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.
One of my goals when debating the truth of libertarian political philosophy is getting my opponent to realize that he is an advocate of aggression. That is, I want my opponent to realize that his policies necessarily require that the State not only threaten innocent people with physical violence but also that State agents must beat, jail, and even kill those who are unwilling to obey State dictates. My hope is that my opponent will see the wanton immorality of his position and rethink his political philosophy. The reason I think that such recognition will lead to an epiphany is because the people I debate claim to be peaceful people who abhor violence. In my mind, I imagine my opponent realizing that he cannot claim to value peace and abhor violence while defending an institution that is inherently aggressive and violent. This moral contradiction would lead him to see the error of his ways and instantly renounce violence. He then reads Mises.org and LewRockwell.com regularly and begins the long process of learning true history and true economics. But this has yet to happen in my experience.
Instead some of my opponents cling to the notion that we must have a monopoly of violence to prevent even more violence. In one recent debate my opponent conceded that the State does indeed reduce material wealth, but he was fine with this because the State also reduces wealth inequality. Why income inequality should be a moral concern was not addressed in this debate. But what really disappointed me in this exchange was that my opponent also claimed to value peace and nonviolence as I do. This is simply false; libertarians are the only people who value peace and nonviolence. We are the only ones who apply the same moral standards to both private and government actors. Theft is theft; murder is murder; fraud is fraud. It does not matter if the thief is a petty-pickpocket or an IRS agent. If both parties did not consent to the exchange, this is theft. [Keep reading…]