Conversations (1)

(If you want the short answer, scan down to my last paragraph.)

One good thing about the end of the Iraq war and the battle for marriage equality is that while libertarians might claim they were always in favor of both, both are plainly the work of liberals and not libertarians. Libertarians are big on lip service, but very small when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is. Which is why the ACLU is a liberal organization, not libertarian.

As for international interventions, I wish there was a simple ideological answer as to whether to intervene or not. But there isn't.

In the US, we have solved the problem of self-governance through constitutionalism, republicanism, balance of powers, and multiple levels of governance. "Solved" really means found a local optimum: there might well be better solutions. What are we optimizing? Peace, order, individual happiness, middle class, capitalism, and a host of other things.

But there are only the smallest beginnings of such self-governance on a world-wide scale. Much of that is due to the Pax Americana, especially the United Nations. Which is strongly opposed by libertarians because of their isolationist views. (http://libertariananswers.c...) This is actually one of the stupidest aspects of libertarian ideology: of all the institutions that make military interventions, the UN has the most restraints on direct use of force. Even better, the UN generates vast amounts of public information on the state of the world and its problems: you need real information to begin understanding problems. And best of all, the UN provides a large number of conventions that set normative standards for national and international behavior.

So liberals can reject reflexive libertarian opposition to the UN. This doesn't mean UN resolutions are wiser than anybody else's opinion: it just means that the UN overall is a force for good self-governance on the world scale. There are no other credible options.

I don't think liberals and leftists tend to oppose military interventions: I think they consider some of interventions to be good things and other interventions to be stupid and wasteful. And we do all grow tired of the stupid and wasteful ones.

Imagine if instead of invading Afghanistan or Iraq we simply used a drone program, followed by support for insurgencies or governments opposed to our enemies. That would be MUCH less wasteful of lives and wealth on both sides. Both are military interventions, but why choose the expensive one? The big problem with the drone program is that it is secret and has insufficient oversight by the public.

I would love to see some international conventions on tyrannical governments. How to measure the tyranny, and how to undo the tyranny. We were extraordinarily successful after WWII, so we know it can be done: the question is can it be done without a severe war? Well, we know that can be done too from our experiences in India and South Africa.

So, to liberals and leftists, I'd sum it up as: forget libertarians and their simplistic ideology. Libertarians, while professing desire for liberty, only wish to provide it for themselves. Use your empathy to the oppressed, combined with "do unto others" reasoning. Then ask how the blood, sweat and tears costs could be minimized. Then ask if that minimum is more than you would want to pay up front. And then remember that the savings of peace afterwards can be vastly larger than the costs to unseat tyranny. Having Japan and Germany as rebuilt allies and trading partners has been an enormous economic boon combined with an enormous savings on not defending ourselves from them if we had let them be. Those profits and savings are far larger than what we spent on WWII. Isolationism overlooks enormous opportunity costs.
Very simply, libertarians have no use for civil rights. They want their ideas of rights: rights first and foremost to own unlimited property totally free of interference from the state. Up to and including slavery, judging from p 331 <i>of Anarchy, State and Utopia</i>: "The comparable question about an individual is whether a free system will allow him to sell himself into slavery. I believe that it would." David Friedman, a radically different anarchist libertarian also condones some reasons for slavery. When you think about it, there's no reason a private defense agency wouldn't be willing to enforce enslavement of non-customers by its subscribers: there are always situations where slavery is quite profitable, which is why it persists in black markets today.

We laugh at the old Henry Ford saying "You can have any colour as long as it's black." Libertarians actually feel that way about rights: you can have any rights you want as long as they are only unlimited property rights. That deserves a laugh too.

Now, a few might tell you otherwise: the sad little circle of the "Bleeding Heart Libertarians" for example. They are attempting to face the principle that if you have more than one liberty, the liberties conflict. Even if you consider relatively simple liberties such as "freedom to swing a fist" and "freedom from having a nose broken": those conflict and we must somehow choose between them. Both involve control of a person's own body. In order to choose between them, you need some rule. Non-coercion does not do the job: libertarians still allow coercion; the policeman's fist can break your nose for an appropriate reason. Retaliatory coercion sounds OK, until you realize that opens an even bigger can of worms because now you have to judge when it is retaliation and how much retaliation is permissible. The sad thing about the BHL's is that libertarianism provides no way to decide those questions except ad-hoc attempts at philosophy.

Why are they so limited? Ask them "What property rights are you willing to trade off for any other rights?" Usually they will deny any need for more than property rights or they will be stumped: it's not a question they know how to answer. Even Nozick's attempt at a minimal state ran afoul of this problem. If they have an answer, they will not agree on it, because their ideology gives no guidance there. J.S. Mill ran into this sort of problem too with his idea of non-interference, and eventually changed to be more socialist to resolve the problem.

If you allow markets, the preferred libertarian method of deciding issues, to specify rights tradeoffs, you end up with plutocracy or feudalism. The rich dictate either because they own the property or because they own the force. In a capitalist society, your freedoms are over your property: more property means more freedom. You do not have freedom over anything that is not your property (unless it is a commons, and libertarians would privatize those.)

How can one maintain a preference for libertarianism in the face of needs for tradeoffs, such as liberty versus stability or liberty versus equality? As you get to own more, you recognize the need for stability, and you would tend to become more conservative. As you meet more suffering people, you recognize the need for equality, and you tend to become more liberal. To me, if you budge from the freedom position to recognize both the other needs, you become progressive.

The only good way to decide tradeoffs between liberty and other rights (and values) for everybody, such as order and equality, is to exclude markets and dictators from the tradeoffs and rely on democracy. Which is also why libertarianism tends to be antidemocratic. Thus no libertarian support for voting rights beyond "one dollar, one vote".

Libertarians oppose civil liberties organizations such as the ACLU because the ACLU endorses government solutions. That or libertarians subvert civil liberties organizations, as the Koch brothers seem to have done.<sup>*</sup> Even worse (to libertarians), civil liberties organizations attempt to give women, poor and minorities access to the legal and legislative systems. This interferes with the mostly well-off, white, male, straight libertarian privilege to discriminate, subjugate, pollute and plunder.

If I may quote my own FAQ's paraphrase of Anatole France: "How noble libertarianism, in its majestic equality, that both rich and poor are equally prohibited from peeing in the privately owned streets (without paying), sleeping under the privately owned bridges (without paying), and coercing bread from its rightful owners!" That's the vision of civil rights equality for libertarians. If not worse.

*"The Left's Big Sellout: How The ACLU and Human Rights Groups Quietly Exterminated Labor Rights" - http://exiledonline.com/the...