Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Stupid Libertarian

Laurence Vance has a very good piece at LRC, “I’m Sick of It.”  He begins with a typical email he receives whenever he writes of his views of the military – and especially his views of those who join.  Vance offers a wonderfully thorough rejoinder. 

There are one or two comments from the subject email worth noting:

I’ve been a dedicated libertarian for nearly four decades, but I’m getting close to stop using LRC as one of my main sources of information.

What is the specific complaint of this “dedicated libertarian”?

Your misplaced hatred of the military is disgusting. I think we can agree that the mission of the U.S. military has been misused and abused all too often by just about every POTUS, and THAT is where your hostility should voice itself. Not on the individuals, who are UNDER CONTRACT, and are REQUIRED BY LAW to go wherever they’re sent.

You are obviously an otherwise intelligent and educated man. So GROW UP AND BLAME THOSE WHO ARE TRULY RESPONSIBLE.

This writer is a stupid libertarian.  He openly offers that “just about every POTUS” has “misused and abused” the military, hence this is where Vance should direct his anger.  Not toward those “who are UNDER CONTRACT, and are REQUIRED BY LAW to go wherever they are sent,” but against those who send them.  Vance should “GROW UP AND BLAME THOSE WHO ARE TRULY RESPONSIBLE.”

For most of the four decades that this stupid libertarian has been a libertarian, not one soldier was drafted into forced service (the morality of action regarding those drafted is not necessary to address in this environment).   Any “CONTRACT” has been entered into voluntarily. 

I believe I am on safe ground in suggesting that virtually every single member of the US military today has joined voluntarily – during the same period where “just about every POTUS” has “misused and abused” the military.

They join, even though they know – or should know – that they will be asked to serve in immoral wars; killing people who have never presented a threat to Americans.  After all, this is what POTUS has done for decades – as correctly noted in the email.

So, who is “responsible” in this scheme?  Can you blame the criminal boss if people willingly sign up to break a few bones?  Are the volunteers to be left blameless?

Volunteers for a criminal gang for some reason cannot be blamed for decisions made by the gang leader – according to this libertarian; decisions consistent with what the gang leader has decided for decades – according to this “dedicated libertarian.”  Nothing new, nothing surprising.

Does blame belong on POTUS?  Certainly.  But there is no monopoly of blame here.  Vance is placing blame where it belongs – on those who commit the acts, voluntarily.

Stupid libertarian.


  1. Thank you for this (I guess I should thank Vance as well). This is an argument I have heard and keep hearing. Though I do think that those that join the military may do so under false pretenses and thus enter into a contract they don't fully understand (obviously this would be a good time to make the argument that you shouldn't enter into a contract you don't fully understand), I would still argue that, as soon as you recognize the work for the immoral abomination that it is, you should get out. Or when an "authority" figure gives a command that is in direct conflict with the principles you are claiming to fight for, don't comply.
    I have been told on many occasions that disobedience will cause God's help to be withdrawn and we will be left on our own (I am usually explaining my political stance to fellow Christians). Then by all means, obey! Obey the principles you originally signed up to support! Obey what Jesus tells us in the Bible. Obey your conscience when it's screaming at you to value human life! But keep in mind, as has been pointed out here and in Vance's piece, if you disobey those things, *you* are the one making that choice.

  2. Actually this is a good reason why John T Reed supports the notion of a draft - no sane, moral person should willingly want to join an organisation so they can get permission to kill others. On the other hand, If the country has to be defended against an aggressive invader then it may have to become a duty to join.

    1. I have two objections to this.

      1. When the authority to determine whether a country is under imminent threat of aggression invasion is monopolized, it becomes highly vulnerable to fraudulent determinations - especially if the information used for making the determination is secret.

      2. More fundamentally, to pronounce ab initio that everyone now has a duty to defend "their country" is essentially to claim ownership over everyone in "the country" (assuming that they didn't explicitly consent to take on such duty). As that goes against self-ownership, I find it to be entirely immoral.

    2. If a nation forces you to purportedly "defend" it then it isn't worth defending. A free people will naturally defend themselves. You don't have to put a gun to their heads to prove anything.

  3. I wanted to ask a lot of questions related to this blog post. (Ha! and quite a few other blog posts.)
    As I write them I keep finding I already know the answer.
    Questions like, what of the people who support the killers?

    R.W. @ E.P.J. says as long as goobermint workers do not make the state more efficient, then they aren't, so-bad.
    Do you agree? ...Sometimes I do, sometimes, I don't.

    As I recall, Prof. Higgs says something like: even those People [goobermint workers who do not make the state more efficient I.E. auditors] give legitimacy to the state. (Which, in my mind, is just as bad as what the killers do, in a round-about-fashion).
    And yet, some People in the freedomista camp love to point to the findings of the auditors and the like which point out the B.S. and wastefulness of, The Humpty. ...Are those People, the auditors and the like, "bad"? Should they just Up and quit? Are they Evil if they don't?...I've often told others: the military dudes should do just that. Quit!
    I've said the same to auditors too: "QUIT!"

    Are they all the same?

    Pardon me if that ain't clear, I'm an imperfect writer and it's been a long, sweaty and kind of painful day.

    ...And, what of the farmer who feeds them all?

    Anyway, ... You're effort in pounding the keyboards is appreciated in this corner. Esp. the take on The Daily Bell. ...It was like reading Lila's stuff.

    The word, 'conundrum' comes to mind for some reason.

    I'm thinking I should take on a new nic: Bamboozled. [Cause the coolest nic's already been taken? Ha. Ha. ...Seriously.]

    ...Also, Thanks for allowing anonymous comments. (It helps to keep the bricks out of my windshield.) 'Er, as anonymous as the goobermint permits, anyway.

    Did I say that all the stuff I've read of yours is, quite frankly: heroic, inspirational, informative as all Get Out, and, Da Bomb? ..Oh shoot, i can't say, "Da Bomb" anymore can I? I'll be placed on some terrists list! Crimeiney, I prolly shouldn't have said the word, "shoot" either! Oh, I'm on 'The List' for sure now. Ah well, better to have lived and tried, than lived and did nothing, eh?

    Again, thanks for writing and articulating better than I could ever. Way.

  4. Ah, for what it's worth, I forgot to tag my nic on the end,

    - clark.

    [The beating that nic has taken for defending freedom and liberty, let me tell you...Whoa! Nails have it easy.]

  5. RE: "I would still argue that, as soon as you recognize the work for the immoral abomination that it is, you should get out. Or when an "authority" figure gives a command that is in direct conflict with the principles you are claiming to fight for, don't comply."

    Keywords: recognize, immoral, and "don't comply".

    Didn't they breed those ideas out of most humans around about 2001, 1960, or 2012? ...Or, maybe 1777?

    Anyway, I'm reminded of Will Grigg's work, with a title along the lines of, "Comply or Die".

    ... And, the "Sheep Dogs" will feel like they are doing you, and every quitting soldier, a favor.

  6. Libertarians view every action as an individual action. "Dedicated Libertarian" rightly states that every US President is complicit in these illegal wars. However, every individual is responsible for their actions, moral or otherwise. If you volunteer for the military, knowing or suspecting that they are complicit in immoral or unconstitutional activities, and if you willingly follow orders to do things you know are wrong as an individual, then you are no better than the President who creates the immoral wars. You also deserve no veneration or worship from the people of this country. Now if this country is invaded and we are truly not the aggressors, then by all means will I venerate and call the soldiers heroes who fight to drive off the aggressors.

  7. As a Naval Officer, I agree with one caveat. Blame should most certainly be placed on the individual pulling the trigger as well as the individual issuing the order to pull the trigger. I disagree that we have a voluntary military. No one would say "service" is forced as with a draft (aka: conscription), but those who join are doing so under false pretenses. Yes, they should know by now what is in store, but almost everyone in the military has been subjected to a massive indoctrination program from the time they were school aged. The brainwashing and societal influence are so effective that very few people believe the military could ever do something immoral.
    While this does not relieve individuals of their moral responsibility, it certainly introduces an aspect of fraud that undermines a voluntary contract. Just my 2 cents.

    1. I agree with the issue of "indoctrination." There are many influencing factors. Yet half or more re-enlist - even after first-hand information.

  8. For Christians, how can one be said to have accepted Jesus Christ, while freely choosing the life of aggression, coercion, destruction, murder, parasitism, rape and service to Caesar, and yet still be "saved"?

    The answer, of course, is that God only knows. However, those Christians who articulate the view that a Christian soldier who volunteers to do Caesar's dirty work, and kills for Caesar, will, nevertheless be "saved" and will be seated with God forever in heaven, need their head examined.

    As a matter of logic, and of spirit, one cannot accept Jesus as the way, the truth, and the light and simultaneously bury hearts at Wounded Knee.

    This is one aspect of Christianity where the Catholics have it all over the born agains.

  9. You are correct but there is something we should take a moment to understand. The government gets hold of people at age four or five and begins a process to transform them into fungible human resources for the government, military, and corporations over the next 12-13 years or so. Most libertarians have to struggle their way out this conditioning one way or another. For some it comes on the battle field in some foreign land.

    On top of the schools there is the media, advertisements, social pressures, and so forth. It is the individual's duty to resist all of this and do his research but how should we treat his failure to do so differently than we would someone who signed up with a full understanding and desire?

    That's the bigger question I think.

  10. I guess the point to make here is, was Luca Brasia innocent of murder when Don Genovese ordered a killing? Certainly both are equally to blame. So the soldier aka Luca and the potus aka the Don are kin in spirit. Of the two factions, the Don is more honorable in my opinion. He openly admits his violence, while the potus hides behind rhetoric and lies.

  11. Let's look at this from another view.
    That war, as such, especially defensive wars, are not immoral; that the State, as such is necessary (here insert the libertarian infighting between anarchists and miniarchists) that the major problem with the non aggression principle and with just war theory is who is who, meaning, which side is not violating just war theory and the NAP(insrrt here the problem pf the "warlord" or "exploiter", those actors in the libertarian society who are adverse to following the NAP, indeed following von Mises, see the book Rothbard vs The Philosophers for Rothbards own complaint on a certain kind of anarchy, relativism, endorsed by von Mises, indeed Rothbard tries to ignore the warlord/exploiter)
    It is easy to attack State sponsored war as by definition All State activities are injust and immoral. But what of wars among libertarian societies such as thr possibility of one between Vance and,say, David Boaz?
    as to soldiers, sailors, war workers in a State, one has to ssk why many of them fought so hard, why many of them participated in the black market becsuse of greed and not because of some anti State libertarian sentiment, indeed, why so few, Smedly Butlers and too many Omar Bradleys .

  12. Well, I think both sides of this argument are too extreme. A reasonable answer would be that those in the military bear some blame, but that they are also victims.

    The recruiter goes after people who were (just a few weeks prior) considered children - children who have spent the last 12 years being indoctrinated by the state in government schools, not to mention the further indoctrination by the media and the constant praising of the military. To me the wonder is not that they sign up, but that there are any left who refrain from signing up.

    Yes, with the internet, the recruiter's ploys are looking a bit thin and to that extent, young men should know better. It's not the supposed "good war" (WWII) after all; there are lots of obvious reasons by now not to join. But as one who stupidly signed up myself at age 18, it's hard for me to condemn them completely. The age 18 is when young men do stupid things; ask any insurance company. That will always be the case.

    If you are casting around for someone to blame, blame the parents who are sacrificing their sons and daughters on the altar of the state, just like worshipers of Moloch. They after all, do not have teenage stupidity to blame their actions on. Many of them were in the military and know what it is about. Any parent who does not discourage his children from joining is far more culpable than their idiot children are.

    1. "...blame the parents who are sacrificing their sons and daughters on the altar of the state..."

      Yes, blame the mothers:


  13. In the end, we all have an excuse for anything, like this misguided libertarian tries to assign the blame of what is happening to an evil action of one person, and thus exhonerating the whole system.
    It is all emotionalism. Something I believe to be true and virtuous cannot possibly be wrong, therefore any problem must originate in some external corruption. There is just no way that people who made the mistake to go abroad to kill in the name of democracy and got killed are not heroes. It is insulting to doubt their righteousness.
    This is all emotion speaking, there is no reasoning. Vance does a great job, truly a work of piety, teaching the ignorant. But you can't really force a person to learn the truth. We can't learn anything if we don't want to. All boils down to volition. If christians went out on a limb and vote for a mormon, only because he was a little bit less of a socialist than the other guy, anything can happen. People can do anything, good and bad. It's all a matter of time and effort. And some savings, too.

    1. I'd argue that it's not emotionalism per se, but specifically self-serving bias.

  14. How about blame where blame is due, WITH THE VOTERS. They have to know that the POTUS will abuse this power, given the track record. Like Mises said, no dictatorship, no despot, no totalitarian regime can survive without consent.

    1. I think you'd agree that, if you give up your money to someone holding a gun to your head, you're not consenting to what he's doing. But you are submitting to him. So I don't think there's as much consent going on as you seem to think. There's some consent, sure, but I also think there's quite a bit of simple submission.

  15. The blame game could be played without end here. As is usually the case, everyone is to blame to some extent. That's because the system itself is corrupted, all incentives are perverse. People in such a system merely obey their incentives. Soldiers enlist in order to get taxapayer funds. Lobbyists try to steer the government into wars of aggression for the same reason. Change the incentives such that no one benefits from wars of aggression, and you take away the incentive for them.

    1. Anonymous,
      I agree with you on incentives. I think, though, we would need to de-centralize in order to acheive that objective. What are your thoughts?

  16. Liberty ultimately rests on the premise of self-ownership. All other morality naturally follows. If self-ownership is inalienable, it follows that it is not logically possible to give up ones ownership of self. Sure, many misguided, poor, brainwashed 18 year olds sign contracts and take oaths claiming to do just that.

    To believe that such contracts and oaths have any actual effect on your status as a living, thinking, volitional (and therefore inherently self-owning) individual is illogical nonsense. "the individuals, who are UNDER CONTRACT, and are REQUIRED BY LAW to go wherever they’re sent", my foot.

    In a truly libertarian world there cannot be a "military exception". The inalienable right to self-ownership is key. Do away with that or start making exceptions, and the entire basis for liberty comes crashing down.

    The same also goes for those faux-libertarians who argue that "voluntary slavery" contracts, or contracts signing over your life for a zillion years to the Church of you-know-who or whatever, are binding. They are only as binding as your ability as a thinking, breathing, living individual to walk away allows them to be.

    1. You had me until the last paragraph. It is a dangerous game when one starts deciding the validity and enforceability of contracts whose terms were agreed upon by two willing actors.


  17. The stupid libertarian has a point about soldiers being under contract. Legally speaking, they're obliged to follow the orders of their commanding officers. However, I don't think that a contract is valid (normatively speaking) to the extent that it mandates immoral actions. If A and B sign a contract where B becomes obliged to follow A's commands, and A ends up commanding B to murder someone, I don't think B has somehow not committed murder because he's under contract to obey A.

    I'm willing to bet that the "stupid libertarian" is a former soldier himself and is having problems taking responsibility for his own actions. Either way, I don't think he's a libertarian at all. He's just a hypocrite.

    1. Thanks, as always, for your comments.

      Whether under contract or not, an individual chooses whether or not to commit what he believes to be an immoral action.

      What is interesting to note: when you sign a contract to join the cause of a known murderer - one who does not hesitate to take immoral actions - are you not bound?

      In other words, why sign the contract in the first place? I can accept that some discover the nature of this beast only after signing on the dotted line - and therefore are obliged not to submit and face the consequences of disobeying orders.

      But who doesn't do a little research on the person or organization to which they are about to unconditionally commit for several years?