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Two Illiberal and Unjust Zelensky Policies the West Should Force Him to End

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is leading his nation a just cause. But we should not allow him to impose censorship and emigration bans in the process. A nation fighting for freedom must not undermine it.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. March 21, 2022 (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office).


Ukraine is fighting a brutal and indefensible Russian invasion. Their cause is just, and the Ukrainian government is vastly preferable to the sort of puppet regime Vladimir Putin would install if he prevails.  Indeed, from the standpoint of liberal democratic values, Ukraine is far better than Putin's increasingly repressive rule in Russia itself. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky deserves credit for his inspiring leadership under fire.

But these realities should not blind us to the injustice of two deeply illiberal policies enacted by Zelensky in the wake of the Russian invasion: decrees forbidding all men aged 18-60 from leaving the country, and imposing government control over all previously independent TV channels. Zelensky has appealed for increased Western aid on the ground that "we….are fighting for freedom and in defense of democracy together." The two decrees are blatantly inconsistent with those principles. The West should use its leverage to force him to end them. Doing so would simultaneously advance liberal values, and strengthen our position in the conflict against Putin's authoritarian regime.

The exit ban imposed on men has lead to heartrending scenes at Ukraine's borders, as women and children are forced to separate from their fathers and husbands. In addition to the pain and restrictions on liberty imposed on the men themselves, it has also increased the suffering of female and underage refugees, who are forced to make do without them.

Even most liberal political theorists who who believe governments are justified in restricting entry by immigrants generally agree that they are not justified in barring exit. That's one of the reasons why virtually all liberal democrats condemned the Berlin Wall and other emigration bans imposed by communist governments. Zelensky's policy is an obvious violation of that fundamental principle.

The rationale for the travel ban is the supposed need to keep the men in Ukraine, so that they can be drafted into the armed forces, if necessary. Military conscription is itself a grave injustice, incompatible with liberal principles. That's one of the reasons why most liberal democracies have ended it in recent decades. The fact that various liberal democracies practiced it in the past or even today does not by itself prove its compatibility with liberal values. States can fail to live up to their principles, and indeed often do. But even if conscription is defensible in extreme cases where there is no other way to ensure national defense, Zelensky's decree is still unjustified.

Ukraine is not suffering from a shortage of manpower. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians  have volunteered to fight, and Ukrainian military has even had to turn away some of them. Many thousands of foreigners have also volunteered to fight for Ukraine - again to the point that some are being turned away (especially if they lack previous military experience) or forced to wait until weapons become available. Even if a manpower shortage does unexpectedly arise, Zelensky's decree covers vastly more men than could possibly be needed in any remotely plausible scenario.

For obvious reasons, volunteers are likely to be better and more highly motivated fighters than conscripts who serve only because they have been compelled to do so. The poor performance of Russian conscripts in Ukraine is a case in point. In addition, many of the men covered by the travel ban are unlikely to prove to be effective soldiers, for any number of reasons related to temperament, skills, and physical ability. Zelensky's decree goes far beyond any possible conscription-based  rationale, even if the latter were defensible to begin with (which it is isn't).

At this point, Ukraine needs weapons to arm its large numbers of volunteers, not forced laborers. The West should give them as many weapons as possible - but condition at least some of that assistance on Zelensky's ending his travel ban imposed on Ukrainian men. No government claiming to fight for freedom should impose such a cruel and pointless restriction on liberty.

The Ukrainian government's takeover of private TV channels probably causes less suffering. But it is just as illiberal and indefensible. It is a dangerous assault on freedom of speech and press. The government's rationale for this measure is the need to ensure a "unified information policy" in time of war. The justification actually highlights the illiberal and undemocratic nature of the policy. A "unified information policy" is deeply inimical to democracy, which requires an independent media willing and able to question the government line.

Government takeovers of private media for the purpose of forcing it to toe the official line are a classic tool in the incipient authoritarian's playbook. For a textbook example, we need look no further than Vladimir Putin, who started by seizing control of private TV networks, and most recently put an end to nearly all independent media.

Ukraine's media policies - so far - are not nearly as repressive as Putin's. State control is limited to TV channels, and does not extend to print, radio, and internet outlets. But things are obviously moving in the wrong direction. This, too, is a policy the West should force Zelensky to reverse.

The Ukrainian government's human rights violations might be rationalized on the grounds that they are just temporary emergency measures that will be repealed when the war is over. Perhaps so. But history shows that repression begun during emergencies often persists long afterwards. Moreover, the emergency might well continue for a long time to come. Even if large-scale fighting ends soon, Russia and Ukraine might remain in a tense military standoff on into the indefinite future. An emergency situation could easily persist for years on end. And it could be used to rationalize the continuation of these repressive policies - and perhaps others, as well.

Forcing Zelensky to end these injustices isn't just a matter of moral principle. There is a strategic advantage to it, as well. The conflict between liberal democracy and Putin's authoritarianism is a war of ideas, as well as a military and geopolitical confrontation. One of the reasons why Putin invaded Ukraine in the first place is the fear that a successful liberal democracy there might create a dangerous (from Putin's perspective!) example for the Russian people. To prevail in the war of ideas, we need a Ukrainian government that actually lives up to liberal values as much as possible, not one that practices a kid of Putinism-lite.

Foreign policy is an often-sordid business. Sometimes, we have little choice but to put up with illiberal allies, either because we lack the leverage to force them to change, or because the available alternatives to these regimes are even worse. Zelensky's human rights violations are modest, not only compared to Putin's, but also relative to those of such longtime US allies as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

In this case, however, the US and other Western nations have a great deal of leverage by virtue of Ukraine's need for large-scale military and economic assistance, that it cannot get anywhere else. And the alternative to Zelensky with these two awful policies is Zelensky without them! The latter is both politically feasible and clearly superior to the former.

Ukraine's brave resistance to Russian aggression deserves our support. But its people also deserve a government that genuinely respects liberal democratic values. The West can and should use its leverage to help ensure they get it.

UPDATE: I have made a few minor additions to this post.

NEXT: Today in Supreme Court History: April 1, 2003

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  1. Ukraine is not suffering from a shortage of manpower.

    I'm just guessing, of course, but I suspect they might be taking measures to prepare for the possibility that at some point in the future things won't go as swimmingly and they might have a shortage of soldiers.

    1. Please elaborate. What kind of nonsensical situation do you envisage which justifies slavery?

      If the Ukrainian government collapses to the point that its emigration ban has a chance of doing something useful, it will be the Russian puppet government they are fleeing; will you change your tune then?

      1. Zelensky has a military draft, as did we. Our Supreme Court said, not enslavement. What Zelensky must do is send teams of oligarch hunters, and decapitate this failed Russian elite. Putin should live as Saddam did, going to different apartments every night. He should be cooking rice in his underwear to survive these hunter killer Ukrainian teams.

        1. Once WWII started anyone expressing opposition to the US would have been severely reprimanded here.

          1. Dear DaivdBehar: I so much agree with both: it's a military draft and limitations on expression of a political position harmful to the national cause enacted because Ukraine is in the state of, well, how do we call it?.. oh yes, war! - meaning that, at this juncture, Ukraine simply cannot afford the experiment of finding out, in a leisurely academic fashion, what percentage of men aged from 18 to 60 would elect to stay and partake in defense of the nation, and whether every notable player in public media would elect to support the nation or peddle Putin's fibs. H.L. Mencken once observed that, "It is a sin to believe evil of others, but it is seldom a mistake." While Professor Somin has the luxury of playing Zelensky, Zelensky is a tad busy and has no luxury of playing Professor Somin.

        2. It wasn't funny, insightful, or intelligent the last 175 times you said it, either.

          1. David, aren't you a lawyer? Tell me if understand you. You oppose killing national leaders and their oiligarchs because that is illegal. The alternative, breakage of a $trillion and the deaths of tens of thousands working people on both sides is legal and OK with you. You need to STFU. Any lawyer saying killing Putin is illegal in the White House needs to be arrested, tried for treason, and summarily executed.

            1. Tell me if understand you.


        3. We still do have a draft. Rather than eliminating 'selectove service' the recent debates turned to expanding it to include women. Just because we've moved past actively drafting people doesn't mean we've completely eliminated it.

      2. "Please elaborate. What kind of nonsensical situation do you envisage which justifies slavery?"

        I assume you're talking about conscription when you mention "slavery".

        On the other hand, have you ever read the oath of citizenship, (at least for the United States, assume Ukraine has something similar)? There are interesting pieces there " that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law;"

        As a Citizen of Ukraine or any country, are there any duties and responsibilities that come with that citizenship?

        1. You're referring to an oath that the overwhelming majority of citizens are unaware of much less have sworn to.

          1. And yet....people have been denied US citizenship for not being willing to abide by the clauses requiring military service, if so ordered.

  2. I don't look at the Ukrainian conflict and our support for Ukraine as purely a 'pro-Ukraine (and Zelensky),' and "anti-Russia (and Putin),' situation, and instead see it more as an anti-militant imperialism stance.

    That's one thing the US has been good at is we're not imperialists/colonists (well, after taking all the land from native Americans that is).

    We have a global, military presence but have not been inclined to actually make another nation a part of the US or under US colonial rule.

    That's why I don't buy the "Gee you want to save Ukraine but not Syria," BS.

    We're not really in it to save Ukraine, instead we're in it to prevent militant imperialism.

    1. My my! I actually agree with something you said. The end is nigh!

      The evil here is Putin's invasion and occupation, just as it was in 2014 for Crimea. It doesn't matter that both involved Ukraine. What matters is that both involved military appropriation of foreign territory, in violation of both ordinary international law and Putin's own promises to honor Ukraine's borders in exchange for Ukraine giving Russia its nuclear weapons.

    2. Military force isn't the only tool of imperialism we have at our disposal. There are economic methods as well. China's "Belt and Road" initiative is a great example of economic imperialism.

  3. One can absolutely and totally agree with the position that Prof. Somin makes with respect to anti-democratic rules in Ukraine, and at the same time disagree with his post.

    The disagreement with his post is that it is arrogant and offensive for the Ukraine allies to use their leverage in assisting Ukraine's resistance to the invastion of its territory to try and influence internal policy. One thing that unites the American people is the idea that a foreign government can tell us how to act.

    This is not to say we should not voice our objections, but that we recognize that ultimately Ukraine must determine Ukraine policy. In fact, this war is about our rejection of the idea that one nation may impose its will on another.

    1. "I've got this thing and it's f***ing golden."

      - Ilya Somin, contemplating withholding aid unless Ukraine rolls over for his libertarian ideas on the free movement of peoples.

      1. Didn't Trump get impeached for that?

        1. ..but not convicted.

  4. But history shows that repression begun during emergencies often persists long afterwards.

    I think that the tendency of American presidents to declare all sorts of emergencies might be tripping you up here. Which actual war-time measures did you have in mind?

    To take a case in point, I've often quoted Lord Atkin's dissent in Liversidge v. Anderson (1941) in the comments on this blog, in fact often to make the very point that the OP makes here. But the actual law in question there, Defence Regulation 18B, which allowed people to be detained without trial on the mere say-so of the Home Secretary, was repealed in May 1945. Even as the fighting in Asia continued, no one in downtown London had to worry about being arbitrarily detained.

    1. Right. And as intolerable as the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII was, it ended once the war ended.

      I think the following distinctions needs to be drawn:

      1. Policies that are intolerable whether or not we are at war.

      2. Policies that are necessary in time time of that would be intolerable at any other time.

      If a country is facing an existential threat, then it needs to do what it needs to do, so long as once the threat is over, so are the policies.

    2. Well the Clement Attlee layout Government 1945-51 post WW2 government kept civilian rationing until the early 50’s, even proposed that to properly manage the economy they had to assign occupations to people, which was a little to much to get passed.

      But here is what the did do which eventually let to the UK’s near financial collapse until Thatcher rolled back what she could:
      “ To this end, it undertook the nationalisation of public utilities and major industries, and implemented wide-ranging social reforms, including the passing of the National Insurance Act 1946 and National Assistance Act, the formation of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948, and the enlargement of public subsidies for council house building. His government also reformed trade union legislation, working practices and children's services; it created the National Parks system, passed the New Towns Act 1946 and established the town and country planning system.”

      Yeah, the war is over so we need to nationalize coal, steel, shipbuilding, etc.

      1. Yes, I hadn't pegged you as a fan of nationalism. Then again, I'm not either. But what does that have to do with the question of abuse of emergency powers? The Attlee government nationalised half the economy not because there was an emergency, but because they thought it was a good idea regardless.

        1. *nationalisation

          We need an edit button.

  5. I agree that it was unreasonable to impose the level of censorship Ukraine did.

    But as to emigration bans, if you can have a draft in time of war, you can have an emigration ban. And frankly, if there was ever proof Professor Somin’s position would turn constitutions into suicide pacts, this is it.

    It’s a step up from claiming that invading soldiers have to be treated no differently from citizens and must be afforded full due process in a court of law before they can be shot at, which is frankly the logical implication of Professor Somin’s positions. But it’s not a big step.

    1. And I would be very disinclined to impose the kind of presssure Professor Somin is calling for on a country fighting for its life. What is the alternative? Have Russia conquor them?

      1. In Somin's world, "Perfect" is the enemy of "Good".

    2. Apparently the Ukrainians thought it was a perfectly reasonable response to Russian propaganda being broadcast in Ukraine during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But they should have at least checked in here before making any decisions, though.

      1. Hasn't the US been quite adamant about silencing "Russian disinformation" for a while now?

        Social media has been raked over the coals and forced to bow and kneel over it.

        1. And yet recent reviews of Russian disinformation, specifically the US/Ukranian bioweapons lab conspiracy theory, is still rampant on Facebook. They're estimating that Facebook is only managing to get 20% of it. Maybe not so much bowing and kneeling as you let on? I bet they have a lot more scrape left in them.

    3. That was my reaction: What country with conscription in the middle of a war allows draft aged men to freely emigrate?

      Neither conscription nor war are particularly libertarian, but if you're going to oppose them, do so openly.

      I admit that a consistent libertarianism is anarchism, but I've never noticed that you're THAT consistently libertarian. What's next, Ukraine can't deny Russian soldiers their right to life, and has to stop shooting them?

      I've at times called myself an aspirational anarchist; I view anarchism as something we should work towards, even if we can't get all the way there. But this is not the first step in the direction of anarchism any practical person would chose.

      I think it's now clear that you really are a fanatic on this topic.

      1. Aspirational anarchist, or in other words, parasitic hypocrite.

        You enjoy many benefits of our modern society (stable internet/communications, food supply, transportation, banking/finance systems, and the quality/quantity of things our capitalistic society can provide), but wish to degrade and destroy the very safeguards that ensure the viability and security of the systems and processes that provide all these goodies.

        1. When I say that I'm an aspirational anarchist, what I mean is that I am not at all certain that anarchy is practical, (And pretty sure it's not practical under current circumstances!) but I see it as a worthy goal to work towards over time.

          We should, today, get rid of those aspects of government that are positively harmful. Victimless crime laws, for instance. Then work towards devolving back to the private sector formerly private sectors of the economy the government has seized, such as education. And then see if there's some way to privatize or eliminate what we currently consider to be government responsibilities. Keeping in mind there may be some irreducible minimum we just can't get rid of.

          I'm not one of those people who assume that anything the government currently does could only be done by government.

          1. "I'm not one of those people who assume that anything the government currently does could only be done by government."

            You are one of those people who assume that anything the government currently does should not be done by anyone.

  6. Strong 'they'll greet us as liberators' energy here.

    1. Do you mean the whole "... that the West should force him to end" bit? If so, it's the rare occasion where I agree with you

  7. A "unified information policy" is deeply inimical to democracy, which requires an independent media willing and able to question the government line.

    Do you know what else is inimical to democracy? Being conquered by Russia...

  8. Law professors micromanaging a country's response to an existential crisis from thousands of miles away seems like it should work.

    1. Ilya may have a high IQ for book learning. His social and emotional intelligence need special ed.

      1. so you have that in common, then?

  9. I'd want to know more about how Ukrane is controlling independent news media. For example was there Russian Ownership and is Ukrane interfering in normal operations.

    If I recall correctly during WWII Great Britain heavily censored newspapers and there was only the government owned BBC for broadcasting.

  10. Of course Prof. Somin is completely correct on the principles.

    However, there aren't a lot of role models one could tell the Ukrainians to look at. The behavior of other democratic countries during wars with existential consequences, e.g. WWII, has been even more severe that Ukraine's. Essentially all had conscription, and conscripts don't have the right to emigrate. The Ukraine (AFAIK) hasn't set up detention camps for people with 50% or more Russian ethnicity. Technically the US and UK press engaged in "self"-censorship but one can make a good guess what would have happened if they hadn't played along voluntarily.

    None of this means it was right, but realistically Ukraine is unlikely to respond to our leverage, at least until the war is well past its peak.

  11. This post is a great example of why libertarianism is untenable as a "comprehensive" philosophy.

    1. Yup. Libertarianism is lots and lots of beautiful theory that mostly falls flat in actual practice.

      1. Almost all theories do, taken to the logical extremes.

        1. Libertarianism mostly falls flat before it gets out the starting gate, never mind to its logical extremes. When one actually bothers to research it, the cold hard data almost never produces the results that libertarian theory would predict.

          1. Yeah, who needs policies like "Freedom of choice" and "political freedom" and "Freedom of association" .... All bad things that fall flat out of the gate.

            1. "Freedom of choice" covers a lot of ground. Should I have the freedom to choose what I eat for dinner? Yes if I'm in the mood for barbecued chicken, no if I'm in the mood for barbecued human baby. And what I consistently find from libertarians is that they chant "freedom of choice" like a mantra, without actually doing the hard work of applying it to specific cases.

              Ditto freedom of association. I'm fine with it if it means I get to choose whom I will or will not have lunch with. On the other hand, a pedophile might like to associate with a ten year old, which I'm not so fine with.

              Libertarianism is basically a simplistic religion for simple minds. The real world is far more complex.

              1. "no if I'm in the mood for barbecued human baby."
                ...Remember what I said about taking things to logical extremes...?

                " a pedophile might like to associate with a ten year old, which I'm not so fine with."
                ....Remember what I said about taking things to logical extremes...

                "Libertarianism is basically a simplistic religion for simple minds"
                You've basically strawmanned libertarianism into a extreme parody in order to disregard it. You can do that with any philosophy or concept. A more complex understanding is required. But to say it "falls flat out of the gate" while simultaneously saying "Yeah, being able to choose BBQ chicken for dinner is nice"'s a contradiction. Because right outside of that gate for libertarianism IS being able to choose...or not choose...BBQ chicken for dinner.

                1. The extreme examples were to illustrate a point, which is that between no freedom and complete freedom is a lot of ground. So catch phrases like freedom of choice aren’t all that helpful. You have to do a little more case by case analysis than that. Especially since we live in a society in which many of your choices affect other people.

                  1. Sigh...Let's review how this discussion went...

                    K: Libertarianism falls flat in actual practice
                    A: Most ideas do taken to the logical extreme
                    K: Libertarianism falls flat long before any extreme
                    A: You mean like these common ideas of freedom?
                    K: Yes, let me illustrate it by using the extreme versions of these types of freedom
                    A: I specifically mentioned that if you take anything to an extreme, it falls apart. You argued Libertarianism fell flat long before that.
                    K: Yes, I used the extreme to illustrate a point.

                    The only point you've illustrated is that extreme positions fall flat. Which I argued holds true for all philosophies. If you can't demonstrate that Libertarianism falls flat for MODERATE positions, then your position is lost.

    2. What do you think of utilitarianism? One less well known feature is that the proposer must have personally experience what he is proposing. So if you want to kill handicapped babies, you must kill your own baby first. That answers a lot of objections to it.

  12. What's funny is that Ukraine imposing controls on television broadcasts is only different in degree from progressives' demands that the government ban "misinformation," ideally by getting rid of Fox News. And Ukraine is doing it while being invaded and bombarded by a much larger country bent on its destruction, and not simply because it is peeved that it lost an election to Donald Trump.

  13. "Force" them how? They're used to guns now.

  14. So, your thought is that these were not measures implemented in response to a foreign invasion? That the requirement that 18-60yo remain in Ukraine to defend the country during this invasion is meant to be permanent? Heart-rending vids of men staying behind at the border aside, is there any indication that large groups of Ukrainian men would rather be anywhere except staying behind to ensure their families have something to return to?

    What a stunningly silly article.

  15. Fuck Zelensky, Amurica's got it's own problems. What did he ever do for us?

    1. Zelensky is fighting the Hun over there, so we do not have to fight him here. Biden is weak and timid in his support of Ukraine.

      1. I Like the "Hun" and who exactly are you referring to as the Hun?? (Rhetorical, as in Pee Wee Herman Daivd Vehar is more sensbile)
        Don't really think the Red Army's a threat in my Atlanta Suburbs (Almost wish he was, every other Neighbor's a former Army Ranger/Marine)
        Yeah, Biden's a fucking Pussy, always has been, the whole "Corn Pop" story was such Bullshit any other Politician would have been disqualified immediately .
        Still don't give a shit who runs Ukraine.

        1. The biggest threat to the Atlanta suburbs is traffic.

  16. Calculator says "migration good!".

    Somin reports the results.

    1. maybe he enjoys getting fucked up the ass by MS-13 thugs??

  17. Hippies to the contrary, in any given war one side is probably to blame, not both sides. Or at least one side deserves more blame than the other. And here it's Russia who's to blame.

    Though I hardly think the United States should be joining in every defensive war that breaks out in the world. There has to be a national interest. And that includes an interest in not risking nuclear war or bankrupting ourselves more than we already are.

    So to put it crudely, what's in it for the U. S.?

    1. You're too short-sighted.

      There are more than the immediate interests at the end of one's nose (border), and the US has a global-power, strategic interest in ensuring peace and stability in Europe.

      And this is just more than a "Boo War, Yaay Peace" moral thing; it's for (long-term) stability in 24/7 markets, global finances, and international business too.

      1. "it's for (long-term) stability in 24/7 markets, global finances, and international business too."

        Whoa, I asked for realism and boy, did I get it.

    2. Nothing,
      War, huh, yeah
      What is it good for?
      Absolutely nothing
      Ah, ha, ha, ha
      War, huh, yeah
      What is it good for?
      Absolutely nothing
      Sing it again, y'all

  18. Sometimes I have to remind myself that committed libertarians do not believe in American constitutionalism. Somin here objects to activities in Ukraine which the Constitution would authorize in the U.S. under like circumstances.

    Such activities have been practiced during national emergencies in the U.S., and roundly condemned afterward. What has generally not been borne out are predictions that authorized emergency measures will become permanent. The slopes are not slippery because however much emergency measures may be agreed to during an existential national crisis, nobody really likes them. When the crisis ends, so do the emergency measures. That seems to be what the people want, and it seems to be what they get.

    1. 1. Sometimes I have to remind myself that "American constitutionalism" is a term of art meaning "not the written constitution taken literally". And "the Constitution would authorize" is a term of art meaning "a president historians like got away with it".

      2. If the actions were authorized by the constitution, do you think those who "roundly condemned" them afterward were ignorant or lying?

      1. You don't think constitutionally authorized powers can still be "roundly condemned" by those subjected to them? For example, the draft during Vietnam was "roundly condemned."

  19. One advantage of emergency measures often goes remarked. Having them available during an existential crisis enables broader scope for liberty at other times. If a society needed to stick to only one unalterable system of government no matter what, experience would teach it to constrain liberty within a narrower scope—one which would not pose an existential threat during a crisis.

    1. Everyone is about ten steps ahead of you.

      For decades the game hasn't been about emergency powers, it's been about redefining emergency. We've been under some kind of Presidential emergency declaration most of my adult life. We're under something like a couple dozen emergencies right now.

      Which makes your statement completely meaningless. There is no "normal" time and never will be.

      1. First, Wtf are you even talking about?

        Second, an invasion is an emergency no matter in what era you live.

  20. Israel and South Korea both have mandatory military service. As do dozens of other countries. Why don't we see editorials about "enslavement" there?


  21. "Two Iliberal and Unjust Zelensky Policies the West Should Force Him to End"

    And if he refuses, we invade. We have experience invading countries that Russia has already invaded, and it turned out so well for us in Afghanistan...

    1. Or, if he refuses, we stop sending aid and let Russia run roughshod over the Ukranians, who can vote with their feet (very fastly running feet) into the next country Russia will invade.

      1. Trump isn't President any more. We probably won't be using his foreign policy.

  22. "But history shows that repression begun during emergencies often persists long afterwards."

    You mean two weeks to flatten the curve becomes two years to flatten the populace?

    1. Oh the tyranny of the cloth mask. What's next, seatbelt requirements? Wearing clothes in public?

      1. It's just a pittance of earth and water; surely you can offer it up?

  23. Try this one on for size:
    The US should not force any other country to change its policies.

    Maybe not so good to sell here, but in a libertarian rag it should go over well.

  24. It’s always been a traditional and necessary power of government to declare martial law, requisition men, materials, private property, restrict movements in time of war.

    In case of an actual invasion by a foreign power seeking to end your existence as a country it’s usually acceptable to turn it up to 11: burn domestic farms, destroy bridges, roads, blow up factories etc. Summarily Shoot looters, hoarders, deserters, collaborates, etc.

    I’d say Ukraine isn’t anywhere near 11 yet, they are probably about 7.

    I might ask Ilya a question, when the Nazi’s were invading Poland, then Russia, what modest infringements of civil liberties might he have supported to stop an actual extermination campaign by a hostile foreign power?

    1. Let's be clear. If the Nazis were invading Poland, and the Poles were trying to stop them, Ilya would probably object. Because under his open borders theory, the Nazis should be able to freely cross the border and move throughout Poland anyway. And the Poles would be wrong to try to stop them from doing so.

      1. Until this essay, I figured that would be an exaggeration. Now I'm not so sure.

        1. I mean, I think this is a pretty dumb post Prof. Somin made, but I'm not getting from there to 'let the Nazis invade Poland.'

          It's okay to disagree without speculative demonizing.

  25. When you have a draft, you necessarily have restrictions on draft-eligible people emigrating. I mean, will the U. S. criticize other countries for doing what Lincoln did during the Late Unpleasantness?

    Here's another question for Western liberal types, though.

    "decrees forbidding all *men* aged 18-60 from leaving the country"

    Isn't this sort of thing Deeply Problematic because it drafts men without drafting women?

    Sure, that's U. S. policy too, but the arc of history is clearly bending against it. Not only are large numbers of Congresscritters attacking the policy, but it seems inconsistent with judicial precedent, which ties sexism in draft registration to the assumption women won't be in combat roles - which they now are.

    So as the U. S. policy is on its last legs, how can we promote a similar policy abroad?

    And what about transwomen? Will they be misgendered and drafted as if they were men?

    1. If I was in Zelensky's position I would absolutely be prepared to draft men and women equally. (And there's plenty of precedent for women causing lots of trouble in previous wars in that part of the world.)

      The difficulty is what you do with the children. It seems reasonable to make sure they are moved out of harm's way, and someone has to take care of them.

      1. Begone, patriarchal oppressor, the ideology of feminism it too pure to be sullied with your pragmatism.

      2. Women will be reluctant to send their children abroad while staying to fight themselves. If the women and children stay, the women will mostly care for the children instead of fighting. War demands a lot of extra effort to care for children.

        I the women and children go abroad, the male defenders left behind get increased combat support from the available food, fuel, and other stores. Their children are removed from the liability of becoming hostages, either by actual capture, or by becoming victims of famine and exposure.

        1. Not surprising to find so many patriarchal oppressors on a white, male blog such as this. Sad!

    2. From a realistic perspective, it's not that simple.

      Women can fight, absolutely. However, from a statistical viewpoint, the average man is bigger and stronger than the average woman. That plays a significant role...specifically in carry weights. Carry weights for modern infantry are high...sometimes very high, over 100 pounds of gear. Asking a woman who weighs 120 pounds to carry that, compared to a guy at 180 pounds...there's going to be a difference.

      Even in armies that have high number of female soldiers (ie, the Israeli defense forces), female soldiers tend to be concentrated in "combat support" positions (drivers, signal operators, clerks, etc). There are exceptions, to be sure. But on average, if you're drafting from the general public for combat roles, men will have higher strength and carry capacity than women.

      1. Begone, patriarchal oppressor, the ideology of feminism it too pure to be sullied with your pragmatism.

  26. Should men, and perhaps others, who flee be allowed back? Under what conditions? I know Ilya generally supports freedom of movement, but how do you prevent folks from free-riding on the national defense service of others? National defense is a classic collective action problem.

    1. "Should men who flee be allowed back?"
      "Under what conditions?"
      If they've betrayed their oath of citizenship to defend their country, perhaps their citizenship should be null and void.

      1. Yes, and when the Russian Occupiers find "Ihr Papiere sind nicht in Ordnung!!{ they'll be summarily executed (Problem with Amurcia, no more Summary Executions)

        1. Feel free to take care of your own.

  27. Best April Fools post yet.

    1. Yeah, I thought about that one. If this were still the first Somin post I’d encountered I’d say just that. The problem is all the prior information. Professor Somin has such a history of seriousness on these sorts of issues and positions (not to mention life in general) that it seems more likely than not that he isn’t joking.

    2. Me too, but it was like, No, He's this Stupid.

  28. "Even if a manpower shortage does unexpectedly arise, Zelensky's decree covers vastly more men than could possibly be needed in any remotely plausible scenario."

    Unless we consider that Russia has, in previous wars, sent tens of millions of people to their death. That would seem to be a 'remotely plausible scenario' which would require Ukraine to muster as many fighters as possible.

  29. And how exactly are we going to "force" Zelensky to end those policies? By telling him that, unless he does, we'll let Putin have his country? That sounds like a really great idea.

  30. Just to be clear: Ilya essentially is calling for the west to impose on Ukraine the abolition of compulsory conscription—a policy each western country has used in the recent memory—while Ukraine is engaged in total war for its survival.

    This must be a joke. Or has Ilya really become such a parody of a libertarian intellectual?

    1. The answer to every world problem is open borders...oh and have you read Ilya's book?

    2. A possible explanation is that he actually has a wicked sense of humor, and this is an April Fools Day joke.

      1. "he actually has a wicked sense of humor"

        Have you ever seen any evidence that he has a sense of humor at all?

        1. Heck, I've got a sense of humor, and half the people I meet don't even notice, because the jokes go right over their heads.

          But, no, I don't think that's a likely explanation. Just a possible one.

          1. "Heck, I've got a sense of humor, and half the people I meet don't even notice, because the jokes go right over their heads."

            Yeah, that's the ticket. Stick with that one.

  31. Here is a lesson to all of you men out there.


    Just do what you are told peasant men. Fight someone else's war. Drive your truck and take whatever experimental vaccine is forced upon you. Be happy you didn't get thrown literally under a bus when someone accuses you of harassment and you get punished without due process or even if the accusation is false. If you protest or attempt to leave you will be corralled and dealt with accordingly.

    You have been warned.

  32. I can't imagine why libertarians have a reputation for ideological tunnel vision.

    1. And a real need for orthodoxy. Endless arguments to find & express the one true right way.

  33. The words "ivory tower" & "insulated from reality" come to mind about most of this discussion.

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