August 16, 2006

Letter to the Paper LIII

Just added this to the "purge the pro-war libertarians" thread over at qando. Libertarianism is a small enough tent already that it certainly shouldn't schism over war policy.

The fundamental problem of libertarian foreign policy is that there is anti-libertarian repression inherent in the current international system (westphalianism). Westphalian sovereignty means, among many good things, that one guarantees to repress your own population that wants to cross borders and deal with a foreign tyrant who has personally wronged them or at least wronged their sense of justice. This is why we regularly patrol our cuban-americans to make sure they're not going to assassinate Castro or invade Cuba and why we had persistent problems with the UK over US support for the IRA. There is no nice, neat solution for this from a libertarian perspective.

If you let the private groups go redress their wrongs, you end up with foreign squads over here making war in the US on behalf of dictators who are scared spitless of free men who have the resources to overthrow them. If you repress the private domestic groups, you're giving vital support to profoundly anti-libertarian evil regimes. So how do you square the circle?

For the Iraq invasion supporting segment of libertarianism, you support the invasion and try to end the problem's recurrence by pitching in on nation building, advocating as much private involvement as possible. If you're against the invasion you... what? Do you just whistle past the graveyard and try and pretend that this sort of repression isn't a major contributor to the persistence of dictatorships these days?

As a condition for avoiding perpetual war, we engage in some serious repression of liberty minded people. It's a pretty stable tradeoff and we're *very* socialized to accept it but the consensus is breaking down, not least because Al Queda and co is making a frontal assault on that westphalianism.

Westphalianism is obviously not going to last. It's doomed by technology that provides sub-national groups and even individuals with power levels that used to require at least a small state. At most, a holding action is necessary until we come up with something better. So the choices are to either allow Al Queda to win and push us back to a pre-westphalian state (a state where the islamic caliphate had distinct advantages) or we need to create a post-westphalian consensus that takes into account the new technological reality but uses that as a springboard to improve the old order. The neo-libertarians have an answer. I'm trying, but not seeing any serious alternative to that answer coming from other strands of libertarianism.

That doesn't make other strands of libertarianism verboten or purge worthy. It just means that they haven't gotten around to dealing with this question. But it certainly means that those other strands have no cause for purging the one strand that does have an honorable libertarian solution for one of the crucial policy questions of our time.

Posted by TMLutas at August 16, 2006 07:44 AM