04 Jul 2015

Two Libertarian Views on War

Pacifism 20 Comments

When evaluating the so-called War on Poverty or Drugs, libertarians will often say something like, “After boatloads of money and many lives ruined in waging such efforts, decades later we haven’t really solved the underlying problem.” Thus, they do not support such “wars.”

On the Fourth of July, libertarians will often say something like, “By going through amazing sacrifices even to the point of death, our courageous forefathers delivered us a free country that we subsequently squandered. Americans today are far less free than the colonials under King George.” Thus, these libertarians urge us to wage another War for Independence.

Ishn’t zat veird?

(BTW if anybody on Facebook is reading this and thinks I’m singling you out, don’t worry–this happens every year, and I’ve seen at least 4 such posts today and it’s not even lunchtime.)

20 Responses to “Two Libertarian Views on War”

  1. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Bob, I happen to be a pacifist, but isn’t this an argument against just about anything? Your preferred approach is educating people about the merits of libertarianism, right? But couldn’t you equally well say that devoting resources to educating people hasn’t gotten us to an anarcho-capitalist society either?

    • Major.Freedom says:

      “Even after 5000 years of people fighting intellectually for the abolition of slavery, there is still slavery! Let’s give up.” – Keshav’s great great great great great grandparents, circa 1850 AD.

      Imagine reading that.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        Well, I’m just saying that Bob’s argument, if valid, would imply that we should give up on any endeavors that we’ve expended a lot of effort on and haven’t succeeded on yet. I’m not saying that conclusion is correct.

      • Tel says:

        You do understand there’s still slavery today?

        No need to bother going back to grandparents or anything.

  2. David R. Henderson says:

    Are there really many libertarians who advocate that we wage another War for Independence?

    • Major.Freedom says:

      One does not have to be firing a gun before one can be a participant in war.

      Libertarianism is a war against the war against individual liberty.

      Pen or sword.

  3. Vitor says:

    I think it’s more about consistency and the argument itself.

    Condensed, I think Bob is saying that some libertarians claim something like “We should oppose the wars on drugs and poverty because they’ve been costly and ineffective, but we should support another war for independence because despite it having been overall ineffective in the past.”

    You can’t have it both ways, logically; either the ineffectiveness of the expenditures on a “war” is sufficient cause to condemn it, or it isn’t.

    • Major.Freedom says:

      Why not necessary but not necessarily sufficient?

  4. Andrew_FL says:

    The War on Drugs is a war with which we are all forced to be complicit-it’s waged by a state against the people, using the people’s money.

    A Second (well, Third, actually, the title of “Second War for Independence” is usually reserved for the War of 1812) War for Independence, would be a war in which people can choose their side, and it would be a war of the people on the state.

    Your Facebook friends aren’t quite as crazy/inconsistent as you think.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      And a lot of libertarians smoke pot but don’t wear red coats. So clearly their standard arguments for opposition to the drug war and embrace of the war for independence are totally consistent.

      • Tel says:

        You miss the obvious Bob, people generally get away with smoking a bit of pot, and sympathy for light recreational use of soft drugs is fairly high in the general (not particularly libertarian) population.

        If the same guys put on some red coats, took up rifles and declared a revolutionary war they would get very badly beaten and very quickly. No one wants that, so they don’t do it. Sensible people don’t recommend it.

        This is known as “picking your battles”, which is an absolutely fundamental part of warfare. Read Sun Tzu: know your enemy and know yourself.

  5. JimS says:

    DR. Bob, you mentioned this in passing a couple of years ago and I asked how you thought the War for Independence could have been avoided or at least a lot less violent or more in line with your pacifist views.

    I believe there was a period after the French and Indian War when few British soldiers were in the colonies and perhaps that was the time to act, but hind sight is 20/20. There are many things when not appropriately addressed lead on to more catastrophic events. One could say the English Civil War led to the US War for Independence. Some say this in turn led to the Civil War. Recently, some have been saying that Wellington’s Victory at Waterloo led to WWI and II. But when an opportunity is missed, sometimes we must deal with the results.

    How could the colonies have dealt with the Brits non violently? Once the wheels were set turning, could the US have really remained neutral through WWI and II. What is to be done with a Hitler or a Nazi empire if one is not to confront it violently?

  6. Major.Freedom says:

    Murphy’s right.

    The creation and enforcement of the US Constitution legalized violence and coercion on a massive, albeit initially modest compared to today, scale.

    I think Hoppe has the best assessment of “monarchy”.

    Even a little bit of cancer will metastasize.

  7. Tel says:

    The overall rule of war is try not to start one, but if one does start anyway, then make sure you come out on the winning side.

    With the “War on Drugs”, ” War on Poverty “, etc… those were not real wars, they were deceitful propaganda intended to grant exceptional wartime powers for the purpose of a peacetime government implementing its social restructuring agenda. However, even under the criteria of the original propaganda, those “wars” have been lost. The government has been defeated on its own turf, and now must carry the double shame of both starting a war and also losing the war it started.

    On the Fourth of July, libertarians will often say something like, “By going through amazing sacrifices even to the point of death, our courageous forefathers delivered us a free country that we subsequently squandered. Americans today are far less free than the colonials under King George.” Thus, these libertarians urge us to wage another War for Independence.

    I don’t quite see how that last sentence follows from the rest. The past is the past, it happened, you can take time to remember it, or you can just ignore it, but you can’t change it.

    The future hasn’t happened yet, going back to another war of independence might be one possibility amongst many, but remembering the past does not in any way imply that repeating the past is a great idea.

  8. Ben Eng says:

    Doesn’t this just mean that liberty is worth fighting for, while drug prohibition is not?

  9. Z says:

    “Ishn’t zat veird?”

    What is this, Bob? I do not appreciate such callous and inconsiderate racism, sexism, and bigotry towards the German people and their great language. The fact that you had to stoop so low as to degrade and denigrate the great human beings from Germany. As a descendant of people who never lived in Germany, I take personal offense at such statements. I demand an immediate apology or a boycott and embargo will be put in place as soon as I can find others who will want to do so.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Actually z I am quoting Goldmember from Austin Powers III. But the Wiki says:

      “Myers’ imitation of the Dutch accent is not entirely accurate, even though it did attempt to invoke many of the stereotypical mannerisms and intonations of Dutch people speaking English. To some (mainly the Dutch) Goldmember sounds more like he’s from Germany.”

      • Z says:

        Ok, cool. But I have a quota of people I must call racist this week and feign outrage over so I’ll have to find something else in your posts.

      • guest says:

        First, the Austin Powers reference in one of your videos in which you egg Krugman on to take up your debate challenge.

        Then, your Austin Powers reference in your response to another betting challenge.

        Now this.

        You can’t resist him, Mr. Murphy.

  10. Gene Callahan says:

    Nice post.

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