Blogs > Liberty and Power > Syllogism #2 (Revised)

Jul 23, 2007 4:26 pm

Syllogism #2 (Revised)

Randy Barnett identifies as a libertarian.
Randy Barnett supports the war.
Ergo, there are people who identify as libertarian who support the war.

Perhaps we can all agree on this revision of Syllogism #2.

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Steven Horwitz - 7/26/2007

No where do I argue that there's "nothing intrinsically unlibertarian about advocating perpetual war." Your reading comprehension problem seems to have recurred.

My argument is only that it is possible, in the world of the second-best that we live in, to justify a state-fought war on libertarian grounds.

Wars on "terrorism" that have no defined enemy, no defined notion of victory, and that will therefore go in perpetuity and continue to cost us our freedoms are not among them.

Matt Barganier - 7/26/2007

I didn't name names when I referred to "resident neocons" -- you're a professor, right? You can read, can't you? Go back to my initial comment and follow the thread. I have said that *anyone who defends that piece* is either a neocon or an idiot. It's nonsensical in any ideological context other than neoconservatism. For the last flipping time, if you are not defending that piece, then what are you still whining about? And whether you're a neocon or not, I'd say that you definitely fall into Sheldon Richman's category of ahistorical libertarian warmongers, since you do seem to be claiming that while Barnett is wrong about Iraq on purely empirical grounds, there's nothing intrinsically unlibertarian about advocating perpetual war. That's exactly what the "logic" in Barnett's WSJ piece would lead us to.

Bill Woolsey - 7/25/2007

I know libertarians who support

I have known them for a long time.

They are, for the most part, hardcore libertarians.

But they believe something like the WWIV business and see Iraq as part of that war.

I don't agree with these people on the war, but I cannot discount all their other views and positions.

Anthony Gregory - 7/25/2007

The Christian right like Giuliani, because he supports cracking skulls, the police state and empire. That's all the right cares about. Just because Rudy is fine with abortion and likes to wear drag doesn't make him the least bit more libertarian. He is anti-capitalist (persecuting Milken), anti-gun rights, pro-drug war, and pro-police state when it comes to everything from jaywalking to streetwalking. With Poddy as his foreign adviser, he is clearly an all-around monster.

Bill Woolsey - 7/25/2007

I didn't vote for Bush in 2000. I didn't "support" him.

Still, I thought he wasn't too bad as conservative Republicans go.

His interest in social security privatization was nice. And I liked the rhetoric about a more humble foreign policy.

While compassionate conservatism has amounted to a flood of debt financed spending... I don't favor balancing the budget using cuts in spending aimed at helping the poor. And there are a lot of people that conservatives should be a lot more compassoinate about. In other words, I liked the sound of compassionate conservatism too.

Admittedly, by 2004 Bush had reached Nixon/Johnson/Rooselvelt levels...

Maintaining support even hard for me to understand.

As for Guliani, he is breaking with the christian right on abortion and gay rights. While the way he treats those issues is far from perfect, that is a step forward for many libertarians.

While he doesn't have much a record on free market reform, he has at least adopted some of that rhetoric. Forbes (a free market reformer, though much too "supply-side" for my taste, endorsed Guliani.)

If it weren't for the war, I would probably consider him the least bad candidate.

I would be thinking...thank heaven, finally, the Republicans are breaking with the Christian right.


It seems to me, he is supporting the Cheney-neocon faction in the administration.

And, I give Bush very low marks for allowing this massive internal infighting on the war. But, I must admit, if he was doing a better job in enforcing the Cheney line, I would like it less.

It could be worse. Like, President Guliani..

Gus diZerega - 7/24/2007

I think a very interesting question underlying much of this discussion is: What is it about libertarian defenses of freedom (or the personal psychology of some attracted to this rhetoric) that allowed some to think they are libertarians and still defend the Iraq War and support the likes of Guiliani?

I think that question is intimately related to this one: What is it about classical liberalism (or the personal psychology of some attracted to this rhetoric) that enabled so many of them to support George Bush?

On the surface there is nothing in either the Iraq War or George Bush that has even the slightest reasonable connection to libertarian or classical liberal principles. Yet some libertarians initially supported the war, and if Barnett is a libertarian, then some still do. HOW can that be so?

I know from my bizarre experience at a Mt. Pelerin meeting three years ago that many who call themselves classical liberals were, at least till very recently, Bush supporters. As of a few months ago one classical liberal scholar called me partisan for criticizing Bush's assault on the constitution. I began to wonder whether any real substance remained in the label "classical liberal."

Jeff Riggenbach - 7/24/2007

"I think it's possible to be a libertarian and be mistaken, even on something major like the Afghanistan war. But continuing support for the Iraq war — rooting for the imperial occupiers' 'victory' — is clearly not libertarian. It would seem to disqualify you, unless nothing can."

Nothing can, Anthony. Remember our San Francisco friend Jawj - the "libertarian" who believed in gun control and rent control? Among "libertarians" who intone solemnly that no reasonable person would argue against mass murder in those cases where it is just and clearly necessary, I'm sure her deviations would meet with little resistance.


Steven Horwitz - 7/24/2007

So Chomsky is more libertarian than Barnett? I happen to think Chomsky is more right about the war than Randy, but that hardly implies Gregory's, IMO, absurd conclusion.

This is the point at which I conclude that no further discussion will be productive here.

Aeon J. Skoble - 7/24/2007

Did Chomsky ever write anything like _The Structure of Liberty_? Would Chomsky agree with _any_ of the ideas of Hayek, Mises, Nozick? I'm not saying that there's no such thing as a non-libertarian, I'm saying that Barnett is a libertarian even though he disagrees with Ron Paul (and me and Steven and you) about the war.

Anthony Gregory - 7/24/2007

As someone who thought the Afghanistan war was 100% indefensible from a libertarian POV, I do not necessarily write everyone out of the movement for being wrong on it. I am not sectarian on everything without some charitable leeway. I have friends who were dead wrong on Afghanistan. But Iraq is just so obvious. Yes, I think it's possible to be a libertarian and be mistaken, even on something major like the Afghanistan war. But continuing support for the Iraq war — rooting for the imperial occupiers' "victory" — is clearly not libertarian. It would seem to disqualify you, unless nothing can.

Steven Horwitz - 7/24/2007

I'm not defending the piece, I'm defending Randy. I think he's WRONG in the piece, but that does not mean he's somehow "not" a libertarian. That's where all this started. Randy's scholarship establishes his libertarianism beyond any doubt, and should enable us to see what is, I think, a bad argument in the context of his life's work.

As for you, what sort of intellectual disease is it that makes you throw around accusations of "neocon" at people who have plenty of libertarian bona fides, oppose the war, and, in my case, identify more with the left than the right? You started the "hostilities" here by name-calling in ignorance.

Anthony Gregory - 7/24/2007

X is not just mistaken about Y. X is saying that libertarians in general can hold whatever horrible position on Y that they want.

I think that if being pro-war does not disqualify someone, then being pro-welfare state CERTAINLY shouldn't. Noam Chomsky is far more libertarian than someone who is prowar.

Common Sense - 7/24/2007

Brady's formulations seems like a slight improvement on my own. I like it.

Matt Barganier - 7/24/2007

Hey, I thought we were all for big-tent libertarianism here. Who am I to say that neoconservatism is incompatible with libertarianism?

As I said, I have no interest in what Barnett calls himself; my beef is with anyone who defends that piece of tripe in the WSJ on "libertarian" grounds. If that group doesn't include you, then why are you still objecting?

Steven Horwitz - 7/24/2007

Wow. Aeon and I make the claim that we think Randy is still a libertarian despite is (mistaken) support of the war and all of a sudden we're neocons and supporters of Giuliani.

Holy smokes that's one gigantic leap of logic.

I guess my 25 years of libertarianism are right down the drain.

Aeon J. Skoble - 7/24/2007

I'm sure plenty of people harbor anti-Muslim prejudices. That wasn't my point. I was trying to make the point that there are more than one reason for favoring the war, just as there are more than one reason for opposing it, and that the reasons one has are at least as important as the outcome. For example, Smith might say "I am opposed to open borders because, given the realities of the welfare state, it would be bad for our economy" while Jones might say "I am opposed to open borders because I don't like the idea of larger numbers of non-whites moving in." IMO, Smith is mistaken about policy, but fundamentally a decent person. Jones, OTOH, is a bigot (as well as being wrong about the policy outcome). I'd argue that the difference in _reasons_ between Smith and Jones is more significant than the similarity in their policy preferences. So too with the war. One might be in favor of the war because it would be great to convert all Arab nations to Christianity, but I think it's pretty obvious that that's not what Barnett thinks.

Jeff Riggenbach - 7/24/2007

"Engage what people actually say, make honest arguments, avoid ad hominem and lies. Got a problem with that?"

Sometimes it's easier to penetrate the thick skulls of some posters by helping them to understand what, in essence, they *actually* said, rather than allowing them to go on living delusionally in the world of what they *think* they said.


Matt Barganier - 7/24/2007

"Debased libertarianism" referred, in the remarks above, to those who support Giuliani. If that's not you, fine, but it is Barnett, according to the WSJ piece.

As for your remark about anti-Semitism last week and your refusal to be specific even when asked for examples, it seemed to me that you were content to just let that generalization hang over the entire conversation. You could have cleared the matter up right then and there. And if we're getting into bad reasons for supporting things, it's pretty clear that a far higher number of people supported the war (and not just those on the fringes a la David Duke) at least in part because of anti-Arab/Anti-Muslim bigotry than opposed the war because of anti-Semitism. Anyone deny that?

Aeon J. Skoble - 7/24/2007

Last week? I thought you were refering to pre-2004. But RE last week, what I said was that some people are anti-semitic, which I assume you don't deny. My point was that there might be good and bad reasons for favoring something. I was making an example, not accusing anyone of anything.

And if you read what I actually wrote, you'll see that I don't favor Giuliani. All I said was that if Randy does, I'd try to persuade him he's mistaken. So I'm saying that I'd try to talk him into preferring Ron Paul to Giuliani, and that's debased libertarianism?

Aeon J. Skoble - 7/24/2007

Be as sarcastic as you like. But the entire point of this activity is to engage in discussion, and slanderous misrepresentation isn't conducive to honest discussion. Engage what people actually say, make honest arguments, avoid ad hominem and lies. Got a problem with that?

Matt Barganier - 7/24/2007

Good Lord. You just wrote last week that "some are opposed [to the Iraq war] because they think it's a Jewish conspiracy." I asked you for a list of names and citations, which you never provided. Who's throwing around accusations without proof?

But go ahead and ban me from this forum -- that would be entirely consist with the sort of debased libertarianism that goes gaga for Giuliani.

Jeff Riggenbach - 7/24/2007

"And by the way, do not accuse me of saying something without offering proof. If you misrepresent me again, I'll have you blocked from this forum."

Oooh! Ooooooh! The man's power is so awesome! It causes my spine to tingle all up and down! I can't bear it!


Aeon J. Skoble - 7/24/2007

And by the way, do not accuse me of saying something without offering proof. If you misrepresent me again, I'll have you blocked from this forum.

Aeon J. Skoble - 7/24/2007

No. I did not scream at anyone. I did not call everyone who opposed the war "anti-American" (I rarely use that expression) or "anti-Semitic" (I've used this expression, but wouldn't have been likely to use it in the context of Iraq).
I don't have any insights into why Barnett might prefer Giuliani - if that's his preference, that would be another thing I disagree with him about. But I don't see how that would make him a non-libertarian. When he writes "I now repudiate what I wrote in _The Structure of Liberty_" or "I now see that the Supremes were right, the commerce clause gives the Congress unlimited power, and after all, no one should be smoking pot in the first place," then I'll question whether he's a libertarian. Otherwise, I'll attribute positions of his with which I disagree as just that: positions with which I disagree, about which I'd try to persuade him he's mistaken.

Matt Barganier - 7/24/2007

You did support the war when it mattered, or at least you screamed "anti-Semite" and "anti-American" at everyone who opposed it. But whatever. Please give me your thoughts on Barnett's enthusiasm for Giuliani and how that could possibly square with anything resembling libertarianism.

Aeon J. Skoble - 7/24/2007

"Anyone who's defending Barnett's piece in the WSJ is either a neocon or an idiot. I was trying to be respectful."
You're failing completely. Steven and I are neither neocons nor idiots nor even supporters of the Iraq War.

Sheldon Richman - 7/24/2007

In fairness, Randy does argue that the Constitution is binding, even though he agrees that no one around today ever consented to be bound by it.

Matt Barganier - 7/23/2007

Anyone who's defending Barnett's piece in the WSJ is either a neocon or an idiot. I was trying to be respectful.

By the way, noticing that the war was a disaster in late 2004 is not opposition, it's bare sentience. And it has nothing to do with libertarian principles, which would have led one to oppose the war before it started.

Steven Horwitz - 7/23/2007

And who would those "resident neocons" be? Aeon and I have both loudly and clearly proclaimed our opposition to the war.

Aeon J. Skoble - 7/23/2007

Anthony, you seem unwilling to distinguish between "X, a libertarian, is mistaken about Y" and "X, due to being wrong about Y, cannot be a libertarian." Have you read any of Randy's books? I find it unfathomable that anyone could read his books and think he's not a libertarian, regardless of whether you disagree with him about Iraq (as I do myself).

Matt Barganier - 7/23/2007

Why are we debating whether he's a libertarian? He can call himself whatever he wants, and L&P's resident neocons can call him whatever they want, but isn't it enough to know that Barnett's salivating for a Giuliani presidency? "It was an electrifying moment that allowed one to imagine Mr. Giuliani as a forceful, articulate president." Oh, Rudy, you give me goosebumps!

Anthony Gregory - 7/23/2007

How can a meaningful definition of libertarian possibly include support for the Iraq war? I really don't get this. If you can support that, it seems that you could support any government project. I mean, nearly anything the government does is more libertarian than war. Sure, Social Security is mass looting; but the Iraq war is mass looting plus mass murder plus the creation of a socialist system abroad.

If modern government wars such as the one in Iraq can be reconciled with libertarian principle, then would could possibly be raised as an objection against any mundane welfare program? If you can defend a project that will mean the seizing of $2,000 of wealth per American for the purpose of "defense," why not for any other purpose? And who can believe for a moment that dropping bombs on foreign cities is "self-defense" or is possibly in line with the non-aggression principle or even a distrust in government central planning?

Aeon J. Skoble - 7/23/2007

The first version of syllogism 2 was fine. Randy is a libertarian. I have never encountered a meaningful definition of libertarian that wouldn't fit Randy. Unless you're stipulatively defining "libertarian" as "people with whom I agree on all things."