Jacob Huebert, author of Libertarianism Today and fellow TLS writer, gave a superb talk this past weekend on libertarianism and war at the fourth annual Students for Liberty Austin Conference. In short, Jacob argues that a consistent position against all aggression implies that one must also oppose wars of all kinds.
Perhaps my favorite talk at the conference this weekend was “Why Libertarianism is the Only Moral Choice” by Lawrence Reed of the Foundation for Economic Education. In his presentation, Reed tells the story of great men and women who devoted their lives toward the promotion of liberty in the world. It is eloquent and inspiring, and I hope you will take some time to listen intently.
Another full chapter of Libertarianism Today is now online for free — this one on why libertarianism is antiwar. This is my favorite chapter of the book, so I’m especially glad I could make it available through Antiwar.com.
Other parts of the book you can read for free online:
As an Aristotelian libertarian, I’m not a big fan of Immanuel Kant, his philosophy in general, or his take on world peace. But to say that I’m not a fan of Alexander Hamilton — that statist, bank centralizer, mercantilist, and crypto-monarchist — would be a vast understatement. (For more on what’s wrong with Hamilton, see Thomas DiLorenzo’s “What Hamilton Has Wrought” and Hamilton’s Curse.)
I discussed the democratic peace thesis and problems I see with the Kantian Triangle — resting on republican government, international trade, and international law and organizations — in my previous post, Triangulating Peace? Or, Three Foundations for Oppression? While trade is a peaceful activity and economic interdependence can promote peace among states, it can be perverted and used for corporatist and mercantilist ends by states and international governmental organizations (IGOs), which is why, though it pains me to say it, I must side with Hamilton’s take on the matter, excerpted from Federalist #6 below:
I have always been skeptical of the democratic peace thesis, which posits that democratic states do not go to war with one another, in part because it seemed to me to be incomplete. Russet and Oneal attempt to shore up that incompleteness by emphasizing the pacifying effects of both bilateral and global economic interdependence as well as (though not unproblematically) international law and organizations.
Despite the impossibility of discovering empirical laws via inductive and statistical methods, it may be true that (liberal) democracies rarely go to war with one another and, ceteris paribus, might be less war prone than other states. But I am not confident this trend will hold for all times and places.1 Moreover, democracies may still be more likely to go to war with non-democracies for ideological reasons. “We’ve” got to make the world safe for democracy, after all.
Joanne Gowa, in Ballots and Bullets, argued that the democratic peace was an artifact of the Cold War; it appeared to be true only because Western, capitalist, democratic nations had a shared security interest against the Soviet Union. My professor for the above-mentioned seminar, David Sobek, argued that Gowa’s book suffers from methodological deficiencies, but said that he had been working on an article (I don’t know if it was ever published) that improved on Gowa’s methods and he was surprised to find her results confirmed. ↩
A while back, I was watching the movie Crimson Tide and made the following observation.
There was mention of the famous dictum by the Prussian general, military historian, and theorist Carl von Clausewitz: “War is the continuation of politics by other means.”
There is a profound truth in that dictum. It identifies shared characteristics of statist politics and war: anti-social conflict, some imposing their will on others, destruction and redistribution of wealth, and so on. When statist political means fail to have the desired result and recourse is made to naked war, the true character of both the aggressors and the statist political process is revealed.
But I think that von Clausewitz got it backwards; the observation would have been more profound and true had he written instead: “(Statist) politics is the continuation of war by other means.”
Ballots replace bullets within the democratic state but conflict persists with special interest groups vying for the reins of power so that they can use the perceived legitimacy of the state to impose their will on each other. Beneath the sophisms that grant the state legitimacy there lies the same threat or use of initiatory violence that is present in war. Open war is traded for the illusion of peace.
Might this quip from Ronald Reagan touch upon a similar insight? “Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.” Is he referring to war? Or prostitution? Both analogies would be apt. War is often a boon to both prostitutes and politicians, though prostitutes at least are usually more honest about what they do and can conduct their business peacefully.