while back I coined the word "liberventionism"
as shorthand for "libertarian interventionism."
I take the latter to be something of a contradictio
in adjecto. Nevertheless, there are those who claim
to be, and have been seen as, libertarians, who throw
themselves into the breach to support this or that initiative
of the U. S. Empire. They may not support each and every
high-toned bombing raid on offer, but their support
of any such philanthropies is a bit of a problem.
is nothing like a good crisis to reveal the fault lines
in any ideological movement. The present posture of
a number of official libertarian foundations and publications
has been more instructive than a thousand busy little
seminars on de-municipalizing the garbage services (to
paraphrase one of Mr. Buckley's anathemas from the 1960s).
Reason magazine, never especially good on foreign
policy, has suffered a major relapse into liberventionism,
while the Cato Institute, dwelling in the belly of the
beast, has taken up an imperial vision of "defense"
with a vengeance.
many self-named libertarians and classical liberals
have taken up the warmonger's burden lately, that it
will be no surprise if, fairly soon, they begin handing
out freedom prizes and medals to every over-inflated
warmonger who ever "served" in high office.
Worse luck, they have taken to lecturing those who still
warn of the perils of constant intervention, about the
latters' sins, such as "anti-state libertarianism,"
lack of realism, excessive adherence to "creedal"
FAILS TO READ HIS OWN LETTERS
are the writings of Mr. Brink Lindsey, whose job at
Cato Institute involves promoting world trade. His views
on foreign policy, he insists, may not be those of his
employers, and while that's all well and good, it is
odd for someone keen on world trade to take the positions
he does. "Isolationist" libertarianism, he
told us on April 9 (scroll
down), rests on "a failure to grasp the essential
role of coercion in safeguarding freedom." Even
worse, such libertarians are knee-jerk anti-statists,
who incline towards gasp! free-market
anarchism and "contend that making war beyond one's
borders is inconsistent with the defense of liberty."
I'm sorry, but I think we do grasp the role of coercion
in the world and we have concluded that it has very
little to do with safeguarding freedom. Quite the opposite.
Analogies drawn between protection of persons and property
by law enforcement, on the one hand, and global, mercantilist
imperialism, on the other, are doomed to fail. The contradiction,
not to say futility and immorality, of imposing world
order by cruise missile so that trade may then
flourish hardly needs much elaboration. These Cato people
should read each other's work more. Messrs. Christopher
Layne and Benjamin Schwarz have done some very good
writing on these issues, as has the (former) Ted Carpenter.
libertarians, says Lindsey, fail to "see the importance
of context." I beg to differ. We have read some
history, perhaps a bit more than he has, and find the
context to be rather different than he imagines it to
be. He poses some interesting rhetorical questions involving
the world less free," he asks to know, "because
European military power checked and repulsed the spread
of Islam?" I answer that those parts of Europe
threatened by Islam had every right to defend themselves
and, yes, they were probably better off for having done
so. It is hard to see how the world, as such,
enters in to it. He asks, whether the world is
"less free because the British challenged and eclipsed
Spanish Sea power?" That's a tough one. Short of
adopting the Black Legend, whereby Catholic Spain is
seen as running an utterly Evil Empire, while Britain
only entered the contest to spread common law and good
breeding, it will be hard to give a definite answer.
Just a footnote to these thoughts, one thing the British
gained from those philanthropies was the asiento,
the monopoly of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, very
wicked of them, and I hate to be the one to point it
we are asked whether British success in chasing French
imperialists out of North America left the world
"less free"? The problems are similar and
unless there is a clear-cut formula whereby British
imperialism and mercantilism are always liberating,
I would rather not adjudicate between these rival imperialist
blocs. They had enough trouble with it in the 18th
century. Further, counter-examples to the beneficence
of British rule are hardly in short supply Ireland
could be mentioned and if British rule was so
wonderful, why did we have an American Revolution?
cases are adduced, which somehow add up to the claim
that the world is more free because of the precise
outcome of each situation named. Certainly, if the present
is the best of all possible worlds, or indeed the only
world that could exist, then everything leading up to
it must, necessarily, have been good. Actually, that
doesn't follow at all. It makes no allowance for accident,
folly, stupidity, and getting away with criminal acts,
all of which happen in history. Perhaps the Cato/Reason
crowd would like to set out a systematic defense of
all the atrocities, war crimes, and other lunacies which
contributed to the overall fabric of the world as it
exists today. Maybe not.
it's very hard to sort out, much less answer to the
World. It might be enough to keep one's own country
free. There is reason to believe that crusading for
the world's liberty undermines it in one's own
backyard. Tricky business, that. It often kills off
large numbers of people, with whom we might have dealt
otherwise, but I leave that aside as a mere inconvenience
of the art form.
WAS THERE A LIBERTARIAN MOVEMENT IN THE FIRST
Rothbard and his associates did not arbitrarily seek
to create a libertarian movement just for something
to do. They had seen the conservative movement with
its commitment to Cold War imperialism and intervention
and decided that liberty deserved better defenders.
Theirs was a systematic analysis of how foreign policy
reflects back on a society, how it strengthens domestic
statism, how it can risk pointless war, and so on. They
did not go on much about the "glories" of
war and empire.
the Cato/Reason crowd and there are others
allied with them on these matters no longer accept
such an analysis, by all means let them join the Republican
Party, let them lionize great warmongers of the past.
But why must they keep up the pretense of believing
in free trade, retrenchment, peace, and the other points
of classical liberalism? Let them "reinvent"
liberalism, once again; it's been done before, and the
results were deplorable, but they were close enough
for government work.
MIND THE BELTWAY BOLLOCKS
all, sitting there in the Mother City of Empire, named
for George Washington, it must be easy to forget what
the real Washington advised his countrymen to do in
their foreign relations. You know, the part about treating
everyone fairly, not developing partialities toward
particular nations, trading with everyone, while having
no political connections with them.
this was better for Americans, and, however indirectly,
for the world. But I suppose that sort of thing
is old hat for dynamists and market liberals.