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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5646/the-justice-and-prudence-of-war-toward-a-libertarian-analysis/

The Justice and Prudence of War: Toward A Libertarian Analysis

September 20, 2006 by

Every time America goes off on one of its bombing or invading romps, resentment grows among the bombed and invaded. From this resentment sprout new threats to America’s security. To protect against these threats, America engages in further bombing and invading, which creates still more resentment, which breeds still new threats, prompting still more bombing and invading, and so on ad infinitum. Mises’s insight that interventions breed more interventions is as true in foreign policy as it is in domestic economy. And just as the logical endpoint of the cycle of economic interventions is complete socialism, so the logical endpoint of the cycle of military interventions is world conquest. FULL ARTICLE


Roderick T. Long September 25, 2006 at 4:33 pm

To Roger M.: “Ask a Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim. My understanding of the orthodox version of these is that God can act, and often does, in an arbitrary manner, so that sometimes 2+2=5.” Actually it is a matter of dispute within Hinduism and Islam, just as it is a matter of dispute within Christianity, whether or not God could make 2 + 2 = 5. (Orthodox Buddhists do not believe in God.) In any case, I was talking about what a God could do, not about what anyone happens to believe a God could do.

“So I guess you’re saying that the laws of physics are eternal and uncreated. That’s typical materialism.” Actually, believing that the laws of physics are uncreated doesn’t necessarily imply materialism. (The above-mentioned Buddhists, for example, believe the laws of physics are eternal and uncreated, but are not materialists.) However, that’s neither here nor there because I didn’t say anything about the laws of physics. I’m talking about the laws of logic.

“You give the impression that ethics are a matter of discovering the rules of the universe much as we have discovered the laws of physics.” No, the laws of physics are discovered empirically. I think ethics is more like both logic and economics — it’s a priori rather than empirical. (Though I do think the contrast between the empirical and the a priori is less severe than has often been thought.)

“Not much debate goes on today about the law of gravity, but a lot of debate takes place on ethics, even among libertarians.” Likewise there’s a lot of debate about economics. That doesn’t invalidate the claim that economics is a priori. Why not say the same for ethics?

“You should ask yourself why we even have ideas about morality.” Because we have reason.

“Can we attribute any concept of morals to animals?” No, because they don’t have reason.

“Why do we form societies to reduce violence and aggression? It’s the rule in nature. Why shouldn’t it rule with humans?” Actually forming societies to reduce violence and aggression is the rule in nature too. See Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid, for example.

“The question is whether or not without God we can logically derive standards of behavior that apply to all people. The great philosophers have concluded no, you can’t, because morals imply authority and no man has authority over another man.” Which great philosophers? Obviously there’s been serious disagreement among philosophers about this. Most lists of “great” philosophers will include both a) many philosophers who didn’t believe in God but thought morality was possible anyway [examples include Epicurus, Mill, Spencer, Sidgwick, Moore, Sartre, Habermas, Rawls, and most moral philosophers today], and b) philosophers who did believe in a God of some sort but thought the authority of morality had little or nothing to do with God but was based on reason and/or human nature instead [examples include Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Grotius, Spinoza, Hutcheson, Smith, and Kant]. The notion that no god means no morality is the offspring of the union of atheism and voluntarism, not of atheism alone. But most theologians historically have not been voluntarists anyway.

“Survival of the fittest, according to evolution, served the species well for millions of years. Why suddenly abandon it when we could walk upright?” Cooperative modes of behaviour are more conducive to survival than conflictual modes. See Spencer or Axelrod.

“Orthodox Hinduism/Buddhism, not the popular variety, assert that our existence is not real, but a dream. As a result, morality and reason are figments of our imagination.” Actually orthodox Hinduism and Buddhism come in many forms, not all of which say this. (Vedanta and Nyaya, for example, are both orthodox Hinduism, but Vedanta regards the world as illusory while Nyaya does not.) In any case, from the claim that life is a dream it doesn’t follow that morality and reason are illusory. It might matter morally what you do in the dream (as indeed they think it does), and the dream might have a logical structure.

“Morality consists of arbitrary commands from God. In orthodox Islam, Allah is so sovereign that he isn’t bound by his own laws and he regularly violates them in order to prove his sovereignty. Also, no free will exists in Islam.” Again, that depends what you consider “orthodox” Islam. Certainly many respected Islamic religious teachers have taught doctrines contrary to what you describe here; see this book.

To David White: “The notion that because one cannot control the thoughts of others, one’s reputation is not one’s own is nonsensical. One might as well argue that one’s house is not one’s own because an arson could burn it down or that one’s car is not one’s own because it could be stolen.” But that wasn’t my argument. My point was not that we can’t control others’ thoughts but that we don’t have the right to, even if we could. By contrast, whether or not we can prevent an arsonist from burning down our house, we would have the right to prevent him.

To Greg: “After all, if a criminal only had to worry about when he/she got caught, then there would be no reason to not be a career criminal since the worst that can happen is to have the victim recover the goods.” a) Since the criminal must not only restore the object but also pay damages, it’s not true that under my system the criminal who’s caught is no worse off than if he hadn’t stolen. b) In any case, I don’t think justice should be decided on purely utilitarian grounds.

David White September 25, 2006 at 5:06 pm

Roderick Long:

The argument that we don’t have the right to control other people’s thoughts, even if we could, is beside the point, since mind control is not what I’m talking about. Rather, I’m talking about about our AGREEMENT on the right of a home-owner to defend his home against arson, applying this same logic to libel or slander — i.e., try to “burn down my identity” and I have the right to defend myself against your doing so.

After all, what if I launched a website accusing you — with doctored photos, documents, and the like — of the nefarious deeds I specified above? Do you honestly believe that I would have the right to do so and that you, accordingly, would have no right to defend yourself against me?

Peter September 25, 2006 at 10:11 pm

Roger: Speaking of being amoral, have you ever read Is God a Taoist? by Raymond Smullyan? Last time I looked for it online (a few years ago) I only found a short quote, but the whole thing is now here!

Peter September 25, 2006 at 10:30 pm

David White: what do you mean by “defend yourself”? If someone goes around saying “David White is a child molester”, you certainly have the right to “defend yourself” by refuting the allegation – you don’t have the right to “defend yourself” by putting a bullet in his head.

averros September 25, 2006 at 11:12 pm


> You bring up a completely different issue: Why
> do atheists behave morally when they are being
> inconsistent with there atheistic beliefs?

That is precisely what I call “the theist nonsense” – simply because morality is perfectly consistent with atheistic beliefs.

Yes, there’s a purely materialist explanation for existence of altruism and morality. It is simply a good survival strategy for the genes (in case of altruism) and for the memes (aka “the culture”) in case of morality.

The paradox of a self-interest leading to cooperation even to the extent of self-sacrifice seems to be there only when you have an obsolete notion of survival of individual organisms as the sole driver of evolution.

The modern evolutionary theory has successfully resolved the paradox by establishing that the units of biological evolution are individual genes, not organisms. The extension of the same idea to memetics explains why morality is the necessary element of any culture. Simply put, societies which didn’t have moral ideas in their memesets were displaced by those societies which did.

(The evolutuionary approach to the sociology also explains the existence of amoral memesets, such as collectivist – these are parasites, needing the moral host to survive).

JIMB September 26, 2006 at 12:39 pm

Averros – And self-sacrifice? How is that fit with evolution? Unless I am missing your point, it seems to me that would have been selected out by now.

Natural physical laws are an astonishing immaterial reality: why should an apple fall to the earth in a way which we can understand (mathematics)? Why follow immaterial laws? — Even material isn’t “material”: it is a form of energy.

I’d have to confess materialism sounds more to me a philosophic denial of anything outside of our ultimate understanding (i.e. the scientist as god), rather than a reasonable evidence-based philosophy.

Greg September 26, 2006 at 7:11 pm

JIMB> why should an apple fall to the earth in a way which we can understand (mathematics)?

I don’t get it. The apple falls to the ground because trees grow out of the ground. Right? I mean, where else would it fall to grow another tree?

JIMB> Why follow immaterial laws? — Even material isn’t “material”: it is a form of energy.

While we did have to cover the mass-energy equivalence topic in engineering school, I don’t remember it ever being represented as you have put it. No modern physics text I have ever perused has said that material is not material. Can you elaborate?

JIMB> I’d have to confess materialism sounds more to me a philosophic denial of anything outside of our ultimate understanding (i.e. the scientist as god), rather than a reasonable evidence-based philosophy.

I think most people don’t spend their time trying to prepare a good case for the non-existance of the easter bunny because their best guess is that it would be a waste of time. Since time is a scarce resource, folks pick their battles.

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