Wednesday, 26 July 2006

Cue Card Libertarianism - Pro-Liberty, not Anti-State

Libertarians are not anti-state, they are primarily pro-liberty -- we define ourselves by what we are for, not what we are against. In the current state of the world, that difference makes all the difference in the world.

Pro-liberty libertarians understand that freedom in the political context means freedom from physical coercion, and in order to protect themseves from physical coercion individuals have the right to self-defence, to the use of retaliatory force. In order to bring this use of force under objective control, and to bar the initiation of physical force, governments are a necessity -- agencies, that is, that hold a monopoly on physical force in a given area. The job then is to tie up governments to do just this job, which is the reason constitutions were invented.

In the words of Ayn Rand: "A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control." To pro-liberty libertarians, this is the underlying purpose of governments, and the means by which liberty is assured. It is only by this means that the libertarian non-agression principle can be enforced, ie., that no person should initiate force aginst any other.

There are 'anti-government' and 'no-government libertarians' about however: they are more accurately called anarchists, or even anarcho-capitalists -- or as Ayn Rand used to accurately call them, "hippies of the right." Right on. You can find such types at sites such as AntiWar.Com, and LewRockwell.Com -- sites inhabited respectively by pacifists, who renounce the right to national self-defence altogether (it is national self-defence that causes all wars they will tell you), and by antediluvians (who frequently maintain that Abraham Lincoln was a Nazi and that the southern slave states should have won the Civil War).

Anarchism in either form is not pro-liberty; it does not bring force under objective control -- it cannot ensure the universality of the non-agression principle, or of any principle. Instead, at best, it simply sets up a market for competing forms of force.

Such a market can presently be seen in the suburbs and villages of Somalia and Lebanon.

There is one main area in which the difference between pro-liberty libertarians and anti-state anarchists is tragically apparent: Defence. Pro-liberty libertarians realise that to protect their citizens, governments must run credible defence forces that can protect against foreign invasion or interdiction. This is a legitimate role for governments: to uphold as Lindsay Perigo says, "the right to life, to liberty and the pursuit of one's enemies" when those enemies have designs on your life.

Anarchists however just wave their hands around and pretend this isn't necessary. Murray Rothbard for example, the godfather of modern anarcho-capitalism recognised that an anarchist society could not provide such a credible or unified force, and rather than dismissing as absurd his devotion to anarchy, he instead embraced the absurd by arguing it wasn't even necessary.

Rothbard's rationalistic devotion to his anti-state views led him to claim -- at the height of the Cold War -- first, that there were "no external threats to the US"; second, that what looked like a clear threat, the Soviet Union, was in fact "devoted to peace"; and third the real villain of the Cold War was in fact the United States, who was "more warlike than even Nazi Germany."

Not just bizarre, then, but disgraceful. This is the man who "rejoiced" at watching what he called “a particularly exhilarating experience: the death of a State, or rather two States: Cambodia and South Vietnam….” You might care to know, as Murray didn't, that between them the deaths of those two states led directly to the deaths of about five million human beings. As Tom Palmer says on this episode"it matters which state replaces which."

It sure does.

As I said at the outset, given the current state of the world and the many very real external threats to human beings from terrorists and Islamists, the difference between being pro-liberty and being anti-state has never held more implications for the future of liberty around the world, and for our civilisation that is based on that liberty.

The anti-state anarchist must of necessity deny the existence of any real threat, and instead simply blames The Warfare State (the repository of all evil) or America ("more warlike than even Nazi Germany") for all the evils that exist. The pro-liberty libertarian however understands that this is nonsensical; that for liberty and civilisation to exist and be maintained, it is right to hunt down the bloodsoaked enemies of liberty and freedom who say they love death and who wish to inflict it on us.

Given the current state of the world then, the difference between being pro-liberty and anti-state may just be the difference between liberty and death.

LINKS: Cue Card Libertarianism - Force - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism - Government - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism - Constitution - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism - Freedom - Not PC
Cue Card Libertarianism - Anarchy - Not PC
Apologetics for 'Death of a State' - Tom Palmer

War, Cue Card Libertarianism, Libertarianism, Politics-World, Israel


  1. Richard McGrath26 Jul 2006, 13:42:00

    That's an important distinction to make - whether one supports a minimalist state, or no state at all. It was sad to read the quotes from Rothbard, as the first book I bought on libertarianism was Rothbard's "For A New Liberty". However he is definitely in the anarchist camp and his remarks on Soviet Russia and South East Asia are inexcusable.
    As for Abe Lincoln, I think the antediluvians still have a point. He was a military dictator who abolished habeus corpus, suppressed free speech and introduced income tax during his presidency. He also didn't give a shit about the plight of the slaves in America until it was politically expedient to do so.

  2. Re Lincoln, I tend to agree, Richard.

    The north was also stagnating under business tariffs, whereas the south was organising its own free trade agreements with other nations.

    Abolishing slavery was the politically convenient reason for the Civil War, whereas the real reason was economic power - which the southern states had.

  3. I believe there is a difference between government and "The State." Government can be voluntary and manifest itself in the form of self government, family, church, among other voluntary associations. The state on the other hand, is little more than a group of individuals granted the privilege of the initiation of force. I believe government is necessary and that utilized properly it would prosecute the individuals of the state for their violations of negative rights.


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