The late Chalmers Johnson, the great analyst of the American empire, warned that if Americans didn’t give up the empire, they would come to live under it.
We’ve had many reasons to take his warning seriously; indeed, several important thinkers have furnished sound theoretical and empirical evidence for the proposition. Now come two scholars who advance our understanding of how an interventionist foreign policy eventually comes home. If libertarians needed further grounds for acknowledging that a distinctive libertarian foreign policy exists, here it is.
Christopher Coyne, an economics professor at George Mason University, and Abigail Hall, a Ph.D. candidate in economics there, have an important paper in the Fall 2014 issue of the Independent Review: “Perfecting Tyranny: Foreign Intervention as Experimentation in State Control.”
Their thesis is at once bold and well-defended: “Coercive government actions that target another country often act like a boomerang, turning around and knocking down freedoms and liberties in the ‘throwing’ nation.” This happens when the size and scope of government increases as a result of foreign intervention.
Advocates of foreign intervention – whether conservative or progressive – seem to believe that foreign and domestic policies can be isolated from each other and that illiberal methods used in foreign lands, such as bombing and military occupation, need not disturb domestic policy. In other words, freedom at home is consistent with empire abroad.