Monday, January 30, 2012

A Libertarian Foreign Policy

At one point or another, everyone in the liberty movement has had to discuss foreign policy with other people. I'm always amazed at how much the theme of bringing the troops home and withdrawing from the political/military affairs of other countries is such a hard sell. Ron Paul supporters in particular take a lot of heat for this. We're labeled largely as naive isolationists who have a simplified view of world politics. The prevailing wisdom is that there's no world problem so big or small that it doesn't deserve some sort of active response from the United States government.

I've come to realize that our government's foreign policy is a carbon copy of its domestic policy- the policy of threatening to do what they say, or face state violence (the guns in the hands of the cops who will take you to jail for committing any number victimless crimes are the same weapons our president threatens to use against foreigners for not giving in to his demands- only scaled down). As such, it will achieve no more of its objectives abroad than its domestic policies do here at home.

What strikes me as simplified is the idea that people (and governments) in other countries will do what our government wants, provided they're threatened with enough violence. Naive is believing that threatening Americans with jail time for smoking marijuana will keep people from smoking it. It's at least as naive to believe that, say, the Iranian government will abandon its nuclear program (or roll over in some other way) just because they're threatened with sanctions, or that bringing democracy to the Middle East is just a few military invasions away, or that we can kill terrorists without innocent casualties. Perhaps it's not naive at all. Perhaps it's lunacy.

Still, there are many ready-made excuses for our ever-growing military presence around the world, one of which I will address here. I'm unsure of the details, but it goes a little something like this: There are radical suicidal Muslim fanatics who will stop at nothing until we're all dead or the world has been turned into an Islamic theocracy. Therefore, we must continue to send troops around the world to contain this threat (details omitted).

Let's take it for granted that there are people on the other side of the world whose sole purpose in life is to destroy the United States. Let's assume further that they cannot be reasoned with or paid off or appeased in any way. If there are such people (and I do believe there are), I don't think there's any practical thing we can do about it. Really. It's simple to say we should just hunt them down and kill them, but I've seen one too many SWAT raids at the wrong address to believe that that's in the cards. The precision with which such an operation would need to be carried out is FAR too great for government to handle. The mightiest military the world has ever seen is utterly powerless to do what I just described. They can throw all the money they want at the situation and wait as long as they like, but the truth is that government will not solve this problem (if a solution even exists). It's naive to expect that it can, let alone will.

Which brings us to the libertarian policy- free, unlimited trade and diplomacy with all nations, military and political alliances with none (including the European countries), coupled with an absolutely limited domestic government. It's not perfect, but far and away the best weapon we have against terror is, like so much else, liberty.

Why? Because everybody who hasn't already had his mind poisoned does want to live in freedom. The appeal of living under the oppression of a dictatorship is no match for the appeal of living in a free nation where people can work, trade, and behave as they wish. To live free is a natural, instinctive desire of all human beings- even the children of suicidal terrorists. Giving that instinct a place to develop is the only effective way to combat terrorism. We won't be able to to change the minds of jihadists, but by restoring strictly limited government, by seeking ways to minimize the use of force in society, and by adopting and showcasing the philosophy of liberty to the world, we can prevent new ones from appearing. The bad news is that there's no hope of penetrating the minds of the younger generations on the other side of the world unless we lead by example. Indeed, it will take far more than merely closing a few military posts in foreign countries. In short, it will take a revolution in the way we view government's role not only regarding foreigners, but ourselves.

That is the rationale behind the libertarian foreign policy. Call it simplistic, slander it as isolationist, tell me how naive I am, pretend that men like Obama and Gingrich and Romney and Santorum have the slightest clue as to what they're talking about, do whatever you have to do to condemn it, but it's still the only shot we have at a return to normalcy. It is also the only policy befitting to a nation that's referred to as the Land of the Free. The alternative is to just let government run with it- which will leave many people dead and property destroyed, sacrifice long-term goals for fleeting short term victories, and guarantee a more violent world for ourselves and our children.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


You may have heard about two internet-related bills floating around Congress. One is the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the other is the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Proponents of the bills say that they're supposed to give the government the power to better guard against copyright infringement on websites with media content and file sharing capabilities. Those who oppose the bills, which include many internet users as well as Google, Wikipedia and Reddit, claim that the proposed legislation would allow the government to completely shut down websites for the most benign copyright infringements, acting more like hired muscle for the entertainment industry than the policemen for property rights.

If you want to learn more about the bills, you can watch a few videos about it here, here and, if you can take it, here. Or if you've got some Advil handy, you can check out the text of the bills themselves. But I wouldn't bother with any of that if I were you. All I needed to hear were the words 'Congress', 'bill', and 'internet' in the same context, and I was already an opponent of whatever it was- for it doesn't matter what the bills are called, how many people of whatever group favor them, or what they're supposed to do. They could both be called the Make the Internet a Lot Faster act (or simply MILF), and I'd still oppose them- because they would still be government programs, and government programs never deliver what they promise.

The outrage over SOPA and PIPA intrigue me though, because they're ostensibly supposed to do something that's good...right? I mean it's not like they're the Shut Down YouTube bills or the Harass Facebook Users bills or the Destroy Online Media bills. So what's the worst that could happen?

After all, don't forget how the government has done such a wonderful job with other noble undertakings as housing and feeding and employing the poor, promoting racial harmony, keeping the banking industry from scamming us, spreading democracy around the world, managing the economy, balancing its own budget, educating our children, providing affordable healthcare, keeping elections clean, protecting our rights, maintaining our infrastructure, stopping drug abuse, taking care of our veterans, making sure food is safe, keeping us out of war, curbing inflation, delivering the mail, cleaning up crime, protecting the environment and stopping terrorism. All things considered, it only makes sense to give it a freer hand in policing the internet.

From watching videos of people who oppose the legislation, I get the impression that they only oppose it because it could potentially take down sites like YouTube and internet radio. I don't want YouTube taken down any more than the next guy, but that's not the best reason to oppose the legislation. It should be opposed because once any such legislation is passed, eventually there will be more. Endlessly more. When the internet becomes the federal government's plaything just like everything else I listed in the previous paragraph, you can kiss it goodbye. It'll become a fable you can tell your grandkids about, like when my grandparents tell me how doctors used to make house calls.

Why will it be bad? John Bain explains:

"You want to explain to me why we have a bunch of 50- to 70-somethings debating a bill that would affect the internet world wide- perhaps the greatest technological innovation that we've had for a very very long time? You want to tell me that these guys, who can barely use a keyboard, should be debating this and passing legislation of this magnitude? I'm gonna go with 'No'. It's like putting toddlers at the controls of a 747- but not just a 747; every 747, 777, Airbus A320, every aircraft in the world. Do you think that's a good idea?"

He goes on to point out the obvious (I paraphrase): if SOPA or PIPA pass, it won't only eventually destroy the internet as we currently know it, but it will ruin the chances of future innovations taking place. While passage of the bills might not completely take down YouTube (which would cause a massive backlash), they will censor it heavily, and possibly preclude the "next YouTube" from ever materializing.

He's absolutely right- and the same reasoning applies to almost everything the government touches.

The reason that ideas like this are even considered by Congress is because we've turned so much over to the government as it is. And thanks to that, we should be aware that while we might be able to beat back SOPA and PIPA today, they, or something like them, will be back eventually. I promise.

Hopefully, this is one area that will resonate with people enough to get them to question the wisdom of asking the government to try to solve any kind of problem. Not only should we seek to stop SOPA and PIPA by participating in blackouts, spreading the message on social media and writing our elected officials, but we should also give similar scrutiny to the many other economic, medical, social, moral, etc., problems that Congress tries to solve with politics and guns. Hasn't it done enough already?

Monday, January 2, 2012

The 2012 Liberty Victory

If I could put money on it, I would bet that Barack Obama will be a two-term president. When he takes to the podium at his victory speech, no matter what the numbers are, he will interpret his win as the American people's unwavering stamp of approval of everything he signed into law during his first term. And he will look forward to another four years of expanding government in ways he sees fit. When all is said and done, conservatives will probably blame it on Ron Paul's supporters for not coming around.

"I hope you're happy," they'll spit. "Because you Ron Paulians were too stubborn to vote for Newt Romney, you cost us the election. Thanks to you, we're stuck with Obama for another four years." Of course, this will come on the heels of months of angry muttering about how a vote for a 3rd party (be it Ron Paul or Gary Johnson or whomever) is a vote for Obama.

Boo hoo. You can blame us if that's what makes you feel better. Personally I'd put most of the blame on the people who actually voted for Obama (even though, as an aside, I don't understand how anybody could still support him a since he did a 180 on basically all the important things he campaigned on), but I'd also say that the Republican establishment deserves a little blame, too. Because for all the conservative media, for all the millions of dollars at its disposal, for all its advantages over third parties in the electoral process, and the upper hand that come merely by having incumbents all over the country to trumpet its case, it still couldn't come up with a candidate who could successfully sell his story to enough Americans eligible to vote. In 2008, Obama won with less than a third of all voters casting their vote for him- more people than that chose to stay home.

In truth, we're against Obama just as much as any republican. The difference is that we understand that electing Romney isn't going to be any better. Whether or not you believe it's true doesn't matter to us. Save your crying and your whining about the Constitution and your Don't Tread On Me flags and pretending to want limited government and all the rest of it. If you're going to elect an establishment politician like Mitt Romney, you know you're not going to get any of that, so why even bother showing up?

So long as your primary goal is just to get the democrats out of office, we, the people who want real liberty, are not going to play ball. This, I believe, will be the bittersweet victory for liberty in 2012. It will be the year that those of us who want personal and economic freedom for all people; who want an end to war; who rail against centralized power; who hate politics and politicians; who want to keep every cent of what we earn, to give away, invest or spend as we please- will make ourselves known. And we're here to stay.

To be sure, the liberty movement is still in its infancy, but it's undeniably more popular right now than it ever was. Now, we actually have libertarian TV shows (Stossel and Freedom Watch), which virtually unheard of just five years ago. More to the point- we now have the numbers to hold one of the major political parties hostage. Dare I say, we would rather see the next 50 elections go to the democrats than vote for an establishment republican candidate in whom we do not believe. Because (and this is important) if we don't get the option of voting for a liberty candidate, then we honestly don't care who wins. Gone are the days of us settling for the lesser of two evils. We're over it. We've lived through enough elections to know that it doesn't even matter. If voting Republican means turning our backs on our principles, we won't do it. We know we have nothing to gain by it, we've already accepted that you'll blame us, and we just don't care.

Thus, I have two messages to deliver. The message to the republican establishment is this: you will lose elections unless you start putting candidates out there who have a genuine interest in reducing government. So long as you keep alienating us and calling us unelectable, we're going to see to it that your cookie cutter one-dimensional paid-for yes-man candidates are also unelectable. We'll cast our votes against them and we'll do it with a smile.

The message to the American public is this: Elections are not contests to see who's most popular. They've become contests to see who's less unpopular. So long as you agree to hold your nose to vote for incompetent lying people whom you don't actually want to win, those are the only kinds of candidates the establishments are going to put in front of you. This is true no matter your political affiliation. Know in advance that it's going to take more than one election cycle to properly communicate this. Hell, it might take a dozen. But if you don't take a stand at some point and start withhold your support from these parties that care nothing about your welfare, you may as well stay home and accept your fate- that your country will be governed by the worst among us and you didn't have the strength to try to stop it.