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War as a Crime Against Civilization – Article by Butler Shaffer

War as a Crime Against Civilization – Article by Butler Shaffer

The New Renaissance Hat
Butler Shaffer
March 12, 2015
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“The real complaining party at the bar in this courtroom is civilization.”
– Judge Dan Haywood, Judgment at Nuremberg

In her current article at Antiwar.com, Lucy Steigerwald reminds us that, while the deaths of tens of millions of innocent men, women, and children provide the strongest indictment of war, there are other costs that need to be accounted for; costs that can only be calculated in terms of the adverse consequences to peaceful, productive, and decent society — i.e., to civilization itself. Among the earliest casualties of the American attack on Iraq were the destruction and looting of archeological sites, museums, libraries, and other cultural locations that help a nation to define itself. The United States did not invent such ruinous forms of barbarism, nor has the practice abated in such cities as Mosul, where ISIS forces have eagerly and intentionally looted the local museum of its important collections. The fourth-century burning of the library at Alexandria — then considered to be the greatest collection of the world’s literature – reveals the depths of insanity that inhere in the war system.

Historical records and artifacts, art, literature, music, architecture, and belief systems, help to provide people with a sense of what their culture has been about, what it has produced, and what its people envision as the worthwhile foundations of their society. As modern psychopaths look for any pretext to paint a desired enemy in the colors of savage vulgarity, evidence — and, thus, understanding — of its more cultivated and productive character must be destroyed. Those who insist on other people’s children being sacrificed to a new crusade against Arab nations, for instance, would do well to discover just how much of the substance of Western Civilization — in the sciences, mathematics, medicine, art, and other expressions of the best of what it means to be civilized — is directly traceable to Arab culture.

In a world dominated by the pursuit of material values, we tend to overlook the importance of what is unseen or only glimpsed through hazy lenses that can be found in libraries, museums, art, and other attributes of what it means to be civilized. The poet, William Carlos Williams, reminds us of the costs associated with ignoring the unseen values: “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”

Butler Shaffer is Professor of Law at the Southwestern Law School. Read his biography here.

Reprinted with permission from LewRockwell.com. Published under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

To Prevent World War III, Do Not Arm Ukraine’s Regime – Article by G. Stolyarov II

To Prevent World War III, Do Not Arm Ukraine’s Regime – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
February 8, 2015
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I can no longer say that this Cold War will not lead to a ‘Hot War.’ I fear that they could risk it. […]The statements and propaganda on both sides make me fear the worst. If anyone loses their nerve in this charged atmosphere, we will not survive the next few years. […]I do not say such things lightly….I am a man with a conscience. But that’s how it is. I’m really extremely worried.

~ Mikhail Gorbachev

I’m uneasy about beginning a process of military engagement without knowing where it will lead us and what we’ll do to sustain it. […] I believe we should avoid taking incremental steps before we know how far we are willing to go. This is a territory 300 miles from Moscow, and therefore has special security implications.

~ Henry Kissinger

It is an extremely dangerous development, which has been brewing ever since Washington violated its verbal promises to Gorbachev and began expanding NATO to the East, right to Russia’s borders, and threatening to incorporate Ukraine, which is of great strategic significance to Russia and of course has close historical and cultural links. […] The Russian autocracy is far from blameless, but we are now back to earlier comments: we have come perilously close to disaster before, and are toying with catastrophe again. It is not that possible peaceful solutions are lacking.

~ Noam Chomsky

Outside countries should leave Ukraine to resolve the conflict itself. However, even as the US demands that the Russians de-escalate, the United States is busy escalating! […] Why is ‘winning’ Ukraine so important to Washington? Why are they risking a major war with Russia to deny people in Ukraine the right to self-determination? Let’s just leave Ukraine alone!

~ Ron Paul

One can rarely find four thinkers as distinct from one another as Gorbachev, Kissinger, Chomsky, and Ron Paul, and yet, for all of their differences, each of them is clearly guided by a systematic, thoroughly considered intellectual framework. All four of these thinkers have concluded, starting from different practical and moral premises, that further escalation of the Ukraine crisis by the United States would be a dangerous, deeply inadvisable behavior.

Two of these thinkers – Gorbachev and Kissinger – played crucial roles in helping to maneuver the world out of the existential danger of the Cold War. One might consider them to have made tactical or even moral errors, but they deserve recognition for being among the cooler heads that prevailed, helping defuse decades-long tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union that could have easily ended in a nuclear holocaust.

The other two thinkers – Chomsky and Paul – are thought leaders of principled polar opposites of American thought, left-progressivism and right-libertarianism. While sharply at odds over economics, philosophy, and politics, these two systems are both vastly superior to the American political establishment, which is dominated by a tight alliance of special-interest pressure groups, whose primary purpose is to protect existing political privileges through lobbying at the expense of innovative entrepreneurs, consumers, and people of merit in general. Left-progressives and right-libertarians each have a vision of human dignity and morality that is driven by principles and conscience. The American political establishment, represented by virtually indistinguishable “neoconservative” Republicans and “humanitarian interventionist” Democrats, is driven solely by the impulse to entrench the politically connected interests of the status quo at all costs. While both right-libertarians and left-progressives strongly favor peace as an integral component in their project to improve human well-being, the amoral interventionist political establishment in the United States does not care about human well-being. Bombs will drop, drones will massacre innocent civilians, everyone will be deprived of privacy, dignity, and due process – but they will have their privileges and their dominance, even though the world might burn for it.

The “neoconservatives” and “humanitarian interventionists” in the United States speak and act out of misguided short-sightedness, but the pressure they constantly exert on President Barack Obama could be the greatest threat to world peace and the progress of human civilization today, turning a tragic but local conflict into one that could escalate into World War III.

Obama rose to power through left-progressive idealistic rhetoric, but he has shown to be far more inclined toward accommodation to the entrenched political establishment. Even so, he has been reluctant to send lethal weapons to Ukraine, as vestiges of his left-progressivism have given him justified unease at the prospect. Yet the chorus of establishment hawks has recently grown to a warmongering holler. The worst among them are John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who even seek to mandate that Obama send weapons to the Ukrainian regime of Petro Poroshenko and Arseniy Yatseniuk. This same regime has been confirmed to have murdered over 5,300 of its own civilian population, to have employed savage, indiscriminate tactics – such as the deliberate shelling of densely populated neighborhoods and the use of cluster munitions – to have reinstituted military conscription at the point of a gun, and to have incorporated overtly fascist paramilitary “volunteer” units into Ukraine’s military structure. American “neoconservative” and “humanitarian interventionist” politicians, in the name of humanitarian ideals (mostly, vague sound bites about “territorial integrity” and “national self-determination” – neither of which concepts they actually respect with any consistency), seek to aid and abet genuine moral monsters who have already killed thousands and terrorized and displaced millions.

The civil war in Ukraine has thus far been confined within the borders of Ukraine, with modest support from Vladimir Putin’s regime for the Donetsk and Luhansk separatists. (If Putin’s support were indeed decisive or fully commensurate with his abilities, he would have occupied all of Ukraine by now – but his behavior demonstrates that this is not his intention. Putin does not have any grand design on Ukraine, and his sporadic assistance to the separatists has largely been reactive, to prevent their complete obliteration.) If the United States funnels weapons to the Poroshenko/Yatseniuk regime, a local conflict will be turned into a global one, with the United States fighting a proxy war against Russia. If the United States then makes the fateful step of introducing ground troops, the proxy war will quickly turn into a direct war. From a direct conventional war to a nuclear war is only a small step, which is why the actual strategists of the Cold War – wiser men than today’s hawks – understood that it would be unacceptable for the militaries of the United States and the Soviet Union to ever fight one another directly.

Arming the Ukrainian government will perpetuate its ability to inflict a massive death toll upon civilians. Furthermore, it would be completely counterproductive to any lasting peace. Both the separatists and Putin will see it as a validation of the claim that the United States has been behind the “regime change” in Ukraine all along. They will furthermore see it as another step toward Ukraine’s absorption into NATO – an alliance that was originally formed specifically to counter the Soviet Union. One of Putin’s consistent demands throughout the past year has been for a commitment that Ukraine’s membership in NATO would be out of the question. It should be an easy commitment to give – considering that NATO has no real appetite to allow Ukraine to join, and Ukraine’s precarious situation would only endanger the security of all other NATO members, who would be compelled to assist in any of Ukraine’s wars. Yet, instead of acceding to this one demand – which could resolve everything – Western governments have given the Poroshenko/Yatseniuk regime every hope of eventual NATO membership, with no intention of following through. Still, sending weapons at this juncture would strongly reinforce this hope on the part of Poroshenko and Yatseniuk, and the corresponding fear on the part of Putin.

While thoughtful men of principle and even hyper-intelligent ruthless pragmatists (like Kissinger) are against escalating the Ukraine crisis, the “neoconservatives” and “humanitarian interventionists” are neither thoughtful nor pragmatic. Many of them are driven by blind hatred for Russia and a desire to re-ignite the Cold War to re-live its alleged glory days. They would again place the world just a few steps away from nuclear annihilation, just to re-enter a paradigm which is conceptually familiar to them. They are so afraid of a possible new world of hyper-pluralism, individualism, accelerating technological progress, and the irrelevance of national boundaries – that they would place all humankind at risk just to avert their discomfort. Perhaps some of them truly believe their own rhetoric – that Vladimir Putin is a new Hitler and that the annexation of Crimea – a historically Russian territory until Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine in 1954 in order to gain support from the leadership of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic – is in any way similar to Hitler’s annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938. (Never mind that Putin has never perpetrated a Holocaust and that the ethnic chauvinists, xenophobes, and anti-Semites are predominantly fighting on the side of the Ukrainian government and wearing Nazi emblems – while many of Putin’s unofficial allies have donned the emblems used by the Russian resistance to the Nazi invasion during World War II!) Perhaps some of the hawks truly believe that the United States has a moral duty to spread “democracy” and “self-determination” at the barrel of a gun to the rest of the world, and to serve as a global policeman, punishing all violations of these vaunted American principles. Yet what the ordinary people who suffer the consequences of American foreign-policy interventionism see are not “democracy” and “self-determination”, but rather dead bodies and homes reduced to rubble. Yes, Vladimir Putin is a ruthless autocrat who suppresses dissent and free inquiry. Yes, Viktor Yanukovych was a corrupt kleptocrat who sometimes employed thugs to deter and punish criticism of his expropriation of the Ukrainian people. At worst, Yanukovych may have ordered snipers from the Berkut police to fire upon the Maidan protesters during his last days in power (although it is perplexing why the snipers fired upon both the protesters and at Berkut police themselves). But neither of them murdered thousands of innocents among their own population, nor used indiscriminate shelling against them. It is one matter to suffer under a repressive autocracy, which will spare you if you keep your head down; it is quite another to quake under omnipresent brutality, murder, and destruction, from which no one is safe and where your next trip to the grocery store could result in your limbs being torn from your body. People who, under Yanukovych, were able to eke out a modest living and hope for gradual improvement, have been devastated and sometimes utterly destroyed by the savage Ukrainian civil war. A swath of Third-World barbarism has been carved out of a region that had, for seventy years, only known drab Second-World sub-optimality. Even if Putin were attempting to resurrect the Soviet Union – quite a far-fetched allegation – the Ukrainian government is creating another Liberia in Europe.

As tragic as it might be, Putin’s most advantageous response to any US decision to send arms to Ukraine would be to immediately escalate the situation, before those arms could arrive to make a difference on the battlefield. This means that the trickle of Putin’s support for the separatists would become a flood, and it would not be surprising if Russian forces directly and openly entered Ukraine and pressed toward Kiev. Undoubtedly, the Ukrainian military would put up a stiff resistance and turn every civilian settlement along the way into another Donetsk Airport. Tens of thousands of soldiers and innocent civilians would be killed in the process, and all of their lives would be lost in vain. Nobody truly wants this outcome, but the hawks in the US Congress are blinded by their desire to punish Russia. They fail to realize that this carnage is precisely the result they would get by further goading Putin on with escalation from the American side. In the face of such thoughtless saber-rattling, one should applaud the frantic, heroic efforts of European leaders – particularly Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s François Hollande – to forestall a deadly and irreversible sequence of events and to reach a diplomatic solution.

“A bad peace is better than a good war,” counsels an old Jewish and Russian proverb. Benjamin Franklin agreed. “There was never a good War, or a bad Peace,” he wrote in his bestselling Poor Richard’s Almanack – one of 18th-century America’s civilizing moral influences. Right now a sub-optimal peace – what some would consider a bad peace – is the best that could be hoped for in Ukraine. This would involve some manner of sustainable demarcation between the territory held by the Ukrainian government and the rebel People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. It does not matter whether this demarcation takes the form of officially recognized independence or broad “regional autonomy” – as long as the shells stop falling and the civilians stop dying. National borders are artificial fictions, but human lives are real. It does not matter where officials and diplomats decide to draw their lines on the map, as long as the result is a mutually acceptable understanding of future behaviors, by which living humans would be spared from slaughter.

The Minsk Agreement reached in September 2014 was unsustainable precisely because the Ukrainian government never intended to abide by the agreed-upon demarcation line; Ukrainian troops stubbornly held onto the ghastly, apocalyptic ruin of the once-state-of-the-art Donetsk Airport, despite the fact that it will never be usable as an airport again. According to the Minsk Agreement, the Donetsk Airport was to fall within the autonomous separatist-held territory. Its location was sufficiently close to the city of Donetsk for the Ukrainian army to continue to shell civilian neighborhoods. Understandably, the separatist rebels could not tolerate such a situation of perpetual bombardments, and so they threw their forces at the airport in wave after wave of bloody assaults, until it finally fell. Unfortunately, what also fell in this struggle was the entire premise of a sustainable demarcation line. The Ukrainian government would not respect its commitments, so the separatists saw no need to respect theirs as well. They have launched an offensive in the hopes of creating more buffer territory around their capitals of Donetsk and Luhansk. Tragically, this offensive involves shelling of population centers such as Debaltseve and Mariupol, whose residents are innocent victims, much like the inhabitants of Luhansk and Donetsk. In perpetrating these attacks, the separatists have become as bad as the regime forces they oppose – using the same indiscriminate tactics and the same mass-impact weapons.

It does not matter which side bombards the civilians of Eastern Ukraine, who used to be one another’s neighbors and whose social, cultural, and economic lives used to be tightly intertwined. All of these assaults are a savage, ultimately pointless folly. The lives they take can never be restored, and the ill will they engender can never abate. This is why the idea that the Ukrainian government should ever regain de facto control over the separatist-occupied regions is an absurdity. Who would accept living under a government that murdered their neighbors and families and ruined what meager livelihoods they had? A lasting peace agreement might keep these territories nominally within the boundaries of Ukraine, in order to save face diplomatically, but the actual governance of these territories must be delegated to the people who live there, even if these people would make economically and politically counterproductive decisions. Donetsk and Luhansk might well become neo-communist enclaves and will certainly need decades of painstakingly slow economic recovery to restore 2013-level standards of living. However unfortunate this may all be, it is better than children being blown to bits. If peace is restored, along with free movement across borders (which existed prior to the civil war), the more ambitious and talented residents of these territories will be able to emigrate to the West, to Israel, or even to Russia, where their prospects would be greatly improved. Such emigration has already been happening for decades and has enabled the best minds and the better cultural vestiges of the former Soviet republics to be preserved.

With two key points – (i) broad autonomy for the rebel-held areas, separated by a buffer zone to prevent shelling of population centers, and (ii) a commitment for Ukraine never to join NATO – a peace plan might just avert escalation of the savage Ukrainian civil war. There may still be occasional violations of any resulting cease-fire, since neither side has full control over its fighters. However, redirecting the incentives and conversation away from escalation and toward peaceful coexistence is imperative to avoid making this tragedy worse. Eventually, if peace becomes the general rule rather than the exception, armed attacks in the region could equilibrate to a level very close to zero, and the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics could become unofficial statelets, like Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia – de facto autonomous enclaves that are governed poorly but pose no threat to world peace or to anyone outside their boundaries.

If, on the other hand, weapons are sent to the Poroshenko/Yatseniuk regime and events spiral out of control into a World War III, then all of human civilization would be in grave danger. Decades of economic, technological, and cultural progress could be wiped out in days. The infrastructure – not just in Eastern Ukraine but in the West itself – could be devastated sufficiently to bring about another Dark Age, if humankind survives at all. Gone would be the dreams of colonizing other planets, dramatically extending human lifespans and curing chronic diseases, creating radical abundance through technological innovation, and obliterating age-old superstitions and oppressions. The old hawks who seek to relive the Cold War would plunge the world into a predicament far worse – all because they could not let go of their fear, their hatred, and their obsolete zero-sum “us versus them” worldview. Putin would, of course, also be complicit in such a scenario, but not because he would have made the first move. His foremost objective – as has been the case for every Russian autocrat – will be to avoid humiliation and save face, to claim a dignified resolution with an image of strength – no matter what the substantive outcome, in order to avoid domestic unrest. For Russian strongmen, much is forgiven – but losing a war (or seeming to lose it) is unacceptable and is practically a sentence of deposition, if not death. This is why, if the West ratchets up military pressure on Putin, he will have no incentive to put the brakes on the deadly cycle of escalation.

The saber-rattling of hawks in the US Congress and their supporters threatens the progress and the very survival of humankind. One can only hope that cooler heads – the thinkers, the thoughtful idealists, the pragmatists, the diplomats – will prevail and enable a local conflict to remain local and to eventually subside. The next few decades will be crucial for setting the course of human civilization for millennia hence – if people of conscience will be able to wrest those millennia from the short-sighted jingoists who would rob us of them.

No Doubt: US Taxpayers Will be Robbed to Arm Poroshenko – Article by Ron Paul

No Doubt: US Taxpayers Will be Robbed to Arm Poroshenko – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
February 5, 2015
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President Petro Poroshenko, who the US, along with the Europeans and NATO, helped place in power after last year’s coup, has declared that he has “no doubt” America’s taxpayers will provide the lethal weapons he desires to fight the separatists in eastern Ukraine. I never had any doubt, either. Of course it’s all to stop “Russian aggression.” NATO’s expansionism is never considered an important issue in the very dangerous war.

Our policy in Ukraine is a far cry from “neutrality,” staying out of the internal affairs of others, or avoiding entangling alliances. It is more like being the policeman of the world and claiming the title of the greatest arms manufacturer of all history. The military-industrial complex must be pleased with its repeated successes.

I’m sure the neo-cons are also ecstatic. And sadly it looks like Sen. Lindsey Graham may get his way and get US troops further involved.

The claimed need for our sending lethal weapons to Ukraine is to combat the Russian troops supposedly already in Ukraine. Yet the propagandists never provide any evidence to verify this assertion.

Both sides are now recruiting and even drafting the young to prepare them to do the fighting. There’s evidence that resistance is building to this effort. It would be nice if the young victims of wars started by old people and foreigners would just go on strike and refuse to fight. Let the instigators of the war put their own “boots on the ground.”

Reprinted with permission from author’s Facebook page.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

The Real Meaning of the 1914 Christmas Truce – Article by Ron Paul

The Real Meaning of the 1914 Christmas Truce – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
December 28, 2014
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One hundred years ago last week, on Christmas Eve, 1914, German and British soldiers emerged from the horrors of World War One trench warfare to greet each other, exchange food and gifts, and to wish each other a Merry Christmas. What we remember now as the “Christmas Truce” began with soldiers singing Christmas carols together from in the trenches. Eventually the two sides climbed out of the trenches and met in person. In the course of this two-day truce, which lasted until December 26, 1914, the two sides also exchanged prisoners, buried their dead, and even played soccer with each other.
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How amazing to think that the celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace could bring a brief pause in one of the most destructive wars in history. How sad that it was not to last.

The Christmas Truce showed that given the choice, people do not want to be out fighting and killing each other. It is incredibly damaging to most participants in war to face the task of killing their fellow man. That is one reason we see today an epidemic of PTSD and suicides among US soldiers sent overseas on multiple deployments.

The Christmas Truce in 1914 was joyous for the soldiers, but it was dangerous for the political leadership on both sides. Such fraternization with the “enemy” could not be tolerated by the war-makers. Never again was the Christmas Truce repeated on such a scale, as the governments of both sides explicitly prohibited any repeat of such a meeting. Those who had been greeting each other had to go back to killing each other on orders from those well out of harm’s way.

As much as national governments would like to stamp out such humanization of the “enemy,” it is still the case today that soldiers on the ground will meet and share thoughts with those they are meant to be killing. Earlier this month, soldiers from opposing sides of the Ukraine civil war met in eastern Ukraine to facilitate the transfer of supplies and the rotation of troops. They shook hands and wished that the war would be over. One army battalion commander was quoted as saying at the meeting, “I think it’s a war between brothers that nobody wants. The top brass should sort things out. And us? We are soldiers, we do what we’re told.”

I am sure these same sentiments exist in many of the ongoing conflicts that are pushed by the governments involved – and in many cases by third-party governments seeking to benefit from the conflict.

The encouraging message we should take from the Christmas Truce of 100 years ago is that given the opportunity, most humans do not wish to kill each other. As Nazi leader Hermann Goering said during the Nuremberg war crimes trials, “naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany.” But, as he added, “the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

This is where our efforts must be focused. To oppose all war propaganda perpetrated by governments against the will of the people.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Just Cause, or Just ‘Cause? – Article by Bradley Doucet

Just Cause, or Just ‘Cause? – Article by Bradley Doucet

The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
November 9, 2014
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The fact that there are some bad people doing some bad things halfway around the world does not mean that “we” have to do something about it. There can be no such thing as an open-ended obligation to help everyone who’s being oppressed, pillaged, raped, enslaved, or murdered by their unprincipled fellows, because such an obligation would be effectively infinite. It would eat up all of our resources. And by and large, we don’t help every person or group of people fight off every aggressor or group of aggressors. Which is a good thing, because our “help” often makes things worse.

So why do we choose to respond when we do choose to respond? Or rather, why do our leaders choose to respond when they do? Is it because it’s the right thing to do? Or do they do it simply because, for whatever combination of factors, they can? A particularly unflattering enemy, perhaps, who can easily be demonized, for reasons both justified and not, and one who cannot really fight back, at least not in any way that would impose serious, widespread repercussions on the voting populace. An enemy, furthermore, who is far enough away that all the collateral damage, all of the innocents killed by our noble bombs dropped from our heroic jets, can be easily ignored, and who anyway look different and talk different and worship the wrong deity.

There is injustice, to be sure, and the gut reaction to want to fight injustice is a good and noble one, but we successfully repress it, or rather our leaders do, when it comes to places like North Korea and Russia, which would be very costly adventures indeed. We cautiously avoid getting into a war with such villains, whom we engaged with zeal just a couple of generations ago. Mutually Assured Destruction surely has something to do with it, but I think we can claim a certain moral progress as well, though perhaps it has not quite kept pace with our material progress.

No more great wars, then, even if they could be justified, because the cost is just too great. But little wars are fine, once in a while, when they can be justified, even if they always seem to do more harm than good. Keeps the troops in fighting form, you know, and keeps the voting public from focusing on domestic problems.

Keeps us from having to come up with more creative ways of responding to aggressors, also. Like, for the billions spent on all those guns and bombs, all those fighting forces and roaring jets and aircraft carriers, above and beyond what is needed to legitimately dissuade or fend off foreign aggressors, we could maybe do something to impede the recruiting efforts of terrorist organizations instead of helping them sign up new members. Instead of feeding their grievances by bombing weddings, maybe we could, I don’t know, drop crates filled with delicious food, or DVDs of television programs showing the richness and complexity of Western life in order to counter their caricatures of our depravity. Maybe we could support the translation of classic liberal tracts into all the languages of the world, as some organizations already do, and smuggle them across the various walls and checkpoints that keep our fellow human beings from escaping their prison countries, in order to counter the propaganda that keeps those walls from crumbling and those checkpoints from being overrun.

These are just the most obvious ideas off the top of my head, but I’m sure we can crack this nut and come up with a thousand innovative ways of responding to homicidal whack jobs that would be better than sending in the flying aces with their deadly payloads. It’s tempting, and even justified, to want to fight fire with fire. But the properly understood cost, in terms of money and lives and opportunities lost and enemies strengthened, even for the “small” wars we fight nowadays, is higher than the meagre benefits we imagine they will bring us. A proper accounting would show the folly of just about every war, and show that just about every war is really fought just because.

Bradley Doucet is Le Québécois Libre‘s English Editor and the author of the blog Spark This: Musings on Reason, Liberty, and Joy. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also writes for The New Individualist, an Objectivist magazine published by The Atlas Society, and sings.
Once-Peaceful Canada Turns Militaristic; Blowback Follows – Article by Ron Paul

Once-Peaceful Canada Turns Militaristic; Blowback Follows – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
October 30, 2014
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In 1968 the government of Canada decided to openly admit Americans seeking to avoid being drafted into the US war on Vietnam. Before, would-be immigrants were technically required to prove that they had been discharged from US military service. This move made it easier for Americans to escape President Johnson’s war machine by heading north.
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Although a founding member of NATO, Canada did not join the United States in its war against Vietnam. The Canadian government did not see a conflict 7,000 miles away as vital to Canada’s national interest so Canada pursued its own foreign policy course, independent of the United States.

How the world has changed. Canada’s wise caution about military adventurism even at the height of the Cold War has given way to a Canada of the 21st century literally joined at Washington’s hip and eager to participate in any bombing mission initiated by the D.C. interventionists.

Considering Canada’s peaceful past, the interventionist Canada that has emerged at the end of the Cold War is a genuine disappointment. Who would doubt that today’s Canada would, should a draft be re-instated in the US, send each and every American resister back home to face prison and worse?

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out this past week:

Canada has spent the last 13 years proclaiming itself a nation at war. It actively participated in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and was an enthusiastic partner in some of the most extremist War on Terror abuses perpetrated by the U.S.

Canada has also enthusiastically joined President Obama’s latest war on Iraq and Syria, pledging to send fighter jets to participate in the bombing of ISIS (and likely many civilians in the process).

But Canada’s wars abroad came back home to Canada last week.

Though horrific, it should not be a complete surprise that Canada found itself hit by blowback last week, as two attacks on Canadian soil left two Canadian military members dead.

Greenwald again points out what few dare to say about the attacks:

Regardless of one’s views on the justifiability of Canada’s lengthy military actions, it’s not the slightest bit surprising or difficult to understand why people who identify with those on the other end of Canadian bombs and bullets would decide to attack the military responsible for that violence.

That is the danger of intervention in other people’s wars thousands of miles away. Those at the other end of foreign bombs – and their surviving family members or anyone who sympathizes with them – have great incentive to seek revenge. This feeling should not be that difficult to understand.

Seeking to understand the motivation of a criminal does not mean that the crime is justified, however. We can still condemn and be appalled by the attacks while realizing that we need to understand the causation and motivation. This is common sense in other criminal matters, but it seems to not apply to attacks such as we saw in Canada last week. Few dare to point out the obvious: Canada’s aggressive foreign policy is creating enemies abroad that are making the country more vulnerable to attack rather than safer.

Predictably, the Canadian government is using the attacks to restrict civil liberties and expand the surveillance state. Like the US PATRIOT Act, Canadian legislation that had been previously proposed to give the government more authority to spy on and aggressively interrogate its citizens has been given a shot in the arm by last week’s attacks.

Unfortunately Canada has unlearned the lesson of 1968: staying out of other people’s wars makes a country more safe; following the endless war policy of its southern neighbor opens Canada up to the ugly side of blowback.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

National Service is Anti-Liberty and Un-American – Article by Ron Paul

National Service is Anti-Liberty and Un-American – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
October 19, 2014
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Former Clinton Administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently called on the government to force young people to spend two years either “serving” in the military or performing some other type of government-directed “community service.” Neoconservative Senator John McCain has introduced legislation creating a mandatory national service program very similar to Reich’s proposal. It is not surprising that both a prominent progressive and a leading neocon would support mandatory national service, as this is an issue that has long united authoritarians on the left and right.Proponents of national service claim that young people have a moral obligation to give something back to society. But giving the government power to decide our moral obligations is an invitation to totalitarianism.
***

Mandatory national service is not just anti-liberty, it is un-American. Whether or not they admit it, supporters of mandatory national service do not believe that individuals have “inalienable rights.” Instead, they believe that rights are gifts from the government, and, since government is the source of our rights, government can abridge or even take away those rights whenever Congress decides.

Mandatory national service also undermines private charitable institutions. In a free society, many people will give their time or money to service projects to help better their communities, working with religious or civic associations. But in a society with government-enforced national service, these associations are likely to become more reliant on government-supplied forced labor. They will then begin to tailor their programs to satisfy the demands of federal bureaucrats instead of the needs of the community.

The very worst form of national service is, of course, the military draft, which forces young people to kill or be killed on government orders. The draft lowers the cost of an interventionist foreign policy because government need not compete with private employers for recruits. Anyone who refuses a draft notice runs the risk of being jailed, so government can provide lower pay and benefits to draftees than to volunteers.

As the burden of our hyper-interventionist foreign policy increases, it is increasingly likely that there will be serious attempts to reinstate the military draft. General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, continues to suggest that US troops on the ground may be needed to fight “Operation Inherent Resolve” in Iraq and Syria. A major escalation requiring a large US troop deployment will likely add pressure to consider a military draft.

The only real way the American people can protect their children from the military draft is to demand an end to the foreign policy that sees the US military as the solution to any and every problem — from ISIS to Ebola — anywhere in the world.

Some who share my opposition to a militaristic foreign policy support the draft because they think a draft will increase public opposition to war. However, the existence of a draft did not stop the American government from launching unconstitutional wars in Vietnam and Korea. While the draft did play a role in mobilizing political opposition to Vietnam, it took almost a decade and the deaths of thousands of American draftees for that opposition to reach critical mass.

It is baffling that conservatives who (properly) oppose raising taxes would support any form of national service, including the military draft. It is similarly baffling that liberals who oppose government interference with our personal lives would support mandatory national service. Mandatory national service is a totalitarian policy that should be rejected by all who value liberty.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Obama Has No Middle East Strategy? Good! – Article by Ron Paul

Obama Has No Middle East Strategy? Good! – Article by Ron Paul

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
September 1, 2014
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Last week President Obama admitted that his administration has not worked out a strategy on how to deal with the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as a dominant force in the Middle East. However, as ISIS continues its march through Syria and Iraq, many in the US administration believe it is, in the words of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, a threat “beyond anything we have ever seen.”Predictably, the neocons attacked the president’s speech. They believe the solution to any problem is more bombs and troops on the ground, so they cannot understand the president’s hesitation.

Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon made it clear that fighting ISIS is going to cost a lot more money and will bring US forces back to Iraq for the third time. The post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan peace dividend disintegrates.

Mr. McKeon said last week:

ISIS is an urgent threat and a minimalist approach, that depends solely on FY15 funding or pinprick strikes that leave fragile forces in Iraq and Syria to do the hard fighting, is insufficient to protect our interests and guarantee our safety in time.

What does this mean in practice? If the neocons have their way, the Federal Reserve will “print” more money to finance another massive US intervention in the Middle East. In reality this means further devaluation of the US dollar, which is a tax on all Americans that will hit the poorest hardest.

A new US military incursion will not end ISIS; it will provide them with the recruiting tool they most crave, while draining the US treasury. Just what Osama bin Laden wanted!

McKeon and the other hawks act as if they had only recently become aware of the ISIS. Or if they noticed it, they pretend US policy had nothing to do with its rise.

McKeon also said last week, “ISIS threat was allowed to build and fester over a period of time.”

In fact, US regime-change policy in Syria was directly responsible for the rise of ISIS over these past three years. As journalist Eric Margolis observed recently, the emergence of ISIS is the “mother of all blowback.” The neocons who want us to get tougher on ISIS, including a US attack on Syria, are the same ones who not long ago demanded that we support groups like ISIS to overthrow the Assad government in Syria. US-trained and funded “moderates” from the Free Syrian Army joined the Islamist militias including ISIS, taking US weapons and training with them.

Three years of supporting any force that might overthrow the secular government of President Assad has produced a new monster in the Middle East that neocons insist the US must slay.

Why can’t they just admit they were wrong? Why can’t the interventionists just admit that their support for regime change in Syria was a terrible and tragic mistake?

If ISIS is as big a threat as they claim, why can’t they simply ask Assad to help out? Assad has never threatened the United States; ISIS has. Assad has been fighting ISIS and similar Islamist extremist groups for three years.

Why does the US government insist on aligning with theocracies in the Middle East? If there is anything that contradicts the US Constitution and American values it is a theocratic government. I do not believe that a majority in the Middle East wants to live under such a system, so why do we keep pushing it on them? Is that what they call promoting democracy?

A lack of strategy is a glimmer of hope. Perhaps the president will finally stop listening to the neocons and interventionists whose recommendations have gotten us into this mess in the first place! Here’s a strategy: just come home.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Reasons for the Evolution of Language in Humans (2004) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Reasons for the Evolution of Language in Humans (2004) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 27, 2014
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2004 and published on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 3,000 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  
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~ G. Stolyarov II, July 27, 2014

**

The emergence of human language was one of the most important developments in the rise of human civilization and culture. An understanding of evolution can explain why natural selection in favor of language took place and how the use of language presents numerous advantages to humans.

Modern man exhibits a unique “wiring” pattern in his brain, a specific pattern of neurological connections that supports intelligence and volition. It was perhaps caused by an extremely recent mutation lacking in all other hominid species. Our species also has the largest brain-to-body ratio of all other hominids.

Modern man was first to realize that peaceful cooperation rather than domination by force can be an efficient means of social organization. Whereas other hominids and primates must resolve any clash within their groups by means of bodily force, our species has evolved the use of language and refined it into a powerful tool of peaceful persuasion that often removes unnecessary coercion and antagonism, therefore increasing the general standard of living and degree of cooperation within a society.

Possible evolutionary reasons for the development of human language include the transmission of technical skills; complex methods such as that required for the creation of a throwing spear, need more than visual demonstration to be transmitted accurately; they require the individual communication between a mentor and a student of the given skill.

Moreover, language served the role of coordinating actions between various members of a society, rendering tasks such as hunting or trade more efficient. Human beings could now communicate with one another without needing to resort to physical gestures or inferences of the other person’s intentions. As a result, there emerged a far more complex pattern of interaction that has been steadily improving as new means of quicker, more efficient, more sensible communication arose.

Newer theories concerning the origins of language also see it as a mechanism for communicating information about people within a given society. According to the scientists holding such a view, it is of evolutionary advantage for an individual to be among the first to access a given piece of information so as to be able to act on it prior to any of his competitors within the society. Thus, a widespread affinity for gossip may have prompted humans to devise a systematic means of communicating it.

After the emergence of language, and especially of written communication, technological progress could take off, thereby supplanting biological evolution as the dominant influence on the development of the human species. Because of language and technology, the human species in our time changes profoundly every year, despite experiencing minuscule biological evolution.

Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism (2009) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism (2009) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
Originally Published August 9, 2009,
as Part of Issue CCII of The Rational Argumentator
Republished July 2, 2014
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally published as part of Issue CII of The Rational Argumentator on August 9, 2009, using the Yahoo! Voices publishing platform. Because of the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices, the essay is now being made directly available on The Rational Argumentator. The arguments in it continue to be relevant to discussions regarding minarchism and anarcho-capitalism, and therefore it is fitting for this publication to provide these arguments a fresh presence.
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 2, 2014
***

As one of the many libertarians who loves individual freedom and free markets but nevertheless perceives an important role for government, I have been challenged numerous times on my stance. The best way to describe my position is that I am a minarchist in theory; I happen to agree with Thomas Jefferson that “that government is best which governs least,” and yet I recognize that an active government is necessary for combating force and fraud and for ensuring that the natural rights of individuals are not transgressed upon by other private parties. In practice, I am an incrementalist – a strong supporter of evolutionary change rather than revolutionary change of any sort. I believe that real-world political reform is a delicate process, and that the sequence of transitions matters just as much as the abstract desirability of any given transition. We want to implement the right changes, but we also need to implement them in the right order – just as a doctor who wishes to cure a patient using theoretically sound procedures cannot just apply the procedures in an arbitrary sequence and hope to succeed.

Following Murray Rothbard (who, unlike me, was a noted anarcho-capitalist), I believe that liberty is the most desirable political end, but it is not necessarily the most desirable end of all. The length, prosperity, and security of every individual’s life are to me much more important – and I see liberty as the surest means of attaining those ends to the greatest extent. However, it is possible for those ends to also be partially and tolerably well attained – at least in the short term – in an environment that lacks complete liberty. This is why I developed a rough system that “measures” degrees of government oppression using a mixture of cardinal and ordinal approaches. Irrespective of the particular criteria of comparison, any reasonable thinker will agree that some governments today are much more tolerable than others – and a few are quite innocuous and even outright beneficent, especially when we consider governments over smaller jurisdictions, such as states and localities, and particular agencies of those governments which do not employ coercion to any substantial extent. Metaphysically, I agree with Ayn Rand that there is an objective reality, where A = A – i.e., every particular thing is what it is and not what one’s mental model of it happens to be. Thus, I believe in judging every particular instance of government or governance not just as “government or governance in general” but rather as precisely what it is specifically – which means that a government is nothing more than the sum of the people who compose it and their actions, which need to be judged on their own merits or lack thereof. I am therefore open to the possibility that some governments may be able to solve some problems without infringing on natural rights at all. I am equally open, of course, to the possibility that those problems may be solved on the free market without government participation.

Here, I will present a basic outline of my objections to anarcho-capitalism as it is typically presented today. Anarcho-capitalism can be defined as the position that government is unnecessary altogether and that market-based services can provide all of the essential functions of government recognized by the minarchist as legitimate – including police protection, protection from foreign invaders, enforcement of contracts, and adjudication of disputes.

My Foremost Political Goal

I define a state of complete liberty as the absence of the initiation of violence or coercive dishonesty by any individual against any other individual. By “violence” I mean the physical disruption of either the integrity of an individual’s body or that of the material things which that individual owns. The term “coercive dishonesty” encompasses fraud, breach of contract, bad-faith dealings, and failure to fully disclose information that would affect the decision of a party in a business transaction. By “initiating” violence or coercive dishonesty I mean being the first party to inflict such acts on another, without having had such acts inflicted on oneself by that other and without defending some other innocent party against those acts inflicted by that other. I do not consider retaliatory force – provided that it is a proportional response to the initiated force and does not harm innocent parties – to be illegitimate or undesirable.

Thus, I believe that the state of the world which minimizes violence and coercive dishonesty as much as possible is the most desirable state. To be sure, both many governments and many private parties throughout history have engaged in these heinous acts – and I am not defending any entities that have. My position does not embrace governments as they currently are, but as they can be and ought to be. Anarcho-capitalists may object to my position by arguing that few, if any, governments in history have subscribed to minarchist principles and initiated no violence or coercive dishonesty. To this, I will reply by quoting John Lennon: “You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Few, if any, societies in history have been viably anarcho-capitalist, either. Neither my position nor the anarcho-capitalists’ has any existing real-world incarnation. The question before us, then, is which of these positions would result in less overall violence and coercive dishonesty if implemented in practice?

Objection 1: Lack of an Ultimate Arbiter

Anarcho-capitalists posit that dispute resolution – be it of the character of police action or judicial proceedings – can occur among entirely private entities on the free market without any government involvement at all. For sake of conciseness, I will call the entities that engage in this manner of dispute resolution DRAs – or dispute resolution agencies.

It is true that many forms of dispute resolution can occur without government participation and do occur in this manner today – within families and business arrangements subject to private arbitration. If a private dispute is resolved satisfactorily by the relevant private parties themselves, then there is no need for recourse to government. However, there also exist instances – all too many today, as evidenced by the overwhelmed American judicial system – where private parties cannot reconcile their differences solely through private means. Anarcho-capitalists’ typical response to this is that in a wholly free market (as they define it, that is, with no government altogether) ex ante arrangements would exist whereby, if DRA X and DRA Y – representing two different and opposing parties in a dispute – could not reach a mutually satisfactory decision, the power of decision would be delegated to a third DRA – Z. This is conceivable, but it is by no means guaranteed that such an arrangement would occur in all cases. Thus, under anarcho-capitalism, there is nothing theoretically preventing there being no ultimate resolution to a dispute – ever – from the standpoint of legitimacy, in which case there would be no recourse left but to the principle of “might makes right.” If a dispute cannot be resolved peacefully, then it will devolve into violence – which is the least desirable of all outcomes. Anarcho-capitalism lacks an ultimate arbiter that would step in irrespective of prior contractual arrangements or lack thereof in order to quell the initiation of violence if it were to occur.

It is conceivable that a government could leave most dispute resolution to the private market – unless the market has demonstrated its failure to achieve lasting, peaceable resolution. In that case, the government, as the ultimate arbiter, would need to intervene and offer a resolution, either through a decision of its courts or through the interposition of armed agents whose presence would prevent violence from erupting. It is important to remind my readers that my foremost objective is the prevention of violence breaking out. If two private DRAs were about to begin a miniature war – and they happened not to have contractual procedures in place for preventing it beforehand – then it is desirable for a third agency with greater powers than a mere private entity to decisively put an end to such coercive and damaging behavior.

Objection 2: Lack of Legitimate Enforcement against Violent Non-Parties to Contracts

The way an anarcho-capitalist society would work – according to most of its advocates – is that all members would bind themselves by contracts in their mutual interactions, and the contracts would stipulate consequences for non-compliance. This raises an interesting issue: What if a person within the society refused to bind himself by any contracts whatsoever and simply raided, stole, and murdered as he saw fit? If there is no law other than what individuals choose to bind themselves by, then what legitimate recourse do other non-coercive members of the society have against this initiator of violence? Moreover, if this person were to team up with a host of others who similarly chose not to bind themselves by any contracts that prohibit initiation of force, could not a formidable criminal gang form and terrorize – if not overwhelm – the peaceful portions of the anarcho-capitalist society? Of course, somebody in the anarcho-capitalist society could always simply kill or detain the aggressors in practice, without regard for whether the aggressors broke a contract or not. However, such an act would not be legitimate in an anarcho-capitalist society. Illegitimate acts can and do occur – both with and without governments – but what counts as an illegitimate act matters. Under a government, murder can and does happen, but murder is considered illegitimate. Under anarcho-capitalism, murder by non-parties to any contracts is not illegitimate, but punishing by force a person who commits such a murder is illegitimate. A system where legitimacy fails to apply to actions with obvious morality and desirability is a troubling system indeed.

Objection 3: The Oxymoron and the Danger of Markets in Force

A market arrangement is an arrangement based on voluntary participation of all parties – an arrangement where trading is substituted for compulsion. On a free market for a typical good or service – such as an item of food or a construction job, for instance – no individual is required to buy and no individual is required to sell, except on terms mutually favorable and explicitly agreed upon. However, the term “market” no longer applies in this sense when any element of compulsion is introduced. When a “market service” involves wielding weapons and enacting violence against individuals who do not wish to have this violence inflicted upon them, it ceases to be a “market service” and becomes something quite different. This does not necessarily make such a service illegitimate, of course – as the potential for retaliatory force is a necessary component in minimizing the initiation of force. However, this difference does invalidate the application of typical principles of analyzing markets to such “services.” There can be no market-based analysis of a service that does not entirely rely on voluntary consent from all parties involved.

One of the glaring dangers of a “market service” specializing in the use of force is that such a service could simply use the force it “produces” to extort or steal other people’s wealth instead of earning it in voluntary trades. Without an external authority to enforce a prohibition on this behavior, there is no guarantee that such behavior would not occur. A free-market DRA would not always do this, of course, but there are conceivable scenarios where every incentive would favor such behavior. Only when there are substantial disincentives to the use of force from other armed parties on a free market or when the DRA administrator is particularly humane, benevolent, and enlightened could a DRA be reasonably expected not to violate individual rights. There are two ways for such incentives to arise without reliance on anyone’s personal virtues. Either 1) there could exist a “balance of power” among the DRAs such that each of them is afraid of transgressing against clients of the other or 2) there could exist an authority external to the DRAs that would always protect the parties unjustly aggressed upon, irrespective of the power differential between the aggressors and the targets of aggression. I favor solution 2), because it is not as contingent on a particular balance of power being in place.

Moreover, many anarcho-capitalists claim that one of the problems with government is that it has a monopoly on the use of force and that, as a monopoly, it necessarily offers a lower quality and lower quantity of its product at higher prices. I urge the reader to recall, however, that we are not here discussing a monopoly on otherwise entirely voluntary transactions. It is useful to ask the question whether it is desirable to have force offered in “higher quality,” higher quantities, and a lower price. I, for one, would prefer it to be more expensive to kill a person rather than less – and for the methods of killing to be both of lower quality (i.e., less reliable at killing) and available in lower quantities. Perhaps a monopoly on force has the potential to minimize the use of force compared to “competition” in force. This, I believe, is an empirical question – but even the question itself challenges many anarcho-capitalists’ assertions that governments are necessarily bad because they are monopolies on the use of force.

Objection 4: Each Person a Judge in His Own Case

This objection to anarcho-capitalism comes from none other than one of history’s first libertarians – John Locke. Locke believed that a government is necessary to resolve disputes and decide on punishments, because no individual is qualified to be an impartial judge in his own case. Virtually all of us, when we feel wronged, have a tendency to exaggerate the magnitude of the injury we have suffered and to demand a punishment that is likely to be disproportionate to the offense. On the other hand, when a person has wronged somebody else, he has an incentive to maintain his innocence or to argue that his act was not as grievous as was truly the case. A third party, not itself a victim or a perpetrator of the wrongful act, is needed to ascertain both the facts of the case and the apportionment of guilt and punishment. Sometimes, such a third party could indeed be a private arbiter. However, it is entirely possible for two private DRAs to each be vested – either emotionally, financially, or both – in the interests of their particular clients in a manner that would detract from objectivity in reaching a decision. In that case, I believe that an indispensable role exists for government to provide the desirable impartial arbitration.

Objection 5: Over-Emphasis on Names, Under-Emphasis on Reality

My concern with anarcho-capitalism is it substitutes consideration of the names of political arrangements for the reality of those arrangements – i.e., the physical actions performed by physical people in the physical world. Whether a function is called a “market” function or a “government” function is not as important as the physical movements involved in carrying out that function. If the physical movements involved do not cause disruption of body or property (as in violence) and do not involve the formation of chemical reactions corresponding to false impressions of reality in the brains of parties to a transaction (as in coercive dishonesty), then the action is legitimate from the standpoint of natural law. On the other hand, if the physical movements of individuals correspond to acts of violence or coercive dishonesty, then these actions are illegitimate – irrespective of whether the individuals call themselves (or are called by others) government officials, free-market DRAs, or private gangsters.

Anarcho-capitalists might respond here by noting that, in the 20th century, governments have killed more people than possibly all private crime in human history. This is true – but it does not undermine the case for any government whatsoever. The killing was done by some governments – such as the governments of Nazi Germany, the USSR, and Maoist China – but not others, such as many of the governments of American cities, towns, and villages. Moreover, even in the governments that perpetrated the killings, only some of the officials were responsible for either ordering the killings, promoting them as desirable, or carrying them out. Millions of government employees have never committed a single coercive action (and yes, that even includes their mode of earning a living – as quite a few government positions are not tax-financed). It does not seem fair to lump a peaceful bureaucrat doing research or mediating consumer complaints at his desk with an NKVD officer massacring villagers in the Ukraine. Both are “government” functionaries, but they could not be farther apart in terms of what they do, and the atrocities of the latter do not de-legitimize the former. The anarcho-capitalist characterization of all government as violent, coercive, and unnecessary is a poor substitute for a thorough consideration of reality. Moreover, it is a violation of the principle of methodological individualism, which evaluates the actions of each person as an individual person, and not primarily as a member of a collective. Collectives do not act or think; only individual people do – although the incentives people face depend on the institutional structure to which those people are subject.

Objection 6: No Practical Application

To date, I have not found a single viable proposal for the attainment of anarcho-capitalism in the real world. Anarcho-capitalists have tended to spend most of their time on either 1) describing what an ideal anarcho-capitalist society would be like or 2) discussing why government, in its various manifestations, is undesirable. At the same time, some anarcho-capitalists have disdained and even actively discouraged participation in “the system” as it currently is, because that would grant “implicit recognition” to existing power structures. During the 2008 Republican Primaries, for instance, many anarcho-capitalists (though, of course, not all of them; I do not mean to offer a blanket characterization) endeavored to actively dissuade people from supporting the Ron Paul movement, arguing that attempting to reform the U.S. government from within would grant legitimacy to the structures of the U.S. government. These anarchists were preoccupied with formal structures over the substantive functions of the government – which could be better or worse than they are today. Moreover, these anti-Ron-Paul anarcho-capitalists undermined a movement that had the potential to eliminate many of the abuses of the U. S. federal government against its subjects’ liberties.

I happen to believe that political theory is more than a mind game; it has relevance to the real world, and it ought to have real-world implications for how we act in our own lives. It is not enough to simply state that one would like the world to be a certain way. Rather, a specific, technical, and quite involved series of steps is necessary to transition from the status quo to any state considered desirable. To simply contemplate the end outcome without any idea of how to attain it or even approach it is to divorce one’s political thinking from reality. We find ourselves today with a highly imperfect political system – one that involves numerous violations of individual liberties and also jeopardizes the economic prosperity and technological progress of the Western world. To solve today’s political problems, we cannot but participate in government in some way for the purposes of reforming it or at least protecting ourselves. To reject government altogether instead of endeavoring to improve it is to hide from the real, pressing problems of our time.

Perhaps the anarcho-capitalist ideal will be realizable in some distant future time, once human beings have progressed morally and technologically to such an extent that the initiation of force is no longer lucrative to anybody. I even suggested that this would happen in my short story, “The Fate of War.” In that enlightened time, violence would altogether not be within the realm of human consideration, and a viable anarcho-capitalism would be the natural corollary to that state of affairs.

Meanwhile, however, we are alive today – and if we do not have that which we consider good within our lifetimes, we shall not have it at all. If it is liberty we want – and the anarcho-capitalists have not come up with a viable way to have it without government – then we must have liberty with government. This endeavor will require working through government as well as through private channels; it will require not rejecting the existing system, but modifying it incrementally to move it toward more liberty and less violence. At the same time, a revolution against government is the least desirable course of action, because it would devastate our current levels of prosperity, health, and stability. Individuals who are wealthy, productive, and in control of their lives will come, over time, to civilly demand increasing amounts of independence from centralized control. On the other hand, individuals whose livelihoods have been ruined and whose prospects for upward mobility have been thwarted by an unstable macroeconomic and political climate – which inevitably accompanies revolutions – are easy prey for demagogues and would-be tyrants. Advocates of freedom must be patient, civil, and cautious. While challenging abuses of government authority as such abuses occur, freedom-loving people ought never to do anything that would undermine the standard of living or the safety and comfort of people in the Western world.