Friday, September 24, 2004

More about Libertarian Hawks and Doves

A few weeks ago I posted about a piece by Max Borders, "Flying with Libertarian Hawks." Comments by a reader led me to do a followup post.

Borders, too, has been getting mail, so he has followed up with "Sparring with Libertarian Doves." He makes some points that I've made in various posts on libertarianism and war, but he makes them so compellingly that I can't resist the urge to quote:
...It is by virtue of both security and the rule of law that we are both free and united as a people. Sometimes these forces -- i.e. national security and the rule of law -- appear, at times, to come into conflict -- much like human cells and the immune system. But one can't exist without the other.

That is why I find it even more curious that some libertarians advocate a private, decentralized protective apparatus. When such a system is worked out properly, I might be convinced. Until then, I'll pay my taxes and pray that my leaders keep me safe to the best of their judgment, using the best available information....

Now, at the strategic level, critics may be right in saying that the Iraqis may not be able to sustain a liberal democracy. But it will be worth it to find out (despite the bellyaching of anarcho-capitalists who don't want to underwrite such measures). A long term strategy to plant the seeds of liberal democracy in places where serious threats would otherwise fester in the status quo is a necessary evil -- and I should add doesn't require "wholly remaking the social and political order." (I believe that all people prefer freedom to tyranny and the process emergent order can follow after they get some momentum.) And while it may seem un-libertarian to use tax revenues for adventures that some people just don't get is, well, the nature of the beast -- that is, the actions of an imperfect nation-state, doing what it has to do in an age of deadly weapons proliferation and terrorism.

Finally, other libertarians believe that invasions like Iraq run afoul of the rights of those we would attack. Indeed, some critics of my article claimed that my brand of libertarianism "denies a right not to be killed to people who are not liberal democrats or who do not live in liberal democracies." Ultimately, I think rights -- as such -- are conferred by constitutions at home and to a lesser degree by international alliances abroad. Beyond that, human rights are just words we can afford to use when we're certain about our safety. To think otherwise is to be willing to die and expect fellow citizens to die for what are little more than libertarian flights of fancy [emphasis mine: ED].
Zing! Ouch!

I am working on a piece about the viability of the kind of "private, decentralized protective apparatus" espoused by anarcho-capitalists. It will be a doozy. Stay tuned.