Sunday, July 23, 2006

Idiotarian Libertarians and the Non-Aggression Principle

There's an internecine brawl in progress about libertarianism and war. It began with a post by Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy. It has spread to a post by Jonathan Wilde at Catallarchy, to which I have added my comment. I have written many relevant posts on the subject. (Check out the links here, and see especially this, this, this, this, this, and this.)

A typical "idiotarian libertarian" view of war appears in the first comment about Ilya Somin's post; viz.:

I don't actually understand how someone can call themselves libertarian and be pro-war.

Think about it. Being absolutely against war means being against self-defense. What the commenter means, I guess, is that a central principle of libertarianism is non-aggression,

which holds that "aggression" — which is defined as the initiation of physical force or the threat of such upon persons or their property — is inherently illegitimate. The principle does not preclude retaliation against aggression.

The non-aggression principle -- in the hands of idiotarian libertarians -- puts non-aggression (a means) above the end (liberty). The non-aggression principle works only among those who agree to observe it and to accept an enforceable penalty when they fail to observe it. That’s why it’s barely relevant to domestic affairs and completely irrelevant with respect to international relations.