Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians

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by Walter Block by Walter Block


So, for whom should we Austro libertarians vote? November 7, 2006 is fast approaching, and this is a question may of us will have to face. If you don’t vote on principle (see this for a magnificent counter argument) then who do you root for?

I suggest that the most important issue on the basis of which one should make such a decision is foreign policy. Yes, I know all about the diamonds-water paradox. We never decide between in this present context, all of foreign policy or all of economics nor all of personal liberties issues, but only between incremental bits of each. So, yes, these other issues are important too. Yet, "war is the health of the state," Randolph Bourne quite rightly tells us. It is a "leading indicator" of liberty, to put matters in terms comfortable for those of an empirical case of mind. As Bob Higgs has eloquently demonstrated, U.S. foreign military aggression is the fountainhead of most of the rest of the depredations of the state. Due to the ratchet effect, imperialist wars catapult government involvement in society; afterward, state power recedes, somewhat, but never back down to the status quo ante. The march of government is on an ever-upward trend, thanks in very great part to foreign adventurism. So, while we must always be on guard to protect economic and personal liberties, foreign interventionism is even more important, I contend, overall.

How do the political parties stack up in this regard?

To mention the Republicans is to dismiss them out of hand, and with a great degree of contempt and moral indignation. George Bush II ran on a relatively non-interventionistic platform, but, like his mentor FDR, did everything in his power while in office to violate these promises. No, the Republicans deserve the back of the hand of the electorate. Throw these bums out.

What about the Democrats? Well, Hilary Clinton is no Gene McCarthy, and neither is Al Gore nor John Kerry. (Where is being "clean for Gene," now that we desperately need him?) In any case, it is difficult to say, exactly, who speaks for the Democratic party. I have chosen as spokesman for this purpose — wait for it — none other that Paul Krugman. Although a credentialed economist, he is almost always wrong on this subject, supporting socialism, interventionism and dirigisme policies. He thus is in the mainstream of the "blue state" party, and it will be of interest to hear him out on foreign policy, an issue that rarely attracts his attention.

In his New York Times column of 10/31/06 entitled "Putting a number to failure in Iraq," he is actually pretty good on this issue, at least at the outset: "Iraq is a lost cause," he tells us. Do we have the ghost of Gene McCarthy in, of all places, this left-wing mainstream economist? Sadly, we do not.

For he then continues "It’s just a matter of arithmetic: Given the violence of the environment, with ethnic groups and rival militias at each other’s throats, American forces there are large enough to suffer terrible losses, but far too small to stabilize the country." This is no clarion call for an end to foreign interventionism. It is at least compatible with the view that more U.S. forces should be placed in Iraq, the better to "stabilize the country."

Whereupon Krugman gets, if anything, worse: "Afghanistan, on the other hand, is a war we haven’t yet lost, and it’s just possible that a new commitment of forces there might turn things around."

Why Afghanistan, given that it has a larger population than Iraq, and the reason Krugman wants the U.S. out of the latter country is that we do not have enough troops to "stabilize the country"? (I love that expression; I wonder how Krugman would react if a bunch of Chinese, or Nigerian, or Brazilian troops were sent to the U.S. to "stabilize" us.)

Here is his "reasoning": "… things in Afghanistan aren’t yet as far gone as they are in Iraq, and it’s possible that a smaller force … might be enough to stabilize the situation…. If we stopped trying to do the impossible in Iraq, both we and the British would be able to put more troops in a place where they might still do some good."

I’ve got a suggestion for Paul "Stabilizer" Krugman. There are many, many countries with far smaller populations than either Afghanistan or Iraq. I suggest we, forthwith, invade all of these countries: Monaco, Yemen, Jordan, Lichtenstein, Portugal, Fiji, Malta, Zaire, Burundi, Benin, Mali. There are many others, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head. And don’t give me any crap about the foolishness of such a policy. Surely, there are "terrists" in all of these countries, and weapons of mass destruction too. Anyone who denies this is no patriotic American! The war against "terrism" is a worldwide phenomenon, and anyone who wants to limit it to Afghanistan, forsooth, is a fair-weather terrist fighter.

But, I digress. We’re supposed to be discussing who to vote for in a few days, so let’s get back to that. What about the Libertarian Party? Before going into this, let us take a moment for full disclosure, here. I am a wild-eyed devotee of the LP. I have been active in it, to a greater or lesser extent, since 1972, when I ran for State Assemblyman of New York. I was once a candidate for Vice President of the national campaign, and have given dozens of speeches to the annual conventions of the federal party and to many, many state conventions as well.

However, sad to say, I really cannot support the federal Libertarian Party. For they, too, just like Paul "Stabilizer" Krugman, want to pull troops out of Iraq, but not bring them home either; instead, send them to yet other foreign countries, where, presumably, their imperialist services are in greater need. (For more Rockwell critique of the LP, see this.) How the principled have fallen. It is one thing for the Democrats, la Paul "Stabilizer" Krugman to support such a policy. But for Libertarians to do so? Murray Rothbard must be spinning in his grave at the prospect, after he spent so much time and energy trying to inculcate some modicum of principle into this group.

No, I cannot in good conscience ask anyone to support the federal Libertarian Party. Not, at least, until they rescind this horrid policy. (Whenever I get a fund raising letter from them, I reply that I will contribute, but only when and if they publicly climb down from this eminently anti-libertarian viewpoint.) The state libertarian parties, still, are a different matter. In my view, the rot has not set in there to anywhere near the same degree. To the contrary, at the state LP conventions I have addressed, I have found the rank and file to be pretty sensible on all issues, certainly including foreign policy.

So, two cheers for the LP at the state level, and none for them at the federal.

Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans. He is the author of Defending the Undefendable.

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