To take the massive simplification – socialists on the left (liberals) want the state to interfere in the boardroom but not the bedroom, socialists on the right (conservatives) want the state to interfere in the bedroom but not the boardroom and libertarians want the state to interfere nowhere. This is all well and good for domestic politics but foreign relations too determines how pro-big government you are.
They go by many names; humanitarian interventionists, neo-conservatives, liberal interventionists, and foreign policy pragmatists or realists but really they can be grouped under one label – war socialists.
Libertarianism is simultaneously an incredibly simple and incredibly complex ideology; at its heart is the belief that force or coercion is illegitimate and only voluntary actions are morally permissible. You cannot call yourself a libertarian if you believe that force or coercion is ever a legitimate tactic to use. The brand of interventionists who are ‘libertarian’ at home and neoconservative abroad are not libertarians, they are just another brand of war socialist.
It is easy to show the more trigger happy elements of war socialism that their ideas do not work. Blowback – both the narrow and wide definition of the word – shows that their views don’t work on a practical level; just look at Iran for example. But for interventionists everywhere, your ideas don’t just fall down when they are scrutinised practically, they fall down morally as well.
It is never legitimate, under any circumstance, to initiate violence and aggression. Many ‘domestic libertarians’ agree with this, yet what is foreign policy engagement if it is not the initiation of coercion – not just against whoever you choose to bomb but against your citizens at home, when you force them to pay for foreign action many don’t even agree with. War socialists steal from people at home so they can kill people abroad.
Interventionism is not just about war, it is about propping up other governments that benefit you, or using the power of the State to win business favours in foreign land. Lee Jenkins claims that ‘you can call it corporatism or corruption but that’s reality.’ What this variety of war socialist fails to understand is that corporatism on the international level has just as much impact as corporatism on the domestic level. The state lobbying for companies, picking winners and favouring big business means that many companies continue to exist that in a free market wouldn’t and shouldn’t. Huge conglomerates that have the ability to schmooze the state benefit at the expense of smaller companies that don’t have government power. Lee uses the example of farmers – how Lee can think that it is a good thing that Britain has trade barriers against Africa I do not know. The British consumer is prevented from buying the products with most value for money and at the same time the British farm industry faces no incentive to be more efficient. A few farmers may gain, but the British consumer not to mention the African farmer lose out heavily.
Lee thinks we should congratulate states for coming together to satisfy their interests, saying it proves libertarians views of mutual co-operation. He forgets that the interests of the state and those that run it can be, and most often are, wildly different to the interests of its citizens. The most obvious example is the European Union, which both gives politicians a big stage, and simultaneously flatters them and gives them huge gifts. The result – that the political elite become completely separated from the wishes of their citizenship.
Having a large state never works. The bigger the government the smaller the man. Action in an international arena is another excuse for big government. The fact that Lee and those like him overlooks is that free trade is not just intellectual masturbation. It works. When a state puts up barriers to trade the biggest loser is itself. When a business does a deal for political, not economic reasons, it loses out. British business wouldn’t be adversely affected if the state no longer lobbied for it, or protected it with tariffs, it would flourish. Weaned off the teat of Government it would be forced to innovate, increase efficiency, cut down or waste and start to produce things that could actually compete in a global market. Maybe some of it would fail, but like HMV or Blockbusters the ones that die deserve to go. Propping up business with government benefits no one but the fat cats at the top of it.
War socialists can cover up their coercive tendencies in whatever language they like. The fact of the matter is not only do their policies either directly or indirectly lead to the death and suffering of millions, they steal from their own people so they can play the international statesman. The platform of foreign relations is the biggest and most complex of all; it is naive to think that any one person or government can mould anything. Unintended consequences are on a scale hard to imagine and the theft needed to fund the action is mind boggling. On a practical moral and economic level war socialists are peddling a bankrupt and naive ideology that benefits the elite few at the expense of the many. For shame.