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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… From Eric Garner, Ethan Nadelmann, and More

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 23 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

FRUITS OF THE DRUG WAR: “What has the War on Drugs done to the world? Look at the murder and Ethan Nadelmannmayhem in Mexico, Central America, so many other parts of the planet, the global black market estimated at 300 billion dollars a year, prisons packed in the United States and elsewhere, police and military drawn into an unwinnable war that violates basic rights, and ordinary citizens just hope they don’t get caught in the crossfire, and meanwhile, more people using more drugs than ever. It’s my country’s history with alcohol prohibition and Al Capone, times 50.” — renowned anti-Drug War activist Ethan Nadelmann from his October 2014 Ted Talk “Why We Need to end the War on Drugs.” THE FAILURE IN FERGUSON: Judge Andrew Napolitano“The failure in Ferguson is across the board. From a city government whose police force makes its minority populace feel vulnerable and defends an unnecessary public killing by one of its cops, to a county prosecutor afraid to take responsibility for a proper public prosecution, to a governor missing in action, to a president who sounds like he wants to federalize police, we have an out-of-control stewpot boiling over into a wave of destruction. … The militarization of local police — perfected during the past two presidential administrations, which have given local cops military surplus intended to be used on enemy armies in foreign lands — if uncorrected, will lead to a police state. A police state is one in which the government’s paramount concern is for its own safety, and not for the lives, liberties and properties of those it has sworn to protect.” — Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, “Ferguson,” syndicated column, December 4, 2014. I CAN’T BREATHE: “Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today. Why would you…? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn’t do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me [garbled] selling cigarettes. I’m minding my business, officer, I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone. Please please, don’t touch me. Do not touch me. [garbled] I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” — last words of Eric Garner of New York, who died from a police chokehold after police attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling “loosies” — single cigarettes — on the street. Garner was unarmed and nonthreatening. The officer was not indicted, leading to protests in New York and across the country this week. PARDON US, MR. PRESIDENT: “Prior to Thanksgiving, President Obama continued the presidential tradition of pardoning two turkeys. Too bad he didn’t use the occasion to also pardon every single victim of the U.S. government’s decades-long failed and destructive War on Drugs… all the people who have been convicted of violating federal laws against the possession or distribution of drugs, especially those people currently serving time in some federal penitentiary. Those people have no more business being in jail than people who have used, possessed, or distributed beer, liquor, wine, tobacco, fatty foods, or any other substance. … President Obama, who himself, by his own admission, has possessed and consumed illicit drugs, spared the life of those two turkeys prior to Thanksgiving. Too bad his compassion didn’t extend to the thousands of Drug War victims in America’s federal prisons. He still has time to issue a blanket pardon before Christmas.” — Jacob G. Hornberger, President of the Future of Freedom Foundation, “Why Not Pardon Drug War Victims in Addition to Turkeys?”, December 1, 2014.

Libertarian Party Response to 2014 State of the Union Address: “Americans’ Rights Violated Like Never Before”

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Party by James W. Harris Comments are off
(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)
Perhaps you heard President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and the GOP responses.The Libertarian Party responded as well, lambasting the Big Government policies of both parties and offering a pro-liberty alternative in a hard-hitting statement from Executive Director Wes Benedict.
Naturally the mass media declined to carry it, but don’t let that stop you State of the Union Responsefrom encountering a genuine libertarian State of the Union address. Some excerpts:
“Thanks to unprecedented levels of government interference and government coercion, Americans’ rights are violated like never before. We are harmed by taxes, regulations, prohibitions, and shocking privacy intrusions. …

“Our Libertarian hope is that we can convince enough Americans to change their minds. We hope voters will come to understand that government is force, and force is unjust.

“Here are some of the problems we see.

* The government debt situation is atrocious. Government debt is a terrible thing, because it forces future generations to pay off debts they never agreed to incur. From 2001 to 2008, George W. Bush doubled the debt, mostly with the support of a Republican Congress. Since 2009, Barack Obama and the Democrats (and Republicans) have nearly doubled it again. It doesn’t matter whether Republicans or Democrats control the government. Libertarians would quickly balance the budget by cutting spending on everything, including entitlements and the military.

* The employment situation is still pretty bad. Why? Because government gets in between employers and employees, and tries to dictate everything. Minimum wage laws, hiring laws, firing laws, subsidies, and business taxes all make it harder to create jobs and find jobs. These laws are supported by both Republicans and Democrats. Libertarians would eliminate the minimum wage, employment red tape, and business subsidies and taxes. …

* If there’s one thing we have learned since 2001, it’s that we can’t trust what government officials say. They lie. Bush and Cheney said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. James Clapper (Director of National Intelligence) said under oath that the NSA does not collect data on Americans. Those are a couple of the most outrageous lies, but there have been many others. The more power government has, the more government officials will have the opportunity and incentive to lie. Libertarians would greatly reduce government power. …

* How about the military? The Libertarian attitude is pretty simple: the U.S. military should leave other countries alone, even if their governments are unstable, and even if there are people living there who hate Americans. We need to cut military spending a whole lot. Try getting Republicans or Democrats to support ANY cuts to military spending. …

“All in all, the state of our union is a big mess created by Republicans and Democrats. Libertarians offer a path forward to peace and prosperity.”

And there’s lots more good stuff. You can read the rest of the statement at the Libertarian Party’s website.