Sadly, the great Murray Rothbard is not with us to condemn the recent slaughter of innocents in Gaza at the hands of Israeli soldiers. However, this passage in his 1973 book, For a New Liberty: A Libertarian Manifesto, gives us a sense for how he’d react:
Let us assume for the moment, a world of two hypothetical countries: Graustark and Belgravia. Each is ruled by its own State. What happens if the government of Graustark invades the territory of Belgravia? From the libertarian point of view two evils immediately occur. First, the Graustark Army begins to slaughter innocent Belgravian civilians, persons who are not implicated in whatever crimes the Belgravian government might have committed. War, then, is mass murder, and this massive invasion of the right to life, of self-ownership, of numbers of people is not only a crime but, for the libertarian, the ultimate crime. Second, since all governments obtain their revenue from the thievery of coercive taxation, any mobilization and launching of troops inevitably involve an increase in tax-coercion in Graustark. For both reasons – because inter-State wars inevitably involve both mass murder and an increase in tax-coercion, the libertarian opposes war. Period.
Yet his protege, Walter Block (one of my libertarian heroes), has a very different take. According to an op-ed he co-authored four days after the October 7 massacre of Israeli civilians at the hands of Hamas,
The West needs to understand that to defend human life and dignity, it isn’t enough to claim to side with Israel. It needs to understand what this means: total, unrestrictive support. That is nothing less than allowing this beleaguered country to defend itself fully. To recognize that Hamas needs to be destroyed for the same reason and by the same method that the Nazis were. Israel is entitled to do whatever it takes to uproot this evil residing next to it. And, more important, that once it begins to proceed in that direction, it won’t be demonized for defending that which is the core of Western civilization and which its enemies hate the most: the love of everyone’s right to human life, dignity and happiness.
In other words, it needs to support a complete, total and decisive Israeli victory. If this implies an overwhelming, unprecedented use of military force, so be it. Hamas is and will be responsible for any civilian casualties. Cause and effect. They created their own destruction, and its consequences.
This in no minor deviation. Do I sense a fracture within the libertarian community regarding the killing of civilians in war or has Professor Block simply gone AWOL?