Blogs > Liberty and Power > Warmongering Is the Health of Statism

Nov 23, 2005 7:10 pm

Warmongering Is the Health of Statism

At a conference I gave a talk on why supporting the war implies accepting the premises of statism. An excerpt:
"No one who favors the warfare state can disown the methods by which it's financed. It is no less economically collectivist to root for war than to root for any other government program. If a socialist told you he wants universal healthcare, but he does not favor the taxation and coercion to fund and implement it, you would quickly point out his naked contradiction. Every warmonger is an inflationist and a taxmonger, whether he knows it or not. To accept war is to accept the warfare state, and to accept the warfare state is to accept all the fundamental premises of statism -- the collectivism, the aggression, the ability of central planning to succeed."

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David T. Beito - 11/30/2005


An interesting take on the question of "attack."

Mark Brady - 11/30/2005

Anthony, thank you for your thoughtful response. To say that “the U.S. government attacked Iraq” makes a lot more sense than to say that the hijackers who seized the planes and flew them into the World Trade Center attacked America. After all, the U.S. government deposed Saddam with a view to exercising political control over the territory of Iraq. The hijackers did not seek to take over the territory of the United States of America.

I suggest we may draw a useful parallel between the 9/11 hijackers and the Provisional IRA, which carried out many bombings of civilian targets on mainland Britain from the early 1970s until the late 1990s. I guess you would want to say they attacked the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (a political entity) and not just people and property located on the largest island of the archipelago known as the British Isles (a geographical entity). Although they sought to persuade the British state to renounce political sovereignty over Northern Ireland, they made no claim to political control over Great Britain and that was never their objective. Similarly, although those who identified with Al Qaeda and seized the plaines on 9/11 wanted the U.S. government to withdraw troops from Saudi Arabia, remove the embargo on Iraq, and cease military support for the state of Israel, they made no claim to political control over North America and that was never their objective.

Anthony Gregory - 11/26/2005

Mark, your point is well taken, but do you think there is no place for individualists ever to use these metaphors? We discuss "the U.S. government attacking Iraq," for example, but this too is, when narrowly enough considered, likewise over-simplistic -- is it not?

I actually think the 9/11 culprits _did_ attack America in a general sense, since (1) they intended to attack America, (2) they intended for the ill-effects of 9/11 to be felt throughout America, both in terms of economic health and civil liberties, and (3) their intentions succeeded. I do consider it an attack on America, although I certainly see why you might not, and perhaps I will try to be more precise in the future.


Mark Brady - 11/24/2005

Anthony, you write, "Those concerned with liberty and justice want to see the monsters who attacked America on 9/11 caught and punished."

Certainly those who hijacked planes and flew them into the World Trade Center should be held accountable for the thousands of innocent people of many nationalities who were killed. What I don't think is helpful is to say that they "attacked America".

Yes, they probably thought of themselves as attacking America in some sense. But why should you or I as a libertarian embrace the collectivist ideology of Islamic fanatics? And they certainly didn't see their actions as a military invasion of America, but as a coup de theatre, a sensational act, designed to attract attention to their cause. In that, of course, they were hugely successful.

Similarly, when Bush, Cheney, Rice, whoever, speak of 9/11 as an "attack on America", they are using this phrase in a metaphorical sense that identifies people and property by reference to the state that claims jurisdiction over them. But why should you or I as a libertarian embrace the collectivist ideology of U.S. politicians?

I suggest that it is language like this that makes it easier to justify the United States government (the greatest enemy of the American people) in their continued war on humanity around the globe--both within the nation-state of the United States and throughout the world.

Jeanine Ring - 11/24/2005

"For the adherents to this belief, freedom is just one more big government program."

Salud! That's a ringer of a line, Anthony. A very powerful piece in general.


Andrew D. Todd - 11/24/2005

As Woody Allen's Jewish-Mother-type secretary says to him in _Hannah and Her Sisters_, "You mean you just figured this out?!" Until 9/11, libertarians all seemed to have a kind of weird innocence about war.

Here is a very partial set of readings pertaining to the war-socialism nexus, hastily munged from old term papers:


Blackett, Basil P., England's Effort To Pay For The War Out Of Savings, Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, 7(4):715-26, 1918

Bunselmeyer, Robert E., The Cost of the War, 1914-19: British Economic War Aims and the Origins of Reparation, Archon Books, Hamden, Connecticut, 1975

Einzig, Paul, Economic Problems of the Next War, Macmillan & Co., London, 1939

Feldman, Gerald D., Army, Industry, ans labor in Germany-- 1914-1918, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1966

Galbraith, John Kenneth, A Retrospect on Albert Speer in: Economics, Peace, and Laughter, Signet, New York, 1972, orig. pub. 1971, pp. 220-30

Hitchcock, Curtice N., British Labor Policy and its Implications for the Solution of American War Problems, Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, 7(4):771-84, 1918

Jarusch, Konrad H., German Students in the First World War, Central European History, 17(4):310-29, 1984

Lee, Joe, Administrators and Agriculture: Aspects of German Agricultural Policy in the First World War, p.229-38 in: War and Economic Development: Essays in Memory of David Joscelin, ed. J. M. Winter, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1975

Roberts, Robert, The Classic Slum: Salford Life in the First Quarter of the Century, Penguin, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, 1977, orig. pub. 1971

Stevenson, John, )British Society 1914-45 (The Pelican Social History of Britain, Penguin, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, 1984

White, Leslie A., The Science of Culture: A Study of Man and Civilization, Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, New York, 1973, orig. pub. 1949

Wolff, Leon, In Flanders Fields: The 1917 Campaign, Ballantine Books, New York, 1964, orig. pub. 1958

Mann, Michael, Ruling Class Strategies of Citizenship, chapter 7 in States, War, and Capitalism, Michael Mann, pub. Basil Blackwell, Oxford, England, 1988

Marwick, Arthur, War and Social Change in the Twentieth Century: A Comparative Study of Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States, Macmillan, London, 1986, org. pub. 1974

--------------, ed. Total War and Social Change, Macmillan Press, London, 1988

McMillan, James F., World War I and Women in France, 1988, in Marwick (1988), op.cit.

Archer, Dane and Rosemary Gartner, 1976, Violent Acts and Violent Times: A Comparative Approach to Postwar Homicide Rates, American Sociological Review, 41:937-63 #HM1.A75

Coleman, D. C., War Demand and Industrial Supply: the 'Dope Scandal,' 1915-19, in J. M. Winter, War and Economic Development: Essays in Memory of David Joscelin, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1975

Drucker, Peter F., The Age of Discontinuity: Guidelines to Our Changing Society, Harper Colophon Books, New York, 1978, orig. pub. 1968

Feldman, Gerald D., Army, Industry, ans labor in Germany-- 1914-1918, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1966

Harris, Jose, Social Planning in Wartime: Some Aspects of the Beveridge Report, in Winter, op.cit.

Lewin, Ronald, Ultra Goes To War: The First Account of World War II's Greatest Secret Based of Official Documents, Pocket Books, New York, 1980, orig. pub. 1978

MacLeod, Roy and Kay MacLeod, War and Economic Development: Government and the Optical Industry in Britain, 1914-18, in Winter, op.cit.

Nelson, Walter Henry, Small Wonder: The Amazing Story of the Volkswagen, Little, Brown, and Company, Boston, revised edition, 1967

Polanyi, Karl, The Great Transformation: the Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, Beacon Press, Boston, 1957, orig. pub. 1944

Summerfield, Penny, Women, War, and Social Change: Women in Britain in World War II, 1988, in Marwick (1988), op.cit.

Tobin, Elizabeth H., War and the Working Class: The Case of Dusseldorf 1914-1918, Central European History, 18(3/4):257-98, sept/dec 1985,

Trebilcock, Clive, War and the Failure of Industrial Mobilization: 1899 and 1914, in Winter, op.cit.

Paul Addison, The Road to 1945: British Politics and the Second

World War, Jonathan Cape, London, 1975

Correlli Barnett, The Audit of War: The Illusion & Reality of Britain as a Great Nation, Macmillan, London, 1986

Max Beloff, Wars and Welfare: Britain 1914-1945 (The New History of England 10), Edward Arnold, London, 1984 [skimmed]

Angus Calder, The Peoples War: Britain 1939-45, Jonathan Cape, London, 1969

Thomas E. J. De Witt, The Economics and Politics of Welfare in the Third Reich, Central European History, Sept. 1978, 11(3):256-278

Kevin Jefferies, The Churchill Coalition and Wartime Politics, 1940-45, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1991

Alan Milward, The German Economy at War, The Athelone Press, University of London, London, 1965

Kenneth O. Morgan, Labor in Power: 1945-1951, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1984

Gerhard A. Ritter, Social Welfare in Germany and Britain: Origins and Development, trans. Kim Traynor, Berg Publishers, Ltd., Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, UK, 1986, orig. pub. in German 1983

Tilla Siegel, Welfare Capitalism, Nazi Style, International Journal of Political Economy, Spring 1988, 18(1):82-116

Walter Sulzbach, German Experience with Social Insurance (Studies in Individual and Collective Security No. 2), National Industrial Conference Board, Inc., New York, 1947 [skimmed]