Joss Delage

Why do Libertarian candidates emphasize foreign policy so much?

11 posts in this topic

I was a fan (admitedly casually) of Gary Johnson before he was the LP candidate. He talked a lot about restraining government, his track record vetoing bills as a NM governor, his staunch opposition to bailouts, and the like. I follow him on Facebook, and 90% of the stuff his campaign posts is either some winning about the fact that he's not invited to the debates or pacifist drivel that sounds straight out of Ron Paul.

Why is it that Libertarians emphasize isolationism / pacifism / defeatism so much? How come they don't talk more about the economy, government creep, social policies, etc? It's like Johnson underwent a brain swap with Ron Paul upon obtaining the LP nomination.

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Pandering to the far left while trying to distance themselves from any hint of similarity with the right in any of its opposition to domestic statism and in its general favorable views of actual productive business like dreaded "corporations". They have done this for nearly half a century. A lot of them are still the "hippies of the right" who have more in common with leftist, hippie-like mentalities.

Not only do they emphasize the topic of foreign policy, though, they then turn around and abdicate responsibility for having any policy on foreign affairs by embracing ostrichism, as if it that were a simple solution and no further explanations or theories were required. With "anarcho-capitalist" tendencies they have to do that or they would be stuck with the contradiction of opposing government on principle while advocating some affirmative policy.

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Your post is non-responsive to what I wrote. George Washington was neither an anarchist nor a hippie.

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Your post is non-responsive to what I wrote. George Washington was neither an anarchist nor a hippie.

Neither are most small "l" libertarians. The ones I know are those who argue for government to be limited to its proper functions which are to keep the peace, defend the nation against foreign attack and provide peaceful means for settling disputes. I do not hold a blanket condemnation of libertarians. Yes, some of them are anarchists ( I am not). Some of them are woo woo non thinkers (I am not). Most of the small "l" types I know are very sound reasonable people (many in the scientific and technical professions) who want government to be "right sized" (in a manner of speaking).

ruveyn

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The thread is about libertarian candidates and foreign policy. Your post appealing to George Washington's warning against "entangling alliances" was another false insinuation and was non-responsive. Not all alliances against a common enemy are what Washington called "entangling alliances". The libertarian activists, particularly those who have ventured into real world politics, tend to be ostriches, which they fall back on in their evasion of real foreign policy issues.

There is no such thing as a "right size" for government and "size" is not the criterion for what is proper for a government to do in foreign policy or anything else. Neither is a literal "defend against foreign attack", ignoring everything that leads up to it or threatens it. Libertarians, especially the LP, tend to be a-philosophical or anti-philosophical, think in naive slogans, and have little appreciation of what it takes to be effective in real politics; they are known for "not playing in the real world". The ones who think that political campaigns they are certain to lose by enormous margins are a means of "education" are especially naive and destructive.

It is not enough to be vaguely against 'big' or 'excessive' government and favor just a "means for peaceful resolution of disputes" (which for some of them includes anarchy) and "defense against foreign aggression" without regard to the nature of the rights of the individual and their principled role and the role of a morality of reason and individualism in the formulation and justification for government and its proper functions.

There are still many people who are generally reasonable and who generally have individualistic and common sense tendencies against improper government actions here and in foreign policy without understanding what is required (and without consistency). If there weren't we would have been gone long ago. But the best among them, even those who consider themselves to be small "l" libertarians, generally don't involve themselves with the LP and its crackpot ostrich abnegation of foreign policy, which has been a hallmark of the libertarian movement and its roots in anarcho-capitalism and pandering to the left for decades.

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There are still many people who are generally reasonable and who generally have individualistic and common sense tendencies against improper government actions here and in foreign policy without understanding what is required (and without consistency). If there weren't we would have been gone long ago. But the best among them, even those who consider themselves to be small "l" libertarians, generally don't involve themselves with the LP and its crackpot ostrich abnegation of foreign policy, which has been a hallmark of the libertarian movement and its roots in anarcho-capitalism and pandering to the left for decades.

The very reason I made the distinction between small "l" libertarians and the LP. I find the small "l" types manifesting what good sense they have by voting independent of party label. They do the best they can to pick the right candidate for the job or vote for good and right petition initiatives. What has save the U.S. to date is that the independent voters are the "swing" vote that decide the outcome of elections. Neither major party has sufficient voters to carry a numerical majority. The best the Democrats can do is carry a plurality. More people vote Democrat than Republican.

I hope the independent voters save us yet another time.

ruveyn

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But independents aren't libertarians and the question was about Libertarians' emphasis on foreign policy. People often are registered to vote but do not enroll in a particular party for all kinds of reasons. Most of those don't think like you do or the better libertarians, and may even be more radical left than Democrats. A lot of them are pragmatist so-called 'moderates' who have no acknowledged political principles, which is different than not wanting to be affiliated with one of the parties. But that doesn't explain anything about libertarian campaign ostrichism in foreign policy.

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But independents aren't libertarians and the question was about Libertarians' emphasis on foreign policy. People often are registered to vote but do not enroll in a particular party for all kinds of reasons. Most of those don't think like you do or the better libertarians, and may even be more radical left than Democrats. A lot of them are pragmatist so-called 'moderates' who have no acknowledged political principles, which is different than not wanting to be affiliated with one of the parties. But that doesn't explain anything about libertarian campaign ostrichism in foreign policy.

Some small "l" are independent. They do not necessarily vote for the LP candidate.

I have not voted LP since 1972.

I voted for Barry Goldwater (Republican) in 1964 because he seemed to have some respect for the U.S. Constitution.

I generally vote for what I judge to be the lesser of evils. Since 1964 I have not been offered the choice of the greater of two goods.

American Politics has become loathsome and sickening.

ruveyn

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You misunderstood. Some independents (anyone not enrolled in any party) are libertarians. Most are not and there is a wide range of what they are for, including nothing, and against.

You weren't offered a choice of the greater of two goods in 1964 either (but you must not have meant that). Johnson was one of the worst.

This is off the topic of Libertarianism and foreign policy, but in 1960 Goldwater wrote to Ayn Rand: "I am particularly proud of the fact that you were the one to [defend my conservative position on Mike Wallace's show], because I have enjoyed very few books in my life as much as I have yours, Atlas Shrugged." See The Letters of Ayn Rand for her lengthy correspondence with him.

Ayn Rand wrote of Goldwater in her Objectivist Newsletter: March, 1964, "How to Judge a Political Candidate":

... It is the basic—and, today, the only—issue by which a candidate must be judged: freedom vs. statism.

If a candidate evades, equivocates and hides his stand under a junk-heap of random concretes, we must add up those concretes and judge him accordingly. If his stand is mixed, we must evaluate it by asking: Will he protect freedom or destroy the last of it? Will he accelerate, delay or stop the march toward statism?

By this standard, one can see why Barry Goldwater is the best candidate in the field today.

No, he is not an advocate of laissez-faire capitalism—this is one of the contradictions in his stand. Like all of today's political figures, he is the advocate of a mixed economy. But the difference between him and the others is this: they believe that some (undefined) element of freedom is compatible with government controls; he believes that some (undefined) government controls are compatible with freedom. Freedom is his major premise.

In his book, The Conscience of a Conservative, he wrote: "I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them... And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents' 'interests,' I shall reply that I was informed their main interest is liberty..."

In his address to the Economic Club of New York, on January 15, 1964, he said: "I would, also, seek to find for the federal government more of a role in removing restrictions than in imposing new ones—at every level of the economy... No matter the detail, I stand on the side of such principles. I stand on the side of individual responsibility and individual choice and creativity. I stand against the gray sameness of growing government, against the conformity of collectivism-no matter the excuses it uses."

This stand outweighs the lesser flaws of his campaign (and of his book). Some of his specific steps may be wrong; his direction is right.

In an age of moral collapse, like the present, men who seek power for power's sake rise to leadership everywhere on earth and destroy one country after another. Barry Goldwater is singularly devoid of power lust. Even his antagonists admit it with grudging respect. He is seeking, not to rule, but to liberate a country.

In a world ravaged by dictatorships, can we afford to pass up a candidate of that kind?

There are many smaller issues with which one has to disagree in Sen. Goldwater's domestic policy (most of them stemming from his mixed economy position), many regrettable contradictions which undercut the effectiveness of his case for free enterprise. But in his foreign policy he stands out as a giant against this country's disgraceful record of the past three decades...

We haven't seen anything remotely like that in a viable presidential candidate since, which illustrates how much worse things have become. And that was written when he was running in the primaries against Nelson Rockefeller, not Lyndon Johnson a few months later. By December, just after the election loss she was denouncing Goldwater's campaign and the conservatives in general as intellectually vacuous. It's been downhill ever since in terms of the quality of choice available in voting. Even Paul Ryan, who once gushed over Atlas Shrugged, doesn't offer anything close to Goldwater's initial appeal in the realm of political office.

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Some Libertarians come to it from writings such as those in the Freeman Journal, or Reason magazine, or Cato lectures, drawn to the idea of independence and freedom from tyranny, confiscation of wealth, etc. They likely have never heard of Ayn Rand, or, if they have, only disparagingly, desultorily, or in some other way out of context. These people are attracted to values and these arguments appeal to them in the way that Ayn Rand's would, if exposed. The "big 'L' Libertarians" are those "Hippies of the Right" of which you speak. They are the ones who are "against stuff." They don't want anyone "pushing them around," not Mom or Dad, or other authority figure. They expand that to any sense of pressure to behave in a particular way and, of course, that comes down to Morality, any kind of moral code. That's what Mom & Dad tried to impose, maybe very inconsistently and very badly, but that hatred of feeling an obligation of any kind to anyone else is what sticks. That is why Libertarian philosophy starts at Politics, at "The non-initiation of force." They want liberty, but they have no standard of value by which to measure right and wrong, what constitutes "Liberty," "Freedom," only that you can't initiate force, period.

In the world at large, some like have a hard time assessing which action was the "Initiation of Force." Libertarians like Ron Paul see our merely being in the Middle East at all as the initiation of force. Any response to threat after, therefore, would be an initiation of force on our part and, therefore, wrong. The mere existence of Israel is considered by some to be an initiation of force, even though the lines were drawn around Israeli property and the Arab lands (what is now Jordan) were 3 times the size and reserved for the Arabs who didn't want to live in Israel. Whatever that history, Israel did not rule its citizens by force as did the Arab nations surrounding it and who immediately attacked it. These Libertarians would say the Arabs were acting in self-defense, flipping history on its head. Whatever.

My point is that there are libertarians who are excellent proto-Objectivists and, if they eventually read Ayn Rand, will recognize Objectivism as the integration and under-structure for their beliefs. That can be a natural progression. The other variety of libertarians, the spoiled brats, the Hippies of the Right, will reject any constraints, hate Ayn Rand's moral foundations of Capitalism. They don't, by the way, even understand that Capitalism is a political system, not just an efficient way to organize an economy. They sever the link and you hear about Anarcho-Capitalists, Anarcho-Syndicalists, Communitarian Capitalists, "Competing Governments," etc. etc. Nonsense grows where Principle is weeded out of the garden.

Political power lusters find more congeniality in the spoiled-brat version of Libertarianism. Principles constrain them. Lack of same allows for pandering to a broader, shallower base.

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