What Libertarianism Is…


…and What it Must Do

 By Duncan Whitmore

Anyone who has taken the time to study in depth the wealth of scholarly literature of Austro-libertarianism cannot help but be enthralled by the intellectual treasures provided by our school of thought. Not only have we uncovered a body of knowledge which – especially in comparison to mainstream social science – is rigorous, scientific, coherent and interdisciplinary, but, as the true successors of classical liberalism, we have an inspiring vision of the future that can sweep away war, conflict, strife and poverty while propelling the human race to unheard of heights of peace and prosperity. Indeed, for many of us Austro-libertarianism has been the most joyous and rewarding discovery of our lives, providing a sheltered harbour in a world which would otherwise leave us adrift in a sea of chaos.

Unfortunately, we are forced to admit that the intellectual accomplishments of Austro-libertarians are disproportionate to our achievements in effecting real world change which, by comparison, are almost miniscule. Although most forms of direct socialism have been discredited by the disaster that was the Soviet Union, we are today living in a world of unprecedented state power which the majority of the population, buoyed by a sense of control instilled by their occasional visits to the ballot box, views as entirely legitimate. It is bad enough that the modern nation state has accreted to itself power and functions that ancient kings and emperors could only dream of; but we are confronted also by a pervasive attitude that any difficulty, problem, error, injustice or whatever that life may choose to throw at us – including our own personal foibles and failings – is always the state’s responsibility to solve. The problems of paper money, the welfare state, boom and bust, public “education”, crippling regulation, disastrous overseas wars and all of the other ills bred by the state are not going to be vanquished when the majority of the public regards this institution as the magic carpet that will whisk us all away to the land of milk and honey. Read more

Should The U.S. Be The Globe’s Judge, Jury And Executioner?


By ilana mercer

Qassim Soleimani, an Iranian major general, was assassinated by a U.S. drone air strike, at the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). Soleimani was traveling with one Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Al-Muhandis was an Iraqi, born and bred. He was even elected to the Iraqi Parliament, in 2005, until the U.S. intervened. (Yes, we intervene in other nations’ elections.)

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, was furious, denouncing “What happened [as] a political assassination.” Unanimously, Iraqi lawmakers “responded to the Soleimani assassination by passing a nonbinding resolution calling on the government to end foreign-troop presence in Iraq.”

Yes, it’s a complicated region. And America, sad to say, still doesn’t know Shia from Shinola.

The consensus in our country is that “Soleimani deserved to die.” That’s the party-line on Fox News—and beyond. It’s how assorted commentators on all networks prefaced their “positions” on the Jan. 3 killing of the Iranian general.

Even Tucker Carlson—the only mainstream hope for Old Right, anti-war, America-First columns like this one—framed the taking out of Soleimani as the killing of a bad guy by good guys:

“There are an awful lot of bad people in this world. We can’t kill them all, it’s not our job.”

However you finesse it, the premise of Tucker’s assertion is that the American government, and the smart set who live in symbiosis with it, gets to adjudicate who’s bad and who’s good in the world.

The debate is only ever over whether the U.S. government should or shouldn’t act on its divine rights as transnational judge, jury and executioner, never over what’s right and what’s wrong.

Stateside, the only inquiry permissible is a cost-benefit calculus. Will the assassination of Soleimani, a military official of a sovereign state, and an avid and effective slayer of Islamic State terrorists—pay strategic dividends for America in the long run?

This is crass pragmatism bereft of principle. It’s currently on display everywhere, even surfacing on BBC News, where a female analyst, an American, was deploying the childish “bad man” meme to outline America’s Disneyfied foreign policy.

This angels-and-demons production always starts with the prototypical evil dictator who was alleged to be messing with his noble people, until the avenging, angelic empire sent a drone to the rescue.

Again, even Tucker, whose antiwar credentials in recent years have been impeccable, conceded that this Soleimani guy probably needed killing, which is the same thing Iraqis old enough to remember America’s destruction of Iraq, circa 2003, would say about President George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and Ms. Rice.

So, who’s right? Or, is blind patriotism predicated on accepting that it is up to the U.S. government and its ruling elites to determine who lives and who dies around the world?

“Soleimani deserved to die,” an atavistic bit of jingoism, made by Republicans and Democrats alike, on Fox News and on CNN—it holds true only if you believe that the U.S. government is the keeper of the flame of an immutably just, universal code of law, which it is deputized to uphold, wherever it takes-up residence.

Such a chauvinistic impulse is true only if you believe that the U.S. government’s might gives it the right to be universal judge, jury and executioner, deciding who may live and who must die the world over.

As to whether the U.S. government has a right to eliminate an Iranian state actor by declaring him a “terrorist”:

Like it or not, Soleimani was a uniformed official of a sovereign state. He was the equivalent of our Special Operations commander.

We Americans would not tolerate it were Iranians to designate America’s Special Operations commander, Gen. Richard D. Clarke, a terrorist.

Moreover, if Iranians took out America’s Special Ops commander somewhere in North America—which is analogous to the assassination of Soleimani—Americans would consider it an act of war by Iran.

Soleimani was the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ clandestine and regional operations arm, the Quds Force. Iranians look upon him as we Americans view the commanders of our clandestine Special Operations forces the world over.

With a distinction: Our Special Operations forces and their command encroach on the Iranian neighborhood much more so than Iranians and their special force command encroach on American territory, unless you consider the Middle East to be American turf.

To repeat: The crucial difference between Iran’s Quds Force and America’s Special Operations forces (SOF) is that the former is regional, the latter global.

As I write, America’s SOF, upwards of 8,300 commandos, are engaged in secret operations the world over. Unknown to all but a few Americans, “U.S. commandos deploy to 149 countries—about 75 percent of the nations on the planet,” reports investigative journalist Nick Turse. Expect that by the halfway mark of this year, “U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM), America’s most elite troops, will have already carried out missions in approximately 133 countries.”

“If Iran should not be allowed to interfere in neighboring countries,” pondered Sara, an Iranian mourner interviewed at Soleimani’s million-strong funeral, “why should Americans be allowed to come to our region all the way from the other side of the Earth?”

Correction: Soleimani patrolled only Iran’s very dangerous neighborhood. His mission was far more modest and nationalistic than that of the U.S. government, which bestrides the globe, arming and training foreign troops all over it.

Unlike America’s proxy militias, Iranian proxy militia operate in the region.

As to the “imminent danger” a single individual, Soleimani, was said to pose to “American lives”: Arrayed against the veracity of the intelligence to that effect are Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul. They characterized Wednesday’s intel briefing as positively “insulting”; “the worst briefing” they had received.

No wonder. The intelligence was produced and pushed by the same spooks who’ve been agitating against President Trump and all vestiges of his original “America First” plank.

The intel justification for the Soleimani assassination came from the same intelligence community that cooked up the anti-Trump Russia monomania and the WMD-in-Iraq casus belli.  

These disgraced sources now insist that Soleimani was planning future, precision strikes—nefarious atrocities against U.S. soldiers—and, therefore, needed to be dispatched right away.

However, other more credible sources, including Rand Paul’s dad, allude to Soleimani’s involvement in a diplomatic mission which was underway between Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and would have cut out the U.S. as middleman.

Skepticism aside, when we accept U.S. state aggression based on iffy, prior-restraint arguments, then aggress we must ad absurdum. Consider: Between 1975 and 2015, Saudi Arabian Sunnis murdered 2369 Americans in the homeland, to Iran’s zero. When it comes to the lives of American civilians, at least in recent decades, the Saudis (Trump’s new BFFs), not the Iranians, have blood on their hands.

Based on the erroneous prior-restraint reasoning, and our putative, divine American rights as judge, jury and executioner—we could confine all Saudi-Arabian Sunnis to camps, for the purpose of “reeducation.” It’s what China is doing to its Muslim minority.

Preposterous!

So as to survive the onslaught of the Sunni fundamentalist majority, the endangered Alawite minority in Syria has formed an alliance with Shia Iran, also a marginalized minority within the Ummah. The Shia-Alawite alliance has been good for Christians in Syria.

But Saudi Arabia doesn’t give a dried camel’s hump about Christians or American casualties. They have managed to skillfully enlist the West in a proxy Sunni-Shia religious war, also Riyadh’s ultimate aim.

Despite a campaign of “America First,” and much like the Bushes and Clintons before him, the president has decided to side with Sunni Islam while demonizing the Shia.

**

Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She’s the author of Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011) & The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, Facebook & Gab. Latest on YouTube: “How Democracy Made Us Dumb.

 

Leave, Actually – What the Election Means


Leave, Actually – What the Election Means

By Duncan Whitmore

“Tidings of Comfort of Joy” – so heralded the front page of The Daily Telegraph during their vision of Boris Johnson’s election victory descending from heaven with a chorus of angels. Certainly the magnitude of Johnson’s achievement is difficult to overstate. Not only has he propelled the Conservatives to an impressive parliamentary majority by robbing Labour of seats in its traditional working class heartlands; he has also, in a few short months, purged the Tories of their wrangling over Europe which has plagued each of their party leaders since Margaret Thatcher. For libertarians, however, while the result of last Thursday’s poll brings much comfort, the joy may have to be put on ice for a while.

There is comfort in the fact that, for the third election in a row – two general, one European – the British people have reaffirmed their 2016 decision to leave the European Union. No longer can dyed-in-the-wool Remainers claim that the electorate did not know what they were voting for, given that the precise form of Brexit was there for all to see in the text of Johnson’s withdrawal agreement. In the end, the possible split of the Leave vote between the Conservatives and the Brexit Party failed to materialise. Instead, as Nigel Farage intended, his party contributed to the fall of Labour in working class constituencies while the Tory vote remained intact. In some of the most surprising Tory victories – for example, in Durham Northwest, Blyth Valley, Bassetlaw, Bishop Auckland and Bolsover (where Dennis Skinner was unseated after nearly fifty years) – the spoils from Labour losses were parcelled out between the Brexit Party and the Tories, allowing the latter to accomplish anything between narrow and landslide victories over Labour. Although, according to Wednesday’s Times, some studies have claimed that the Brexit Party actually deprived the Conservatives of around twenty further seats, this is no bad thing. For in spite of gaining only 2% of the vote nationally and no seats, Farage’s combination of help and hindrance to the Tories has paid off by decimating the prospect of any parliamentary “Remainer” alliance while also neutering Conservative complacency. Of course, the precise unfolding of Brexit – i.e. the final form of Johnson’s withdrawal agreement and the eventual results of negotiations over the trade deal – remains to be seen. But the prospect of a second referendum leading to the outright cancellation of the decision to leave has finally been buried. Read more

Sean Gabb at Sixty: A Balanced Appreciation


Sean Gabb at Sixty: A Balanced Appreciation
Mario Huet

I’ve read the various appreciations written to commemorate Sean Gabb’s sixtieth birthday. These are all good and true. I don’t claim to be much of a political analyst. What I can offer is that I’ve known Sean for half a century, which is somewhat longer than anyone else here can claim. Because I usually helped put them there, I know where all the bodies are buried. Over the years, he’s returned the favour. I think this qualifies me to add to the growing heap of praise.

I met Sean on Tuesday the 7th September 1971. It was our first day at a crap comprehensive school in South-East London. He was a short, fat boy, with NHS glasses and a mass of brown curls. He had a flat voice and a permanent look of boredom. He despised most of the teachers, and responded to their usually incompetent lessons by reading in class or falling asleep. The other boys responded to him with ruthless bullying. His response to that was truancy. If I ever wanted to find him after school, the surest place was Lewisham Library, which in those days was a treasure house of books on every subject. Read more

Time’s Feathered Arrow


Time’s Feathered Arrow
Sean Gabb
14th December 2019

One of my Books.
Learn More
Or read here for free.

I feel a vague duty to write something about the general election. However, since everyone else has written almost everything about it that can be written, this is a duty that I will shirk. I will write instead about a subject I have always found of compelling interest – that is, about me.

The week before last, I had my sixtieth birthday. I glared at my women when they insisted on presenting me with birthday cards, and was glad to receive only two other cards through the post. I made sure not to put them on display. I made sure to tell none of my colleagues or students that I was now officially old and past it. However, Keir Martland – a most wicked young man – knew the truth, and has arranged a series of flattering appreciations published on the MisesUK Blog. You can see them here, here, here, here and here. Read more

Erudite, scholarly, and unfailingly polite


To Sean Gabb on the Occasion of his Sixtieth Birthday

One of the unanticipated pleasures of my adult life has been the diverse number of intellectuals, scholars, and liberty lovers, from all over the world, that I’ve met, and often befriended, through various libertarian and Austrian economic events, seminars, and connections, since the mid-1990s. The singular and intriguing Sean Gabb stands out in my mind as an excellent example. I don’t know if I had previously heard of Sean when we first met at the inaugural meeting of the Property and Freedom Society in Bodrum, Turkey, in May 2006. Well, we call it Bodrum, but historical-minded Sean insists on calling it by its proper name, Halicarnassus (in his delightful account of that first meeting (see below)). Read more

Refreshing, realistic, and uncompromisingly radical


by Swithun Dobson

I believe my first memory of Sean was him defending the introduction of the R18 certification by the BBFC in 2000 on a 5 Live phone-in – even though this maybe a phantom, it is certainly an apt one given Sean’s unwavering belief that consenting adults should legally be able to do as they please. In the year 2000, I had very little idea who he actually was. In sixth form, a few years later,  I began to really discover classical liberalism, reading many of the works of the Institute for Economic Affairs. In my early years at university I devoured more hardcore libertarian texts and then stumbled across the Libertarian Alliance blog. What was refreshing about it was that it was an uncompromisingly radical organisation from England. Sean linked his appearances on BBC radio in which he called for the entire abolition of alcohol licensing laws and the rolling back of the police state. This was a far cry from some of the dull, wonkish publications from the IEA, in particular the egregiously dull title, The Dangers of Bus Re-Regulation. There was simply no-one else who was vaguely in the public eye who would defend some of the more radical libertarian positions. Read more

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