On Atheist Criticisms of Libertarian Christianity

As a libertarian Christian, I believe that a Christian worldview is not only congruent with, but necessitates, libertarian policy positions. I’m at regular odds, then, with people who charge that Christianity is incongruous or incompatible with political liberty.

Conservative Christians, who I find to be widely and increasingly amenable to my arguments, are less and less among this group. Rather, it now seems to be made up largely of Christian socialists and libertarian anti-Christians. I’ll here discuss the arguments I most regularly hear from the latter.

Involving Religion in Politics

bibleflagWhen writing about the relationship between libertarianism and Christianity, I sometimes encounter a vague demand that I “just keep religion out of politics.” Yet this objection is incoherent.

My religious views include an account of the human condition that, if true, should be the foundation of my policy positions. On the other hand, if “keep religion out of politics” is really only an insistence that my religious views are not true, then it should be presented as such.

Granted, what most people mean by “keep religion out of politics” is simply “don’t force your religious values on me.” Yet this cannot be the meaning of a libertarian atheist who knowingly makes the demand of a libertarian Christian. In this case, the demand either asserts merely that Christianity is false, or it is senseless gibberish.

A better strategy for the libertarian atheist would be to concern oneself, first and foremost, with whether a religious person’s beliefs will expand or reduce the scope of government. My Christian belief in humanity’s fallenness and propensity to sin, for instance, disinclines me to entrust government agents with all-seeing omniscience. I would be more open to the prospect of sweeping data collection if I did not subscribe to Christian principles. If one’s goal is to limit government power, then it should be at least a relative good if I consult my religious text when picking up a legal pen.snake

In fact, this is true even if you don’t agree that Christianity predisposes its adherents to libertarianism. Even someone who thinks little of Christians should recognize that we will act with some measure of rational self-interest in the political arena. Note, then, that government power over social issues is increasingly being used against Christian values rather than for them. It will therefore be more and more in the interests of believers to limit government power, even putting other factors aside.

Suppose libertarian atheists could choose to live in only one of two societies: the first entirely secular but cripplingly authoritarian, and the second politically free but religiously mixed. Which would libertarian atheists prefer? If the latter, then working with libertarian Christians in order to promote liberty should be an easy choice.

The Doctrine of Hell

A common complaint of libertarian anti-Christians is that it is authoritarian to teach the Christian doctrine of hell. When Christians warn others about hell, after all, they are telling people that they will suffer unless they take a specific action. This warning, the argument goes, amounts to a kind of coercive threat.

If this is the case, however, it must likewise be authoritarian to warn someone that he’s about to be hit by a truck. If you call out to a man who is standing in front of a truck, then you are no less coercive than the Christian who warns others about hell. You are warning him that a horrible fate awaits him unless he take a specific action. We all understand, however, that “Look out!” is not coercive; the shouter is giving vital information to the person about to be hit.

lewisSome libertarian anti-Christians retort that, if there existed a God who allowed nonbelievers to go to hell, they would have a moral duty to oppose Him. Yet what is the source of this moral duty? If the morally good decision is the one which maximizes one’s happiness, as I believe it is, then some sort of divine command theory is true – as God has structured our reality and arbitrated the conditions that will lead to our happiness or unhappiness. If the atheist asserts that an invisible platonic “form” is the source of his moral duties, then it is actually this form that is demanding his suffering – all the while offering no reward in return.

An atheist might contend that my truck metaphor is invalid because it does not depict me as wishing the man to be hit by the truck. Yet neither do Christians want others to go to hell. If believers did not wish others to be saved, then they would keep quiet about eternity and anti-Christians would have no alleged threat to point to in the first place. This is a fact recognized by atheist Penn Jillette.

Granted, while I do not endorse your standing in front of the truck, I certainly do endorse the free will that allows you to do so. I also endorse the things that allow the truck to hit you, like the human ability to innovate and the physical possibility of speed. I endorse the existence of cliffs, of tools, and of many other things you might freely use to harm yourself. I would certainly not end free will or make the whole universe a padded cell in order to abolish the reality of conditional consequence – and I thank God for not having done so.

“Free will,” said C.S. Lewis, “though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”

Lack of Free Will

steamIn an effort to exclude theists entirely, some more determined libertarian atheists will attempt to redefine libertarianism as an essentially metaphysical, rather than political, concept. “Libertarianism means that nothing – not just the government, but nothing – holds power over me,” the assertion goes. “Therefore theism is opposed to libertarianism.” I don’t accept this definition of libertarianism, but let us do so for the sake of argument.

If naturalism is true – as atheists typically hold – then everything you do and think is predetermined by an inevitable chain of material causation. Your body is a machine and your consciousness, to borrow a metaphor from Thomas Huxley, is a wisp of vapor. You are an effect but never a cause – a ghostly observer that has power over nothing and is wholly under the power of everything.

In contrast, the fact that I freely choose appears to me to be a properly basic belief, requiring no supporting argument. If proper basicality justifies my belief that the external world exists, my belief in free will is likewise justified. This seems to me to be a good argument – though there are others – for affirming the transcendence and causal power of the human mind. Someone who agrees with this argument should find naturalism false, and theism at least more probably true.

Given the definition of libertarianism that some libertarian atheists propose, theists can be libertarians while naturalist atheists cannot. Moreover, while there are some atheists who are not naturalists, they are few and far between – and hardly respected by their compatriots.

A History of Oppression

carolusIt’s difficult to deny that Christians have historically made a disproportionately large contribution to the sciences. Descartes, Pascal, Newton, Linnaeus, Mendel, Pasteur, Marconi, Lemaître and Collins come to mind. Point this out to most atheists, however, and their reaction is a predictable one: Christendom doesn’t deserve any particular credit for its scientists because it is old.

Ask militant atheists about the history of war, however, and this reasoning is suddenly inverted. It seems that the old age of Christianity is no reason not to credit it with the hostilities perpetrated by some professing Christians. It’s a striking paradox that Christianity – and religion in general – is given no credit for its great minds but full credit for its bad ones.

Yet religion – and especially Christianity – has not been the disproportionately oppressive force depicted in online atheist caricatures. As Matt Rogers has pointed out, about 7% of the wars in recorded history have involved a religious cause. These wars account for about 2% of people killed by warfare.

Conversely, the twentieth century was the bloodiest hundred years in human history – whether measured in sheer killings or in killings as a share of the world’s population. From 1900 to 1987, nearly two thirds of those killed by governments died at the hands of Marxists.jacobins

The thousands of murders committed at Verden, and later by the Inquisition, are without a doubt terrible blots on Christianity’s history. Yet it took Christendom centuries of power to muster up each atrocity. In contrast, practically the moment that the atheist Cult of Reason prevailed in France, thousands of Christians were sadistically drowned as part of Jacobin de-Christianization. In G.K. Chesterton’s words, “Once abolish the God and the government becomes the God.”

The actions of atheist governments, of course, do not mean that no atheist can be a libertarian. I hope that I’ve here helped to equip Christians and to sway atheists precisely because I wish for libertarians on both sides to work together. Collaboration is the best way to ensure that neither of us is ever again oppressed by the other.

This column was originally published in 2014.

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A Luddite Without a Hammer

“John Henry said to the steam drill ‘how is you?’
He said ‘Pardon me, Mr. Steam Drill, I suppose you didn’t hear me.
I said how are you, huh?’”

The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer

johnhenrystatue

The John Henry statue.

Last year, the National Park Service spent $221,000 putting on a private fireworks show just for me. I’m not kidding. I was really the only person who watched the show.

Let me tell you, the park service might make its money by blackmailing Congress, but it sure put it to good use. Standing in the middle of the National Mall, I watched in amazement as explosions blossomed against a dilapidated, scaffold-clad Washington Monument. It was a sight easily worth every ill-gotten tax dollar.

Yet, though the mall was congested with a teeming mass of human beings, none but I seemed at all interested in the fireworks show. Instead, the people around me were – overwhelmingly – watching pixilated imitations of the display on their smartphones.

At first, the behavior seemed like an amusing trend. As I studied the crowd, though, I began to realize that the madness was near-universal. Everyone and his mother seemed to be brandishing a giant iPad in as obnoxious a manner as possible, shielding their faces like a defending phalanx of IT professionals.

The national mall holds an estimated thirty thousand people. As far as I could tell, virtually all of them except me wished to capture the fireworks display with a camera’s lens rather than their own God-given retinas.

I wanted to tell these people that they could just look up someone else’s recording on YouTube later, if they really wanted, but the fireworks were loud. I felt, as I sometimes do, like I’d stepped into a scene from Idiocracy.

In retrospect, Spike Jonze’s new movie Her is a better cinematic metaphor. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as a man who falls in love with an artificial intelligence, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. I can’t recall the last time I saw a movie that managed to be at once so disturbing and moving. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should.

I suspect that Spike Jonze has concerns similar to mine. The moment Her begins, we learn that Phoenix’s character works for an internet business called BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com, which customers hire to compose and send messages to friends and loved ones on their behalf. Jonze imagines a future where people have outsourced intimate moments to a website. Particularly given the recent release of Facebook’s “A Look Back” video, that doesn’t seem like a stretch.

You're recording the same video as everyone else.

You’re recording the same video as everyone else.

Before I saw Her, I’d resolved to oppose the protagonist’s relationship as being emblematic of what I think is an increasingly anti-social society. At some point, however, I found myself vocally rebuking Phoenix’s character for being tactless with Johansson’s. I realized I wanted their relationship to succeed.

Likewise, I make the Facebook comparison not because I didn’t enjoy the personalized video, but because I did. There might not really be any computer programs that sound like Scarlett Johansson, but Facebook’s “A Look Back,” at least, is proof that I can be fooled, so to speak. I found touching something that was produced by the digital equivalent of an assembly line, collecting and uniformly organizing the data of millions of people.

I imagine that this is why that crowd on the Mall thought it more important to show a fireworks display to their social networks than to watch it themselves; they are in a relationship with the assembly line.

My libertarian friends will have by now have accused me of being an irrational Luddite. “The internet hasn’t destroyed community,” the response typically goes. “It’s created it.”

Granted, the internet affords advantages to a writer that print does not. It offers educational discovery and stimulating conversation not so easily found in a library or a classroom. It allows me to correspond regularly with people I have never met in person. All of these are wonderful opportunities that I gratefully take advantage of.

The original Luddites were disgruntled artisans who smashed labor-saving machinery with hammers.

The original Luddites were disgruntled artisans who smashed labor-saving machinery with hammers.

Yet they are also not substitutes for the flesh-and-blood relationships for which human beings were designed. Insofar as we try to use them as such, we’ll find them an increasingly shallow – and therefore dependence-creating – substitute.

The argument that the internet has not harmed community, but simply moved it online, seems to presume that human interaction occurs between floating, disembodied souls. It does not. Although we’re sometimes tempted to forget it, human beings are organisms. We experience the world using an instrument forged by two hundred thousand years of evolutionary history. We’ve had the internet for thirty of them.

To say that a digital community can be just as fulfilling as a physical one is to deny any biological influence whatsoever on the requirements for human health and happiness.

Pointing out that people were alienated from one another before the technological advent is no answer either. It is an empirical certainty that alienation has steadily increased over the last decades. I don’t think that technology is the only, or even the primary, reason for our Bowling Alone. But I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that Japanese millennials – who have stopped dating and having sex – “spend far more time communicating with their friends via online social networks than seeing them in the flesh.”

Libertarians are, as a rule, wary of anyone who criticizes some technological innovation. This fear is understandable: criticisms of some technology are often followed by calls to ban it.

You can dissuade people from abusing drugs without advocating for their prohibition.

You can dissuade people from abusing drugs without advocating for their prohibition.

In reaction to this trend, many libertarians have developed a conviction that we should not merely politically allow, but morally support, the widespread use of any apparent innovation the market produces. They do not only oppose prohibitions on the market, but are marketists.
The marketist argument is similar to the libertine one: a libertine is persuaded that, in order to meaningfully oppose drug prohibition, libertarians must morally support drug use. Yet the relationship between opposing drug use and supporting drug prohibition is not a necessary one. The connection is incidental and easily broken. Likewise, I don’t see that criticizing my generation’s excessive use of social media need lead to a ban on social media.

Ironically, although many marketists are libertines, a great many are also cultural conservatives. They criticize the social market for having wrongly chosen to devalue sex, for instance, but recognize that this position need not lend itself to government imposition.

Neither, then, does persuading others to prioritize authentic experience and community over technological insulation. In fact, I think the most effective way to do so would be to decentralize political power: a community will not come together to manage its internal affairs if it had no power to do so. If I’m a Luddite, I’m a libertarian one.

Yet I don’t think I am one at all. When Google recently acquired DeepMind, I was far more intrigued than concerned. There are incoming technological advancements that I relish. I simply don’t think libertarians should shut ourselves off from conversations about how to apply these advancements wisely.

This column was originally published in 2014.

Why the Left Favors Death

reapers

A conservative friend recently pointed me to a video of satirist Evan Sayet detailing his “Unified Field Theory of Modern Liberalism.”

“They [liberals] were raised to believe that indiscriminateness is a moral imperative because its opposite is discrimination,” says Sayet. “Indiscriminateness of thought leads invariably… to siding with evil over good, wrong over right, evil over good, ugly over beautiful, and so on… if nothing is better than anything else, then success is unjust.”

Though I’m hardly reserved in my own criticism of the modern left, as I watched Sayet’s stump speech I actually groaned out loud. What a bunch of goofy hyperbole, I thought. This is no way to advance the debate.

After reflecting on two recent events, however, I’ve realized that – at least for the most part – Sayet was right and I was wrong.

The first is the case of brain dead woman Marlise Munoz. Jezebel, a website that is a readymade Onion parody of itself, ran an article on Munoz titled “Texas Will Keep a Dead Woman on Life Support Just to Incubate Her Fetus.”

Munoz, “a pregnant woman from Tarrant County, Texas who suffered a pulmonary embolism the week after Thanksgiving has been kept on life support against her and her family’s wishes so she can essentially serve as an incubator for her fetus.”

Of course, the question of what to do with brain dead people is relevant in and of itself. My position on the issue is analogous to my take on criminal justice: just as convicted persons sometimes turn out to be innocent, “brain dead” people sometimes turn out to be alive. I say that, to paraphrase Voltaire, it’s better to keep a dead person on life support than to kill a living one.Brain-Death-Image

When brain death is disputed, however, the same people who gave us progressivism and the estate tax suddenly become austere fiscal conservatives obsessed with honoring the wishes of family members. This discrepancy alone might give one the impression that progressives simply think there’s something super cool about people dying.

The Munoz case, of course, has an additional layer of thanatophilia. Progressives are not only working tirelessly to see that Munoz’s corpse decays in a timely manner, but to kill her still-living fetus. The Munoz case transcends the typical abortion debate because Munoz’s offspring cannot be said to be imposing on an unwilling mother. It has to die simply because its existence is undignified.

The second is the dispute between Lisa Adams, a cancer patient and blogger, and The New York Times’ Bill Keller. In his column “Heroic Measures,” Keller advised Adams to shut up and die. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, I will quote him here at length. Brace your stomach.

Among doctors here, there is a growing appreciation of palliative care that favors the quality of the remaining life rather than endless “heroic measures” that may or may not prolong life but assure the final days are clamorous, tense and painful. (And they often leave survivors bankrupt.) What Britain and other countries know, and my country is learning, is that every cancer need not be Verdun, a war of attrition waged regardless of the cost or the casualties. It seemed to me, and still does, that there is something enviable about going gently…

When my wife, who had her own brush with cancer and who has written about Lisa Adams’s case for The Guardian, introduced me to the cancer blog, my first thought was of my father-in-law’s calm death. Lisa Adams’s choice is in a sense the opposite. Her aim was to buy as much time as possible to watch her three children grow up. So she is all about heroic measures…

Keller, like Jezebel, is not merely saying that one should make peace with death when it is inevitable. In both cases, progressives acknowledge some chance of survival, then advise embracing death as more dignified than fighting for life. This advice is redundant: progressives have made death and dignity synonymous.

It is significant that Keller identifies heroism as the essential target of his criticism. Left-wing philosopher Bertrand Russell, in his eloquently nihilistic “A Free Man’s Worship,” likewise affirmed that “no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave.”

I propose that the inverse of heroism – an embrace of emptiness, predictability and sameness – sits at the heart of progressive attacks on life. Below are three reasons why, given a progressive worldview, one might favor extinction over existence.

Suffering is Pointless

DGGFeWUIn 2010, a study in the Journal of Medical Ethics compared the methods of atheist physicians to religious ones. Using a survey of 4,000 doctors, it found that atheist doctors are twice as likely to hasten the deaths of terminally ill patients.

When I point others to this study, I find that many are surprised. “Shouldn’t religious people be less afraid of death than atheists?” they ask. According to a 2009 study, they certainly are.

Yet the source of the terminal illness divide is not hard to identify. To a Christian, life is a divine gift to be embraced. To an atheist, life is – in Bertrand Russell’s words – “but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms.”

A Christian’s life is part of a cosmic drama – one in which a deathbed chat might have eternal consequences for either the dying or the surviving. To an atheist, there are no eternal consequences: “all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction” in the inevitable heat death of the universe.

Months ago, I idly picked up a stray copy of New York magazine and read its cover story, “The Cancer Racket.” The “racket” in question turned out to be Zaltrap, a cancer drug that extends median overall survival by 42 days. I was shocked and disgusted at the magazine’s dismissal of the drug as a waste of money. Who wouldn’t pay any price for the chance to spend even another week with a loved one?

In the context of the Medical Ethics study, however, I shouldn’t have been surprised. 42 days is nothing compared to the total and inevitable nothingness to which secularism says we are all destined.

Secularism is part and parcel of the modern left – and secular physicians hasten the deaths of their patients out of a demented sense of compassion. They see suffering – even that which might save a patient – as cosmically pointless.

Life is Unsafe

red-tapeIn April 2012, 7-year-old Emily Whitehead was on the brink of death. In April 2013, Emily spoke at an American Association for Cancer Research conference – cancer-free and with a full head of hair.

Emily suffered from acute lymphoblastic leukemia for more than a year before her parents enrolled her in a gene therapy trial at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In less than a month, Emily’s cancer was gone.

Emily was the first child in the U.S. to receive this sort of treatment. To be sure, this triumph over cancer is an American success story. Its timing, however, should be a national disgrace: oncologists in China had already been successfully using gene therapy for several years.

Consider the case of Arthur Winiarski, another American cancer patient. Suffering from a tumor “the size of a fist,” Winiarski was given months to live. The businessman was interested in gene therapy and had nothing to lose – but the treatment he needed was inaccessible in the United States. So Winiarski traveled to China, where, at Beijing’s elite Tongren hospital, a Harvard-trained doctor sent his cancer into complete remission.

This was nearly a decade before Emily Whitehead.

Gendicine, the drug that cured Winiarski, has been found to be three times more effective than radiotherapy in a clinical trial of 120 patients. The only recorded side effect was mild fever. Yet, while China’s FDA approved the drug for commercial production years ago, our own FDA still has yet to approve a single gene therapy product.

The Chinese have not left us in the dust because of their technological superiority. They have surpassed us because they are, apparently, less inclined to let life-saving technology language in a regulatory abyss while their own people die.

If Arthur Winiarski had not left the United States, he would be dead. Presumably, in the years between Winiarski’s victory and Whitehead’s, many Americans who could have benefited from drugs like Gendicine did not leave the United States and are consequently dead.

To a sane person, it might seem ironic that the FDA denies experimental treatments to people that they could only help.  But FDA regulations were not written by sane people. They were written by people like Bill Keller.

Like Keller, the progressive authors of regulation are ultimately unconcerned with extending a patient’s life. Theirs is an ideology of control – the only thing that FDA regulations really maintain. Terminal illnesses are par for the course: their success are predictable. Life, and the innumerable possibilities that come with extending it, is risky.

The left is risk-averse. It extolls innovation, but its innovation is really only done alone a linear path prescribed centuries ago. Its is a rigid history, and one is either on the right or the wrong side of it.

This brings me to my third and final point.

Life is Inegalitarian

XSiGHT_Sydney_Pregnancy_3When reading phrasing like that chosen by Jezebel – “serve as an incubator for her fetus,” for example – one comes to a striking realization: something about the fact that women get pregnant really pisses off the left. Its anger then becomes understandable. Here is an ideology that defies all biology by taking as its starting point an expectation of sameness. Yet it must be confronted daily with the gigantic fact of female, but not male, pregnancy. And as if this sheer physiological difference was not maddening enough, one might wonder whether sexes that evolved such different abilities managed to evolve identical brains. They did not. Pregnancy is a ghastly reminder that we are not the same. It is an undignified state for a brain dead woman to be in because it is an undignified state for a woman to be in.

My suggestion is not a radical one. Consider the opinion of leftists known to you on having children early, or on having many children. It is virtually self-evident that it is most progressive never to be pregnant at all, and that if one must be pregnant, then it is a necessary condescension to backwardness, and should be done as little and as late as possible. Pregnancy is contemptible because it is patriarchal – it is the submission of a woman’s other aspirations to service as a mere “incubator for a fetus.”

As it happens, of course, female pregnancy is also the mainspring all mammalian life. Contempt for female pregnancy, then, is a contempt for life and of the whole untamable tumult of our biological existence. Biological death has the final benefit of being the closest thing to uniformity that the human experience offers.

Of course, what a progressive who disdains pregnancy fails to realize is that, in Murray Rothbard’s words, “the concept of life and perfection is incompatible. But so is death and perfection.”

This column was originally published in 2014.

Oh, the Monarchy!

“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.” –Che Guevara

“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.” –Che Guevara

Why did the internet left get so excited about the Duchess of Cambridge’s new baby? I have an answer.

As readers of this website are likely well aware, being a rebel is fun. And if I can think of one way in which leftists are at a disadvantage in modern political discourse, it’s that they don’t often get to be rebels. Today, after all, most powerful government institutions in the Western world have a decidedly left-wing character.

In the United States, only a minority of Democratic voters say it’s particularly important that we continue to have a Fourth Amendment. Where Republicans abandoned Bush en masse, most Democrats remain feverishly devoted to President Obama as he willfully expands Bush-era warrantless surveillance.

Likewise, more Americans now believe that “the First Amendment goes too far” than at any point since the months following 9/11. Who are these new opponents of free speech? They are predominantly left-wing, non-religious and young. To these nascent stormtroopers, your right to dissent is an impediment to social justice. 70% of liberals, for example, think that wedding musicians who personally object to same-sex marriage should be legally forced to go and perform at the weddings of same-sex couples who wish to hire them.

Presumably, the end goal is something like Europe. In Denmark, all churches, regardless of their beliefs, are required to host same-sex weddings.  The UK’s imperious left now jails its citizens for crimes like “revving [one’s] car in a racist manner.” Another way to be locked in a cell “for racism” is to complain to your middle school teacher that the other students assigned to your group project speak only Urdu.

Liberty is not being smothered in the flag – as was once predicted – but trampled beneath the Converse jackboots of tolerance.  Can police who jail schoolgirls for speech crimes be said to be in rebellion against a system of power? Not with a straight face.  The leftists-as-rebels narrative is just not believable: a dismal picture for any left-wingers who long for the rush of defying the powers that be.

Hard at work oppressing the proletariat.

Hard at work oppressing the proletariat.

But wait – here comes Kate Middleton’s baby to remind us all that the British monarchy still exists. To a leftist, the royals’ sins are a virtual compendium of all the evil in the world. The monarchy is traditional and, if history is linear, is committing a terrible crime merely by being so old. It’s also religious: Elizabeth II is the ceremonial head of the Church of England. It’s even a bit complementarian: the words “king” and “queen” sound nothing alike.  Perhaps worst of all: it’s relatively inexpensive and profitable. To the delight of nostalgic leftists, hungry for some tangible institution to oppose, the monarchy fits the bill.

Queue the fermenting bowels of the internet left. Having surveyed its reaction I’ll say, without getting into gruesome detail, that I saw that lovely Diderot epigram about the entrails of priests more times than I’d have liked. Perhaps the most widely circulated outburst was Gawker’s “Imprison the Royal Family and Abolish the Monarchy.”  The author of this column squeezes the royals for every drop of rebellion he can, stopping just short of saying we should euthanize the Queen’s corgis.

The piece revealed its underlying authoritarianism, however, when it called upon the UK to “burn the queen’s home to ground during a grand national celebration of the birth of a new society.”  The screed is emblazoned with an image glorifying the Jacobins, one of the most violently authoritarian regimes in the history of man. The Jacobin government drowned nuns for praying and beheaded people for using the word “monsieur.” As a libertarian, I will always work to decentralize power to whatever extent I can – but I would much rather live under British ceremony than whatever bloody utopia Gawker would install in its place.

The column’s strongest argument is that the royal family receives a great deal of money from taxpayers. Although Gawker grossly misrepresents the way this occurs, it is nonetheless true and objectionable. The Obama family, however, costs 20 times more than the royal family. The Daily Mail has noticed the irony:

Moreover, much of the money spent on Mr Obama’s family goes to perks such as entertainment and household expenses.

For example, the White House contains a movie theatre which is manned by projectionists 24 hours a day in case one of the family feels like a trip to the cinema.

And even the Obamas’ dog Bo costs the taxpayer thousands of dollars – his handler is reportedly paid over $100,000 a year…

226 members of Mr Obama’s staff are apparently paid over $100,000 – and the President can increase their salaries at any time.

I find it unlikely that Gawker has produced 20 times as much odium towards the Obama family as it has towards the British royals. For that matter, I find it unlikely that Gawker, in all its history, has directed against the Obamas even a comparable fraction of the hatred contained within this single column.

As long as he doesn’t take any corgis.

As long as he doesn’t take any corgis.

“But,” I hear you protest, “a majority of Americans voted for Barack Obama – and, by extension, his family. Isn’t that different?” Well, although Britain still locks people in jail for expressing opinions, republicanism has not been one of those opinions for some time. A famous political pressure group, Republic, has been calling for the abolition of the monarchy since 1983.

Britons have had plenty of opportunity to elect these republicans and then abolish the Crown by referendum. Yet modern polls consistently find that around 80% of Britons want to continue having a monarchy, with only 13% committed to abolishing it. I fail to see, then, how Britain’s opulence is any less democratic than ours.

On the other hand, Britain’s government has led our own in intrusive and sweeping surveillance. Britons are monitored by millions of CCTV cameras; the nation was already “the most surveilled country” in 2006. With an army deployed in more than 80 countries around the world, it is also one of the most interventionist nations on earth.

I am suspicious of anyone who weighs in on British politics to condemn the indignities of the nation’s symbolic monarchy but ignores ascending assaults on liberty and life. This selective moral outrage confirms the left’s prioritization of equality above liberty. Moreover, it reflects the left’s desire to reclaim something it’s rightly lost: its image of defiance.

The Power of Twelve

Rep. Amash

If you weren’t paying attention today, you might have missed a tremendous moment for liberty that happened yesterday evening.

The House of Representatives debated an amendment introduced by Rep. Justin Amash to a defense appropriations bill. The amendment would have significantly limited the authority of the NSA to collect data on American citizens who are not under investigation already.

Seems pretty reasonable, no?

The House didn’t think so, and instead chose to vote with what the White House, not the majority of Americans, wanted. In a final vote of 217-205, and reportedly after some intense lobbying from the White House, the House decided that it wasn’t reasonable to limit data collection to people who were under any reasonable suspicion of being involved in terrorism.

“This person looks like they might be guilty sometime in the future. Let’s record all their stuff to be sure.” – Lindsey Graham [citation probably not needed]

We’ve learned some important things today. The government’s encroachment on our individual liberties is reaching a dangerous tipping point. We’ve known for years that things like the PATRIOT ACT allowed for, shall we say, more creative interpretations of certain civil liberties such as the right to have warrants “specifically describe” the places to be searched. For years, the retort to this concern has been “if you’re not doing anything wrong, why should you worry?” As we can see now, the government doesn’t care if you’re doing anything wrong or not, they will collect massive amounts of information on you anyway; just in case you do sometime in the future, I suppose.

There’s no such thing as presumption of innocence when it comes to the catch-all justification of “national security,” even though the fact that there should be was once self-evident. I don’t think everyone in the government, the NSA, or the intelligence community is malicious. They’re people. I’m sure some of them are prudent. But our government was created to be a government of laws, not of men. The protection of our data, our privacy, and our rights, should not rely on the good intent of people given immeasurable power. That is not how our government was intended to work.

But, liberty lovers, this is not the time to be discouraged!

A few years ago, the American public largely didn’t care about the NSA, the PATRIOT ACT, or civil liberties concerns. For years and years, Ron Paul introduced legislation that died in committee with few or no cosponsors. The lone voice crying in the wilderness has retired from politics, but his profound influence has helped the people who followed him have quite a few allies. Let’s return to the vote itself.

205 voted in favor. 217 voted against. That’s a difference of twelve votes. There are 435 members of the House of Representatives. Twelve is nothing. The congressmen who voted against it can lose elections. Now it’s our responsibility not to let this issue go by the wayside. Don’t let people tell you they’re tired of hearing about it and change the subject to some fleeting thing like mayoral candidates who have problems with monogamy and discretion.  These are our liberties.  We can still get them back. We’re already winning. Let’s get those twelve votes – or those two-hundred seventeen – out of office. We have just one year until we get our first chance. Let’s not let them forget that they betrayed liberty and the will of their constituents.

Liberals Unmoved by Zimmerman Facts

In the minds of liberals (by which I mean those trying to instigate a racial dispute, not all liberals), the facts of the case and Zimmerman’s legal defense are not those presented in court, but what was imagined well over a year ago.

  • Trayvon Martin, an innocent unarmed honors student who happens to be black, makes a trip to the convenience store for a snack of tea and Skittles.
  • An angry white man, who aspired to be a police officer, saw a hooded young black person and, for no reason apart from his own biases, assumed the individual was up to no good in this almost exclusively white neighborhood.  This same angry white man had been arrested multiple times, having fought with his wife and even with police officers; however, his father was a judge, so he was able to make the charges disappear.
  • The angry white man proceeded to follow the youth in his car, and, when Trayvon tried to get away, Zimmerman eventually got out of the car to confront Trayvon.  A scuffle ensued, probably due to Zimmerman’s temper and bigotry.  Trayvon begged for help, and Zimmerman shot him dead.
  • Zimmerman’s only justification was that he ‘felt threatened,’ and, under Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, this alone allows you to kill a person with a gun.”

martyrdom

It didn’t take long  for people to realize he might be partly, or even mostly, Caucasian, but he’s not what most people would call white. Beginning to stop calling him white would have ruined the narrative before it even got off the ground, so it was decided to call him a white Hispanic.

I’m not sure if this information came out previously, but this was the link I read when someone first mentioned Zimmerman’s past to me.

It shows the mug shot photo that was frequently juxtaposed with a picture of Trayvon from his younger high-school years.  No surprise there.

I had never heard of rollingout.com before, but at least they corrected themselves and said it was one arrest. They also acknowledged that the case didn’t magically disappear; Zimmerman completed a diversion program that I imagine was arranged in open court and available to anyone, not just the family members of judges.  Without any evidence, the site posited the question about Zimmerman’s father possible acting on his son’s behalf to get the charges dismissed.  I think Stephen Colbert, who of course generally makes fun of conservatives in doing so, has demonstrated how silly the “I’m just asking questions” approach is.  They’re deliberately designed to plant a thought.

Why else is this significant?  Well, I’ll tell you why: most underprivileged youths don’t have fathers for judges.  Even though Zimmerman is Hispanic, as a “white Hispanic” with a father as a judge, he can’t possibly be in the underprivileged category.  So that puts him in the privileged category with all the other whites.

A liberal I know from a Facebook group actually stated that Zimmerman’s place in the societal power structure, combined with his actions against black people, made him white even if his background did not.  Combatting blacks is a way to show the whites that you have joined them, apparently.

To discuss what he actually is, Zimmerman’s father may be a white ethnic Jew, but the only people who seem to have a vested interest in this topic are Jews and anti-Semites.  It’s safe to say that Zimmerman has substantial ancestry that does not originate from Europe.  As one of the blogs I will link to mentioned, would this story have even made news if Zimmerman were named Jorge Mesa or something similar?  Probably not even if his mother were a judge named Zimmerman.

Obama stated if he had a son, the son would look like Trayvon, but whether that’s true or not, I wonder if his life might have had more in common with Zimmerman’s due to having a mother and father of clearly different ethnicities.

There is extensive evidence that Zimmerman was not racist, including tutoring black kids and defending a black homeless man who was beaten by a police officer, but because he once complained (on Myspace) about Mexicans walking along the roadway, that confirms all the preconceived notions of racism.  Of course, there is no reason to believe that he would not have commented on it in the same way that if the same activity was being carried out by half-Jew/half-Peruvians .

pVqDQEXOf course, he didn’t suggest any desire to commit any crimes, as Trayvon had done multiple times in social media (including mention of fights, seeking to procure a gun illegally, and mention of taking and seeking drugs, including “lean”, which can be made with sugary drinks and candy such as what he had purchased).  Trayvon had also been suspended from school for having material with marijuana residue on it. This is why he was in Sanford rather than Miami.  Had he lived in Sanford full-time or had his father been with the girlfriend (whose house Trayvon was going toward) for a long period of time, Trayvon and Zimmerman probably would have been acquainted, and there would not have been a confrontation.  I don’t know what his grades were, but that’s hardly prototypical honors student behavior.

The final element to debunk is “stand your ground”, which only modified the common law theory regarding retreat. It used to be that self-defense could only be invoked once the party asserting it had retreated until he could no longer retreat (“retreat to the wall” was the phrase I learned in law school).  It isn’t some manufactured right to attack people arising because you think they look suspicious or have bad vibes.   Also, it has shown to be a mechanism that actually often helps black people stay out of jail, which should be a good thing if you really care about black people suffering for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

Regardless, it was not relevant as they were both on the ground, and Trayvon apparently got a superior position where he was able to strike Zimmerman’s head on the concrete after breaking his nose.  Trayvon had no apparent injuries, not even bruises, apart from the gunshot wound.  Anyway, Zimmerman’s posture of lying on the ground is the relevant time period, because only then did he produce the pistol.  Zimmerman says that Trayvon reached for it first after telling Zimmerman he was going to die, but, even if none of that was true, there was still no option to retreat.  It’s far-fetched to believe that Zimmerman had a superior position at some point where he could have just ended it and withdrawn.  Such a scenario would not only have to be believable, it would have to be established beyond a reasonable doubt in order to overcome the self-defense argument.

Also, to be clear, “stand your ground” was not an issue in the trial.

Some of those who admit “stand your ground” was irrelevant to the case are still claiming that it caused Zimmerman not to get arrested or prosecuted by local officials.  Maybe in a retreat jurisdiction, he would have, but it’s also quite possible that the police and prosecutors would have thought self-defense without more evidence would have been too difficult a defense to overcome.

I mention more evidence for a reason. As O’Mara pointed out to Al Sharpton, making an arrest starts the clock on bringing someone to trial. I believe he said it was six months–I suppose Zimmerman didn’t insist upon that time frame (he was booked on April 11, 2012).  Regardless, you don’t want to start the clock unless you’re comfortable that the evidence is there.  A lot of what media and politically motivated commentators thought would be there in terms of evidence didn’t materialize.  Also, there could have been great evidence out there that just didn’t come out yet.  If Zimmerman had been arrested that night, and there were no time waivers, and he went to trial in August of last year, any information found out after that point would have been useless.  He would have already been tried.

I don’t know if this is serious or not, but it demonstrates how easily this could have gone in the other direction.  What if Trayvon’s remarks to Rachel Jeantel about Zimmerman were construed as anti-gay bias?  Couldn’t special interests and the left-leaning media have woven a narrative around that?  If they hadn’t chosen one already, that is.

piers-larry-elderSpeaking of sticking with a narrative, one of the most revealing conversations I’ve seen about this matter was between Piers Morgan and Larry Elder.  This isn’t surprising coming from him, but Morgan did admit that he thinks Zimmerman should be punished because he killed a person with a gun, no matter the reasons or circumstances.  Then he pretended to care about how many blacks die in Chicago.  I wonder how many of their names Piers knew or how many interview guests he’s had on who happened to be the last person to speak to any of them on a phone.  Larry Elder wasn’t a very cooperative guest, but that’s the only way to counter how Morgan runs his show.  He wanted to dwell on Jeantel’s intelligence (or lack thereof), when what does that have to do with the problems of black kids dying, if that really is what Morgan cares about?  What does that even have to do with disarming Americans, which seems to be Morgan’s primary cause in life?  But more important than that, whether we’re talking about Morgan or Sharpton or even Obama, it’s just about keeping the sideshow going and treating adults (especially black ones) like children.

I’ll leave you with what that radical tea partier Jimmy Carter had to say about the verdict, despite an interviewer desperately prompting him to validate liberal concerns of racism:

“I think the jury made the right decision based on the evidence presented because the prosecution inadvertently set the standard so high that the jury had to be convinced that it was a deliberate act by Zimmerman and that he was not at all defending himself,” Carter said.

“It’s not a moral question,” he continued, “it was a legal question and the American law requires that the jury listens to the evidence presented.”

What’s In A Name?

The terms anarcho-capitalist and anarchist are quite common to libertarians. We hear the terms and think of such figures as Lysander Spooner and Murray Rothbard. Yet to the general populace, these words represent something very different. The terms harken back to history classes where students learned about the self-proclaimed Anarchists who threw bombs, engaged in violence, and had a much-different view towards the free market.  In a lighter sense, the majority grew to accept that to be an anarchist is to experience youthful phases of rebellion against society and “the man”. This is drastically different from the libertarian view, where an individual who identifies as an anarchist or an ancap is one who believes in a completely voluntary society with  no government coercion.

While I don’t claim either one of those titles, this is certainly a case in which libertarians need to play a better semantics game as it relates to outreach to the general public. The second that one identifies themselves politically as an anarchist or an ancap in a conversation with a non-political acquaintance, one of two things will happen: either the subject will be changed or a deluge of confused questions will be asked; in my experience, the former tends to happen more often. Anarchism has such violent connotations; do we really want ourselves associated with that, even if we attach the term capitalism?

There are much better terms to use to describe the belief in a free society or laissez-faire economics. Relying instead on the political label of voluntaryist may require some explanation, but doesn’t create preconceived notions. Explaining first and foremost that you are an advocate of a free-market economy (a real one without impediments created by the Federal leviathan) is also another solution to the semantics problem that we find ourselves facing.

The general public finds itself more cynical of the status quo every day and is looking for another answer out there. Terms need to evoke a certain kind of hope, and that can only be accomplished by using self-descriptions that haven’t already been manipulated to represent a negative, or dangerous, point of view. I’d argue that even capitalism is a bad term. It was first defined by Marx in Das Kapital and has always had a negative connotation: one that evokes the image of the fat executive smoking a cigar while stomping on the poor. Furthermore, the Left claims that the bailouts and Keynesian economics “saved capitalism”, an exemplar of oxymoronical statements. If the bailouts and Keynesian economics saved capitalism, I wonder what their notions of real central planning are.

It’s not hard to be savvy about your terminology if you know who you are talking to. Efforts must be made in every way possible to win the hearts and minds of the public, especially in terms of viability of libertarian candidates. When I run for office, I don’t want people to be associating me with Gavrilo Princip just because someone mentioned to them that they were a libertarian who had anarchist leanings. Likewise I assume that libertarians in business or the non-profit sector of the economy would rather not have their productivity associated with destruction and violence.

Make a conscious effort to use new terms, or only use self-descriptors such as “anarchist” or “anarcho-capitalist” amongst other libertarians, where they will be understood for what they mean. It will make a world of difference in the long run, and could contribute to living in a much more free society one day.

Pro-Life Libertarianism

On the topic of abortion, the libertarian movement is strongly divided in two camps: those who support abortion and those who oppose abortion. Within the pro-abortion libertarian communities, the unborn child has been given the labels of “parasite” and “trespasser.” Let it be known that libertarians have always spoken their mind. From a rational standpoint, it is impossible for an unborn child to be either a parasite or a trespasser. By definition, a parasite is never the same species as its host. As much as the pro-abortion advocates would love to claim that an unborn child is something alien, an unborn child and its mother are both undeniably human. An unborn child also does not feed off its mother in a manner intended to harm her; after all, child-rearing is the most natural thing a woman can do. An unborn child is not a trespasser, either, as the child is not in the woman’s womb out of his own volition. The unborn baby did not decide to transplant himself into the uterus of his mother with the intent to squat her property rights. There was no conscious choice made by the unborn child to be placed in the mother’s body; however, it is most likely the conscious choice of the woman to engage in sexual relations with the consequence of becoming pregnant. If case law is to be applied (as pro-abortion advocates support when they rattle on about Roe v. Wade), even if the “trespasser” idea was valid, the Ploof vs. Putnam decision states that an individual can seek refuge in someone else’s property if his life is in danger. Clearly, the instance of an unborn child needing the sustenance of a mother to survive is a case about preserving the sanctity of human life.

Definitions aside, the biggest problem with calling an unborn child a “trespasser”—or, worse—a “parasite” is that it dehumanizes another human being. Yes, an unborn child is a genetically distinct human being.  No matter how many times people scream or whine, an unborn child is a unique human being. It is impossible to deny that.

ababydoesnotsimply

The language that is used by pro-abortion advocates is intended to devalue human life. Using demeaning terms like “parasite”, “trespasser”, “just a clump of cells” (which all of humanity really is), etc. are supposed to trivialize human life to make it easier to kill. In every single instance of genocide or slavery, the group being targeted is referred to as subhuman. “It’s okay to kill Jews, they’re not humans like the rest of us.” “It’s okay to enslave blacks, they’re not humans like the rest of us.” Today, it has become politically correct to all but explicitly say, “It’s okay to kill unborn babies, they’re not humans like the rest of us.”  Of course, you will find the individuals who will, in fact, go that far.

The word genocide refers to the deliberate systematic destruction of a group of people. Using that definition, abortion is flagrantly genocide. The group being targeted is the unborn. The mechanism enacting the deliberate, systematic destruction of the unborn is the abortion industry. This particular genocide has led to the deaths of more than 50,000,000 babies since Roe v. Wade in America alone.wedonotwant

Once an individual stops thinking of other individuals in terms of their humanity, it is easier to systematically exterminate them. The government, through tax-payer funded avenues such as Planned Parenthood, using phrases such as “reproductive choice’, have made it easier for people to have no guilt about viciously puncturing the head of an unborn human being, and vacuuming out its brains, in the name of “women’s rights.”

The unborn child has become subhuman in popular culture. Once it is understood that an unborn child is another human being who is entitled to the fundamental right to life, however, the libertarian case for abortion falls apart.

Libertarians believe in the doctrine of self-ownership. Man’s body is his property to do as he pleases. The pro-abortion libertarians extend this idea to abortion, claiming that an unborn child is part of a woman’s body and therefore, the woman can do what she wishes to that property. However, this point seems to miss the fact that an unborn child is also a human being. An unborn child is not anyone’s else’s property. The principle of self-ownership, applied completely, would mean that only the unborn child has unilateral bodily autonomy over himself. The unborn baby, therefore, is not anyone else’s property, and no one else can make the decision to terminate the baby’s existence except himself.  For people who talk about the importance of consent, a baby cannot consent to its own termination; therefore, to allow abortion means to allow for another person to make the decision of life or death for someone else—without his consent. It’s hard to believe that anyone would choose not to be given the right to life, no matter how horrible the hypothetical situations are (and people will come up with the most absurd hypotheticals of a cruel world to try to justify the murder of the unborn.) As Ronald Reagan eloquently put it, “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.”

yourbody

Libertarians also extol the virtues of the non-aggression principle. According to the non-aggression principle, violence against another human being is morally unjust. Therefore, abortion is a clear violation of the axiom. Abortion is the deliberate killing of another human being, most often out of convenience. No one would argue that murder of an innocent person is justified under the non-aggression principle; therefore, when taking into considering that an unborn child is another human being, it makes no sense for abortion to be accepted by those who espouse non-aggression.

Pro-abortion libertarians often talk about abortion as being related to “the right to choose.” That phrase is a misnomer: the unborn child has no choice. The unborn child must submit to the will of the mother. If a mother chooses to have her child, then the child is afforded the right to life. If a mother chooses to have an abortion, the unborn child will be killed at the hand of its mother. The unborn child is never afforded the ability to choose in this situation. The mother’s choice to murder her child is elevated as more important than the right of her unborn child to make any choices about his own life. As well, the mother’s ability to choose to kill her child is seen as more significant to the father’s property rights over his own child. If pro-abortion libertarians argue that a child is property that can be disposed of at will, then the father, being half of the property owner, should also be able to have an opinion about the termination of a pregnancy. However, time and time again, abortion advocates will state that only the opinion of women matter.

dearrepublicansOn the topic of the female body,with  the recent passage of a Texas abortion bill, pro-abortion libertarians have been crying about a supposed assault on freedom. According to pro-abortion libertarians of the feminist variety, a ban on abortion after 20 weeks is an unprecedented attack on women. What the pro-abortion libertarians forget, however, is that women are increasingly the targets of abortion. The House of Representatives was not even capable of passing a ban on sex-selective abortions in America—which, as you could have guessed—are geared to specifically target baby girls. Certainly, if there is a supposed “war against women”, a war against genocide based on gender would be a lofty aspiration; however, the libertarian feminists feel as if it is more important to protect a woman’s right to “choose” to kill her unborn child than the right of another woman to be able to live. It is more of an attack on women, clearly, to deny them the right to murder their daughters than to stop the murder of female children all together. As well, as much as the feminists would like to argue, abortion is not a procedure that is entirely without consequences (though, libertarians are supposed to support the idea of consequences for their actions). The significant rates of suicide, depression, and general mental illness after an abortion is performed are alarming. Abortion wrecks havoc on a woman’s mental health. If any regulations on abortion threaten women everywhere, then why do most women support the Texas idea of a ban on abortion after twenty weeks?

The subset of scientific libertarians who consider themselves lovers of technological advancement driven by capitalism have a particularly hard case to argue. While supporting abortion, they often forget about scientific advancements in pushing back viability. I, personally, was born substantially premature. The same day I was born, abortion was still a legal option. The only reason why I am alive today is due to an experimental drug that I received (and a lot of prayer). The technology clearly exists to allow for children to thrive without their mothers at times that were not previously thought possible; however, libertarians who advocate for abortion at any and all points of a pregnancy deny that scientific advancement should play a role in determining whether an individual should be given a chance to live.

Constitution-loving libertarians who consider themselves strong proponents of the Fifth Amendment also have to engage in logical leaps when they simultaneously defend abortion. The Fifth Amendment clearly states that no individual can be deprived of life without trial. With abortion, there is no trial. The mother is the prosecution, the judge, and the executioner. The unborn child is deemed guilty of a crime so heinous that his life is taken from him without having ever committed an offense other than wanting to live. Abortion, therefore, is also inherently unconstitutional.

Of course, Roe v. Wade will be pointed to as the basis of legality and Constitutionality of abortion. However, Roe v. Wade is an atrocious case for anyone who respects the rule of law. The Constitution clearly states that only Congress and the respective states can create laws; however, in the Roe v. Wade ruling, the Supreme Court acted as Congress and state legislatures when it created the “right” to an abortion and the trimester framework. The advocates for abortion, when they rely on Roe v. Wade, believe that the Supreme Court can grant someone their rights—which is even more fallacious than the belief that an individual obtains rights from Congress. Libertarians generally despise the notion that the government grants people their rights; however, they have no problem with believing the government can take away an individual’s God-granted natural right to life by creating the artificial “right” to an abortion.

Putting the human element back in to the termination of a human life, it becomes impossible for a logically consistent libertarian to support abortion from any of the commonly quoted perspectives. Perhaps the most egregious offense libertarians support when they support abortion is that abortion is state-sanctioned genocide. The abortion industry in America is run on tax-payer dollars. It is ironic that individuals are paying taxes to the government, which in turn makes sure that other individuals can never pay taxes to the government. Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers receive your money in order to fund their killing of millions of babies every single year. As well, they receive your money to keep propagating the idea that not all human life is of equal value. For egalitarian libertarians, this should certainly strike a chord. The state is also the entity that created the idea that individuals have a “right” to an abortion. For libertarians, it should be clear that you do not have the right to anyone else’s property, especially not anyone else’s life.

Liberty at War

rand1.1.13Last week, military lawyer David French wrote that “I’m noticing military libertarianism increasing, not decreasing, among the more politically aware and engaged officers and enlisted.” French’s column affirms a hunch I’ve had for some time: that libertarianism is a military ideology.

I don’t mean that libertarianism is militaristic, in the sense that it subordinates society’s other concerns to those of the military. I mean it’s a military ideology in the sense that Mithraism was a military religion; it’s a system of thought well-suited to people in the military.

I’ll illustrate my point. Suppose the United States was attacked, or faced the credible and immanent threat of an attack, during a Rand Paul presidency. How might President Paul respond?

Firstly, I think we can expect that Paul would use the U.S. military to thoroughly destroy both the enemy’s offensive capabilities – as a matter of simple practicality – and the enemy – as a matter of long-term deterrence.

Paul has said that, when we must fight, “we fight to win.” Antiwar’s Steve Breyman – who I presume is some sort of pacifist – has called this statement “code for the application of massive, unrestrained levels of violence.” If by this Breyman means destroying all those responsible for and complicit in an attack or near-attack on Americans, even at the inevitable cost of civilian casualties, I essentially agree.

Secondly, Paul would begin withdrawing U.S. forces as soon as these tasks had been accomplished to a reasonable degree. Libertarians recognize that soldiers are not police; it is both unnecessary and counterproductive to, for any prolonged period, put soldiers in the role of alien interlopers patrolling streets that are not their own.

The late CBS journalist George Cirle III, who wrote the book that inspired Charlie Wilson’s War, once said that America helped grow Al Qaeda by “washing its hands” of Afghanistan in 1993. In other words, by not doing enough nation-building in the Middle East.

Cirle, apparently, never looked at any Al Qaeda propaganda. That American forces did not stick around long enough to install plumbing in Afghanistan has never been one of its primary talking points.

Appropriately, Paul recognizes that it is neither feasible, nor the job of American soldiers, to forge new republics by affixing American-style governments to cultures vastly different from our own. In Paul’s own words:

Instead of large, limitless land wars in multiple theaters, we would target our enemy; strike with lethal force.

We would not presume that we build nations nor would we presume that we have the resources to build nations.  Many of the countries formed after WWI are collections of tribal regions that have never been governed by a central government and may, in fact, be ungovernable.

In other words, Paul’s foreign policy would permit soldiers, when necessary, to wage war. It would not consign them to the futile chores of policing streets and installing plumbing, with which they’ve been burdened by liberal internationalism. It’s not that there should be no role for constructive, rather than destructive, personnel in a military – there should. But they should be in the National Guard. French agrees:

That’s why I wonder if a libertarian military might be more lethal, even on smaller budgets. A trimmed-down bureaucracy, an increased emphasis on the destructive rather than nation-building capabilities of the force under arms, and doctrines designed to inflict maximum (non-nuclear) destruction on enemy forces rather than transforming and democratizing communities — all of this could add up to a more lethal (yet smaller) military.

After 9/11, the U.S. military experienced a spike in recruitment. Barring a staggering coincidence, I don’t imagine that many of these recruits expected to be sent to Italy or the United Kingdom, which each host 10,000 U.S. troops. Nor do I suspect they wished to go Germany or Japan, each home to contingents of 45,000 American soldiers. As the U.S. continues to plummet into debt, these latter countries are becoming economic powerhouses at our expense.

Defense analyst Adam B. Lowther has written a fascinating paper for the National Defense University titled “The Post-9/11 American Serviceman.” On the worldview of servicemen, Lowther writes “Believing that man is a fallen creature and wicked by nature, the military is suspicious of grand proposals for creating world peace.” That’s a “very strong libertarian streak” if there ever was one.

French is right to say that a libertarian military would be more formidable: libertarians would let the military do its job.