Foreign Policy

What Libertarians Think About War

A bibliography to end all bibliographies.


War—huh! Yeah! What is it good for? 4600-word essays!

Anthony Gregory has published a mammoth bibliographical essay on libertarian opinions about war, covering conflicts from the American Revolution to the present and writers ranging from Mark Twain to our own Matt Welch. The piece is filled with links, and it goes out of its way to include perspectives the author disagrees with. Recommended.

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  1. Because no account of libertarian views on war would be complete without an account of Dondero’s views on World War II.

    1. Why? I thought it was an analysis of libertarian views on war, not libertine ones.

      1. Well, considering his major contributions to the foundations of libertarian thought, Dondero makes two appearances in the survey of libertarian ideas about war–of course.


  2. Great, but what does war think about libertarians?

  3. If they all think the same thing, they’re not libertarians.

  4. “In 2005, Matt Welch at Reason Magazine had an interesting pro-war libertarian quiz as he appeared to be working out these issues himself.”

    I’m not sure Welch was working out these issues himself; it always seemed to me that he had a nuanced view, and at a time when everybody else was arguing in terms of black and white, nuanced views were hard for other people to work out.

    As I recall, Welch was neither for or against the Iraq War, but he was always against the abuse of our civil liberties in the War on Terror, with this awesome post being an excellent example of his opposition to the latter……..cuffed-sui

    1. I haven’t RTFA yet, but the Pro-War Libertarian Quiz was not a working-out exercise, it was an attempt to have the libertarianish types with whom I disagreed define and support their own boundaries. It might be interesting to round up the (mostly hostile) reactions at the time, then check them against the reactors’ enthusiasm for Rand Paul’s filibuster.

      As for the Iraq War, it is true that I was neither for or against in real time, which I now regret. For those few interested, this post contains some discussion about it & relevant links from the time:…..week/#3179

      1. “It might be interesting to round up the (mostly hostile) reactions at the time, then check them against the reactors’ enthusiasm for Rand Paul’s filibuster.”

        People often forget what they thought and when they thought it.

        It would be fun to remind them!

        From six months after we invaded Iraq:…..iraq_x.htm

      2. Matt, sorry if I mischaracterized your development of these issues. I will tweak that for an updated edition.

        BTW, when your quiz came out, I very favorably linked to it on LRC:…../9684.html

      3. Matt, I’ve conspicuously struck the imprecise language and fixed it.

        1. Anthony — Not a big deal at all, but thanks. I have read the full article now, and second Jesse Walker’s endorsement.

  5. Fangio’s F1 Merc for sale

    1. Oooooo! Those cars are so fucking cool! An Auto Union wold look really good in my…living room.

  6. I reject the construct that noninterventionism=pacifism, and if dogmatic pacifism is a requirement for being a libertarian then I guess I’m not one. Nor would many be. Exercising severe restraint on the use of force is not a rejection of all force in all circumstances.

    Pacifism is every bit as much a utopian flight of fancy as socialism. Bad people do exist, and sometimes it’s necessary to fight them. The fact that the instances of legitimate self-defense are few and far between, and that few of our projections of military force are truly justified, means nothing more than that there were plenty of times when we made the wrong choices.

    But I’m sure this is an indication of WARBONRZ!!1! or something.

    1. Actually, the essay distinguishes noninterventionism from pacifism?hence the description of an article as taking “a strong and somewhat novel argument against strict pacifism while adhering to a very hardcore antiwar position.”

      1. The essay linked is huge and I’ve barely been able to scratch the surface of it, so I didn’t see that bit yet. As a lot of people are prone to do, so far I’ve only zeroed in on the things I disagree with, so shame on me as far as that goes.

        I guess I fail to see the practical distinction between a “very hardcore antiwar position” and pacifism. Seems semantical to me, but I suppose I’ll find out when I get to the article in question.

        1. radar, a lot of people have seemed to do that with this essay. I also distinguish between different kinds of pacifism. This is part polemic, but it tries not to be for the most part.

          In my personal case, I don’t consider myself a pacifist, but I do oppose all state wars.

          1. While I disagree with some of what I’ve seen of your essay, I can’t say that you don’t give all sides of the issue a voice, so kudos to you for that. Look forward to being able to read it in full later.

    2. if dogmatic pacifism is a requirement for being a libertarian then I guess I’m not one

      Only John and Cyto’s straw men say it is.

      Non aggression doesn’t mean you can’t use force in response to aggression.

  7. That thing about the Fangio car pisses me off because they don’t specify who owns it now. And I think five million pounds is a serious lowball estimate.

  8. Bad people do exist, and sometimes it’s necessary to fight them.

    This is true. But I do not believe we should be actively seeking out people who present no actual direct threat to us.

    1. You don’t understand. Those dirt farmers who are setting up IEDs on the road in Afghanistan? Well, if we don’t fight them there we will be fighting them here. Those people, despite their living in abject poverty, will find a way to deliver weapons of mass destruction stateside. It’s true. Just ask John or Cyto.

    2. And I agree with that, which is why attacking Afghanistan in 2001 is something I still think was the right move, while attacking Iraq and staying in Afghanistan for a decade was foolish.

        1. I would think a guy named Darius would see the logic in occupying troublesome countries.

          1. Error 404 – Tyrant not found

          2. Who would’ve thought a bunch a long-haired homos with pretty cloaks could stop an entire army?

  9. Do you know how to write an annotated bibliography? Here is a good tutorial for you.

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