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September 30, 2004

The libertarian case for war, part I

As stated in an earlier post and in my profile, I'm a libertarian... with a small L, if you please. In general libertarianism is a model of consistency and principle, a natural consequence of which is that there is little disagreement among libertarians. "Little disagreement," however, is not the same thing as "no disagreement," and there are a few issues that provoke controversy among libertarians, and even among the generally noncontroversial issues there are a few dissidents. One area on which I dissent from the majority of my libertarian comrades is the "rightness" of the war.

For a war to be a proper use of the state's authority, three conditions must be met.

  • The use of force must be moral.
  • The use of force must be legal.
  • The use of force must be in the state's best interests.

As it happens, these exactly parallel the justifications for the use of force by an individual, and this is not a coincidence. One of the tenets of libertarianism is that individuals do not receive additional powers or rights simply because they band together to form a government.

In this post, I'll tackle the moral rightness of the war. I'll address the additional criteria in the future.

For a use of force to be moral, it must be justified against the target. The libertarian ethos holds that force is justified only to prevent the unjust exercise of force or fraud by another. Suppose I witness a mugging in process. I am justified in using force against the aggressor to the extent necessary to end his violent attack.

I am not obligated to do this, of course. If the mugger is a big, burly, heavily armed man while I am unarmed, there is no ethical stain if I choose to cross the street. (It is to be hoped that at the very least I will summon assistance, but I am not obliged to do so.) But if I choose to enter the fray in defense of the victim, this is perfectly permissible.

The equivalent of unjustified force for individuals is tyranny for states. An oppressive state that violates the rights of its citizens is engaged in constant unjustified initiation of force against its subjects. And just as an individual has the moral right to intervene using force against an aggressor, so does a nation-state have the moral right to intervene using force against a tyrant.

Fellow libertarians, take note, and write this down: A tyrannical state has no right to exist, and any interested party may use force to end that tyranny. Saddam Hussein forfeited his sacred right to be left alone a million times over. And war to remove him was fully justified from an ethical standpoint.

I'll get to the legal argument in favor of war shortly.

September 30, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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That was a great post, VoR! Thanks!

Posted by: Mork | Sep 30, 2004 8:12:28 PM

I don't particularily mind that you delete my comments, but editing them from a negative (albeit trolling) comment into a positive comment is quite disturbing, especially coming from one who likes to point out the hypocrisy of others.

Posted by: Mork | Oct 1, 2004 11:33:25 AM

Mork, if you think it to be disturbing that he made you seem to hold an opinion that is not yours, maybe you should leave out those ridiculous URLs from your posts, because you are doing the same.

Posted by: Mark | Oct 1, 2004 12:25:54 PM

According to your thought process, it would be perfectly acceptable for any country, let's just use Canada as an example, to invade Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, or any other country ruled by a monarch. Unless I am mistaken, Great Britain still has a queen, following through on your thought process it would be perfectly acceptable, even logical, to invade the british. Perhaps if Dubya has a whim and decides that the british are not supporting his policies forcefully enough, the U.S. will invade Great Britain, and according to you it would be perfectly acceptable to do so. I think you need to rethink your thoughts. You seem to be unreasonable and illogical. To use the words of John Kerry, GET REAL.

Your friend,

Posted by: frog | Oct 1, 2004 12:48:52 PM

Mork, as I've said earlier, this ain't a free speech zone. Behave yourself, and all will be well. Troll, and face the consequences.

Frog, you seem to be confusing monarchy with tyranny. While it's certainly possible for a monarchy to be tyrannical, it is not necessarily so.

Posted by: Voice of Reason | Oct 1, 2004 4:19:10 PM

LOL @ deleting my post. the old head in the sand approach. if you don't like it, delete it. it's not really there. you're ego is outta control dude. GET REAL... LMAO @ YOU

p.s. you're behaviour is very similar to that of dubya

Posted by: frog | Oct 1, 2004 7:47:02 PM

The comment about deleting posts wasn't directed at you, it was directed at Mork. Your posts are far too entertaining to delete.

"Your", in the possessive sense, is spelled as you see it here. And I thank you for the compliment you paid me when you compared me to the President.

Posted by: Voice of Reason | Oct 1, 2004 7:49:50 PM

I was refering to the post I made that YOU deleted. stop misrepresenting facts. just because bumbling boy bush does it does not mean it's right. if you can do nothing more than follow the example set by a fool, then you are as he is.

Posted by: frog | Oct 1, 2004 8:00:39 PM


Posted by: frog | Oct 1, 2004 8:01:49 PM

Wait... frog... how was the connection between Saddam and Great Britain as US targets drawn again...? I must've missed it. One was a tyranical dictator, the other is a free nation and strong ally of America.. perhaps I'm not seeing the whole picture.

And you say "Get real"

Mr. Kettle, Pot is on line 1.

Posted by: warn3rboy | Oct 1, 2004 8:37:41 PM

"When an institution reaches the degree of corruption, brazen cynicism and dishonor demonstrated by the U.N. in its shameful history, to discuss it at length is to imply that its members and supporters may possibly be making an innocent error about its nature-which is no longer possible. There is no margin for error about a monstrosity that was created for the alleged purpose of preventing wars by uniting the world against any aggressor, but proceeded to unite it against any victim of aggression. The expulsion of a charter member, the Republic of China-an action forbidden by the U.N.'s own charter-was a 'moment of truth,' a naked display of the United Nation’s soul.

What was Red China's qualification for membership in the U.N.? The fact that her government seized power by force, and has maintained it for twenty-two years by terror. What disqualified Nationalist China? The fact that she was a friend of the United States."
Ayn Rand (1972) ["The Shanghai Gesture-Part II," The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol 1, No. 14]

Posted by: Whiskey Man | Oct 2, 2004 5:57:51 AM

Looks like you miss the main point. The real question is, Who , or what criteria, determines what is a tyrany? You fail to give any reasons as to how the label of tyrant was placed on Saddam, and why just saddam? there are many other countries leaders who could be labeled tyrants. also you fail to acknowledge that what one group of people may view as fine leadership may be viewed as tyrany by others. just because you say it is so does not make it so. just because bush says it is so does not make it so. after reading what you wrote I am left wondering why the U.S. did not invade China. I was merely trying to folow through on your thought process which YOU placed here supposedly for others to read and comment on. If you don't like the comments you just delete them in an effort to make believe they never existed. The post I made about sovereign nations was deleted by you. I suspect it was because you either dissagreed with it or just plain old did not like it. I'm sure the main motivation was so that others could not read it. By doing so you are excersizing you complete control and authority over this blog of yours and are, in effect (albeit on a very small scale) imposing your tyrany on your small section of the internet that you can control. You, sir, are a tyrant. Your blatant display of tyranical techniques show your true self, in direct opposition of the words you write on your little blog. In short, you are a hypocrit. beauty is in the eye of the beholder, just as tyrany is in the eye of the beholder. Please feel free to delete this post and don't forget to correct any spelling errors if you don't.

Posted by: frog | Oct 2, 2004 6:54:48 AM

>> The real question is, Who , or what criteria, determines what is a tyrany?

I'm gonna have to defer to Justice Stewart's definition of pornography here: tyranny is difficult to define, but I know it when I see it. If you want to deny that Saddam Hussein's government was tyrannical, I'm afraid there's little hope for you.

>> after reading what you wrote I am left wondering why the U.S. did not invade China.

You're left wondering this after reading what I wrote? Perhaps you missed the point where I explicitly denied the existence of an obligation to attack a mugger or a tyrant.

>> Please feel free to delete this post and don't forget to correct any spelling errors if you don't.

If you insist. "Tyranny" has two Ns, and "hypocrite" ends with a silent E. There are other errors as well, but I'm not your English teacher.

Posted by: Voice of Reason | Oct 2, 2004 11:00:31 AM

Actually.. it seems VoR deletes certain posts as means of filtering out raging stupidity...

Posted by: warn3rboy | Oct 2, 2004 12:14:28 PM


Posted by: frog | Oct 2, 2004 12:31:07 PM

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