Blogs > Liberty and Power > Syllogism

Jul 23, 2007 10:40 am


Syllogism



The state by nature is a threat to life, liberty, and property;
War is the health of the state (Bourne);
War is thus by nature a threat to life, liberty, and property;
No libertarian can consistently support what is by nature a threat to life, liberty, and property;
Ergo, no libertarian can support war.

Cross-posted at Free Association.
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John Caird - 7/29/2007

I did not refer to conscription, which is clearly unlibertarian in any circumstance.


John Caird - 7/29/2007

Anthony Gregory: The problem is that we do not live in a libertarian world. Are you saying that if the state arrests and jails a murderer then that murderer has been unjustly arrested and jailed because it was the state who arrested and jailed him? That is what you seem to be saying and quite frankly it is absurd. You make the same argument for foreign policy which shows you have at least been consistant. My final question then is whether you ever walk or drive on public roads? They are the product of the state, funded through coercion.

I am a market anarchist also, I simply consider this is be an issue of living in the world as it is, an issue of practicality, not of ideology.

Jeff Riggenbach: Oh the oppression of being a juror! The criminal has still been punished (of course not suitably by libertarian standards), but at least to a limited extent the criminal may have not got off scot free.

"Then, in most cases, it convicts the wrong man."

Exaggeration will not help your case, substitute many or too many for most.

Like Anthony Gregory I suggest you stay tight, public roads are not on offer to you if you stay consistant with what you said about crime enforcement.


Jeff Riggenbach - 7/25/2007

"So if government x invades your country it would be wrong for your government to repel the attack?"

No such thing has ever happened in human history. No such thing ever will. What happens is this:

Government x invades.

The state which calls itself the government of the invaded country robs and enslaves the residents of that invaded country and forces them to defend *it* - the state. The state does not defend them; they are forced to defend *it*. This is called "national defense."

JR


Jeff Riggenbach - 7/25/2007

I had written:

"The state does not protect us. It never has, and it never will."

John Caird replied:

"It sure does make a bad job of it, but you cannot honestly say that it never has protected you?"

Yes, I'm afraid I can and do.

"When it enforces proper laws it protects you doesn't it?"

No. For example, when the state "enforces" its perfectly proper laws against murder, what does it do? It robs me and millions of others of people to finance what it calls a "trial" of the accused. It forces certain people to speak at this "trial," violating their freedom of speech. It enslaves others and forces them to serve as "jurors" at this "trial." Then, in most cases, it convicts the wrong man.

This is "protection"?

JR


Anthony Gregory - 7/25/2007

No, I am a market anarchist, I don't believe in law enforcement socialism. If the government stopped enforcing laws against real rights violations, the market would handle it much better, the state would lose its monopolistic power over our lives, and freedom would prevail. The last thing we should want the government to do is protect our rights. It is from supposed function this that all tyranny flows. When a socialist system misallocates goods and services, that is a tragedy. When it misallocates the implementation of legal violence, it is injustice and the negation of liberty itself. I do not trust the police. I do not trust the military.


John Caird - 7/25/2007

So if government x invades your country it would be wrong for your government to repel the attack?

"Let's take the state as we find it, not as some theorists wish it were"

Let's take the world as we find it, not as some theorists wish it were


John Caird - 7/25/2007

"The state does not protect us. It never has, and it never will."

It sure does make a bad job of it, but you cannot honestly say that it never has protected you? When it enforces proper laws it protects you doesn't it?

"If government law enforcement necessarily entailed the slaughter of innocent people -- as modern war does -- then I would consider it absolutely impossible for a libertarian to support it. "

There is a difference between jus in bellum and jus in bello right? You didn't really answer my question whether you think it is right for the state to enforce proper crimes. If your answer is yes then you cannot at the same time hold your argument against all state wars.


Sheldon Richman - 7/25/2007

It would be truer to say that we protect it.


Anthony Gregory - 7/24/2007

It's true that not everything the state does is in itself a rights violation. Social Security handouts, food stamps, building parks — all of these are usually peaceful activities. But we libertarians MUST oppose the government doing them because it does them with stolen money.

War, on the other hand, ALWAYS involves rights violations on top of the taxation side of it. A libertarian MUST oppose war. Perhaps a libertarian who supports war is just very misguided and still is a libertarian, but then this must be true of pro-drug war libertarians, pro-social security libertarians, pro-conscription libertarians and other deviationists.


Anthony Gregory - 7/24/2007

If government law enforcement necessarily entailed the slaughter of innocent people -- as modern war does -- then I would consider it absolutely impossible for a libertarian to support it.


Jeff Riggenbach - 7/24/2007

"If the state does not protect us then nobody will in the world as it exists today, a world that is fundamentally not libertarian."

The state does not protect us. It never has, and it never will.

JR


Aeon J. Skoble - 7/24/2007

I discuss this argument in my essay. It's true that the state has to violate rights to engage in war because the state is definitionally always rights-violating. But that doesn't imply that everything the state does is immoral. Example: the state runs my local fire department. That means coerced taxes and so on. But the act of sending the fire truck or EMTs to a house fire is not per se immoral. The state is acting rightly to come put out the fire or get the heart attack victim to the hospital, even if it's also the case that the state ought not to run fire depts in the first place. The (sad) truth is that the state has taken over many functions. Some of them are per se immoral, such as coercing people who might choose to make bets with each other about a card game. But some of them are legitmate things, like putting out fires. The correct response to municipal fire depts is to note that they ought to be privatized, not to say that it's immoral for me to call 911 when my house is on fire.


Sheldon Richman - 7/24/2007

And part of the empirical question is: what did "our" state do to get us into the situation where what looks on the surface like a defensive war is necessary. The problem is that the population probably can't know the answer and won't find out for at least 20 years -- because states don't conduct their "diplomacy" in public. Thus the people must have faith in "their" state and give it leeway. War, and preparation for war, is the health of the state. Randolph Bourne nailed this point 89 years ago. Must we reinvent the wheel?


Sheldon Richman - 7/24/2007

Where's the pacifist premise? And which premise is bad? The state is not by nature a threat to life, liberty, and property?


Sheldon Richman - 7/24/2007

You can't get from "defensive violence is legitimate" to "the state may properly engage in defensive war." The state has to violate rights even to engage in defensive war. That's not true of private individuals banding together for self-defense. As Jeff Hummel points out, when two states go to war, four "parties" are involved: two states and two captive populations.

This whole discussion has an airy rationalism about it. States are not "defense agencies." They are predators that have their origin in conquest. A state can always come up with a pretext for war that makes it look defensive: the Maine, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, etc. Was Pearl Harbor really an unprovoked attack against a peace-loving country? The record is clear that it was not.

Let's take the state as we find it, not as some theorists wish it were.


John Caird - 7/24/2007

Anthony Gregory: It would seem like you would have to oppose the police enforcing the crime of theft, murder and every other just (libertarian) crime? Surely this is about strategy and the practicalities of a world with states than an issue of pure ideology. The Iraq war can be defended on the grounds that Saddam Hussein violated the conditions of his defeat in the First Gulf War. This of course implies that the First Gulf War was just which many libertarians of the isolationist ilk will suggest was not the case. The problem is that if all states are fundamentally illegitimate, then one state invading another cannot be said to be unjust on purely libertarian terms per se. The only prima facie injustice (besides issues of jus in bello) is in respect to the taxes used to pay for the war. However if you go down such a route then you fall into the trap of also not being able to say that the state may enforce just laws. After all the police are financed through taxes. This all leaves you with having to have different criteria to decide which wars a libertarian can defend. Wars of self defence are in all cases just for a libertarian, and I would conjecture many others in order to prevent aggression. Even the typical isolationist stance that allows self defence and self defence only would have to stand by whilst for example genocide takes place, I cannot consider that to be a worthy stance for a libertarian to take. If the state does not protect us then nobody will in the world as it exists today, a world that is fundamentally not libertarian.


Aeon J. Skoble - 7/24/2007

Ok, glad you agree that defensive violence is legitimate. This doesn't seem to gibe with what you say upthread though. Sorry if I'm missing something obvious.


Aeon J. Skoble - 7/24/2007

I'm not talking about Iraq: on your view, _no_ war is legitimate, including a self-defensive one. When the Japanese attacked Hawaii, was responding illegitimate?


Aeon J. Skoble - 7/24/2007

The revolution only "led to" the strong federal government we have today in the sense that by getting rid of British rule, some other thing was possible. Was the resulting government the libertarian ideal? No, but surely better than remaining subjects of a tyrannical king.


Anthony Gregory - 7/24/2007

No, pacifism means you oppose all violence. I don't oppose all violence. Defensive violence is sometimes legitimate, such as against occupying, invading armies or private thugs.


Anthony Gregory - 7/24/2007

It's not a matter of self-defense; it's the question of whether the state is legitimate. I am all for charity; that doesn't mean I support the welfare state. I'm all for defense; that doesn't mean I support the warfare state.

And the idea that the Iraq war could have ever been squared in any sense with self-defense is just absurd.


Anthony Gregory - 7/24/2007

A lot about it wasn't, though. You can't defend the cruel treatment of loyalists, or all the goals of the power elite. It also was what led to the creation of the federal government and lots of oppressive treatment of the American people.


Aeon J. Skoble - 7/23/2007

If you oppose all war, then you're a pacifist. That's what it means.


Aeon J. Skoble - 7/23/2007

So, it's _more_ libertarian to let a tyrannical nation invade and conquer? When did self-defense lose its place in libertarian thought?


Aeon J. Skoble - 7/23/2007

I disagree. The Revolutionary War was libertarian.


Anthony Gregory - 7/23/2007

"War is the health of the state" is not a pacifist slogan. It is not even normative, but positive. War is indeed the health of the state.

You don't have to be a pacifist to oppose all war. I oppose war, and I'm not a pacifist.


Anthony Gregory - 7/23/2007

War is not just "defending oneself when attacked." Even defensive wars, when conducted by governments, involve taxation, at an absolute minimum, and are therefore as unlibertarian as welfare programs, at an absolute minimum.


Anthony Gregory - 7/23/2007

Shooting an innocent child in the head could conceivable protect liberty more than not doing so. It is still unlibertarian to do it. Libertarianism is not about centrally planning a result of greater liberty for the greater good. War is a socialist, aggressive project. No war is libertarian.


Gary McGath - 7/23/2007

You start with the premise of pacifism ("War is the health of the state" taken as a universal) and deduce pacifism. That proves nothing.


Aeon J. Skoble - 7/23/2007

So, no defending oneself when attacked? No taking up arms to secure one's rights? I think you're right to say that libertarians need to be extra cautious about war issues, but at the level of generality you use here, it "proves too much."


Steven Horwitz - 7/23/2007

The state by nature is a threat to life, liberty, and property;

When one state attacks another, that may also be a threat to life, liberty, and property

Libertarians wish to protect life, liberty, and property

Fighting a war might protect more life, liberty, and property than not doing so.

Ergo, libertarians can consistently support wars under the right circumstances, but it always a contextual and empirical question

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