no idea that brutalism was a big problem until they saw the egregious responses to my piece. Thus did the persistent and non-relevant question regarding against whom this article was written answer itself.

There was another reaction that I found amusing. It came down to: heck yeah brutalism! This reaction mostly stems from the coolness factor of the word. I can only assume that the people who said this didn’t really read the piece and hadn’t entirely understood just how precise, authentic, distorted, and fundamentally awful the brutalist worldview really is.

In general, I find the debate and frenzy to be great. A writer aspires to write a piece that achieves that.

Still, I’m still not entirely sure why the article excited such controversy. What worried me at first is that I had actually underestimated the influence of the brutalist perspective. But as I think about it, and look carefully at the opposition, it really does come down to about half a dozen people. They felt accused, from which I can only conclude that my description of the brutalist mind was more evocative than I knew.

This article began as a private study, a memo to myself, a reminder of why we are in the liberty business. We’ve all felt that need to tell the hard truth. Assert the raw and unadorned core repeatedly and dogmatically. React with righteous anger and fury, even without elaboration, to the point of being downright offensive. There is a role for this. Injustice in our midst — and there is so much of it — cries out for it.

I wouldn’t call this brutalist. I would call this righteous passion, and it is what we should feel when we look at ugly and immoral things like war, the prison state, mass surveillance, routine violations of people’s rights. The question is whether this style of argument defines us or whether we can go beyond it, not only to lash out in reaction — to dwell only in raw oppositional emotion — but also to see a broad and positive alternative.

What is the right balance? How can we cling to and rally around fundamental rights, even when the conclusions are discomforting, and, at the same time, maintain a broadness of mind to see the larger goal and dream of liberty itself?

I came to be intrigued at the analogy between a deeply distorted, but still interesting, school of architecture and certain trends and intellectual tendencies you see in the libertarian world.

It fascinates me because there are often parallels between the world of art and the world of political ideology. This was better understood in 19th century European politics, when political parties tended to rally around certain composers: in Germany, for example, whether you preferred Brahms to Wagner told you something about a person’s view of German territorial disputes.

In the case of brutalist architecture, a school of thought that lived for 20 years after 1950, we had an edgy ideology at work, one based on a truth gone mad. That truth is that a building serves a function. It exists mainly to serve that function. The brutalists believed that everything beyond that function is a distraction, an invasion, a corruption. A building should not be art. It is not marketing, it is not for human delight. It must only tell one truth and never elaborate on that one truth. Of course this view represents not only an attack on modernity but all of history. It is affected in the extreme. Even the caves had art.

That brutalist tendency can exist within politics too. You see it in every election season. Forget all subtlety, all reservation, all mental questioning: just vote for X because that will cause all wrongs to be righted. In this way politics is brutalist.

But as I read about brutalism, I couldn’t help but wonder if this tendency is alive in the libertarian world I know so well. This is why Ludwig von Mises addressed this problem at length in his 1927 book Liberalism. He was emphatic that the foundation of liberalism is private property. But he doesn’t stop there. With that comes peace, tolerance, prosperity, and the flourishing of the common good. These are foundational ideals. He says that liberalism is the only ideology that can consistently and correctly state that it is not a party, a faction, a special interest, a narrow concern, or a private bias. It genuinely believes in the whole: liberalism speaks to the destiny of humankind..

This is the spirit I sought to evoke in this piece. I recall when I first read this book, how it inspired me. Yes, it sought to defend the rights of people to do nonviolent but still ghastly things. That’s important. More than that, however, this book conjured up for me a vision of global order ruled by no one but participated in by everyone. The book has haunted me in so many ways. It was the last statement of the old liberal worldview, a glimpse of a vision that once was but could be again. It’s big, high minded, beautiful.

What if the theme of liberty becomes the slogan of sectors of life that are fundamentally anti-social? That is part of the price of liberty itself. Liberty can deal with it. But what if we take it one step further and the intellectuals who defend liberty become exclusively celebratory of such elements? What if the racists, sexists, and anti-semites become heroes in their minds because, for whatever is wrong with their view of the world, they are defying what they see as the prevailing regime? What if libertarianism becomes the great gloss to cover up the hidden desire to achieve personal power, malevolent longings, antisocial urges, and authoritarian ends? I view this as a distortion and a problem, one against which we need to steel ourselves.

The most persistent response to my piece was the demand to know about whom in particular the article was written. Of course my piece did not name names because no one fully embodies brutalism. The real point was to draw attention to a tendency or archetype that keeps rearing its head. It has done so in my own writings variously through the years — as if I had woken up on the wrong side of the bed. None of us is immune. This is the whole point of demons and ideals: not to describe perfect exemplars but to urge everyone to avoid the pitfalls and long for the best that is in our hearts.

We all need reminders of why we are in the business of studying and promoting the ideas of liberty. It is not really about hating the state, even if that is something we must do. It is not really about celebrating the rights of malevolent forces in our midst, even though they deserve a defense. Hate is not the theme. (When Murray Rothbard used to say that “hate is my muse,” he was being facetious; that man loved liberty like life itself.)

The reason to believe in liberty is actually benevolent, humble, and rooted in love: we believe in the possibilities of humanity. No state — forever freezing the world in place, presuming to know the unknowable, brutally suppressing dissent, regimenting behavior and ideas, robbing and murdering to realize its goals at the expense of society — can unleash the creative and service-oriented possibilities of the human mind. On the contrary, states, like all expression of power in society, cut off and destroy what society tries to create and self-correct.

The brutalist mind samples that of the state. It believes in its infallibility, separates the world into those who comply and those who do not, admits no error, sees no coloration, opposes all elaboration and emendation, rules through intimidation, tolerates no diversity, recoils from intellectual struggle, stamps out all uncertainty, opposes innovation, never admits error. You see this in the buildings that brutalist styling produced, and you see this in the ideological world too. You feel it when you wince at what they produce.

We need liberty for civilization to emerge, to be sustained, to improve. There is absolutely nothing brutalist about that goal. On the contrary, the longing for liberty is rooted in our most wonderful dreams for ourselves and everyone.

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On Libertarian Factionalism, Our Critics, Conservative Associations and State Power Mon, 27 Jan 2014 15:59:21 +0000 The generation of libertarians seen in such outfits as SFL excites and encourages me. I especially approve its efforts to cleanse the movement of the type of bigotry that emerged after years of the libertarian movement’s circumstantial alliance with conservatives to battle against New Deal liberalism. Finally, young libertarians seem poised to differentiate themselves entirely from rightwing mythology and error.

I worry, however, that many of the young libertarians, particularly centered around the DC institutions, might lose sight of the importance of radical anti-statism. This all relates to something I can best explain by way of a little autobiography.

I was always a cosmopolitan libertarian. Although I had my origins on the right, I have favored gay marriage and open borders since I was in junior high in the mid-1990s. I have always disliked the notion that white upper middle class men were somehow the most persecuted minority. I have always seen law enforcement’s treatment of people of color as one of the greatest problems in American culture. I have, with varying degrees of intensity, long been sympathetic to such leftish concerns as feminism and the need for the poorest to be liberated from the state infrastructure that keeps them down.

There are many like me who in the 1990s tended to see our values most represented in institutions like CATO and Reason, and who were suspicious of the seemingly conservative tendencies of other libertarians, such as those associated with Ron Paul.

The main reason so many of us were repelled by these cosmo groups and attracted to the paleos in the following decade was simple: 9/11 and the following response by the government seemed to illustrate that we were wrong to assume that CATO-style libertarians were more “liberal” than the paleos. Cato took years to seriously confront the issue of torture. Whereas many libertarians in the beltway began equivocating on border issues just when they got even more important, the paleos, in contrast, began rethinking their earlier skepticism of immigration in the age of Bush. On the police state, the paleos became abolitionists and radicals just as other libertarians became defenders of the FBI and CIA. In the last decade, it was the Rothbardians that radicalized the movement on police abolition, IP abolition, and military abolition.

The most dangerous form of bigotry in American culture from 2001 on, at least at first, seemed to be Islamophobia, and the Randians and mainstream libertarians went soft just as the state was rounding up innocent people and throwing them in dungeons such as at Guantánamo. Starting in the Bush administration, a CATO scholar started defending the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping and John Stossel publicly defended it on the Colbert Report. Efforts to reach out to liberals during the second Bush term often came from the very cosmo libertarians who were for the Iraq war, and who, for what it’s worth, tended to equivocate on abortion rights and immigration as well.

On what I consider the number one issue of the last decade and a half—war and militarism—the cosmo libertarians dropped the ball, time and again: on torture, on bombing Afghanistan, on the timetable in Iraq, on detention policy, on surveillance, on military recruiters on college campuses, on the warfare state as such.

Everyone realizes finally that the war on terror has become the biggest single threat to our liberty, the method by which the state has finally virtually destroyed privacy altogether, the main engine of government growth, the main fuel of the lawless presidency, the reason we have cops with tanks and battle rifles even in small towns. And directly and indirectly, the most bigoted policies in the last generation have been advanced in the name of a cause that too many libertarians have been at best ambivalent on. The war in Afghanistan today seems obviously horrible to almost everyone, but when it most mattered—when we had a chance to stop the bloodshed and the inevitable cascade of unending conflict and death that bombing and invasion would inaugurate—the whole mainstream libertarian movement was busy rubbing shoulders with the most corrupt Republicans since the Nixon administration.

The Rothbardians, even the socially conservative Rothbardians, were always right about these, some of the very biggest issues of our day. They also opened the door to other forms of radicalism, and, indirectly at least, Ron Paul activism has appeared to vastly radicalized the movement and brought in far more women and minorities. The radical anti-state, war-hating, peace-loving, establishment-condemning message of Rothbardian-Paulianism has, in its own way, made the movement far more cosmopolitan. Indeed, I think the welcome change in libertarian demographics to better represent the general population has many roots in Ron Paul activism.

At the same time, fringe cultural conservatives, in all their reactionary quirkiness, can be found in the “respectable” libertarian factions as well. There are famous race realists who hang out with the think tankers. I’ve seen Christian Reconstructionists tabling at a regional SFL event. The Birchers and Patriot types have as much a grip on libertarian activism in the west as in the South. And of course, the Republican impulses of many factions of the movement—even those enlightened enough to support gay marriage—have long tainted the movement with corporate apologia and, by proxy, rightwing culture warring. Before the NYT attacked libertarians for ties to neoconfederates, the New Yorker attacked us for ties to the Koch Brothers, and you had better believe that progressives will remember that exposé long after they forget about the NYT one.

The New Yorker attack was unfair, and brought on a wave of progressive conspiracy theorizing about how libertarians were allying with Republicans to abolish the state according to the philosophical platform of pacifist Robert LeFevre. My point is, we will always be attacked, our unsavory associations will always be cited but they are rarely necessary, most of our enemies hate libertarianism in its pure form more than they have conservatism, and practically every faction of our movement is vulnerable.

I have become far more ecumenical over the last couple years. I have taken a lesson from my model of a libertarian scholar, Robert Higgs. This ecumenicism might lose me some friends, but I don’t want to have any more enemies among libertarians. I see great value in much of what many of these organizations do, and I think there are very important issues on which my biggest allies over the last decade or so aren’t the most correct.

But I do want the younger libertarians to understand something: the mainstream libertarian organs, as great as they are—and they are great—have also made bad associations and have failed to uphold our values as times. Some of them won’t admit it, but many of them were wrong about what became the most pressing issues of our day.

The truth is not to be found in sectarianism. Please consider that.

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It’s coming! It’s coming! Wed, 22 Jan 2014 03:27:02 +0000 ISFLC14_FB-cover_draft04All my feeds are filling up with a growing frenzy about the big event of the year, the International Students for Liberty Conference, Washington, D.C., February 14-16, 2014.

I’ve only been once but I completely get the frenzy. I stumbled in last year, having been brought to town for a different task (some recordings on business cycle theory). I saw that the ISFLC was happening and walked in.

Wow, amazed. A new world opened up to me. There were multitudes of students present, all learning about and celebrating the magnificence of human liberty. I had no intention to stay. Suddenly, nothing could pull me away.

This year is going to be bigger and better. I’m speaking. I’m fired up about that (thanks, Institute for Humane Studies!) but also happy that my own new company has a table and a fabulous party that we are throwing on Saturday  night. It’s for those who have signed up for at the presubscribe rate. You can pay now or pay at the event. I would love to see you.

This is only one of many private gatherings (of course I hope it is the hottest ticket of the event). I’m also happy that The Students for Liberty is able to work directly with in a cooperative venture to get students access to the libraries, forums, social networking, classes, and publishing opportunities that are the core of’s service. In many ways, it is the ideal digital home for this generation.

Here’s the thing. Most of the year, liberty-minded people tend to go around rather glumly, regretting the state of the world. This attitude is blasted away at the ISFLC. What you experience is hope, exuberance, love, optimism about the future. It is infectious. And there is great reason for it too: liberty is positioned to rule the world in our times as never before.

I’ve been in this liberty “movement” for a bit of time, and I can tell you that everything is changing. And changed. If you don’t believe it, come to the ISFLC and see for yourself.

See you at cocktail hour!

Sorry Thu, 28 Mar 2013 21:39:29 +0000 We were on the verge of obtaining a reasonable degree of liberty. We were going to get our taxes slashed and simplified but not abolished, the military budget reduced and the troops brought home, drugs decriminalized and managed via harm reduction, a significant liberalization of immigration controls without totally open borders, new restrictions on the Fed’s central planning powers adopted in 2008 and 2009, some more flexibility on pharmaceutical testing and health insurance, moderate patent reform, a diminution of pages in the Federal Register, prison reform, genuine oversight and remedies for police misconduct, strengthened due process and warrant requirements in national security cases, a plan to phase out massive entitlements, some fair-minded school reform, and a scaling back of federal gun laws. We were on the cusp of this moderate but significant step toward liberty, where we would not get all we wanted, but we would get much of what we wanted. But I ruined it all. I cited Murray Rothbard and Lysander Spooner. I made the perfect the enemy of the good, and now the liberty that was in our grasp is lost forever. Sorry, everyone. My selfish desire to adhere to ideological purity has spoiled our chances at increased freedom once again.

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Libertarians and War: A Bibliographical Essay Wed, 20 Mar 2013 23:39:53 +0000 The relationship between war and libertarianism has interested me since 9/11. In the aftermath of those terrorist attacks, I witnessed in grim fascination many libertarians make excuses for government in the realm of national security. The proper libertarian position on war has become a matter of controversy, although I believe it shouldn’t be. “War is the health of the state,” as Randolph Bourne said, as well as being “mass murder,” in the words of Murray Rothbard.

The following essay presents some of the most relevant materials and readings on this controversy. It is unapologetically tilted toward the antiwar position, although it includes some references to pro-interventionist writings. It is idiosyncratic and not comprehensive, and its omissions are not always deliberate. I am always interested in reading suggestions. As for the citations, I include publishing information for books but generally leave it out for articles written for or available on the web, so as to avoid extraneous clutter. Please follow the links to learn more.

Among the founders of modern libertarianism, Rothbard most consistently urged an antiwar position. In “War, Peace and the State,” he identified opposition to all state wars as well as to nuclear weapons as the libertarian’s core commitments. For more on Rothbard’s views on these questions, I recommend “Murray N. Rothbard: Against War and the State” by Stephen W. Carson and “Murray N. Rothbard on States, War and Peace, Part I” and “Part II” by Joseph Stromberg.

In terms of comprehensiveness and clarity, the best modern treatment is “Why Libertarians Oppose War,” chapter nine in Jacob Huebert’s fantastic Libertarianism Today (Praeger: 2010), which is probably my favorite introduction to libertarianism. Huebert covers all the bases, touching on the relevant economics, U.S. history, and moral principles, and delivers radical conclusions. The chapter is perfectly balanced in terms of scope and emphasis. In November 2012 he eloquently summed up his thesis at a Students for Liberty conference in a talk titled “Why Libertarians Must Oppose War.”

Other decent libertarian introductions feature strong summary discussions of foreign policy. Chapter fourteen, “War and Foreign Policy,” in Rothbard’s For a New Liberty still stands the test of time, and provides a nice refresher on Cold War revisionism. Harry Browne’s two campaign books, Why Government Doesn’t Work and The Great Libertarian Offer, both gave the issue serious attention, and he published a moving excerpt from the first book as an article, “What Is War?”  Mary Ruwart’s Healing Our World in An Age of Aggression (Sunstar Press: 2003) has a solid discussion of foreign policy, an earlier version of which is available online. Gary Chartier gives the topic due attention in Conscience of an Anarchist: Why It’s Time to Say Good-Bye to the State and Build a Free Society (Cobden Press: 2011). On multiple occasions Chartier has spoken on the centrality of peace under the eminently quotable topic title, “There’s War, and There’s Everything Else.”

Marc Guttman’s edited compilation Why Peace? is a masterful 636-page collection featuring dozens of authors, mostly libertarians, explaining how they came upon their staunch antiwar and pro-civil liberties convictions. It belongs on the bookshelves of all libertarians who prioritize war and peace issues. One powerful contribution is Bretnige Shaffer’s “Mere Anarchy Loosed Upon the World.”

In an excellent and succinct discussion of the war controversy, Robert Higgs draws a line in the sand with “Are Questions of War and Peace Merely One Issue among Many for Libertarians?” Higgs’s highly regarded scholarly stature and his general ecumenical stance on other issues make this piece very special. “In sum,” Higgs concludes, “the issue of war and peace does serve as a litmus test for libertarians. Warmongering libertarians are ipso facto not libertarians.”

More than a few have argued not only that libertarians should oppose war, but that they must oppose war to properly be called libertarians.  Walter Block has a couple of pieces on why pro-war libertarianism is a contradiction in terms, “Bloodthirsty ‘Libertarians’” and “Libertarian Warmongers.”

Homing in on the non-aggression principle, Wendy McElroy explains why virtually every war fails the libertarian test in “Libertarian Just War Theory.” Roderick Long’s 2006 article “The Justice and Prudence of War: Toward a Libertarian Analysis” presents a strong and somewhat novel argument against strict pacifism while adhering to a very hardcore antiwar position. As for the broader meaning of pacifism as opposition to all wars, Bryan Caplan has written one of the most compelling libertarian arguments for pacifism in a series of blogs, starting with “The Common-Sense Case for Pacifism.”

I have personally contributed a number of writings on libertarianism and war, the most extended of which was based on my talk “Warmongering Is the Health of Statism,” given at a conference in November 2005. For one of my most theoretical pieces that relate, see “Collateral Damage as a Euphemism for Mass Murder.” My most recent piece along these lines, “Noninterventionism: Cornerstone of a Free Society,” focused on American history. More of my writings are mentioned further down.

Standing Athwart History, Demanding Peace

Political issues come and go but war has always been with us. Those of the classical liberal tradition have tended toward the pro-peace position, although there have always been heretics. The major wars throughout history faced libertarian opposition and today libertarians disparage them retrospectively.

Ralph Raico’s 2007 talk “Classical Liberalism on War and Peace” sums up the historical liberal abhorrence of war. In a sense, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations was itself an antiwar tract, as Don Boudreaux notes in “Adam Smith on war.” In nineteenth-century Britain, the Manchester School, personified by Richard Cobden and John Bright, was firmly on the side of peace, as Jim Powell explains in “Richard Cobden’s Triumphant Crusade for Peace and Free Trade.” Herbert Spencer’s “Patriotism” from Facts and Comments (1902) remains one of the most radical discussions of moral responsibility falling on the soldier. Stromberg’s “John Stuart Mill and Liberal Imperialism” addresses one of the most prominent classical liberal hawks.

Arthur A. Ekirch’s book The Civilian and the Military: A History of the American Antimilitarist Tradition (The Independent Institute: 2010) surveys the historical relationship between U.S. liberalism and opposition to war. Stromberg discusses the current of anti-imperialist American liberalism in “Imperialism, Noninterventionism, and Revolution: Opponents of the Modern American Empire.”

For a discussion of libertarian attitudes about foreign policy throughout U.S. history, see Christopher Preble’s lecture, “Libertarianism and War.” Preble himself favors a mostly but not radically non-interventionist foreign policy, and emphasizes his antiwar side here: “libertarians. . . see war as the largest and most far-reaching of all socialist enterprises.”

Unsurprisingly, the most celebrated wars in U.S. history have become the most contentious among libertarians. At Bleeding Heart Libertarians, Fernando Teson has etched out his theory of defensible “libertarian wars” and elaborated on it in “More on Libertarians and War.” Gary Chartier’s “Violence, Wars, and States” at the same forum stakes out the antiwar position.

Even more radically antiwar libertarians like Rothbard have defended the colonists’ cause in the American Revolution. But there exist libertarian critiques of even the most seemingly defensible wars. Stephan Kinsella’s “Thumbs Down on the Fourth of July” compiles some of the most recent libertarian critiques of the American Revolution, including a contribution by me.

Multiple controversies surround the American Civil War. Radical abolitionist Lysander Spooner, a libertarian anarchist writing at the time, strongly opposed attacking the South. Since then, classical liberals from Lord Acton to H.L. Mencken have criticized Lincoln. Ludwig von Mises, on the other hand, favored the Union cause.

Today, some libertarians to varying degrees favor the Union, others the Confederacy, and still others oppose both sides. In April 2011, Reason Magazine commemorated the 150th anniversary of hostilities by publishing a handful of perspectives ranging from anti-war but not pro-South all the way to pro-Union. Sheldon Richman, editor of  the Freeman, dedicated that month’s issue to libertarian revisionist perspectives, including by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, author of the definitive libertarian history of the Civil War—and one of the best history books on any war or by any libertarian—Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men. Hummel also has an unpublished book manuscript elaborating at length on one of his key contributions: the thesis that the government, including the national government, subsidized slavery, making it profitable for slaveholders despite its macro inefficiency, with the implication that secession was a viable anti-slavery, peaceful alternative to war: “Deadweight Loss and the American Civil War: The Political Economy of Slavery, Secession, and Emancipation.”

For a series of pro-Union critical responses to the Freeman symposium, see Timothy Sandefur’s “Springtime for Jeff Davis and the Confederacy.” Over the years, lots of writing at, particularly by Thomas DiLorenzo, has critiqued the Civil War, and especially the Union’s conduct. Pushing back against a perceived pro-Confederacy bias, Charles Johnson has written multiple pieces criticizing the Southern warfare state.

The first major Progressive War, the Spanish-American War, united most classical liberals in opposition. They were key figures in the Anti-Imperialist League, headed by Mark Twain.

World War I was more divisive, as many precursors to the modern libertarian movement, from individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker to Old Right giant Garet Garrett, favored the war, which enjoys few defenders among libertarians today. Indeed, one of the most compelling critiques of the war, particularly emphasizing the effects on the United States, is Ralph Raico’s terrific “World-War I: The Turning Point,” included in the author’s recent and entirely relevant collection, Great Wars & Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal, which also includes fantastic revisionist essays on Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, Trotsky, and other topics. A most stirring critique that explores some neglected wartime effects on domestic statism is Rothbard’s “World War I as Fulfillment: Power and Intellectuals.”  Jim Powell’s Wilson’s War: How Woodrow Wilson’s Great Blunder Led to Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and World War II makes the argument, not uncommon among libertarians, that U.S. entry paved the way to many of the centuries worst cataclysms. Libertarian historian Hunt Tooley’s The Western Front: Battleground and Home Front in the First World War is one of the best and most moving general accounts of the European War in all the literature.

World War II is a more controversial matter. Old Right giant John Flynn’s 1944 book As We Go Marching was a devastating liberal critique of World War II’s impact on American statism. The same year, Ludwig von Mises explained the National Socialist warfare state in Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total War and Total State. Rothbard’s article, “World War II: The Nadir of the Old Right,” explains the key significance of the world’s largest ever battle in shaping the principal precursor to the modern libertarian movement.

The Rothbardian tradition has opposed U.S. entry into World War II, demonstrated by a sample of critical writings from Higgs, who has focused on its domestic consequences in Depression, War, and Cold War, among many other academic and popular writings, including a nice revisionist piece, “World War II: An Unspeakable Horror Now Encrusted in Myths.” Jacob Hornberger has over the years run dozens of articles criticizing everything from U.S. diplomacy before Pearl Harbor and U.S. cooperation with Stalin to Roosevelt’s refusal of Jewish refugees and the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki—many of these articles wound up in the great FFF collection, The Failure of America’s Foreign Wars. Hornberger’s series on repatriation remains one of the few available popular writings on this episode. For his publications I have written reviews critical of World War II. Raimondo has written multiple pieces keeping the Old Right opposition to war alive, and his book Reclaiming the American Right puts the issue front and center.

Many libertarians today continue to defend U.S. entry into World War II, and some look upon the opponents incredulously. Eric Dondero had trouble believing Harry Browne, who on his radio show said he opposed U.S. entry. Cathy Young’s review of Tom Woods’s Politically Incorrect Guide to American History takes for granted that American entry into the war was a positive thing. On the other hand, many modern libertarians take it just as much for granted that Franklin Roosevelt’s warmongering was indefensible. As’s Angela Keaton said in an interview with Motorhome Diaries: “I get this question from time to time, especially from new libertarians: ‘Aren’t some wars necessary—like World War II?’ No. No. There’s your answer to that.’”

The Cold War, from its hot conflicts to its domestic political culture, occasioned the birth of modern libertarianism, by distinguishing it unmistakably from the right. The reflective “Conscience on the Battlefield” by Foundation of Economics Education president Leonard Read in 1951 marked a definite break from the Korean War hawks, although FEE did not focus much on foreign policy generally. In 1963, Rothbard’s “War, Peace, and the State” took specific aim at conservatives as it fashioned a radical libertarian theory against war, and his “Confessions of a Rightwing Liberal” and other writings served to emphasize peace as a core element of libertarianism.

These libertarians ideas finally animated a political and social movement amidst escalation of the Vietnam War, police state crackdowns on antiwar protesters, and draft card burnings and marchings. Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism (New York: PublicAffairs, 2008) conveys much of the history of this agitation, and is especially good on such event as the famous split at the Young Americans for Freedom and the 1950s and 1960s Cold War libertarian counterculture. Focus on war issues helped give rise to the New Left, which featured an affinity between anti-authoritarian leftism and libertarianism, especially in its scholarship. Rothbard’s journal Left and Right epitomized this fusion, as did his title essay, “Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty.”

Yet there were Cold Warrior libertarian fellow travelers. Even the early Libertarian Party was divided on immediate draft amnesty. In 1991, some libertarians defended the first Gulf War under George H.W. Bush. A smaller faction defended Clinton’s war with Serbia in 1999.

Jeff Riggenbach’s great introduction to historical revisionism, Why American History Is Not What They Say, explores libertarian, left-, and right-wing war historiography in some depth. Tom Woods’s book We Who Dared Say No to War, co-edited with Murray Polner, at least implicitly serves as a libertarian endorsement of antiwar perspectives throughout American history, with classic essays criticizing the War of 1812, the Mexican War, The Civil War (including from a Southern anti-Confederacy perspective), the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and the War on Terror.

Jeff Hummel’s unfinished book manuscript,  “War is the Health of the State: The Impact of Military Defense on the History of the United States” has excellent chapters on America’s major wars from the Revolution through World War II, focusing on the relationship between conflict and government growth. Each chapter is followed by an outstanding bibliographical essay. Also worth mentioning are Bruce Porter’s War and the Rise of the State (Simon and Schuster, 2002); John Denson’s edited volume, The Costs of War: America’s Pyrrhic Victories, Rothbard’s Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy, a powerful tract on American wars and the coporate state; Higgs’s Crisis and Leviathan, the classic tome on war and the growth of the U.S. government, Joseph Stromberg’s bibliography on war, peace, and the state, David Gordon’s bibliography “On War,” and the Independent Institute’s bibliographies at

From a war’s most primary policies—killing and conquest—all the way down to the taxation, intrusions into the economy, censorship, violations of civil liberties—libertarians should have more to hate about war than anyone else, as war fuels state power and collectivism in a thousand ways at once. Accordingly, libertarians have produced some of the most comprehensive critiques of war, especially its effect on wide range of government policies. Moreover, the libertarian critique often comes from all angles, so that libertarian economists, legal theorists, historians, and other social scientists will all have something bad to say about a war.

Nevertheless, in the libertarian community remains a faction that defends a wide range of state activities in the name of national security. This faction appeared to grow or become more vocal in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

War and Libertarianism after 9/11

The 9/11 attacks, the U.S. response, and particularly the Iraq war, have served to illustrate the deep divide in principle among self-described libertarians and questions of war and peace. Each event was a testing ground for principled libertarian opposition to the warfare state. Joseph Stromberg contributed a series of pieces, reflecting on the returning trend of pro-war libertarianism, which had declined a bit after the end of the Cold War. Coining the term “liberventionist,” Stromberg analyzed the unfortunate reemergence in “Liberventionism Rides Again,” critiqued general liberventionist intellectual error in “Liberventionism II: The Flight from Theory,” and discussed the liberventionist tendency to whitewash the history of U.S. intervention and even advocate total war on civilians in “Liberventionism III: The Flight from History.”

Many libertarians and some libertarian groups came out firmly on the side of peace after 9/11. Among the institutions were,, The Libertarian Enterprise, Strike the Root, the Mises Institute, The Independent Institute, and the Future of Freedom Foundation. Many of these groups not only took a pro-peace position early, but have held peace as a high priority in their publications and programs consistently since 9/11.

Harry Browne, the recent Libertarian presidential candidate, published a bold antiwar article within a day of the terrorist attacks, “When Will We Learn?” stirring up controversy among LP members. The Libertarian Party establishment itself seemed to favor the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Lew Rockwell critiqued this ambiguous LP press release in his article “Does the LP Support THIS War?

Reflecting on the sad divide in the libertarian movement over the war, the Future of Freedom Foundation’s Jacob Hornberger explained in “Libertarian Splits in the War on Terrorism” why freedom is impossible so long as there is perpetual war. David J. Theroux, president of the Independent Institute, and Karen DeCoster warned about the assaults on American liberty that would come with the burgeoning warfare state, and the impossibility of using aggression and central planning to bring about security, in “The New U.S. War on Liberty.” Hans-Hermann Hoppe explained why libertarian principles mean the rejection of aggressive war and why libertarian class theory should lead one to distrust the warfare state in an interview, “Hans-Hermann Hoppe on War, Terrorism and the World State.”

Standing against the criticism of libertarian dovishness early after 9/11, Justin Raimondo defended the antiwar libertarians in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Postrel?” and L. Neil Smith did so as well, while expounding on the non-aggression principle as it relates to war, in “War of the Weenies.

Raimondo explained how there was more hope for libertarians than many might think in his article, “Long Live Libertarianism!“—an inspiration for anyone at the time who was worrying about the death of rationality and principle in this movement of ours. In his speech “War and Freedom,” Lew Rockwell reflected on the disappointing performance of mainstream libertarians, and the horrible bloodthirstiness of conservatives and the Bush administration.

When some libertarians went beyond supporting the Afghanistan War to advocating war on Iraq, it became clear that liberventionism was not going away and was not only an understandable, if disappointing, visceral reaction in the immediate wake of 9/11.

After Justin Raimondo challenged the Libertarian Party to take a firm antiwar position in his speech, “Libertarianism in the Age of Empire,” activist and writer Thomas Knapp chimed in with “The Party and War,” explaining why the Libertarian Party could not afford to be soft on the issue. Shortly after Gulf War II began, Robert Higgs addressed the demented mindset of liberventionism in “Are Pro-War Libertarians Right?” Harry Browne reflected on the many ways libertarians had to violate their own principles in “Libertarians and War.” Gene Healy from the Cato Institute took libertarian Iraq hawks to task in a September 2003 blogpost “Libertarians and the War.” Daniel McCarthy reiterated the major reasons why we must oppose warfare aggression in “Liberventionism for Fun and Profit.” Don Boudreaux found himself explaining his position in a 2005 piece called “An Open Letter to My Libertarian Friends Who Don’t Understand My Opposition to the War in Iraq.”

In 2005, R.J. Rummel, great scholar of governmental mass murder, coined the term “freedomist” to describe an interventionist libertarianism rooted largely in the logic of the democratic peace theory. I criticized this theory in “Making the World Safe for Imperialist Democracy.”

Other conspicuous liberventionists writing from 9/11 to the end of the Bush administration included Tim Starr, Timothy Sandefur, J. Neil Schulman, Max Borders, Glenn Reynolds, John Hospers, Ron Bailey, Tyler Cowen, Neal Boortz, Randy Barnett, and Larry Elder—although some of these people have changed their tune since. Underground “mainstream libertarian” Eric Dondero made a lot of noise criticizing antiwar libertarians and calling for their purge, characterizing antiwar libertarians as pro-Islamist or “leftwing libertarians.”
The most vociferously pro-war voices in the broader libertarian movement have belonged to Objectivists. The Ayn Rand Institute called for nuclear war after 9/11. Raimondo explained how Objectivism related to warmongering within the libertarian movement in his speech, “The Objectivist Death Cult.” To be fair, there have been efforts by Objectivists to expose the folly of Randian warmongering, including a wonderful article by Chris Matthew Sciabarra, “Understanding the Global Crisis: Reclaiming Rand’s Radical Legacy,” as well as a thoughtful piece by Chip Gibbons, “Ayn Rand: The Roots of War.”

The Vindication of Libertarian Non-Interventionism

As the Iraq war became increasingly unpopular, Gary North expressed optimism that liberventionism was on its way out in “The Self-Castration of Libertarian Hawks.” In 2006, Milton Friedman passed away, and his publicized characterization of the Iraq war as “aggression” gave new mainstream credence to the antiwar libertarian view. The Volokh Conspiracy responded with a blog putting Friedman’s disagreement with his wife in the context of a longstanding controversy among libertarians.

In 2005, Matt Welch at Reason Magazine had an interesting pro-war libertarian quiz as he appeared to be working out these issues himself challenging interventionists to define the boundaries of their position. “An Open Letter to Libertarians Who Support the War on Terror” by Marc Joffe is diplomatic and conciliatory article standing firm on the side of peace. Justin Raimondo addressed the issue again in “Libertarianism and the War,” inspired by the release of Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism. Jacob Hornberger, in early 2007, addressed “The Critical Dilemma Facing Pro-War Libertarians,” concluding that we must stand with the warfare state or with liberty. In June 2007, John Walsh, a leftist at Counterpunch, credited the Future of Freedom Foundation for its three-day conference on peace and civil liberties: “Libertarian Conference on Peace and Liberty: Shaming the Official Antiwar Movement.” In late 2007 Bryan Caplan asked, “Why Did So Many Libertarians Support the War?

Ron Paul spent most of his political career focusing on the evils of U.S. intervention abroad, as his collection of speeches and writings, A Foreign Policy of Freedom well demonstrates. Paul ran for president in 2008 and 2012, each time putting focus on the war issue. In response to his first presidential campaign, Randy Barnett wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal asserting that one could be a libertarian and support the war in Iraq. This incited an avalanche of responses, many of which are included in Stephan Kinsella’s “An Overview of Criticisms of Randy Barnett on Iraq and War.” In addition, Robert Higgs wrote a letter to the editor, part of which was published in the WSJ, which added his expertise to the issue. Walter Block penned a piece “Randy Barnett: Pro-War Libertarian,” as well as an excellent and more substantive critique in “A Libertarian War in Afghanistan?”. My own response to Barnett was a column, “The Effects of War on Liberty,” that focused mostly on the relationship between war and statism.

The Ron Paul Revolution of 2007–2012 hardened the association of libertarianism with non-interventionism. I celebrated this in my own article in late 2007, “Ron Paul and the Defeat of the Liberventionists.” Five years later, Less Antman credited Paul for emphasizing peace and declared at the 2012 Libertarian Party convention in his stirring nomination speech for R. Lee Wrights that “Anti-war Is the Health of the Anti-state Movement.”

After eleven straight years of war, antiwar and anti-interventionism have seemingly arisen as the dominant position among libertarians. But new issues—another terrorist attack, another alleged genocide abroad—could always bring the controversy back. In late 2012, the sticky bundle of issues surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict animated libertarian debate, much of it aired on Bleeding Heart Libertarians. Steve Horwitz took a nuanced position in “‘Anti-State’ or ‘Pro-Liberty’? Some Thoughts on Israel.” John Glaser of responded with an antiwar critique of Israel in “Libertarianism, Israel, and Palestine – A Different View.” Peter Lewin largely took a pro-Israel position in “Let’s Talk Fundamentals: Israel is Not The Problem and Israel Does Not Have The Solution” Matt Zwoliski in “Libertarianism, Self-Defense, and Innocent Shields” and Chartier in “Some Principles,” attempted to bring the issue back to basic fundamentals to guide debate. My own article, “Gaza and America,” attempted to show that the Israeli state’s attacks on Palestinian are as unlibertarian as is Hamas’s terrorism, and why Americans in particular should care.

On the tenth year anniversary of the beginning of the Second Gulf War, Reason Magazine published a forum of reflections from various libertarian writers: “The Iraq War: 10 Years Later.” Ron Bailey admitted he was wrong about Iraq, most others reiterated their position of opposition, and Ilya Somin argued for a nuanced approach, ultimately concluding the war was good for both America and Iraq on balance.

Libertarians Against War

It would be impossible to list every valuable critique of war written by libertarians, but some that are particularly libertarian in their method and approach are worth including. David Henderson’s very good column Wartime Economist at is worth noting. Laurie Calhoun’s “Just War, Moral Soldiers?” hones in on the individual ethic of fighting in a war. Sheldon Richman’s “War as a Government Program” demystifies warmaking and shows it is as political and problematic as any state activity. Lew Rockwell’s “War and Inflation” draws the connection between these two key state activities. Joe Salerno’s “Imperialism and the Logic of Warmaking” brings praxeological insights to bear. My own “War and the Common Good” sees war as the epitome of collectivism.

Other libertarian scholars and writers whose primary issue is war or foreign policy, and who thus stand as walking examples of libertarian war opposition, deserve mention for their wonderful contributions. The Independent Institute’s Charles Peña has written many critical pieces and Ivan Eland, author of The Empire Has No Clothes, has written thousands of articles. The Cato Institute’s Doug Bandow, Ted Galen Carpenter, and Malou Innocent are also worth following.  Eric Garris, founder of with Justin Raimondo, has done as much to promote peace as any living libertarian. See his interview in the Daily Bell. Scott Horton the libertarian radio host has done over a thousand interviews with experts, most of them on foreign policy. Arthur Silber is a quasi Objectivists whose Once Upon a Time blog usually features very hard-hitting focus on the war issue.

I’ve written other assorted pieces relevant to the discussion of war and libertarianism. In “Only War Will Prevent War” I mock what I saw as a crude utilitarianism in pro-war libertarian reasoning and in “Would Pro-War ‘Libertarians’ Have Supported the New Deal” I pose the question of what degree of statism they would endorse. “A Compromise for the Libertarian Hawks” is mostly a polemic piece arguing that there is no such thing as pro-war libertarians; such people are merely a species of conservative. The pro-war anarchist faces scrutiny in “Anarcho-Statism.” I make a general plea that libertarians stand front and center on the issue in “Libertarians and the Warfare State” and I identify what I take to be a theoretical problem in “Liberventionists: The Nationalist Internationalists.” Parts of this essay are adapted from my 2005 article, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of World War.”

There is no issue more fundamental to liberty than peace. The essence of liberty is peace, and nothing expands the state and gives cover for rights violations better than war.  


* I will update this in the next week or so with more links I’ve been sent.

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Who is a libertarian? Tue, 26 Feb 2013 16:51:35 +0000 After much thought and debate about this topic over the last 25 or so years, here is my attempt at a lean, concise, precise definition of what a libertarian is:

A libertarian is a person who believes that the invasion of the borders of (trespass against) others’ bodies or owned external scarce resources, i.e. property (with property allocations determined in accordance with Lockean homesteading rules and contractual transfer rules), is unjustified, because they (for whatever reason) prefer or value grundnorms of peace, prosperity, and cooperation and who have enough honesty, consistency, and economic literacy to recognize that the libertarian assignment of property rules is necessary to achieve these grundnorms.

Such a person, if he is consistent, also cannot help but recognize that the state, being an agency of institutionalized aggression, is inherently criminal and illegitimate.

Note what this does not say: It does not say that the libertarian necessarily believes all aggression is immoral, but rather that it is unjustified; it does not imply that rights are a “subset” of morals. It also does not say why the person values peace, prosperity and cooperation and favors it above interpersonal violent conflict. It also does not make the common mistake of interpreting the libertarian-Lockean property allocation rule as requiring one to prove title all the way back to the very first use of the resource; rather, it says that whoever has the best claim to a disputed resource has a property right in it (is its “proper” owner), and that as between any two claimants, the one having an earlier claim (use) of the property has the better claim. This does not require title to be traced back to the beginning of time but only to the earliest time needed to defeat any actual or potential claimants; though it implies that someone who can trace title back to the first appropriation has the best possible claim of all (unless title has been assigned by contract). Note also that although the libertarian rule is the Lockean rule this does not imply Locke’s reasoning in justifying his homesteading rule was correct—in particular it does not imply that Locke was right to say that labor is owned or that labor-ownership is the reason why first possession of a resource is sufficient to establish property rights in the resource.

For more, see my posts and articles below:

Also: Rothbard, Ethics of Liberty, chs. 4-5, 15; Hoppe, A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, chs. 1, 2, and 7.