Song of the Schmibertarians

by Kieran Healy on September 24, 2004

I agree with Matt. Jacob Levy’s defense of the possibility of Libertarian Hawkishness is coherent and even forceful in the context of the Afghanistan war, but Belle backed down too soon. It’s just not plausible to construe libertarianism as really being about massive, state-sponsored,[1] centrally-planned,[2] militarily-administered[3] efforts to invade and reconstruct another country—let alone to imply that libertarians are by temperament the kind of people who are confident that enterprises like this usually succeed as planned. So, I think Schmibertarians could adopt as their anthem a slightly modified version of Randy Newman’s song The World Isn’t Fair. It’s about Karl Marx, which doesn’t seem promising for Schmibertarians with aggressive foreign policies.[4] But consider:


Oh Karl the world isn’t fair
It isn’t and never will be.
They tried out your plan
It brought misery instead,
If you’d seen how they worked it
You’d be glad you were dead.
Just like I’m glad I’m living in the land of the free,
Where the rich just get richer
And the poor you don’t ever have to see—It would depress us, Karl.
Because we care
That the world still isn’t fair.

Just replace ‘Karl’ with ‘Bob’ and “they” with “we” and you’re set. Sure, Iraq was run by a wholly evil despot before. But so what? After all, who if not libertarians can we depend on to remind us that the world isn’t fair, your plan brought misery instead, and that you’re just wasting your time—and probably making things worse—by initiating some Grand State Scheme to control unemployment, the market for rental accommodation, civilian air traffic or infant polio. This argument scales up to things like the forcible invasion, occupation and political reconstruction of faraway countries. Given that the country posed no credible threat to the U.S., Libertarians ought to have opposed the war and especially the subsequent occupation in Iraq. And indeed many of them did.

fn1. That is, botched.

fn2. That is, botched.

fn3. That is, botched.

fn4. Note that we’re talking about the Schmibertarians of Samizdata here, not Jacob Levy of the University of Chicago.

{ 25 comments }

1

Keef 09.24.04 at 5:31 am

Well put, and good use of a Randy Newman tune.

I’ve not been convinced that Libertarians, who so often condemn “the coercive power of the state,” can seriously condone one state sucking billions of dollars out of its citizens in order to apply “the coercive power of the state” (including massive weaponry) to another state (albeit a horribly despotic one) in order to change the application of the “coercive power of the state” in that foreign land.

Of course, perhaps a libertarian utopia appears in that distant state — but more likely, it’ll be an Islamist despotism, or a failed state at incessant civil war, or something less than any kind of utopia.

I have realized for a long time that, for most so-called libertarians, “libertarian” means little more than “leave me alone, personally–but not for thee if I have a beef with your behavior.” But when they defend the Iraq war, it really comes home.

I realize your point is much subtler than mine, but I had to get that off my chest.

Keef.

2

spreadtheword 09.24.04 at 5:57 am

Subject: Mandatory draft 6/15/05
Express your preference.

Mandatory draft for boys and girls (ages 18-26) starting June 15, 2005, is something that everyone should know about. This literally effects everyone since we all have or know children that will have to go if this bill passes.

There is pending legislation in the house and senate (companion bills: S89 and HR 163) which will time the program’s initiation so the draft can begin as early as spring, 2005, just after the 2004 presidential election. The dministration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now, while the public’s attention is on the elections, so our action on this is needed immediately. Details and links follow. This plan, among other things, eliminates higher education as a shelter and includes women in the draft. Also, crossing into Canada has already been made very difficult.

Actions: Please send this on to all the parents and teachers you know, and all the aunts and uncles, grandparents, godparents. . . And let your children know – – it’s their future, and they can be a powerful voice for change! This legislation is called HR 163 and can be found in detail at this website: http://thomas.loc.gov/ Just enter in “HR 163” and click search and will bring up the bill for you to read. It is less than two pages long.

If this bill passes, it will include all men and ALL WOMEN from ages 18 – 26 in a draft for military action. In addition, college will no longer be an option for avoiding the draft and they will be signing an agreement with the Canada which will no longer permit anyone attempting to dodge the draft to stay within it’s borders. This bill also includes the extension of military service for all those that are currently active. If you go to the select service web site and read their 2004 FYI Goals you will see that the reasoning for this is to increase the size of the military in case of terrorism. This is a critical piece of legislation, this will effect our undergraduates, our children and our grandchildren.

Please take the time to write your congressman and let them know how you feel about this legislation.

LINK http://www.senate.gov

Please also write to your representatives and ask them why they aren’t telling their constituents about these bills and write to newspapers and other media outlets to ask them why they’re not covering this important story.

The draft $28 million has been added to the 2004 selective service system budget to prepare for a military draft that could start as early as June 15, 2005. Selective service must report to Bush on March 31, 2005 that the system, which has lain dormant for decades, is ready for activation.

Please see http://www.sss.gov/perfplan_fy2004.html to view the Selective Service System annual performance plan, fiscal year 2004.

The pentagon has quietly begun a public campaign to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots nationwide. Though this is an unpopular election year topic, military experts and influential members of congress are suggesting that if Rumsfeld’s prediction of a “long, hard slog” in Iraq and Afghanistan (and permanent state of war on terrorism) proves accurate, the U.S. may have no choice but to draft.

LINK

entitled the Universal National service Act of 2003, “to provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons (age 18-26) in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes.” These active bills currently sit in the committee on armed services. Dodging the draft will be more difficult than those from the Vietnam era.

College and Canada will not be options. In December, 200 1, Canada and the U.S. signed a “smart border declaration,” which could be used to keep would-be draft dodgers in. Signed by Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, John Manley, and U.S. Homeland Security director, Tom Ridge, the declaration involves a 30 point plan which implements, among other things, a “pre-clearance agreement” of people entering and departing each country. Reforms aimed at making the draft more equitable along gender and class lines also eliminates higher education as a shelter.

Underclassmen would only be able to postpone service until the end of their current semester. Seniors would have until the end of the academic year.

What to do:

Tell your friends, Contact your legislators and ask them to oppose these bill. Just type “congress” into the aol search engine and input your zip code. A list of your reps will pop up with a way to email them directly. We can’t just sit and pretend that by ignoring it, it will go away. We must voice our concerns and create the world we want to live in for our children and grandchildren.

3

spreadtheword 09.24.04 at 5:58 am

Subject: Mandatory draft 6/15/05
Express your preference.

Mandatory draft for boys and girls (ages 18-26) starting June 15, 2005, is something that everyone should know about. This literally effects everyone since we all have or know children that will have to go if this bill passes.

There is pending legislation in the house and senate (companion bills: S89 and HR 163) which will time the program’s initiation so the draft can begin as early as spring, 2005, just after the 2004 presidential election. The dministration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now, while the public’s attention is on the elections, so our action on this is needed immediately. Details and links follow. This plan, among other things, eliminates higher education as a shelter and includes women in the draft. Also, crossing into Canada has already been made very difficult.

Actions: Please send this on to all the parents and teachers you know, and all the aunts and uncles, grandparents, godparents. . . And let your children know – – it’s their future, and they can be a powerful voice for change! This legislation is called HR 163 and can be found in detail at this website: http://thomas.loc.gov/ Just enter in “HR 163” and click search and will bring up the bill for you to read. It is less than two pages long.

If this bill passes, it will include all men and ALL WOMEN from ages 18 – 26 in a draft for military action. In addition, college will no longer be an option for avoiding the draft and they will be signing an agreement with the Canada which will no longer permit anyone attempting to dodge the draft to stay within it’s borders. This bill also includes the extension of military service for all those that are currently active. If you go to the select service web site and read their 2004 FYI Goals you will see that the reasoning for this is to increase the size of the military in case of terrorism. This is a critical piece of legislation, this will effect our undergraduates, our children and our grandchildren.

Please take the time to write your congressman and let them know how you feel about this legislation.

LINK http://www.senate.gov

Please also write to your representatives and ask them why they aren’t telling their constituents about these bills and write to newspapers and other media outlets to ask them why they’re not covering this important story.

The draft $28 million has been added to the 2004 selective service system budget to prepare for a military draft that could start as early as June 15, 2005. Selective service must report to Bush on March 31, 2005 that the system, which has lain dormant for decades, is ready for activation.

Please see http://www.sss.gov/perfplan_fy2004.html to view the Selective Service System annual performance plan, fiscal year 2004.

The pentagon has quietly begun a public campaign to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots nationwide. Though this is an unpopular election year topic, military experts and influential members of congress are suggesting that if Rumsfeld’s prediction of a “long, hard slog” in Iraq and Afghanistan (and permanent state of war on terrorism) proves accurate, the U.S. may have no choice but to draft.

LINK

entitled the Universal National service Act of 2003, “to provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons (age 18-26) in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes.” These active bills currently sit in the committee on armed services. Dodging the draft will be more difficult than those from the Vietnam era.

College and Canada will not be options. In December, 200 1, Canada and the U.S. signed a “smart border declaration,” which could be used to keep would-be draft dodgers in. Signed by Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, John Manley, and U.S. Homeland Security director, Tom Ridge, the declaration involves a 30 point plan which implements, among other things, a “pre-clearance agreement” of people entering and departing each country. Reforms aimed at making the draft more equitable along gender and class lines also eliminates higher education as a shelter.

Underclassmen would only be able to postpone service until the end of their current semester. Seniors would have until the end of the academic year.

What to do:

Tell your friends, Contact your legislators and ask them to oppose these bill. Just type “congress” into the aol search engine and input your zip code. A list of your reps will pop up with a way to email them directly. We can’t just sit and pretend that by ignoring it, it will go away. We must voice our concerns and create the world we want to live in for our children and grandchildren.

4

paperwight 09.24.04 at 6:13 am

I think that you can’t discount the extent to which Libertarians (especially of the Cyber- variety) like cool hardware and feeling tough in their avowed self-reliance.

None of the traditional Libertarian bogeymen (e.g., market regulation, minimum wages, and civil rights legislation) provide an opportunity to see military hardware blow shit up and live a vicarious Delta-Force or General Patton fantasy at nearly the rate of a war.

5

bad Jim 09.24.04 at 8:41 am

Um, not to disagree with the point about unintended consequences, but with what part of

Just like I’m glad I’m living in the land of the free,
Where the rich just get richer
And the poor you don’t ever have to see

would a libertarian have difficulty? The last sentiment one such might express would be

It would depress us, Karl.
Because we care
That the world still isn’t fair.

I think the Medium Lobster has a clearer picture of the spread of freedom.

6

Nick 09.24.04 at 10:20 am

Leaving aside the question of invasion, why do Shmibertarians want us to stay in Iraq? After all, there’s a government with minimal power, nothing to constrain the free market in action and almost everyone has guns, so surely it must be a lot closer to their idea of utopia than, say, New Hampshire.

7

Matthew2 09.24.04 at 11:24 am

You’ve got it Nick. The smart Libertarians (I prefer t”right-wing anarchists”) knew all along that Iraq would turn into a gun-ridden anarchy with little taxation, the Utopian State at last! All over the country, smart businessmen read the market and kidnap profitable aid workers.
Inspired by this shining beacon of freedom, the world is sure to follow suit.

8

Russell Arben Fox 09.24.04 at 12:57 pm

Matthew2,

“Right-wing anarchists”? I like it. I think there are some real possibilities with that label. Maybe we’ll see libertarianism sunder along anarchic “left-wing” (all possible reforms are likely to be just as bad as the status quo, so embrace isolationism) and “right-wing” (all possible reforms have no less chance of being terrible than the status quo, so why not intervene?) lines. A libertarianism which sticks close to its classical liberal roots is likely to be dragged into all sorts of messy arguments over whether individual rights are universal (or universally enforceable), or whether states have sovereign rights, and so forth. To the libertarian-inclined, simple anarchism may be a lot more appealing as a response to our globalized world.

9

David T. Beito 09.24.04 at 3:23 pm

Again, folks here are neglecting two things:

1. The leftward drift of pro-war libertarians on domestic policy (read Volokh or Reynolds for plenty of evidence). While they are still broadly freemarket, they have shown an increased tendency to either overlook or defend Dubya’s pro-welfare/educational/regulatory statist initiatives. This new trend indicates that the pro-war libertarians are losing the anti-big government swagger on *all* issues.

2. the fact that most of the folks in the leading libertarian organizations (Libetarian party, Cato, Independent Institute, Von Mises) are still strongly antiwar.

10

Matthew2 09.24.04 at 3:27 pm

Whereas left-wing anarchists want to smash society and civilisation because there is too much inequality, right-wing anarchists want to do the same things…because there is not enough of it!
Both hate taxes, politics, and generally the complicated business of acommodating the competing interests of their fellow men. I dislike both positions equally!
Ironically, a lot of left-wing anarchism seems to have developped as a reaction to the Tatcherite policies of the 80’s. Once you start to dismantle the government, it seems less and less interesting to save….

11

Steve 09.24.04 at 3:40 pm

I have realized for a long time that, for most so-called libertarians, “libertarian” means little more than “leave me alone, personally—but not for thee if I have a beef with your behavior.”

Yes, with an added corollary: “I don’t know where the money comes from to pay for this wonderful exercise in Better Living Through Weaponry, but I sure as hell ain’t paying for it.”

12

MQ 09.24.04 at 4:28 pm

As David points out above, the Cato Institute deserves some serious credit for being against the war early and often (before many liberals). They are one of the flagship institutions of U.S. libertarianism.

David’s point about unwillingness to stand up to the Bush administration on domestic policy is interesting but to me not completely convincing. Almost all pro-war libertarians denounced the Medicare drug bill even if they didn’t make a lot of noise about it. Many may have felt it was the only alternative to an even more expensive liberal version. And frankly Iraq made domestic policy look boring to most of the armchair warrior types out there.

13

MQ 09.24.04 at 4:29 pm

As David points out above, the Cato Institute deserves some serious credit for being against the war early and often (before many liberals). They are one of the flagship institutions of U.S. libertarianism.

David’s point about unwillingness to stand up to the Bush administration on domestic policy is interesting but to me not completely convincing. Almost all pro-war libertarians denounced the Medicare drug bill even if they didn’t make a lot of noise about it. Many may have felt it was the only alternative to an even more expensive liberal version. And frankly Iraq made domestic policy look boring to most of the armchair warrior types out there.

14

David T. Beito 09.24.04 at 5:07 pm

Mq:

I wouldn’t claim that pro-war libertarians have become full-bore statists on domestic policy, only that there is a noticeable drift in that direction. It is small one but it is definately there.

I don’t think that it is just because they regard domestic policy as more “boring” than blowing up things (though that may be a factor). It is also because their newfound faith in big government overseas has rubbed off, albeit in still fairly small ways, on how they view big government at home.

The old anti-big government zeal has waned in terms as rhetoric as well. Back in the 1990s, many of these same folks zealously attacked the ATF and the FBI for their role in Waco. They were full of righteous indignation (“swaggering”). I couldn’t imagine them doing that now.

15

perianwyr 09.24.04 at 5:36 pm

Libertarian kids turn into Republican adults.

That’s all that’s really happening.

16

David M 09.24.04 at 10:06 pm

Mark Lilla has a book out accusing intellectuals of having “philotyrannical” sympathies. Its a fairly poor argument, apparently meant to taint liberal academia, but its corollary seems more true: there is a genuine philoanarchical impulse on the right.

17

Decnavda 09.25.04 at 1:44 am

1) States are fundamental rights-bearers who cannot be aggressed against — which is a really weird thing for libertarians to think.

Isn’t also a really weird thing for libertarians to think that corporations are fundamental rights-bearers who cannot be aggressed against?

18

ian 09.25.04 at 3:14 pm

Yes!

19

Louis Wheeler 09.26.04 at 7:46 am

This post explains why Libertarians are so inept at politics; you are so impractical. One can agree with your goals, but understand that they must be sold to the American people. The Left has convinced the people that they are getting something for nothing in the welfare state. They will not tolerate its immediate destruction. So, some halfway measure must be contrived to wean them toward freedom. Bush is not fostering Socialism, but its eventual destruction.

The War is not something one can reasonably argue about. One must either agree that we are in this war no matter what we do and did,. Or not. If one denies that the War is unavoidable, the product of forces beyond America’s control, then there is no point in talking.

20

Natalie Solent 09.26.04 at 8:00 pm

Alas, it seems we at Samizdata came late to a party in our honour. I have commented briefly on this series of CT posts over at Samizdata itself.

21

Scott 09.26.04 at 8:50 pm

They only comment at Samizdata so they can ban those who disagree with them, because their damn war is going to hell and they don’t want to admit how idiotic they were to trust the government (or at least GeeDub) to do this without screwing it up, and lack the intellectual honesty to take responsibility for the results of the war they demanded.

22

Scott 09.26.04 at 9:17 pm

“They only comment at Samizdata…” in the sense that Natalie didn’t post her response here, but merely a link to a site she has some admin control over (or has pull with those who do).

If y’all think Samizdata is ugly now, wait until Iraq is officially lost, and they start talking about “wreckers” and being “stabbed in the back” by those of us who opposed their war. They’re just a bunch of military (as opposed to economic) socialists, and will respond to failure the way any other statists do.

23

The Wobbly Guy 09.26.04 at 10:53 pm

Possible to screw up in Iraq? Perfectly. But not without giving it a lot of effort and treasure first. It’s statist, sure, but some of the greatest efforts in modern history were carried out by states. WW2, remember?

“Oh sure, Germany didn’t attack us! We didn’t declare war on them, just on Japan! Never mind all those mass graves the Russians found! It’s not our problem!”

If that’s being a military socialist, I’m PROUD to be a military socialist, if that means saving lives and putting an end to despotism.

The point is that islamic terrorism and Iraq, though on different sides of the fundie/secular fence, were in accord that the US was a common enemy. The chances that Iraq would have started supporting Al Qaeda efforts, and then later starting and finishing a WMD program for use against western targets, though small, were simply not that negligible to be ignored.

This conflict in Iraq is entirely for your own self benefit. Too bad you see only the short term costs but not the long term rewards, which admittedly is not a sure thing. But since when was anything in war a sure thing?

TWG

24

Scott 09.26.04 at 11:15 pm

TWG, you have to be clinically insane to honestly believe Saddam was as much a threat to anyone as Hitler was. Japan attacked us, Germany (which had an official treaty with them, instead of shadowy “ties”) declared war on us. There is no comparison between that and your Iraq war.

25

The Wobbly Guy 09.27.04 at 12:07 pm

Think about it. What if Hitler never declared war? Sure, it could be argued that Germany was already attacking US shipping, but similarly, Iraq is already at war even if they never formally declared so.

It was a fairer world in the past. If a nation wanted war, they would have declared it, but not nowadays with all that nuancing. Just because Saddam did not declare war on the US did not mean he was NOT at war with it.

Shadowy ties nowadays took the place of official alliances; why publicise any such alliances when you gain nothing from the publicity? Keep it quiet and gain the benefits. In many ways, the bad guys have gotten smarter too!

I actually felt Saddam could have been as great a threat as Hitler, only he made a severe miscalculation in invading Kuwait too early. If he had deigned to finish his nuclear WMD program, and then invaded Kuwait, I imagine the stalemate would have been similar to the current morass on the Korean peninsula. And it would be even worse, because of the oil reserves in the ME being held hostage to Saddam’s whim. While the US would not be much affected, East Asia would be severly affected.

For me at least, invading and liberating Iraq was not to give Saddam a second chance.

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