Left, Right, Property, & War
This article was written by guest-author Will Porter
In the United States and at least the majority of the Western world, the Left and Right are commonly spoken of as if they constitute the entire scope of possible political positions. Any respectable person must favor either the Right or Left, be a Conservative or Liberal, and in the U.S., be a Republican or Democrat. Libertarians, however, happily do not fit on such a scale. Libertarians tend to take the best of both worlds, discarding the rest post-haste. From the Left, we libertarians share the hatred for war and the waste and destruction it leaves in its wake. We also share a slight similarity in favoring the free personal choices of individuals, whether it is for recreational drug use, gambling, prostitution, or same-sex marriage. While there are still many differences here, the sentiment is at least familiar.
With the Right, we share the emphasis and enthusiasm about private property rights, reductions in state power, the right to own firearms, and the virtues of free exchange and the market….Well at least nominally…Some of their rhetoric certainly sounds somewhat libertarian, right?
These apparent similarities, however, do not go very far at all. Both the Left and the Right attach themselves to causes wholly un-libertarian, and while each side has traditional standpoints, they seldom even stick to their own proclaimed principles, creating mutant abominations of Liberal-Conservative political philosophy (and I use the latter word mildly).
For example, as mentioned above, the Left tends to balk at war — unless the war is waged by a Liberal-Left Executive. The Liberal outcry about “Bush’s War” quickly yielded to a mere whisper the moment Barak Obama took the reins of power. And many on the Right pay lip service to property rights and free trade — until it comes time to pass “socially conservative” legislation that arbitrarily seeks to extinguish free choice and ban non-violent behavior, such as the use and trade of drugs, prostitution, and other numerous things commonly deemed distasteful.
It would seem that any possible similarities between both the Left and Right and libertarianism are a mere accident. It is abundantly clear that popular political candidates determine their positions and policies purely on their expediency, not by any consideration of principle whatever. Neither Left-Liberalism nor Right-Conservatism are really even ideologies, these are merely labels used to justify coercion and ambitions for power, easily malleable to any capricious cause.
What of libertarianism? What makes us any different? Are we just nicer people, better informed? Does our consistency come by accident, a coincidence? Well it should be asked here, consistent to what, in what way consistent? Ah, but here is the key. Libertarianism is not about a simpleton, ad-hoc devotion to something that we call “liberty”, nor a mere whim or opinion that people should “do whatever they want”.
This tradition is firmly rooted in principle – principles of political philosophy, of ethics. A single principle has vital significance, it is the principle of private property –that every man has the right to his legitimately-earned land and possessions, and that no man has the right to rule or aggress against another. Countless centuries of history can be summed up by the perpetual struggle of the masses against political and religious tyrannies, each and every time seeking to attain some semblance of these kinds of rights or freedoms over their possessions, bodies, and lives.
It is by this principle that we gauge the legitimacy of other creeds and the ideas that they advocate, and in light of this principle virtually every other creed can be shown to be utter intellectual failures, inconsistent barbarism, and apology for violence and force.
The more radical Liberal-Left are typically not happy advocates of property rights, or the concept of property altogether. However, the moderate Left will begrudgingly accept things like property and capitalism, but with just a touch of maddening inconsistency. The Liberal basically says: “I will respect property rights and free trade up until the moment I decide something else is more important”.
Take wealth redistribution schemes, inherent violators of property rights. Setting aside
the fact that 60+ years of “social welfare” programs have done almost nothing to alleviate the scourge of poverty across the world — creating highly-dependent under-classes — and also here ignoring the fact that despite this, they are still constantly advanced as the grand-solution, these welfare programs constitute massive violations of nearly every person’s right to retain what is legitimately his. That is, the fruits of his production and the gains that result from his agreements and dealings with others.
Once our principle has been applied, we can easily see why the libertarian rejects such policies as inherently immoral and contemptible. The disastrous results that typically follow welfare schemes aren’t to be ignored, but the root of the problem becomes apparent when considering property rights, the main thrust of the libertarian case.
In order for a government to implement distributing wealth, they must first attain wealth. The government doesn’t at all have any money of its own, so it therefore must take it from you and me. Anybody advocating “social welfare” is really advocating mass thievery of millions of their fellows. The Liberal claim that the “rich” don’t deserve their money is highly dubious in light of the fact that almost every single monolith-corporation receives mass streams of wealth from the very economic regulations and restrictions the Liberals also advocate for. If Liberal politicians really cared about corporations and the mega-wealthy having too much money or power, they wouldn’t constantly collude with them and push for the kind of protectionist legislation that insulates large corporations from free competition.
The Liberals, contrary to their rhetoric, are not champions of civil liberties and free personal choice. They are just as “Conservative” as the Right, and they just as readily endorse open brutality against those who refuse to let the State strip them of their freedom or property.
The Right, however, do tend to say that they respect and value the right to property.
Unlike many on the Left, they don’t shy away from such a notion, but in reality they disregard it just as hastily, if not faster, than even the most ardent proponent of mass wealth-redistribution. Here I must touch upon the Right’s devotion to the warfare-state, but I will not neglect to discuss the inherent connections between war, and the centralized bureaucratic control over domestic economy and society that emanates from it. In the end, we will see that the Left and the Right endorse the very same paternalistic, statist-corporatist, anti-libertarian results, if only by moderately different means.
Modern-day Rightists, “Neo-Cons” as opposed to the Old-Right isolationists, fully support the imperial warfare-state. Their worldview is many times similar to 1940s superhero comics, complete with righteous heroes and maniacal villains. With such a picture of the world, it becomes easy to advocate mass military action against those deemed “the bad guys”. An “Us-vs.-Them” mentality develops and becomes pervasive (If you’re not with us, you’re with the terrorists”), although this isn’t necessarily unique to the Right.
Warfare, at least the vast majority of warfare waged by most of the world over the past millennia, is by its very nature illegitimate and destructive to human life and prosperity. While the use of defensive violence is justified under the libertarian ethic, war is almost
never actually defensive. The phenomena of modern government-waged military conflicts consists of some tiny group of politicians pointing to a land-mass or territory, usually an entire country, and declaring that all people within that boundary are fair game to be slaughtered or imprisoned. While things like the Geneva Conventions and other international “rules of war” attempt to establish confines to legitimate warfare, the very nature of war – wanton death and destruction – usually leads to such rules falling by the way-side. Combatant forces, especially those of the United States, continually get away with massive violations of these codes and face virtually zero repercussions.
But setting this aside and assuming that all war conventions are followed perfectly, and
also assuming that coercive conscription (“the draft”) isn’t implemented – still — the notion that just because some person belongs to a foreign military organization, he is fair game to be bombed, shot, or imprisoned is a monstrous violation of the libertarian philosophy. Aggression occurs on the scale of individuals, and only individuals. Groups, armies, nations, countries, governments, or any aggregate whatsoever, do not themselves act outside or beyond the actions of their constituent individuals.
Acts of aggression carried out by one or more persons of a group cannot possibly justify the use of retaliatory “defensive” violence against the entire group. If a government orders a squadron of soldiers to murder another group of soldiers, it is not legitimate to retaliate by bombing whole cities of the invading people, full of civilians and innocents. It wouldn’t even be justified to bomb a barracks containing soldiers who’ve yet to ever fight or kill. Government-waged war convinces people, many of them on the Right, that huge aggregates, consisting of millions, are all fine to murder in cold blood, as long as at least a few of them attacked “your” people first. (Contrast this with the Left’s general view that “society” is just an aggregate to be tinkered with and manipulated, taxed and regulated.)
But, as always, taking things a step further, even if we completely disregard the specific things that may happen during any given war, we must still consider what can even make a mass-warfare-state even possible in the first place. What must be done in order to create the type of military force that most modern Western nations today possess? First and foremost, a government must set out to coercively expropriate the property of hundreds of millions of people through “taxation” — the word used to make blatant robbery sound regal. This alone — discarding everything we’ve just mentioned above — constitutes a horrendous violation of rights for countless millions of people who make a legitimate, peaceful living in the productive private sector. It literally amounts to stealing billions of dollars in order to fund the mass-scale murder of mainly innocent people in foreign countries (and now with Obama and his NDAA, citizens on home-soil as well).
The Right, also conflicting with their typical rhetoric, are not in any way in favor of freedom or property, nor for small, limited government. Like the Left, they just as readily gallop toward Fascism and mass State-bureaucracy.
Here we see that almost every single aspect of modern-day governmental warfare is direly and directly opposed to the libertarian creed (and the greater whole of humanity). While the Right generally has admiration for such war, the Left tries to veer away from it. What the Left doesn’t shy away from, however, are the endless indirect results of war, mainly here at home. It is here again that the Left and Right find some very common ground, although probably not in a way either would openly admit.
Along with mass death and destruction (as if it could get any worse), war almost
always brings with it huge amounts of domestic control; regulation, cartelization, nationalization, rationing, government take-overs, etc., all to spur on the Wehrmacht. These controls not only fit the Left’s desire for a regulated mixed-economy, centralized banking cartels, and nationalized industry, but also the Right-Conservative goal of a highly regimented, orderly society with strong Nationalist tendencies in the citizenry. Under the aegis of the modern warfare-state, both the Left and the Right are able to push their complementary agendas forward toward realization. Both sides fall just a nudge short of outright Fascism.
As an aside, I will say that there certainly are many different and diverse views that
constitute the notions of “Left” and “Right” throughout the world. Here I have only touched upon two primary aspects. And although they are generally agreed upon to some degree or another, it is of course true that not all self-proclaimed Leftists and Rightists fit this mold of welfare-warfare advocates. With that said, the issues of welfare and warfare are two very prominent areas of policy for high-influence politicians on both sides of the alleged spectrum.
Both ideas constitute massive threats to the freedom of mankind: civil and economic, domestic and foreign. Since it is not people but ideas that shape the world — for better or worse — I have paid attention to only certain parts of the Liberal and Conservative canons.
When the libertarian property ethic is consistently applied, it becomes incredibly clear that the differences between these alleged polar opposites are purely nominal, that is, in name only. Both want very slightly different blueprints for humanity, and they want them to be violently enforced. Both want to see dissenting opinion crushed under the jackboot of Statism. Neither will allow the productive energies of private society to freely function, and therefore neither wants anything even slightly reminiscent of true liberty, true human prosperity.
The Left-Right political paradigm, once seen from the libertarian viewpoint, implodes. Neither position is in any way legitimate or justified, because neither position can be justified. They both agree on virtually every important point, with only minor stylistic differences here and there. What truly matters is both sides’ relentless crusade to see their own master-plan violently imposed on the human race. With the inter-related principles of property rights and the non-aggression principle as our measuring rods, it becomes readily obvious that no politico-ethical stance except that of the libertarian can at all be broached with any seriousness. Any other position is merely a veiled attempt to invent excuses for evil and for coercive domination over the rest of our species.
The contemporary paradigm of political ideology can be tolerated no longer. It is high-time that we see the two-faced notions of “Right” and “Left” for what they truly are: empty shells of doctrines, making themselves exempt from the moral rules that both claim to uphold. The only way to move forward is to abandon this corrupt dichotomy for a consistent position. A position that rejects war, coercive control, hampering regulation, and one that tightly embraces free-interaction, peace, prosperity, and above all, society.