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Libertarians Are Actually Less “Isolationist” Than Other Political Views

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 2 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarians who advocate a foreign policy of peaceful non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations sometimes get labeled by critics as “isolationist.”

The words “isolationist” and “isolationism” are smears. Further, they inaccurately describe what libertarians believe. I’ve written in the past on ways to respond to this charge.

Libertarian InternationalismLast month Simon Lester, a trade policy analyst with Cato Institute, wrote an excellent column entitled “Libertarian Internationalism” at Townhall.com in which he debunks the notion.

“[T]he reality is that libertarianism is among the most internationally minded philosophies,” he writes. “Examining several key areas of international relations makes this clear: International trade, diplomacy and the military, and institutions.”

Here are some of his arguments, which are helpful to anyone in discussing this issue.

1. International trade.

“The most obvious place where libertarians are internationalists is economic relations. True libertarians advocate the free flow of trade and investment, without government restrictions. This is about as international as you can get. For libertarians, the origin of a product or service is irrelevant. People around the world should be able to buy and sell from each other without government interference. …

“Unfortunately, in most countries today, there is a strong sentiment for favoring domestic economic actors over foreign ones. This feeling manifests itself in various forms, such as tariffs and Buy National procurement policies. Libertarians stand almost completely united against this nationalist feeling, believing that trade and other economic interaction with foreign actors benefits us all.”

2. Diplomacy and the military. 

“Diplomacy and the military is a more complicated policy area, involving a number of instances of potential relations between domestic and foreign. Here, though, there is a strong case that libertarians are more internationalist than most others. Of course, in part this depends on what one means by internationalism.

“Libertarians are most frequently accused of isolationism when they object to military intervention in foreign territories. That libertarians usually object to these interventions is not in doubt. However, use of the military cannot always credibly be called internationalist. Colonialism and conquest, although they do require contact with foreigners, are not generally a positive form of international relations. …

“Thus, for libertarians, war and government aid do not reflect true internationalism. To some extent, they are really about government bullying and condescension towards foreigners, the idea that we are superior to them and can use our power to re-make them in our image. In contrast, libertarians believe in treating citizens of other countries with respect and acting with humility.”

3. International institutions. 

“This is the area where libertarians are most likely to reject what is conventionally thought of as the internationalist position, as they worry about the power of these institutions. In reality, libertarians are not rejecting the idea of international institutions, but rather the specific policies pursued by some of these institutions. … If there were international institutions that supported balanced budgets (or protected property rights), for example, libertarians would likely be supportive. There is no fundamental libertarian objection to international cooperation through institutions; the only concern is on specific issues of substance.”

Finally, Lester argues that libertarianism is inherently internationalist, not isolationist.

“At a more conceptual level, the idea of limited government inherently pushes us away from nationalism and towards internationalism. As things stand now, most power is in the hands of national governments, who often use this power in ways that conflict with the interests of other governments. In other words, putting power in the hands of nation-states leads naturally to national conflict. By contrast, devolving power to local governments more closely connected with the people reduces the role of national governments and nationalism. It makes power more disbursed, and allows communities to connect with each other, regardless of the nation in which they are located.”

These are excellent points, and sharing them with critics can help refute and perhaps eventually bury the tiresome “isolationist” smear.

Read Lester’s complete argument at Townhall.com

They Said It… With Ron Paul, The Libertarian Party and More

in Communicating Liberty by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 19 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

UBER BRINGS WEALTH TO THE MASSES: “Once, only the privileged few, the studio bosses and pampered starlets, could afford to have a chauffeur and a waiting car to transport them around sprawling Los Angeles. Now anyone with a credit card can enjoy that freedom. … A short ride through downtown in UberX, the company’s lower-priced service, introduced here last spring, can cost as little as $4.” — journalist Melena Ryzik, “How Uber Is Changing Night Life in Los Angeles,” New York Times, Oct. 31, 2014.

RON PAUL FEELS A DRAFT:
Ron Paul“As the burden of our hyper-interventionist foreign policy increases, it is increasingly likely that there will be serious attempts to reinstate the military draft. … This is an issue that has long united authoritarians on the left and right. … It is baffling that conservatives who (properly) oppose raising taxes would support any form of national service, including the military draft. It is similarly baffling that liberals who oppose government interference with our personal lives would support mandatory national service. Mandatory national service is a totalitarian policy that should be rejected by all who value liberty.” — Ron Paul, “National Service is Anti-Liberty and Un-American,” weekly column, Oct. 19, 2014.

CIA NAZIS: “In the decades after World War II, the CIA and other United States agencies employed at least a thousand Nazis as Cold War spies and informants and, as recently as the 1990s, concealed the government’s ties to some still living in America, newly disclosed records and interviews show.

“At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, law enforcement and intelligence leaders like J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI and Allen Dulles at the CIA aggressively recruited onetime Nazis of all ranks as secret, anti-Soviet ‘assets,’ declassified records show. They believed the ex-Nazis’ intelligence value against the Russians outweighed what one official called ‘moral lapses’ in their service to the Third Reich.”  — Eric Lichtblau, “In Cold War, U.S. Spy Agencies Used 1,000 Nazis,” New York Times, Oct. 26, 2014.

THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY AND THE BALANCE OF POWER: “Libertarian candidates may have decided the winner in at least six federal and governor races, despite record-shattering spending levels in support of the Democratic and Republican candidates. Each race where a Libertarian threatens to affect the outcome of an election puts pressure on the old parties to move in a libertarian direction by reducing government’s size, scope, and authority.

“It’s also a sign that more Americans reject the argument that there’s any substantial difference between Democratic and Republican politicians. Voters are seeing that which of the two wins is of little consequence.” — Libertarian Party,  post-election blog post, “Libertarians play key role in highly contested races,” Nov. 5, 2014.

National Service: Should Young Americans Be Forced To Serve the Government?

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)
National Service

QUESTION: I believe we shouldn’t be forced to participate in some kind of national service. However, some of my friends say we owe some duty to our country for being born here and living here. What about a citizen’s duty to country?

MY SHORT ANSWER: If “doing our duty” is equated to providing “service,” who decides what is service and what is not? If young Steve Jobs had been forced into some type of national service instead of being left alone to tinker in his garage, he might never have invented the personal computer. The resulting increases in everyone’s standard of living would have been lost or delayed because of a bureaucrat’s uninformed decision about what was good for the country.

Freedom is what is good for a nation, especially one that wants to help its poor. More freedom means more wealth creation and less poverty. Government interference, even well-intended, backfires. (For some examples and more detail, see my book, “Healing Our World.” The 1992 edition is available as a free download at www.ruwart.com. The updated 2003 edition is available at the Advocates online bookstore.)

Most people give generously of their time and money if this is the voluntary custom. For example, tipping is not mandatory, but almost everyone does it. Before government got involved in social welfare, almost everyone helped a less fortunate neighbor individually or as part of a formal organization because that was the custom. You were either a charity case or a provider of charity; few people wanted to be in the former group.

To return to this way of charitable thinking, the government should stop forcing people to “give at the office” through taxation and resist the temptation to force people into service. Doing so will only create resentment towards those in need, leaving little sympathy for the poor when their “help” disappears in the shifting political tides.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Shhh… Don’t call Obama’s national service scheme a ‘draft‘” by Jerome Tuccille. National service is seemingly off the front burner, but don’t let down your guard; the idea continues to circulate. This article, written in 2008 when the idea was being more strongly pushed by both Democrats and Republicans, points out the insidious nature of the concept.

EXCERPT: “Under Barack Obama’s plan, a refusal to participate in a national service program touted at the federal level will be punished by the withholding of high school diplomas by the school district in your town. And without that diploma, few colleges or employers will even bother to look at your application.

“It’s a softer sort of authoritarianism which requires no draft boards, muddles the identity of the ‘bad guy’ and produces no martyrs in handcuffs for the evening news. You just can’t get a job if you don’t do as you’re told.”

* “National Service? Puh-lease“ by Michael Kinsley, TIME, Sept. 04, 2007. Liberal journalist Kinsley does a great job of gutting the whole “national service” notion. Ignore the couple of paragraphs in the middle about democracy and taxation; the rest is brilliant and marvelously written.

EXCERPT: “Problem number one with grand schemes for universal voluntary public service is that they can’t be both universal and voluntary. If everybody has to do it, then it’s not voluntary, is it? And if it’s truly up to the individual, then it won’t be universal. What advocates of this sort of thing generally have in mind is using the pressures of social conformity and the powers of the state indirectly to remove as much freedom of choice as possible, while still being able to claim that everyone who signs up is a ‘volunteer.’”

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Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.