Natalie got there ahead of me but I also noticed the preposterous attempt by the pseudo-liberals of Crooked Timber to lecture us “Schmibertarians” in the ‘correct’ libertarian stance towards Iraq.
I thought it might be informative to examine the Crooked consensus and some of its logical implications. I would summarise the “Samizdatistas are schmibertarians” argument – and anyone who suspects I’m setting up a straw man here is invited to read the relevant posts and particularly the follow-up comments – as follows:
- ‘Proper’ Libertarians oppose major government programs funded by coercive taxation, the Iraq war is such a program.
- ‘Proper’ Libertarians are wary of any kind of social-engineering, so the neoconservative plan to remodel Middle Eastern countries as democracies is futile folly.
- Thus anyone who supports the war against Saddam is necessarily a sham libertarian who just thinks it’s cool to blow things up.
My first reaction was to the irony of being lectured in ‘correct’ libertarianism by a bunch of egalitarian, social-engineering collectivists who presume to identify as “Liberal”. Indeed it is precisely because this previously unambiguous term has been suborned by those who display a cavalier disregard for the classic liberal values of autonomy, individualism and limited government that many of us reluctantly adopt the libertarian moniker in the first place.
The premise behind the argument is dubious to say the least. It is generally taken to be the case that arguments are accepted or opposed on their own merits and without reference to whether they conform to some theology to which those making the argument are perceived to subscribe. I were to argue against, say, a Creationist, it would seem to me to be a pointless task to identify what a ‘real’ Creationist ought to believe prior to debunking his theory. Indeed, the logical consequence of a position which states that the correct libertarian ought to oppose the Iraq war according to libertarian first principles is that those who oppose the war are implicitly endorsing those specific libertarian principles. So, the next time some wonky twig proposes a massive government intervention or other, one can remind him that, as his opposition to the Iraq war demonstrates, such social engineering ought to be avoided.
It is also curious to note the partial isolationism adopted with regard to Iraq, considering the enthusiasm regularly displayed for action against third world ‘exploitation’. Thus, according to the Crooked Timber moral calculus, it is not ok to interfere in the affairs of another country if its citizens are being tortured or murdered but it is ok to interfere to prevent those (remaining) citizens getting a good job with a dreaded multinational corporation!