A young girl once asked me how I came to be so “anti-government”. I told her that I was first anti-war. I had been anti-war all my life — I was born hating war somehow. Reincarnation perhaps? I came to see that only the modern nation State was capable of the industrialized slaughters we call modern war and so I had to turn against the large States. I became what I thought was a “small government conservative” for lack of better terms in those early days. Then I saw that I was really a minarchist as I only wanted a very “bare bones” government. Later I became aware that all governments are sponges soaking up power and just waiting to take its people to war as “war is the health of the state”; and so, I became committed to free-market anarchy.
With the end of my summer and the freedom to write everyday little notes to my good friends on twitter in this forum upon me, I decided to write a few posts about the thing that has always driven my passions. Yes even more than young wymen in modern swim wear I have been passionate about ending these things we call modern armies and the wars they fight.
Q: Why, in your view, is isolationism an essential tenet of libertarian foreign policy?
That may seem like a very loaded question to the ear of the modern reader since “isolationism” is a very loaded term and “non-interventionism” seems much better, but then, back in ’73, the term was used more simply than today and was just the opposite to “interventionism”. The question might also sound a little odd to some who are not sure that a libertarian society would even have a “foreign policy” unless strict neutrality and free trade with all is a foreign policy. But even with the passage of time, the question remains an important one even if we might ask it with slightly different phrases today.
Anyway, Rothbard answered that question and I quote his answer in part:
A: The libertarian position, generally, is to minimize State power as much as possible, down to zero, and isolationism is the full expression in foreign affairs of the domestic objective of whittling down State power. In other words, interventionism is the opposite of isolationism, and of course it goes on up to war, as the aggrandizement of State power crosses national boundaries into other States, pushing other people around etc. So this is the foreign counterpart of the domestic aggression against the internal population. I see the two as united.
The responsibility of trying to limit or abolish foreign intervention is avoided by many conservative libertarians in that they are very, very concerned with things like price control – of course I agree with them. They are very, very concerned about eliminating taxes, licensing, and so forth – with which I agree – but somehow when it comes to foreign policy there’s a black out. The libertarian position against the State, the hostility toward expanding government intervention and so forth, goes by the board – all of a sudden you hear those same people who are worried about government intervention in the steel industry cheering every American act of mass murder in Vietnam or bombing or pushing around people all over the world.
This shows, for one thing, that the powers of the State apparatus to bamboozle the public work better in foreign affairs than in domestic. In foreign affairs you still have this mystique that the nation-State is protecting you from a bogeyman on the other side of the mountain. There are “bad” guys out there out trying to conquer the world and “our” guys are in there trying to protect us. So not only is isolationism the logical corollary of libertarianism, which many libertarians don’t put into practice; in addition, as Randolph Bourne says, “war is the health of the State.”
The State thrives on war – unless, of course, it is defeated and crushed – expands on it, glories in it. For one thing, when one State attacks another State, it is able through this intellectual bamboozlement of the public to convince them that they must rush to the defense of the State because they think the State is defending them. …
Little has changed since those words were first written. We don’t have a draft anymore, but the sons of the poor often think they have little other choice but to join the military. We have not committed to a full scale land war again as in Vietnam although Iraq was close enough to jog the memory of the Vietnam era vets. The State still tells us that it “is protecting us” by its aggressive foreign policy of antagonizing people all over the world even when it is not murdering their women and children. We have even gotten to the place that we can bomb weddings and funerals to kill civilians and the public accepts that as right and just. We have become Empire.
So what to do? We must educate the young about the horrors of war and we must teach them about morality as that aspect has been lost in the debate somehow. We talk about how productive a given policy or action might be, or how counter-productive it might be, but we don’t seem to be engaging the masses with the simple message that killing people overseas is wrong. Morally wrong. Ethically wrong. We have killed millions of Children for God’s sake! And women; when did it become normal for a civilized nation to blow up a girl’s wedding as part of an occupation?
I think we fight the State at every opportunity. I voted for Ron Paul and rooted for him in spite of my belief that voting is counter productive because I wanted America to hear his anti-war message. And I admit to harbouring dreams of an anti-war Ron Paul in a debate with the murderous president Obama in a nationally televised venue. Ah, that would be sweet!
My advice to you is to fight war at every step. Preach against it when you can do so effectively. Vote for a man running on a anti-war ticket when you can even if you hate voting. My friends, we will never be free until we stop the carnage overseas. For you own sake and that of your children and their children — fight war.
The first step may well be to preach non-interventionism as a foreign policy as that can be sold to people from the far left to the far right even if they don’t believe in our radical libertarian views. Most people can be shown that spending Trillions on killing people overseas who have never harmed us is not the best use of the people’s money. It is bankrupting us financially and morally. Foreign policy may be a winning first move in the intellectual exercise of convincing others that governments are organized evil.