Garry Reed combined a professional technical writing career and a passion for all things libertarian to become The Libertarian Opinionizer.
Commentary From Your Libertarian Opinionizer
Those who understand libertarianism understand that the bedrock principle of the Modern American Libertarian Movement is the Non-Aggression Principle against coercion, intimidation and fraud. They understand that this principle applies to everyone, including the politicians. And they know that it’s politicians, not citizens, who violate that principle when it comes to starting wars.
Politics is always and forever about power, wealth and ego. Any time any of those desires can be obtained through war politicians will pursue war.
There is not “a” or “the” antiwar movement in America, there are and have been many antiwar movements by many groups for many different reasons throughout America’s history. In the 1960s for example the anti-Vietnam War protests were driven by leftist intellectuals and college students. The First Gulf War in 1990-1991 generated “a small and vastly outgunned opposition group of conservatives and (mainly) libertarians.”
The best known and most active group today, Antiwar.com, is still primarily a libertarian operation. The website was registered in 1995. The Antiwar.com Facebook page at this writing has over 69K followers
Thankfully a large libertarian-driven antiwar protest presence exists online and one of them is Peace, Love & Liberty, a book of essays edited by libertarian Tom G. Palmer in which he and the other writers argue for peace as a moral ideal, a desirable goal and an eminently practical objective.
Peacemaking vs. Warmaking
Tom Palmer is a Senior Fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and the Vice President for International Programs at the Atlas Network. He and the other essayists understand that being antiwar is more than just waving signs and banners and marching up and down streets and shaking fists.
The reasons for war are many and often complicated. To be effective an antiwar stance, or better a pro-peace stance, must address both the reasons for war and the conditions for peace. These include areas of economic, social, political, and psychological issues just for starters.
The goal of this book is to do exactly that. A five star review for “anyone interested in peace” by Patrick Peterson at Goodreads.com begins by describing the impassioned promotion of the peace lovers in chapter one as “Scholarly, yet very readable with plenty of poetry to inspire.” What follows is his chapter-by-chapter unearthing of the most crucial concerns of war and peace covering Psychology, Political Science, the necessity of limiting government, property rights, the importance of free markets, the value of trade over protectionism, and exposing the “bad guys,” those who promote a philosophy glorifying war.
Libertarians Wage Antiwar
Libertarian online articles, blogs, websites, pages, social media sites abound. Here’s a small sampling of their efforts to monkey-wrench the warmongering while promoting the peace-loving.
Both the website and the Facebook page are projects of the Randolph Bourne Institute founded in 2001. It honors the man who wrote against entering World War I and made famous the observation “War is the health of the state.” While libertarians hold leadership roles they seek and welcome a broad coalition of activists opposed to both war and statism since it’s clear that all wars result in more power and wealth for the statist elites at the expense of civil society.
Libertarians for Peace
These two Facebook sites Libertarians for Peace (request to join) and Libertarians for Peace (open page) promote ending the US military interventions that push a statist/imperialist agenda that only benefits powerful government and corporatist special interests “at the expense of the lives, liberty and prosperity of Americans and of peoples worldwide.” They also both agree that “Libertarians believe that the Americans must show the world the light of liberty—not the fist of a new world order.”
The Libertarian Party
The “Party of Principle” positions itself as “The Anti-War Party.” The LP platform explicitly recognizes the need for a defensive military force to counter potential outside invaders as a legitimate means of defending individual rights while denouncing warmaking, military adventuring, foreign entanglements, saber-rattling, nation-building and playing world cop.
They further reject a military draft as nothing more than enslavement of their own citizens.
The Scott Horton Show
Scott Horton, with ties to Antiwar.com, the Libertarian Institute and the Scott Horton Show podcasts, while writing books and conducting thousands of interviews on Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, has been a major contributor to the ongoing campaign to bring the message of peace to all Americans. His latest book is Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism that exposes and challenges America’s relentlessly expanding domestic political war against its own citizens.
Bitcoin Not Bombs
This group’s About page declares “We offer premium publicity campaigns designed to facilitate an organization’s adoption of Bitcoin as a donation platform.” That’s why, according to the site’s “Launch Aviator” Drew Phillips, they partnered with Antiwar.com. As he explains, “After looking around the bitcoin space for a place to jump in, it made sense to start a coalition of bitcoin users with a Voluntaryist/libertarian perspective.”
Libertarians and the military
Libertarians have diverse opinions when it comes to their antiwar positions and the nature of a military force. To most people today these ideas will seem as outrageously idiotic in much the same way monarchist Loyalists during the American War of Independence considered replacing a monarchy with any other kind of system was idiotic. Some 65,000–70,000 Loyalists fled to other parts of the British Empire after the war because serving their monarch was the only concept they could imagine.
Libertarian Minarchists and the Military
Minicharists, including the Libertarian Party, believe in a minimal “night watchman” state that devolves all government activities to the private sector while retaining the courts, police and military which would still be taxpayer funded. This of course fails to entirely fulfill the non-aggression principle.
Libertarian Post-Statists and the Military
Under the libertarian Post Statist vision coercive governments would be dissolved and replaced by self-governance in which the private sector would replace law courts with private arbitration systems, police by non-government security organizations and the strictly defensive military force would be funded through voluntary means. This would entirely fulfill the non-aggression principle.
Libertarian Ancaps and the Military
Historically anarchism has been anti-capitalist and opposed to all large institutions but anarcho-capitalists oppose the state while accepting a private sector based on a laissez-faire capitalist economic system that requires free voluntary markets, private property and the rule of law. Thus the market provides all public goods and services including a PDA or Private Defense Agency. This would entirely fulfill the non-aggression principle.
Objectivists and the Military
Objectivist Ayn Rand made this clear in “Government Financing in a Free Society” from her book The Virtue of Selfishness: “In a fully free society, taxation—or, to be exact, payment for governmental services—would be voluntary. Since the proper services of a government—the police, the armed forces, the law courts—are demonstrably needed by individual citizens and affect their interests directly, the citizens would (and should) be willing to pay for such services, as they pay for insurance.” Of course she rejected libertarians but then she rejected everyone who disagreed with her. But she clearly did fully support the non-aggression principle.
Peace, Freedom & Prosperity
There is a saying, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." So to militants if all you have is a military, everything looks like a war.
Ultimately, the libertarian ideal is to tame and control our military and make it strictly defensive. Yes, the fact that sometimes the best defense is a good offense should be factored in when it comes to weapons development and strategic planning, but that should never include manipulating others into firing the first shot in order to “justify” a “defensive” war.
Offensive warmongers need to be replaced by defensive peacemongers in our military academies. The real problem isn’t a defensive military force, it’s the psychopathic politicians we keep electing to positions of power. One can hardly be antiwar without being anti-statist.
For serious readers who wonder how a libertarian government might work there is a book with a long title that answers their question: What a Libertarian President Would Do: Change policies and create more peace, justice, and prosperity for all citizens. While there appears to be no reviews online for this 2013 book author Dave Redick sets the tone himself this way: “The plan focuses on the core principle that ‘The government’s proper role is to protect the rights of its citizens, as individuals, from violation or threat by others.”
Instead an essay from libertarianism.org offers “A Libertarian Vision for the Presidency” by Cato Institute President Gene Healy. After accurately describing the modern American president as “the Supreme Warlord of the Earth” and the presidency itself as “a constitutional monstrosity and a libertarian nightmare” Healy offers the libertarian vision of what that office once was and should be again.
It’s a long read. Those who have no commitment to achieving peace, prosperity and freedom need not apply themselves; those who do will.
References and Links
The Non-Aggression Principle—A Cure For War is a gateway site that ties the Modern American Libertarian Movement’s core principle to the peaceful, non-violence and antiwar philosophies from ancient times to the present. A good starting point for peace lovers.
The Antiwar.com Mission Statement declares “Our politics are libertarian: our opposition to war is rooted in Randolph Bourne's concept that ‘War is the health of the State.’” The Mission Statement covers the group’s past, present and future antiwar efforts.
Libertarian Party article: “Anti-war Americans have no home with the Republicans and Democrats.” Why? While 3 in 4 Americans want foreign wars ended and Republicans and Democrats know this they just keep making and breaking promises to end the wars.
LewRockwell.com Article: “Politicians Concerned about Violence Should Start by Ending Their Wars and Their Police State.” The article catalogs how these “concerned” politicians have sent weapons to Libya, Syria, Yemen and even our domestic Drug War SWAT gorillas.
Peace, Love, & Liberty—War is not inevitable
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Garry Reed (author) from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas on April 20, 2021:
Hi JD, thanks for the comments. I certainly agree with your observations and appreciate them since I couldn't get into all of the nuances as you did or my article would have become a book rather than a long essay. And I do agree with a properly run and motivated Department of Peace. I long ago rejected the far right and far left which is partly what drove me to libertarianism. But I never think of it as a "middle ground," more as a much different "better ground."
JD from Dallas, TX on April 20, 2021:
War is much more about poverty than politics. If someone can't eat, drink, and propagate, due to politics, their is war due to their whole way of life being at stake. People have to/will fight for their way of life unless they are apt to losing and dying. Rich people will pay the poor to fight for them as well (which is what we've seen time and time again in the global and political arena). It goes to show because if people were all well fed, nourished, happy, producing, earning, procreating without issue there wouldn't be any reason to get involved, in war, and peace would ensue.
JD from Dallas, TX on April 20, 2021:
This is a very well thought out article. Thanks for the resources. A Department of Peace would be great to somehow control the “egos” involved in war propagation! Wealth and power become an ego issue at a certain point of political “control”. As libertarians we do need to get more involved in "the politics" of creating more bills which are bi-partisan. A Department of Peace with all sides interested would certainly help that. I respectfully disagree with Mr. Burgess that “politics is about deception”. Politics is more about someone getting their way and why. Unfortunately, at a granular level humans are pretty well two sided depending on what they are classified as. It is really that simple.
The powerful and wealthy are hanging onto the dragon’s tail pretty well the same as the meek and impoverished; they are normally either a product of their family wealth, smarter, better looking, have some distinct advantage, or are just more willing to (do whatever it takes) wage war, defraud, and kill for money in more deceptive ways is all. War will always be a constant in the world. It is how people manage war that is the issue. If there is profit in it better believe someone (whether ethical or not) will take advantage of it. Though I do believe in non-aggression, getting shot in the head like Ghandi, or MLK, while only talking about peace (with an all war is bad message), is also not a very good option either. There is a middle ground when it comes to war, aggression, and self-defense, always has been, always will be. Therein lies the political or diplomatic solution. I think a Department of Peace would work very well if properly thought out and led by middle ground libertarians. The far right and the far left are two far extreme for such a topic.
Garry Reed (author) from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas on April 20, 2021:
Your definition of politics reflects my own simpler definition--Politics is the manipulation of people.
As for politicians using war to get what they want I think it's true whenever they've calculated, right or wrong, that they can get what they want without the negative consequences that they don't want.
Thanks for your comments.
Ken Burgess from Florida on April 20, 2021:
"Politics is always about power, wealth and ego. When any of those desires can be obtained through war politicians will pursue war. Libertarians want to change that."
I am not sure I agree... sure, war is fought ultimately so that someone gains more power and wealth (sometimes ego but these days is more about power and wealth alone).
But Politics is about deception, it is about splitting up the people so they fight amongst one another over petty issues while those with the power and wealth maintain their security, and grow in power and wealth.
The very fact that one chooses to label oneself a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Communist, Marxist, Supremacist, etc. is to have bought into the system which fosters the security for the elites, those with the power, those determining the course of history.
That we see here in these forums that people consider the victory of Biden to be a great achievement, or that people still vilify Obama years after he has left office, attributes to the success and capabilities of our current state of politics and propaganda.