Where I Differ with Some Libertarians
By Arnold Kling
I don’t know what exactly inspired this post (probably Bryan’s writing on patriotism and political correctness). Anyway, here are a couple of issues where not all libertarians agree.
1. I just cannot buy into pacifism as some libertarians express it. It seems to me that some libertarians link arms with the far left as blame-America-firsters, with scathing attacks on America’s military and its foreign policy. I am not sure what constructive solutions come from this stance. Sure, it would be great if nationalism and tribalism would wither away, we could have open borders, and no wars. But that is not the world we live in.
I think that one of my favorite Presidents for foreign policy was Eisenhower, who kept us out of Vietnam and spoke out against the military-industrial complex. But he believed in national defense, and in an imperfect world, so do I.
2. I think that there is a Randian strain in libertarianism that sees charity as wrong (bad for the recipients), and I disagree. I do not buy into the view that charity is necessarily bad for the recipients. To distinguish my viewpoint from the Randians, I describe myself as a civil societarian, by which I mean to support all sorts of layers of social organization, including businesses, religious organizations, watchdog groups, private rating agencies, and private charities. The one organization that I want to curb is monopoly government.
I certainly would like to try phasing out government charity and instead having that function be private. I would be willing to bet that, for any level of economic development and human capital distribution (in other words, do not try to use the 18th century as a controlled experiment for the 21st century or some other country as controlled experiment for the U.S.), private charity works better than government redistribution. I would like to see that hypothesis tested.