I’m trying to convert a journalist to full libertarianism (on foreign policy)

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

From: Walter Block [walterblock@business.loyno.edu]
Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2014 8:20 PM
To: Gitz, Bradley R.
Subject: libertarianism?

Dear Prof. Gitz (Bradley, if I may):

I used to read your column regularly when I was a professor at UCA in Conway, AR (1997-2001). I always liked what you wrote. I’ve been in New Orleans since then, and thus haven’t read you recently, but a friend of mine from Little Rock gave me your column of 7/7/14, “Reading the funny papers,” which I found fascinating.

As a long time libertarian myself, I am delighted to find a fellow libertarian in you. But, curiously, you mention in that column only two of the things all political philosophies must wrestle with: economic freedom and personal freedom. Needless to say, your views on these matters are quintessentially libertarian. However, you fail to even discuss the third issue, foreign policy. So, just out of curiosity, are you also a libertarian on that issue too? In my opinion, this would mean that you pretty much agree with, say, Ron Paul’s views on this, namely, that the US should not have some 1000 military bases in about 160 countries, which constitutes war-mongering imperialism and interventionism, but should rather use its armies soley for a strong defense.

Or to put this in the words of an earlier libertarian:

John Quincy Adams, speaking on the Fourth of July, 1821:
“Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been unfurled, there will [America’s] heart, her benedictions, and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own…She well knows that, by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the color and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlets upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished luster the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world; she would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit”.
Best regards,

Walter

Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business Loyola University New Orleans
6363 St. Charles Avenue, Box 15, Miller Hall 318 New Orleans, LA 70118
tel: (504) 864-7934
fac: (504)864-7970
wblock@loyno.edu

—–Original Message—–
From: Gitz, Bradley R. [mailto:bradley.gitz@lyon.edu]
Sent: Thursday, July 17, 2014 8:05 AM
To: Walter Block
Subject: RE: libertarianism?

Dear Professor Block: Appreciate your comments on libertarianism, but have to confess that I often part ways with some of our brethren, include Ron Paul and his son, on the foreign policy side of things – while I share concerns over reflexive interventionism and burden sharing, a lifetime spent studying international politics (the field in which I earned my doctorate and in which I still do the majority of my teaching and research) has convinced me that 1) national defense is the primary function of government (in the sense of government being brought into being in the first place to provide security), without which nothing else can exist; and 2) that the nasty world of international relations requires the use of power in order to prevent more ruthless and noxious powers from filling power vacuums. On that last point, I shudder to think what the world would have come to had not the United States been there to actively block Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin (and his successors). Or if American retreat from foreign responsibilities at present allowed Vladimir Putin, the thugs running the Chinese Communist Party, or the mullahs of Iran to acquire new opportunities (invariably at the expense of our and our allies interests).

Thus in the end I remain something of a “hawkish” realist when it comes to matters beyond our shores… precisely because national defense is the ultimate “public good” that government provides and I suspect that were it to cease providing it all of the freedoms we libertarians cherish and desire here at home would be seriously threatened. And as for our mutual friend J.Q. Adams – I cite that quotation every time I teach my national security policy course, but also note that the recommendation flowing from it (while undeniably wise and a caution against seeking to right all the world’s many wrongs) was made at a time when America had no choice but to “lead by example” and pursue what would eventually be called “isolationism.” Later, as American power inevitably grew, it also became inevitable that we would venture forth into the world more actively, with far flung interests to protect (a point nicely made by Henry Kissinger in his analysis of American foreign policy tendencies).

That all is (hopefully) not an excuse for any form of imperialism, but (hopefully) simply a recognition of the situation republics find themselves in in an imperfect world…

Best wishes,

Bradley

—–Original Message—–
From: Walter Block
Sent: Monday, July 28, 2014 10:12 AM
To: ‘Gitz, Bradley R.’
Subject: RE: libertarianism?

Dear Bradley (if I may, please call me Walter):

Libertarianism, at least as I understand it, is predicated upon the non aggression principle (NAP), along with priveate property rights based on homesteading. The law should allow violence to be used only in defense, or in retaliation, etc., against a prior use of force against an innocent person. Our stances on any public policy issue stem, entirely, from this principle. So, does drug use or prostitution between consenting adults constitute a per se violation of the NAP? No, of course not. Thus these acts should be legalized. So much for the first of three legs of libertarianism, personal liberties. Does using gold as money, or offering a worker $2 per hour constitute a per se violation of the NAP? No, of course not. Thus the gold standard should be legalized, and the minimum wage law should be repealed. So much for the second of three legs of libertarianism, economic liberties. In my view, you pass muster, brilliantly, eloquently, regarding these two legs. You full well realize that government action in these areas is a disaster, with one rights violation leading to a problem, which the statists address with another rights violation, which worsens the first problem and creates others, and on and on. You demonstrate the inefficiency of government, and its rights violations in your columns over and over, and they are a delight for all libertarians to read.

But there is a third leg of libertarianism, foreign policy. Here, the same principles apply. Does a government act constitute a violation of the NAP? In such a case, libertarians must oppose it. Is it an act of aggression for the US to have about 800 military bases in about 160 foreign countries, and shoot people who have never, ever, used violence against the US? Of course it is. Were any other country, China, Brazil, Switzerland, etc., to have about 800 military bases in about 160 foreign countries, and shoot people who have never, ever, used violence against them, I think you would aggree that this is a NAP violation. How would you feel if Chinese, Brazilian, Swiss, etc., soldiers were walking around with guns, tanks, etc., on the streets of Arkansas, swaggering, and raping as they patrolled? Government action in these areas, too, is a disaster, with one rights violation leading to a problem, which the statists address with another rights violation, which worsens the first problem and creates others, and on and on.

Let me address the “Hitler” example that is often brought to bear against a libertarian foreign policy, and in favor of US imperialism, for shame. World War I started in 1914. By 1917, the Axis and Allied powers had fought to a draw. They were both losing thousands of men in the trenches over inches of ground. Had the US not entered that conflagration, probably (counterfactual economic history is always risky, of course) it would have ended in a draw. Both sides would have run out of soldiers, and the war would have petered out. Instead, the US put its big fat thumb on the side of the UK (crony capitalists in the US had more bonds with Britain than Germany) and that side won. This was followed up the the so called “treaty” of Versailles, which was very, very punitive to the German side (even Keynes said this). It blamed the Axis for the war. This brought about their hyperinflation of 1923, which ruined what was relatively untouched by the Versailles treaty. Out of this ruination arose Hitler and the Nazis. Again, government action (entry into World War I) was a disaster, with one rights violation leading to a problem, which the statists address with another rights violation, which worsens the first problem and creates others, and on and on. You see this so clearly in terms of personal and economic liberty, but not at all in the third leg of libertarianism, foreign policy. By the way, the same sort of analysis applies to Stalin and the commies.

Here is a short bibliography of a libertarian analysis of the Hitler objection:

Ferguson, Niall. 2000. The Pity of War: Explaining World War I. New York, NY: Basic Books Niall Ferguson has been influential in “counterfactual history.” An Oxford don and now at Harvard via NYU, he wrote a book (The Pity of War) — partially an economic history of WW I — that argued in part that Britain’s entry into what had been a European conflict between Germany and France escalated the conflict into The Great War

Stockman, David, 2014. “If The U.S. Had Stayed Out Of WWI, There Would Have Been No Hitler Or Stalin..” July 13; http://libertycrier.com/u-s-stayed-wwi-hitler-stalin-david-stockman/#SgprliBV9jCVSFcb.99; http://libertycrier.com/u-s-stayed-wwi-hitler-stalin-david-stockman/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LibertyCrier+%28Liberty+Crier%29

Best regards,

Walter

Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business Loyola University New Orleans
6363 St. Charles Avenue, Box 15, Miller Hall 318 New Orleans, LA 70118
tel: (504) 864-7934
fac: (504)864-7970
wblock@loyno.edu

http://www.walterblock.com/

http://www.walterblock.com/publications/

http://samesideentertainment.com/talent/dr-walter-block/

https://www.facebook.com/wblock2

WalterBlock.com: https://twitter.com/WalterEBlock Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/WalterEBlock

If it moves, privatize it; if it doesn’t move, privatize it. Since everything either moves or doesn’t move, privatize everything.

Dear Bradley:

I am simply DELIGHTED with your letter. Most people who hold your views consider me a pacificist, or a moron, or both, and will not condescend to even hear the other side. I greatly appreciate your willingness to do so.

In economics, we both agree that the govt is imbecilic and malevolent (min wage laws, anti free trade, etc.) In the area of personal liberties we both agree that the govt is imbecilic and maleveolent (throwing consenting adults in jail for sex, drugs; this doesn’t mean we condone these acts, just that we oppose legal prohibition and prison sentences.) Wouldn’t it be AMAZING if this govt, which can’t deliver mail, is the opposite of imbecilic and malevolent when it comes to the third leg of libertarianism, foreign policy.

In medicine, they have a principle: first, do no harm. The libertarian (or Ron Paulian) view of foreign policy is that the US govt does great harm, mixing in all over the world, where it doesn’t know what it is doing, droning innocent people, bombing them, getting them ticked off at the “great Satan,” poking sticks in hornets’ nests and then wondering when some of them return to bite us (blowback, 911). This does not mean that the libertarian of my (Ron Paul) ilk favors paying “no attention until they hit California.” Rather, we see the ideal US foreign policy as that of a gigantic and very powerful Switzerland. Hitler never invaded them because virtually all of them were good with skis and rifles. The Swiss have a very strong DEFENSE, but no offense. If Hitler didn’t invade them when he could have, no one will. If the US didn’t poke its nose insto the middle east, into Russian issues, no one, with the possible exception of the Martians, would even think of invading our country. In my view, we should have a very strong coast guard, given over to guarding us. We shouldn’t have ships and military bases all over the planet.

John Quincy Adams, speaking on the Fourth of July, 1821, said this: “Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been unfurled, there will [America’s] heart, her benedictions, and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own…She well knows that, by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the color and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlets upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished luster the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world; she would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit”.

He stole that idea from me (:)).

George Washington in his March 4, 1801 inaugural address said: “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”

He stole that idea from me (:)).

Do these libertarian ideas of the founding fathers sound like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand? Like paying “no attention until they hit California?” Of course not.

Certainly we should have a distant early warning system, ABMs, iron domes, etc. These are all DEFENSIVE. I think we already have “a coherent libertarianism on that final, foreign policy peg”: roughly the views of Ron Paul.

This might interest you: Block, Walter E. 2012. Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty. New York: Ishi Press; http://www.amazon.com/dp/4871873234;

http://libertycrier.com/education/walter-blocks-new-book-on-ron-paul/

http://libertyunbound.com/node/862

I’ll send you a copy of this book if you’re interested.

Best regards,

Walter

Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business Loyola University New Orleans
6363 St. Charles Avenue, Box 15, Miller Hall 318 New Orleans, LA 70118
tel: (504) 864-7934
fac: (504)864-7970
wblock@loyno.edu

http://www.walterblock.com/

http://www.walterblock.com/publications/

http://samesideentertainment.com/talent/dr-walter-block/

https://www.facebook.com/wblock2

WalterBlock.com: https://twitter.com/WalterEBlock Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/WalterEBlock

If it moves, privatize it; if it doesn’t move, privatize it. Since everything either moves or doesn’t move, privatize everything.

—–Original Message—–
From: Gitz, Bradley R. [mailto:bradley.gitz@lyon.edu]
Sent: Saturday, August 02, 2014 8:25 PM
To: Walter Block
Subject: RE: libertarianism?

By all means use my name and address….. and I’ve been on vacation for the past week and for one more to come, but have some hopefully useful comments on your most recent – which, in some respects, blame Woodrow Wilson (who certainly, in my Libertarian view, deserves blame for so much!!) for producing Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. I’m not sure it quite works out that way (given, as you acknowledge, the defects of historical “counter-factuals), but I’m willing to give it more thought and seek to carve out a middle ground between the mindless interventionism you abhor and the need for some kind of foreign/security policy that goes beyond “no attention until they hit California.” A tricky needle to threat, for sure, but worth exploring… for the sake of a coherent libertarianism on that final, foreign policy peg….

Look forward to continued exchange on this…!!!

Brad Gitz
________________________________________
From: Walter Block [walterblock@business.loyno.edu]
Sent: Friday, August 01, 2014 4:44 PM
To: Gitz, Bradley R.
Subject: RE: libertarianism?

I’d like to blog this correspondence. Shall I do so anonymously, or do I have permission to use your name, e mail address?

Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business Loyola University New Orleans
6363 St. Charles Avenue, Box 15, Miller Hall 318 New Orleans, LA 70118
tel: (504) 864-7934
fac: (504)864-7970
wblock@loyno.edu

http://www.walterblock.com/

http://www.walterblock.com/publications/

http://samesideentertainment.com/talent/dr-walter-block/

https://www.facebook.com/wblock2

WalterBlock.com: https://twitter.com/WalterEBlock Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/WalterEBlock

If it moves, privatize it; if it doesn’t move, privatize it. Since everything either moves or doesn’t move, privatize everything.

12:07 pm on August 16, 2014