I am occasionally finding myself dumbstruck while conversing, arguing, or debating someone who agrees with many libertarian and conservative principles yet insists on a large state power in one area – the power to wage war. Throughout time, governments have waged war, and certainly, some wars have been necessary at times. However, blind allegiance to the state in all matters foreign policy leads a society to the brink of collapse, as the size of government grows beyond its ability, and far beyond its authority.
Empires has a long history of failing, and as empires grow, they not only trample the rights of the people they conquer, but also on the rights of those within the home country. Wars around the world, take Iraq for instance, mean not only the occupation of foreign land by American troops, but also the saddling of debt on American citizens, and the loss of civil liberties here at home.
War and empire ought to be notions that all Americans oppose, unless absolutely needed in a time of self defense. Sadly, America has abandoned it’s “Department of Defense” in favor of a “Department of Offense“, with few people catching on. The growth of an empire ultimately means the growth of the state, for billions around the world, including each and every American at home. Here are five reasons Americans should oppose war and empire.
An American Empire is Unconstitutional
In Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution, Congress is given the power to declare war. In Article II, The President is given the power to conduct war. Throughout American history, however, Presidents have waged war without formal declarations from Congress, in cases as early as an 1802 war with Tripoli in the First Barbary War.
Although the Supreme Court has never intervened to stop a war, it can still be argued that Constitution gives Congress the power to Declare war, and the President the power to conduct war. Nowhere in the Constitution is the Federal government given authority to set up military bases around the world, intervening however it feels fit, and committing mass murder in order to protect “American interests”.
In the eyes of the Founders, war was seen for what it was – a last resort. In fact the founders spoke many times about their views on foreign policy. George Washington, in his Farewell Address said,
“The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible… Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?”
War Hurts American Citizens, Even the Ones Not Fighting
When the children of America die in combat, it ought to be enough of a loss for the government to reconsider it’s own cost-benefit analysis. The state is cold and ruthless though, and with hundreds of thousands of Americans dead on battlefields around the world, government shows no signs of rethinking it’s expansionist strategy. It is only when those of us who are not fighting, speak up for those who do, that things will change.
There is reason to do so. Production is what fuels an economy. When government conscribes young citizens into military service, that means that these people are no longer producing goods and services that enhance the well-being of all Americans. Human capital is spent on offensive (not defensive) wars rather than on production here at home.
Also, resources are sucked out of the private sector and used by the state to build all of the necessary equipment for waging war. Instead of resources being used by whoever would use them most efficiently (free market economics 101), they are used by the state and oftentimes squandered. During the Iraq War, the U.S. sent some 2,300 Humvees to Mosul, only to have the stolen later and used against Americans and others in the later battles with ISIS. Imagine what the labor and materials could have been used for if the state had not confiscated it and used it to build vehicles for terrorist!
Government spending is nonsensical, and leads to fewer resources that can be used to benefit Americans. Milton Friedman’s rule – no one spends someone else’s money as wisely as they spend their own – is true even in foreign policy.
Throughout human history, every empire has collapsed when it spread itself too wide and too thin. From the Greek and Roman Empires, to the fall of Britain after WWII and the crumbling of the Soviet Union in the late 20th century. Historically, empires cannot be maintained.
The reasons for this are very logical, actually, yet few catch on before it is too late. In order for a large empire to be maintained, more and more military mite is required. This means an increasing drain on human capital from the imposing nation, as well as an increasing about of money. However, with more and more money being tied up in war, the economy itself cannot generate enough revenue to maintain the empire, and the empire collapses, taking millions of people with it.
While this is all happening, the state must keep up its constant propaganda in order to muster up popular support within its own citizens for continual war. This means the deliberate dumbing down of school children and the white-washing of history. The effect of this enables the war-machine to go on, but it leaves the nation with a miserable populace; weak-willed, slow, dumb, and lazy. This kind of population simply cannot provide for the costs of waging war and maintaining an empire.
The Non-Aggression Principle Applies to Everything
Simply put – the non-aggression principle (or NAP for short) says that people should not use force against each other. The only moral interaction between individuals is peaceful and voluntary. This works perfectly with free market economics. When a transaction is voluntary, both parties benefit. When it is forceful, only one party benefits. For an economy to be strong, exchange needs to be voluntary, otherwise one group will just profit off of another, with no gains seen overall. Forceful transactions are actually less than a zero-sum game, as many resources are used in the process, and future transactions are limited.
The NAP applies not just to individuals, however. The principle applies to morality as well as economics, and functions the same between nation-states as it does between individuals. Economically speaking, consider the time of conquest, when wars were fought over land and resources. It was assumed that one people could only profit if they stole the land and resources of another people. In time, this was proven to be foolish. Free markets between peoples allowed both sides to benefit; trading not just goods but ideas. Competition forces each party to learn, grow, and become better. Aggression forces each party to close themselves off, limit interaction, shut down diplomatic relations, and all but eliminate free trade.
The NAP operates on a moral front as well, and has its roots in the teachings of John Locke, a philosopher who was profoundly influential on America’s founders. According to Locke, we are endowed with certain inalienable rights – life, liberty, and property. To violate any of these rights is against Natural Law. The taking of life and the severe restrictions of individual liberty when waging war violate Natural Law.
War and the taking of resources also violates the Homesteading Principle, which gives rights to land and resources to the people who inhabit the land. If a piece of land is not occupied by anyone, it can be homesteaded, and then the land and its resources belong to its inhabitants. Therefore, the opium, lithium, and oil that is in the middle east, is the property of the people who live in the middle east. Other nations have no right to someone else’s property. It is immoral to wage war over resources.
Big Government Abroad Means Big Government Here
Many on “the right” (not “alt-right” – a topic for another time) claim to want small government, yet seem completely comfortable with the U.S. government having nearly 800 bases in more than 70 countries around the world. They believe that in order for Americans to be free at home, the government must protect them from enemies abroad. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A hot topic at the time is the Civil War, but due to poor public education, most people do not understand the outrageous negative effects of the Civil War on the freedom of Americans, both northern and southern. Lincoln set horrible precedents – destroying federalism, imposing protectionist tariffs, establishing a national banking system, and introducing the first federal income tax in 1862. The war encouraged the Federal government to suspend habeas corpus, imprisoning thousands of confederate sympathizers. Hundreds of newspapers were shut down by the federal government for publishing anti-war articles. Free speech, a free press, the rule of law – all of it was out the window!
During WWII 120,000 Japanese-Americans were forced into internment camps, having been convicted of no crimes, nor even given the right to a trial by jury. Instead, anyone who looked Asian was taken out of their home and placed in a secure lock-up. An article from ShareAmerica states,
“In 1980, a congressional commission declared that the Japanese internment had been based not on considerations of military necessity, but on crass racial prejudice and political expediency. Eight years later, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 1988, which offered an official presidential apology and reparations to each of the Japanese-American internees who had suffered discrimination, loss of liberty, loss of property and personal humiliation because of the actions of the United States government.”
Even in modern times, war continues to be used an excuse for the expansion of government and the infringements on civil liberties. Following the 9/11 attacks, Americans were presented with the Patriot Act, which allowed for the surveillance of citizens and non-citizens alike within the United States. Federal agents were given the authority to write their own warrants, essentially castrating the Fourth Amendment. In addition, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which allowed for the detainment of American citizens, without being charged, given a trial, access to legal representation, or even contact with family.
Wars abroad mean the destruction of the way of life here in America. If we care about liberty, about the Constitution, and about our natural rights, then we need to defend the liberty of people abroad against our own government, uphold the Constitution, and think about the natural rights that war violates.
Big government in one area never stops in one area. This is the conclusion that many come to when discussing government-run healthcare. It may start with healthcare, but will in time mean grave restrictions on our liberty. Foreign affairs or “national defense”, is the same way. An empire cannot exist for long without eventually destroying the lives of the people it rules over, including we Americans.