Melding the Immigration and War Issues for Libertarians

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For those who, contra Robert Higgs, recognize that some libertarians are for the war and some are agin', the Volokh Conspiracy's Ilya Somin offers a bunch of reasons for the division, connected to the Milton Friedman/Rose Friedman divide re: Iraq. And one of those reasons is related to immigration:

[A]necdotal evidence suggests that immigrant libertarians are more likely to be pro-Iraq War than native-born ones. So too with Jewish libertarians (who, even if native-born, may have a strong consciousness of their people's oppression by governments outside the US) as opposed to gentile ones, though Milton Friedman is one of many exceptions to the pattern. If you are highly focused on the evils of oppressive regimes and political movements outside the US, you might be more willing to countenance the use of American military power to destroy or contain them than if you have regarded the US government itself as the main threat to your freedom.

NEXT: Stem Cells and Libertarianism in an Unlibertarian World

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  1. While neither an immigrant nor Jewish I still supported the invasion of both Afghanistan and Iraq (bit more reserved on the latter). My support stemmed from a convergence of my study of Islam, my atheism and my Randian influenced view of long-term self interest trumping short to mid-term.

    I suppose that I’m not a pure case, though, as it’s been years since I’ve been a big L and even qualify my little L status these days with adjectives like practical. 2cents.

  2. Many people have commented on the Friedmans’ disagreement on the Iraq war, I don’t think any has called attention to this passage:

    Did he mean there was much less pressure to integrate now than there used to be? Milton: “I’m not sure that’s true . . .” Rose (speaking simultaneously): “That’s the unfortunate thing . . .” Milton: “But I don’t think it’s true . . .” Rose: “Oh, I think it is! That’s one of the problems, when immigrants come across and want to remain Mexican.” Milton: “Oh, but they came in the past and wanted to be Italian, and be Jewish . . .” Rose: “No they didn’t. The ones that did went back.”

    I find that “libertarians” who support the Iraq War tend to also be more concerned about the impact of immigration than those who aren’t, with some exceptions, of course.

    Don’t really know what that means.

  3. So where do you draw the line? What defines nation-building and what is the legitimate toppling of a dictator? In what ways does the dictator have to oppress his people for him to be eliminated? Can you define the difference between something like the war on drugs and arbitrary imprisonment of certain ethnic/religious/political groups? Isn’t the more libertarian approach in cases of oppression to sponsor the local movements working for change? What about cases in which there is no organized/credible resistance? Do you go in and hope to create one(like Iraq?)? How does a more organic, non-state driven approach compare to a more state driven one? Would it have averted the chaos in Iraq by overthrowing the government from the ground up and not opposing the division of the country upon more stable ethnic and religious lines?

    Sorry for the ramble… coffee wearing off… must.. not.. sleep…

  4. Gee, and I thought it was simply that Libertarians are for smaller government except for when they are for bigger government.

  5. I consider myself a libertarian, and have been a Libertarian since well before I could vote.

    I strongly support the invasion of Afghanistan.

    I support the invasion of Iraq.

    I do so on the understanding that one of our gov’t’s very few legitimate roles is to prevent the initiation of force against the people of this country.

    Afghanistan was openly, willingly hosting bin Laden and his merry gang of killers.

    Hussein’s Iraq was providing assistance to al Qaeda.

    By acting against these states, the US Gov’t was acting appropriately to fulfill its responsibilities. And yes, an attack on Iran is, by the same lights, probably justifiable.

    Trying to engage in “nation-building” activities seems quixotic, but relatively unavoidable. Having successfully killed people and broken things, we have some level of obligation to at least try to “un-break” the broken things.

    While al Qaeda and Iran are doing their level best to draw us into a “quagmire,” I do think that we’re making progress, and will be able to leave Iraq in an orderly fashion.

    Simply withdrawing, as the Libertarian Party would have us do, is worse than irresponsible — it would undermine the very goal of the invasion in the first place, as I have little doubt that al Qaeda would take advantage of our departure to set up business openly there.

    Bush has many MANY failings, and I disagree with him on most everything else — but in this one area, I feel like he’s actually doing the job we hired him to do.

  6. I think I have to agree with Johnny.

    So now that the term “libertarian” seems to mean anti-government except for __fill in the blank___ situations, what should those of us who don’t want our blanks filled call ourselves? Besides right, of course.

    Maybe Tim Leary was right – I’m thinking dropping out is the only sane way to go.

  7. Yah. It looks like people like me, chewy, Clean Hands, and a few others will have to go off and become “libertarians” with scare quotes and all. Should I get some tee shirts made?

  8. There are many factors subtle and complex that will cause divisions among humans. One that still fascinates me is how dark-skinned people will be more likely to increase their numbers at a swimming pool after the sun is much lower.
    Here are the important facts to remember:
    Everyone is beautiful.
    Everyone has economic value.
    (Some people still need killin’, granted.)
    War always makes things worse.
    Governments try to incite war.
    War is the health of the state.

  9. I’ll accept “libertarian,” for some of my other views (see the stem cell thread) though I tend to use practical libertarian or some one who merely has libertarian leanings.

    But as for defense, it’s the primary reason to have a govt. I’ll admit i’m not an anarchist. After tossing the idea around in my youth, it became clear that in an anarchist society, private defense business would develop. Given human nature and the nature of the product, an arms race would ensue leaving a single provider with a monopoly of violence eventually. That would be a defacto minarchist govt.

    I can appreciate that others might disagree with the nature of threat or extent of defense necessary (to pre-empt and when), and therefore may not agree with my support of our current excursions, but I disagree that a public defense is on the same level as public education.

  10. “After tossing the idea around in my youth, it became clear that in an anarchist society, private defense business would develop. Given human nature and the nature of the product, an arms race would ensue leaving a single provider with a monopoly of violence eventually.”

    chewy,
    Are you describing Earth’s only superpower? Is it a government?

  11. No, I’m saying go ahead and take it. You don’t need the scare quotes. Besides, the name has too much connotation with blue pagans anyway. I’ll just find something else, because I can’t really call myself a libertarian if I have to explain that I’m not like you (no offense, of course). What’s the new name for people who think government is just another religion? Political atheist?

  12. Anarchism is ridiculous; who then prevents the initiation of force? In anarchism, I shoot you. Who decides if I am right or wrong? Who puts me in jail? In the words of Ayn Rand: Blank-out.

    Anarchism is just politically lazy; it gives you the knee-jerk reaction to be opposed to all things government, instead of vigilantly and actively ensuring that your government stays within its proper bounds.

    Someone explain to me how anarchism does not result in absolute chaos and civil war, and then I will buy it.

  13. “Anarchism is ridiculous; who then prevents the initiation of force? In anarchism, I shoot you. Who decides if I am right or wrong? Who puts me in jail? In the words of Ayn Rand: Blank-out.”

    Ayn Randian,
    Anarchism is like fire-retardant on your trap-door, footed jammies: It keeps breakouts of combustion minimal.

    Nobody EVER did prevent the initiation of force.
    Who gives a shit about “right or wrong”? Why do you need to go to jail?
    You are a secret Dr. Strangelove when it comes to your government. You have learned to grab your ankles, relax and love it.

  14. Politicallly lazy! Bingo. That’s what I must be. I want politicians so lazy they don’t do anything.

    “Someone explain to me how anarchism does not result in absolute chaos and civil war, and then I will buy it.”

    Nah, don’t really feel like it. I’m just looking for a title I can call myself at coctail parties.

  15. Ruthless wrote: Some people still need killin’

    Under your system, who does “the killin'”?

    Is there right and wrong to you? If I kill you, am I punished? Under an anarchic society, my private protection force can beat up your private protection force, so when you die (thanks to me) I get off scot-free!

  16. See, Ruthless? If it wasn’t for God…er, I mean government, we’d have people killing eachother, instead of the violence free society we live in now.

  17. “Is there right and wrong to you? If I kill you, am I punished? Under an anarchic society, my private protection force can beat up your private protection force, so when you die (thanks to me) I get off scot-free!”

    You are asking trivial questions.
    The larger question is what will prevent WWIV? Certainly not governments.

  18. Happy-go-lucky-ist? Snarkocrat? I-don’t-bend-over-any-farther-than-I-have-to-arian?

    Hey, has anyone noticed how much Nick Lachey looks like a young Kurt Russel? The movie, Used Cars just started, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

  19. “Hussein’s Iraq was providing assistance to al Qaeda.”

    Um, no.

    And to all the other pro-war folks: How do you intend to pay for these wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and whoever else President Cuckoo Bananas has on the agenda? And how do you intend to provide checks against the erosion of civil liberties at home in these wars?

  20. You are asking trivial questions.
    ??????

  21. Conservatives and pro-war libertarians who stress that defense is a legitimate function of government have not made a prima facie case that Iraq posed a threat to the United States.

    The libertarian doctrine of defense specifically opposes the concept of pre-emptive action – who shoots first is the aggressor.

    The Hussein regime did commit aggression against the people of Iraq, and they had a right to overthrow him. It is pretty clear that any government in Iraq is likely to commit aggression against the Iraqi people – read the newspaper for documentation.

  22. “Anarchism is just politically lazy.”

    Ayn Randian,

    And I could just as easily state that minarchists are hopelessly naive to think that government can ever truly be “limited.” (And if the U.S. is your example of a “limited” government then I think you’ve lost the argument already.)

    Look, you may not agree with the anarchist arguments (and I grant that the national defense argument is the strongest point the small-government types have in their favor) but calling anarchists “politically lazy” is, well, just lazy.

  23. I respectfully disagree, matt. Politically lazy meant (to me) that you’re not willing to actively involve yourself in the political realm. You would like for everything to go hunky-dory without your involvement; that is, anarchy is just the default position, and you can whine “oh no, government is wrong” without having to actively think or restrain your government. As Jefferson said, we should be “ever vigilant”.

    Matt, personally, if you’re not a miniarchist or an anarchist, to what libertarian philosophical point do you ascribe?

  24. Gene,

    I think you’re either misstating things or being a bit disingenuous. The admistration alone gave twenty different reasons for invading Iraq between 09/01 and 10/02 according to this woman’s thesis:

    Uncovering the Rationales for the War on Iraq: The Words of the Bush Administration,
    Congress, and the Media from September 12, 2001 to October 11, 2002

    I’m sure you could find others if you skipped around the conservative, libertarian and even liberal blogosphere archives. Now you can say that you find one, any combination or all unconvincing, that they don’t meet a burden of proof, but it’s a stretch to say that their totality doesn’t at least make a prima facie case.

    As for your statement on the libertarian doctrine of defense, I think you’ve overstated things here as well. I’m not sure how much libertarian cred the Objectivist Center’s people have, but this gentleman seems to differ with your assessment.

  25. Ehh. So one of the Volokh Conspiracy’s Soviet-emigre hyper-Reaganites sees the Iraq invasion as a heroic stand against tyrrany and takes a cheap, kinda insulting slap at anyone who disagrees with this view (“..you might be more willing to countenance the use of American military power to destroy or contain them than if you have regarded the US government itself as the main threat to your freedom”).

    A book could be written on this phenomenon. I’d sooner say that the Volokhian/Cathy-Youngian school of Soviet emigre is sometimes blinded by an uncritical faith in an idealized United States.

    I know it’s sometimes hard for homo refusenikus to believe, but American liberals, moderates, pacifists, Greens, antiwar libertarians and whatever else are generally patriotic and consider themselves so. The GOP is not the baseline of American-ness. Opposition to this war needn’t have anything to do with an antipathy for “America”.

    It’s possible, even I daresay common, for a libertarian comfortable with aggressive military action in the service of overthrowing an oppressive regime to simply think the Iraq invasion was not only stupid, but would also leave Iraq less “liberated” than it was under its dictator. A reflexive hostility toward the US federal government needn’t even be a factor, despite what people whose entire political worldview is shaped by an antipathy for the Soviet government think. Talk about projection!

    Incidentally, and unfortunately, there are worse things than militarily blunted police states with electricity, running water and steady food supplies. Failed states engulfed in sectarian civil war, for one.

  26. The war may or may not be moral, although I doubt it. It may or may not be good public policy, although I doubt it. What I do know is that you have no right to wage war with my money. You want it, you pay for it yourself.

    – Josh

  27. Josh,

    And you have no right to post your comment with my money. Of course, if you’ve managed a way to connect to the internet using no govt subsidized wire or wave anywhere along the way, my apologies, post away, more power to you.

  28. I hate to do this but I’m going to interrupt the merry fueds with a comment that’s on thread.

    [A]necdotal evidence suggests that immigrant libertarians are more likely to be pro-Iraq War than native-born ones.

    My experience is that immigrants in general are more likely to be pro-war in general, than the American born. Especially Asians.

    My wife’s family is Vietnamese, immigrated about 1990. They all like Bush because he’s willing to fight.

    you might be more willing to countenance the use of American military power to destroy or contain them than if you have regarded the US government itself as the main threat to your freedom.

    Maybe. But in my in-law’s case, and many other Asian immigrants, I think it’s something a little different.

    If you’ve lived under a highly repressive government — or if you’ve got first hand experience with communism — maybe it gives you a profound respect for the fact that while war is hell, it can in fact be necessary.

    I don’t believe the average native born American has any such experience base to temper their views with.

    Jason,I usually wear a medium.

    HJ,

    I want politicians so lazy they don’t do anything.

    That’s brilliant. Jason, can you write this on our t-shirts?

  29. For t-shirts, while the quotes work well, I vote for using an interrobang.

    &#x203D

    As in:

    libertarian&#8253

  30. An Interview with a neolibertarian intellectual

    Q: What is a libertarian?

    A: A libertarian is anyone who says, “I am a libertarian”.

    Q: Do libertarians believe in small government, nonintervention, and free markets?

    A: Only the radical purists believe that stuff.

    Q: Do libertarians believe in the non-agression principle?

    A: Certainly not the mainstream moderate centrist ones with common sense. Only anarchists believe in non-agression.

    Q: Do libertarians believe in ending the drug war?

    A: A few absolutists that just want to lose elections believe in legalizing heroin.

    Q: Are you a libertarian?

    A: I used to be until I figured out that I am actually a moderate Randian mainstream minarchist reformer with pragmatist leanings shaped by a profound understanding of Wicca and a desire to do real politics and argue with libertarians that I can’t stand. So, yes, I am a libertarian, although I usually vote Republican unless I vote for a Democrat. But don’t try to define me because I am an independent thinker who is willing to compromise.

  31. Adding to my whiny post above, the divide between Rose and Milton Friedman comes out in the very way the perceived the Iraq invasion. He saw it as “aggression” on the US’s part, and she didn’t. That perception itself can be and probably was shaped by each’s individual vision of the outcome. There’s not much to recommend an invasion to “liberate” a country if you think it will liberate the country’s people to set up a theorcracy saddled with a four-way civil war.

  32. Ayn Randian,

    Thanks for clarifying…I misinterpreted your earlier post.

    Personally, I choose not to be involved in politics because I don’t have the stomach for it. But to those who think their inolvement will bring about positive change, I wish ’em the best.
    So call me a pessimist if you want, but I’m not “lazy.”

    As to your anarchist/minarchist question: Sorry for any confusion, but I am anarchist. Normally I call myself a libertarian, individualist, or free-marketer. (When you tell others outside the libertarian movement that you are an anarchist they often assume that you’re a bomb-throwing nutcase or juvenille vandal of some sort.)

  33. Jeez, all you “anarchists” & anti anarchists should take a deep breath & read Bookchins volumes on Anarchist
    societies. the Spanish Anarchists is a good start, not that Im any kinda expert.
    High point in my political life: Having Murray wag his finger at my nose, denouncing me as a Stalinist stooge.
    Jeez, I figgered: If Murray has taken the time to denounce me, that means hes taken me seriously enough to look into what I was doing!
    We dont have to sweat Anarchism: people, by and large, aint smart enough to pull it off. Jeez.
    Old Murray knows what the hell he’s writing about.
    And I tell you what: you learn a lot about a person or persuasion by who its enemies is/are. The people & persuasions lined up in hostile ranks to both are , well, self explanatory. Mutt: no anarchist. Aint smart/selfless enough…..

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