Libertarian Pacifism: A Pacifism by Any Other Name Wouldn’t Smell as Sweet

Note:  This post is not aimed at all Libertarians.  There are some Libertarians who are not pacifist.  I am only discussing those who advocate pacifism while hiding behind the Constitution.  I am in agreement with many who state that wars should be declared and stated with a clear purpose by our government; to do anything less and drag a war out longer than necessary is, in and of itself, immoral.  This post isn’t meant to be a discussion on war-gaming.  It is, instead, a philosophical post.

Ayn Rand correctly identified the source of all conflicts in the world when she said:

Wars are the second greatest evil that human societies can perpetrate. (The first is dictatorship, the enslavement of their own citizens, which is the cause of wars.)

As long as there are societies on earth who endorse collectivism or dictatorships in any form, whether secular or theocratic, then there will always be wars.  Collectivism is any system of governance defined as that which demands the sacrifice of the individual to the collective with altruism (or in some cases simply the psychosis of its dictator) as its justification. 

My inspiration for this post came after reading an article entitled Glenn Beck’s Lincoln Contradictions by Thomas J. DiLorenzo.  Mr. DiLorenzo utilizes the term “Neo-con” quite a bit.  I want to state upfront that the proliferation of all these new terms, Neo-Con, Neo-Liberal, Neo-Keynesian, Neo-Communist, Neo-Fascist, are simply attempts at continued muddying of the real argument which is between collectivism vs. individualism.  That is the only descriptive consideration that matters when discussing man’s inalienable right to be free; the rest is simply meant to confuse people’s minds and complicate the issues.

Let’s be frank–there is no discernible difference between Libertarian pacifism and Left-Wing pacifism.  Pacifism is pacifism and the justifications for it no matter from which group it arises are equally misguided.  Ayn Rand had this to say about pacifism:

The necessary consequence of man’s right to life is his right to self-defense. In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. All the reasons which make the initiation of physical force an evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral imperative.

If some “pacifist” society renounced the retaliatory use of force, it would be left helplessly at the mercy of the first thug who decided to be immoral. Such a society would achieve the opposite of its intention: instead of abolishing evil, it would encourage and reward it.

Leftists justify their pacifism usually by intoning their committment to peace.  Peace cannot be achieved by the absence of all conflict.  It can only be achieved by the destruction of all collectivism.  Human existence is defined by conflict; the hiring of one person over another who is better qualified, the victory of this hockey team over that hockey team, the victim of a robbery or rape who pulls his gun against his victimizer in order to defend the value which is his or her’s continued existence.  Those who wish to pretend that in order to live one’s life by trying to ignore conflict simply because they don’t like it–will never learn how to achieve the greatest value of all which is their life and by default their happiness. 

Pacifist Libertarians tend to justify their pacifism on the grounds that all cultures are equally valuable and have the right to exist on their own terms without interference from other cultures.  However, the notion of multiculturalism is equally flawed in its premises.  The idea that all cultures are equal in their value necessarily demands that you therefore believe all collectivist cultures have value.  You cannot claim, as many Libertarians do, to stand for individual freedom while at the same time trying to justify the existence of collectivist cultures; that is called “wanting to have your cake and eat it too.”  That is a demand reality imposes on any individual who wants to stand for individual freedom.

From the article Diversity and Multiculturalism:  The New Racism at The Ayn Rand Institute:

Advocates of “diversity” are true racists in the basic meaning of that term: they see the world through colored lenses, colored by race and gender. To the multiculturalist, race is what counts—for values, for thinking, for human identity in general. No wonder racism is increasing: color blindness is now considered evil, if not impossible. No wonder people don’t treat each other as individuals: to the multiculturalist, they aren’t.

Advocates of “diversity” claim it will teach students to tolerate and celebrate their differences. But the “differences” they have in mind are racial differences, which means we’re being urged to glorify race, which means we’re being asked to institutionalize separatism. “Racial identity” erects an unbridgeable gulf between people, as though they were different species, with nothing fundamental in common. If that were true—if “racial identity” determined one’s values and thinking methods—there would be no possibility for understanding or cooperation among people of different races.

Some ask, “What about America’s melting-pot?  Isn’t that multiculturalism?”  No.  It’s not.  America was devised by its Founders to elevate the individual over the government.  All other nations throughout history elevated the government over the individual.  Freedom of the individual over the government provides a country where all men, of all cultures, backgrounds, and religions come to be free “as individuals” within the American culture of individual freedom.  Can they uphold their roots and honor and celebrate them?  Absolutely.  But, America is not defined by those various cultural roots–she is defined by the individual which is, in and of itself, a “culture.”

I will agree with Mr. DiLorenzo’s statements, as well as Ms. Rand’s statements, that many times war is used to justify the theft of liberty by a nation against its own people.  He says:

Of course, all of this high-handed talk about the Republican Party supposedly being “the party of great moral ideas” is also a convenient smokescreen for the economic greed that is its real motivation, and has been ever since the party first gained power. As Rothbard further explained: “On the economic level, the Republicans [in 1860] adopted the Whig program of statism and big government: protective tariffs, subsidies to big business, strong central government, large-scale public works, and cheap credit spurred by government.” It hasn’t changed much since.

I am in complete agreement with this assessment; both parties are guilty of crony capitalism which is the politically correct term for Fascism.  The only difference is–the Democrats are more open about it while the Republicans like to pretend they are not engaged in it.  Presidents Wilson, FDR and George W. Bush, to name a few, were all guilty of growing government under their administrations during a time of war.  I have no argument with that assertion.  What I do challenge is the notion that a  nation’s citizens cannot demand limited government at home, which necessarily entails separation of the state and economics for the same reasons and same purpose we have separation of church and state, while at the same time protecting itself from threats over-seas.  Many Libertarians say that’s what they want too but then reveal themselves by saying the phrase “protecting itself from threats over-seas” means “bring the troops home from everywhere and cease and desist active conflict”.  Yes.  That’s called “pacifism”.  If you are not actively fighting but instead you are sitting on your weapons–that is pacifism.  If your enemy has already declared war (which the Islamists have) and you are not acknowledging the need to fight back actively–that is pacifism.  If you are not fighting–you are being “passive.”     

What complicates America’s situation is–we are not living in a fully free society under true laissez-fair capitalism.  That is the reason we keep growing government every time we find it necessary to wage a battle against collectivist threats from elsewhere.  I submit, it most certainly is possible to have and maintain limited government and fight necessary wars against collectivists who threaten their free-state neighbors.  The pacifist Libertarians promote the false premise that war must necessarily equal big-government.  These are mutually exclusive concepts; they are not dependent on each other for their existence–necessarily.  A free-nation can remain an economically free nation under laissez-faire capitalism and fight a war to defend itself; the keyword is defend —in other words–not subjugate–which is what tyrannical nations feel it necessary to do against their neighbors when losing their grip on power.  The promotion of the idea that a free nation engaged in a war to defend itself will necessarily result in the growth of its government–is simply a false premise.  Whether that free nation’s leaders grow government or not is another matter entirely and those issues can be dealt with apart from the issue of war itself.

Another aspect that is problematic for America is that we have spread ourselves too thin.  I am in complete agreement with most Libertarians who assert we have too many troops stationed in too many areas of the world where we should no longer be; the Middle East is not one of them, however.  There is no discernible difference between Adolph Hitler, a secular collectivist, and the collectivist theocratic tyrants of the Middle East.  Hitler was driven by national socialism and his irrational hatred for the Jews.  The collectivist theocrats of the Middle East are driven, not only for their hatred of Israel (take note also a free-society–though with a similarly mixed economy like the U.S.), but also by the notion they are doing the will of their God by fighting the infidels for the purpose of creating the conditions of the return of the Twelfth Imam.  Libertarians often state that the Islamists hate us because we are “occupying their land”–but, they rarely, if ever, address the theocratic reasons the Islamists give us in their own words as to why they are fighting us.  Usually the Libertarian will just say, “Those are just words” or “That’s just an excuse”.  Ironically, those are the same excuses the Left-Wing pacifists give in regards to their reasons for upholding pacifist ideas.

All collectivist societies need war to uphold their control on their populations.  That is why it is so imperative that America beat back the march towards statism in our own country and restore true laissez-fair capitalism as opposed to the mixed disaster we currently employ.  If America’s leaders are indeed using war as an excuse to uphold crony capitalism then that is an issue we as citizens need to confront them with; it doesn’t necessarily translate into “therefore, we can’t fight necessary wars anymore.”  From Ayn Rand:

Observe that the major wars of history were started by the more controlled economies of the time against the freer ones. For instance, World War I was started by monarchist Germany and Czarist Russia, who dragged in their freer allies. World War II was started by the alliance of Nazi Germany with Soviet Russia and their joint attack on Poland.

By no means am I implying that it is the duty of America to transform all of the collectivist societies of the world into bastions of free-market capitalism–no matter how appealing that notion may be.  In fact, that is the only way there ever will be peace in the world–the supremacy of free capitalist societies upholding freedom of the individual.  What I am saying, however, is that it is the duty of the American government, indeed it is the one primary duty of any government of a free-society, to protect its citizens from collectivist tyrants who now need to turn their attention to warring with the free-societies around them in order to maintain their power and hold over their own citizens.  By no means am I even suggesting that the citizens of our country who do have problems with armed conflict from a moral or religious perspective should not be allowed to reserve their tax dollars from being used for that purpose just as those who don’t approve of abortion shouldn’t be forced to have their tax dollars used for that purpose.  However, we do not have that ideal system at the moment and that is a discussion for another time.

Pacifism is driven by guilt over the necessity of justifiable war.  It is an unearned guilt.  Many people are driven in their objection to war by the deaths of “innocent” people.  The truth of the matter is, any “innocent” deaths created in the Middle East by America and it’s allies–i.e. other free-societies–are not on the heads of America and its allies.  The deaths of those people are on the heads of the tyrannical collectivists who enslaved their people to begin with.  A free-nation, just as a free-individual, has the right to protect itself from the force of others who would impose their tyrannical will.  The death of innocent people in a war is no different than that of a woman stepping between you and the mugger you were aiming your gun at and who happened to get shot in the cross-fire.  The mugger’s death is called justice.  The woman’s death is called an “accident” and the guilt of that accidental death is not on the head of the one defending himself but instead lies with the mugger. Whether tyrannical force stems from a tyrannical dictator against it’s more free neighbors or from a mugger in Central Park against a jogger–is irrelevant.  The morality and ethics of the two situations are the same; and it always, without exception, boils down to the individual over the collective, and since capitalism is the only economic system which upholds the freedom of the individual it is only capitalism that can save the world from the constant threat of war.  From Capitalism:  The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand:

     Observe the nature of today’s alleged peace movements.  Professing love and concern for the survival of mankind, they keep screaming that the nuclear-weapons race should be stopped, that armed force should be abolished as a means of settling disputes among nations, and that war should be outlawed in the name of humanity.  Yet these same peace movements do not oppose dictatorships; the political views of their members range through all shades of the statist spectrum, from welfare statism to socialism to fascism to communism.  This means that they are opposed to the use of coercion by one nation against another, but not by the government of a nation against its own citizens; it means that they are opposed to the use of force against armed adversaries, but not against the disarmed.

It is those who, like our friends Cindy Sheehan and Sean Penn, uphold collectivist economics, socialism, communism, or fascism while at the same time preaching peace.  They hold the incorrect premise that we have wars because various populations are poor or subjugated by the more free societies.  Free societies under laissez-fair capitalism have no “need” for war since their citizens and government have plenty of creative fuel on which to draw derived from the very freedom of its citizens.  It is Cindy and Sean who are the hypocrites.  It is they who want to “have their cake and eat it too.”  Reality, from a philosophical perspective, cannot and will not ever allow opposing ideas to occupy the same philosophical space.  They want peace–but, they promote tyranny; and it will always be the reality of that dichotomy that will not let them, in the end, have their way.  It is they who are promoting tyranny.  It is they who stand with the likes of Hugo Chavez.  It is they who, by virtue of what they advocate, are actually continuing that which they say they hate the most–war.

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2 thoughts on “Libertarian Pacifism: A Pacifism by Any Other Name Wouldn’t Smell as Sweet

  1. It all requires a balancing act. We humans want to live as a group or collective because we are first and foremost social animals. However, we also want to have our individuality embraced and honored because we are each unique beings with a unique soul. Simply put, I believe humanity wants to exist as both an individual and a group member – not one or the other, but both.

    The best form of government is a government that enables its citizens to strive for both and to attempt balancing out those two personal needs. We cannot exist purely as individuals, yet we must choose groups according to our own individual needs. That is the best method of balance. I believe this balance ties into the “freedom to assemble” We can choose whether or not to join a group. No one else should tell us we can or can’t.

    The problem with communist, fascist, and otherwise totalitarian societies is that they choose to group or not-group its citizens without regard for their individuality. If they want all its children to join its version of Hitler Youth, then they will make sure all the children do so. If they want to ban religious meetings, then they will want religious meetings. There is no balance between individual and group. They crush free will and individuality to secure governmental power.

  2. Helen:Although the comments have moved fmliry into vegetarianism territory (about which I am unconcerned), the part of your original post that grabbed me was:”People who preach peace in the face of appalling violence deny their aggression and target it at others who are not deserving of it or who are trying to protect them.”In my opinion, most of the current crop of pacifists are not manifesting any form of aggression at all; they are giving themselves permission to evade the responsibility inherent in facing down real evil or muddying your hands with realpolitik. This leaves you squeaky clean with all the moral superiority you crave. You don’t have to solve the problem if you insist there isn’t one or that it’s not your job to address it.I would also be inclined to consider the wonderful, soft life so many us (peaceniks included) have been blessed with here in the USA since WWII, and our society’s loss since then of institutionally positive representations of individual sacrifice at ANY level.Also, when the children actually WON, slaying their Johnson/Nixonian fathers when we skulked out of Vietnam, it set the precedent for many of those same adult children to try to re-experience that battle thru today’s war in Iraq (in spite of demonstratively differing circumstances). Or more bluntly: many peaceniks willfully choose to be babies. Mind you, I’m not saying you have to fight to be a “man,” I’m saying you have to fight to win a battle, and take responsibility for determining when a battle must be fought. If nothing is worth fighting for, you never have to decide — OR fight.And last, I think a lot of icons of peace and non-agression are not well understood by peaceniks. The last 40 years have seen a concerted effort to create & spread respect for Martin Luther King and his nonviolent strategies during the civil rights movement. That’s OK with me, and I’m mostly pleased with the outcomes of that. But peaceniks fail to see that the success of such nonviolent tactics are predicated on the basic decency of the larger community/government/nation witnessing the nonviolent behavior. If you’re dealing with the Anglosphere like King and Gandhi were, it can work. If you’re dealing with ancient Rome, Mohammed, Huns, Celts, Stalin, Mao, Che, Saddam Hussein, etc. they just slaughter you. End of unsuccessful nonviolent protest.Peaceniks who love to point to Gandhi are ignorant of the fact that Gandhi knew this and admitted to it. Neither do such peaceniks realize that many of Gandhi’s “nonviolent” fasts carried with them the implicit threat of staggeringly huge civil strife and slaughter that would issue from his followers should he actually fast unto death. This fact was not lost on the Brits before they pulled out; but it is on peaceniks who point to Gandhi’s methods. Neither do they seem to care that he later became as dogmatically rigid in his prescriptions for nonviolent protest as any bloodthirsty Mao or Pol Pot was in demanding “reeducation” or “great leap forward” or any cleansing thru slaughter. In fact, when asked about the ongoing genocide of the Jews during WWII, his advice to them was to show their superiority to their oppressors by “dying a good death.” Oh, please.I am also reminded of watching A Few Good Men and wondering why I wasn’t as thrilled at Col. Jessup’s takedown as was the rest of the audience. Is this Vietnam and smacking down daddy again? Well, since Rob Reiner was directing I guess my differing from the expected response was prescient. Compare this to a similar takedown of Capt. Queeg in the Caine Mutiny, after which Lt. Greenwald chastised the celebrants, reminding them that Queeg — warts and all — contributed to the existence and continuance of an important American military organization, and had value on that basis alone. “Sophisticated” liberal audiences would have never seen validity in Greenwald’s final speech AFTER Vietnam. Too much like “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” Which, of course, was Col. Jessup’s belief. And mine.Well, I’m not used to pounding out this much copy. I hope it makes some sense.Jack

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