Tag Archives: foreign policy

Non-Interventionism ≠ Isolationism

This article was originally published on The Libertarian. If I may direct you back to my first post, where I explained why I started this blog in the first place, I wrote this:
Some months ago, while I was browsing reddit (which I do too much of– I must stop) I wrote a libertarian-leaning comment on a political thread. Another user, a writer for a libertarian blog, asked if I wanted to contribute weekly articles. I accepted and I got to work. Unfortunately however, I only lasted two articles until I got too busy, and starting procrastinating even while I was busy, and it was a hectic time as there was much testing going in school, so I stopped writing. While home from school over the weekend, I got bored and figured I wanted to do that writing thing again, so here it is.
This article was one of those two. 

Image Credits to fineartamerica.com

Many critics of the libertarian movement criticize our foreign policy as being “isolationist.” They say we believe in cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world. Meanwhile, they suggest we need hyper-interventionist policies, for we need to embrace our role as the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, as if the only way to demonstrate this is to invade foreign countries. But the myth that libertarianism is isolationist is as far as can be from the truth. A better word to describe our beliefs on how to deal with the rest of the globe would be “non-interventionist.” America should adopt a policy of non-interventionism, because it would eliminate negative reactions to our intervention from various nations without costing us a dime.

True isolationism violates the core beliefs of libertarianism because, among other things, it bars free trade. Isolationist doctrine consists of two policies. On one hand, it includes non-interventionism, the belief that governments should avoid alliances with other nations, as well as avoiding all wars, except in self-defense. This healthy policy, introduced into American politics by Thomas Paine, in his essay Common Sense,, prevents us from getting caught up with the complicated affairs of other countries. On the other hand, however, isolationism includes protectionism, the belief that there should be legal barriers controlling trade and cultural exchange. Protectionists support tariffs, embargoes, sanctions, and many other kinds of government meddling in the exchange of goods and wealth between countries.

Protectionism violates the principles of economic and social freedom. It should be a basic right of any American citizen to freely trade, travel, and peacefully interact with any country in any way he or she pleases.

At a more practical level, the problem with protectionism is that it just doesn’t protect. Take, for example, tariffs on imported goods. Say the government imposes a tariff on foreign automobiles, shielding American carmakers from foreign competition. If an American car is $30,000, and an otherwise comparable foreign car is $25,000, a tariff of $5,000 might be placed on foreign cars to even out prices. It could be argued that the government is protecting the American automobile industry by giving consumers an incentive to buy American.

However, America is not actually being benefited, nor is our economy being protected. The only thing this does is tax every U.S. citizen who wants to buy a foreign car an extra $5,000. The hypothetical foreign car is produced more efficiently; it is of equal quality yet produced more cheaply. Producers should, and otherwise would, be rewarded by the market for such achievements. Consumers would be able to recognize such an accomplishment simply by noticing the lower cost for essentially the same product. The more efficient producer would then attract more customers.

Such “price signals,” as they are known, create a vital incentive to improve efficiency, but the tariff would remove the appropriate price signal to consumers. By interfering with competition in this way, the government insures that American consumers will pay higher prices than necessary. Foreign companies will also receive less benefit from improving the efficiency of their production, and thus have less incentive to invest in such improvements. Domestic producers, then, will not need to compete with foreign producers on an equal footing. Without this competitive pressure, they too will be less likely to improve efficiency. The end result of any nation sheltering its industries from the competition of any other nation is less efficient industry and higher prices for the consumer.

Libertarian foreign policy is that of the Founding Fathers. In his first inaugural address, Thomas Jefferson called for “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” These early Americans’ support for such a method of interaction with other countries is often dismissed as irrelevant with the excuse, “They lived in much simpler times.” It is easy to denigrate the wisdom of the past in this way, but it is not as easy to actually justify the policies that we operate under today.

As a Christian Libertarian, I like to point out the opinion that the medieval theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas, arguably one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the Christian faith, had on foreign military intervention. As Ron Paul writes in The Revolution: A Manifesto, there were certain conditions that Aquinas believed were necessary for a just war. His theological predecessors during the Roman Empire, Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine, agreed with these views. The war in Iraq, Paul writes, did not fulfill those criteria. First, there was no act of aggression on the part of Iraq. “We are 6,000 miles away from Iraq,” Paul writes, so they hardly posed a credible threat. The stories we were told about unmanned drones were, to say the least, not especially plausible. Secondly, diplomatic solutions had not been exhausted. “They had hardly been tried,” Paul goes on to write.

It should come as no surprise to Americans that negative consequences could arise as a result of disregarding these restrictions. Various other US interventions have produced terrible “blowback,” the CIA term for unintended negative consequences for the US caused by their covert interference in other countries. U.S. lawmakers should reconsider their actions and the reactions that result if they seriously wish to protect our nation.


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Why a libertarian society would be better than the current one (by issue):


America has come far in securing liberties for every citizen. From fighting off the tyrannical British, to the abolition of slavery, to the civil rights movement, and more recently LGBT rights, the United States has always been a beacon of freedom in the world. Over time, however, the government grew and liberties eroded. Americans forgot what unfreedom meant, and in doing so, began to trust in the government. Only now they trust in it too much. Founding Father George Washington once said, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” The keyword there is forceEver before Anarcho-Capitalists and other Voluntaryists, he and America’s other founders understood very well the value of non-aggression. The problem with America today is that we have not be careful with the fire that is government.

But as government grew, so did reaction to such big government grow. Throughout the 1900s, the libertarian movement gained popularity and flourished. Austrian economists such as Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek furthered the cause through their works, giving a case for a restrained government, and civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. fought the system on social issues. The movement really exploded in 1971, when the ones who would be the founders of the Libertarian Party realized, upon examining Nixon: the Republican Party is not the small-government party anymore; we need to fight for freedom in social, political, and economic issues.

Here I will give a case for why a libertarian society would be better than our current system, where we have strayed from the liberty that gave us the quality of life we have today. I will go issue by issue, starting with…

Property- Libertarians believe that one may use their property for their enjoyment in any way they wish, unless that infringes upon the rights of others to do the same thing.  And we’re not just talking about material property; we believe every person is their own property and is sovereign over themselves. And property includes money; we believe in a free market of voluntary exchange where one may use their money in any way they wish and use any commodity as money. This is in contrast to American society today, where property is riddled with restriction and regulation such as controls on wages, prices, profits, production, etc. and legal tender laws. On an everyday basis, Americans’ rights to private property and freedom of trade are being violated. If we were to restrain these violations, people would be able to live their lives as they want, not as some central ruler wants.

Self-defense- Since we believe everyone is their own property, we believe in whatever measures they take to protect themselves and their property so as long as they respect the rights of others. The non-aggression principle is opposed to the initiation of force, but if one person is initiating force by violating another’s life or liberty, we believe that the victim (or anyone working on behalf of the victim, say, a private police force) has the right to violate the boundaries of the aggressor only as much as it takes to have the aggressor stop violating the rights of the victim (any force used greater than that in retaliation is itself an initiation of force). This is opposed to America today, where there is a constant push from the left to regulate and restrict the ownership, manufacture, transfer, and sale of firearms. In all honesty, most of the left’s pressure to take action against guns is done with good intention. They feel that the danger of having a firearm outweighs the use of them as a tool of self-defense. This is however, a mistake; every day somewhere around 30 people are murdered by someone using a gun. When this is multiplied to a year, you get about 10,950 people dead a year. This is a tragedy, but it overlooks the fact that annually, anywhere from 65,000 to 2.5 million people use guns in self defense each year–  under Bill Clinton the Department of Justice put that number at 1.5 million. While the possible range of use varies greatly, even the lowest estimate is still almost six times higher than the murder rate, and 98% of the time the victim merely has to brandish the weapon. And we weren’t given the Second Amendment for personal self-defense only; it was also meant for us to fend off tyranny, whether that come from a foreign power of from our own government. If people were given the right to unhindered self-defense, the nation would be a much safer place.

National Defense- Libertarians believe that we should have strong military- powerful enough to defend the country if a foreign power were to initiate an act of aggression against the United States. That said, we believe that the U.S. should stay out of entanglements with alliances and we should stop policing the world. Before the U.S. went into Iraq, Al-Qaeda was not much of a presence there. Since we have invaded however, recruitment has exploded. In fact, one thing that rallied so many Middle Easterners to Al-Qaeda’s cause was the fatwa titled Jihad against Jews and Crusaders. This document attacked America for its constant military involvement in the region. These terrorist sects got so big over there in reaction to U.S. foreign policy. I am most certainly not blaming America for jihad. The guilty party is obviously the one that carried out such horrible attacks. No terrorist is justified doing what they do, although the U.S. can minimize blowback by scaling down involvement. A libertarian society would be a peaceful society.

Marriage- Libertarians believe that no one has the right to tell you who you can marry and to restrict one’s liberty based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation and preference. We believe that the government should not even take this account at all in their actions. We believe that homosexual and bisexual people should be treated no differently from heterosexual people than blue-eyed and brown-eyed people are. As long as both parties are consenting, they should be able to choose how to run their relationship. Most libertarians, in fact, believe that that the government should not be involved in marriage at all, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Nevertheless, we believe that as long as government is in the marriage business, no one should be treated differently based on these factors. In American society today, there are countless restrictions on personal relationships imposed by conservatives mostly (that said, the Democrats didn’t start supporting gay rights until somewhere around the year 2000. Let liberals not forget that it was Bill Clinton who signed into effect the DOMA). In a libertarian society, people would have the right to choose their partners themselves.

Healthcare- I’ll keep this one short, because I think the answer’s pretty obvious. Believing in the free-market, libertarians also believe in a free-market healthcare system. We believe that people should be able to decide how much health insurance they want and what kind of healthcare they want, if they even want any healthcare. In just 9 days, the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) will take full effect. I don’t think I even have to explain all the problems that will create. While Obamacare is supposed to increase the availability of health insurance to more than 10 million people, the American Enterprise Institute estimates 100 million people will lose their insurance whether they “liked their health insurance” or not. In a free society, people would have the ability to make their own healthcare decisions.

Privacy- Libertarians believe in the Fourth Amendment. We are against NSA-type massive surveillance. Anywhere that had or has this type of spying in place didn’t end up very free (see: Soviet Russia -or- STASI). While the National Security Agency was purported to have been created to prevent terrorist attacks, a White House panel member says has “stopped no terrorist attacks.” The same panel went on to say that the NSA is “not essential to preventing terrorist attacks.” So why does the Obama Administration maintain these programs? Edward Snowden, the ex-NSA contractor who leaked the information that started the controversy, says, “These programs were never about terrorism; they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.” No major advance in liberty could ever have been made unless they started in secrecy. In a libertarian society, people would have the right to do as they please without there leaders spying on them.

Crime- Libertarians believe crimes should be considered only to be actions that use force or fraud or actions that put others at significant risk. We believe that a “victimless crime” is not a crime at all, and that people should be able to decide their own actions and accept responsibility for said actions. We believe that the use of voluntary actions that only affect oneself, such as the use of drugs, should be up to the discretion of the individuals partaking in said actions. Unlike post-Nixon America, where police can raid your house, just like raiding that of a murderer, for you smoking some plant while you sit at home watching some TV and eating (a lot). If people were allowed to do anything as long as their actions didn’t violate the liberty of others, it would be a much freer society.

There’s a bunch more things that I didn’t cover nor do I feel like covering (I’m not a political writer– why do you think the article’s written so crappily!). I just wanted to lay down what I believe for anyone who has enough time on their hands to read some random person’s unknown blog. But basically this is why, contrary to what you may have learned from school, the media, etc. growing up, more freedom is better.


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