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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9797/enemy-of-my-enemy/

Enemy of My Enemy

April 16, 2009 by

Yesterday, thousands of people gathered at various locations around the country to participate in Tea Parties protesting government spending and taxation.

The ancient proverb the enemy of my enemy is my friend rang especially true as I attended a Tea Party on campus at Auburn University. Despite the apparent wisdom in the proverb, I couldn’t help but feel a bit dirty when it was all over.

The cognitive dissonance arose from the fact that the event was hosted by the College Republicans. The Auburn University Libertarians later joined them to co-host the event.
It is fantastic that large numbers of people are finally waking up to the problems created by taxation and spending. It is equally refreshing to see that people are starting to take a stand, at least symbolically, in opposition to big government.

The problem was that for the majority of the time when Republicans were speaking, I couldn’t help but think “where were you for the last eight years?” My overall feeling of uncleanliness derived largely from the hypocrisy emanating from the Republicans. What right do Republicans have to criticize anyone about spending or the size of government? What right do Republicans have to lecture the current administration about bailouts? What right do Republicans have to complain about the size of the national debt?

My fear is that by joining the Republicans, we lost the moral high ground to a form of guilt by association. If I was disturbed by the level of hypocrisy displayed by the Republicans even though I genuinely believe in many of the principles to which they were paying lip service, how must people feel who disagree? It seems to me that anyone who supports the big spending big government would have had an even more visceral reaction than did I. Not necessarily because of the message but particularly due to the messenger. I cannot help but wonder how many people that may have otherwise been persuadable, dismissed the cause out of hand because of the Republican’s pharisaicalness.

Though my experience was limited to a relatively small college town, I suspect that many libertarian minded individuals had similar experiences across the country. I hope that I am overanalyzing the whole situation and that, despite my qualms, the tea parties were able to have a genuinely positive effect. In the end I suppose it is like drinking Kopi Luwak; it is good as long as you don’t think about where it came from.

Current Debt Held by the Public Intragovernmental Holdings Total Public Debt Outstanding
04/14/2009 6,893,364,260,485.43 4,278,934,477,545.98 11,172,298,738,031.41


punter April 16, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Libertarians need to remain true to their message, but libertarianism is about the battle for ideas. Every libertarian spends the vast majority of their day associating with non-like minded people. (In my case it is all day, every day) and even though we consider their views on state sanctioned violence to be repugnant, we must always understand that they are generally not bad people and must therefore be respectful as well as consistent. Few people listened to me talk about economics before this catastrophe but plenty of people do now. They still don’t necessarily like what I am saying, but they are far more respectful.

Libertarians should simply use the tea-parties to spread our message. We should point out that foreign aggression is one, amongst many abuses of governments, but that doesn’t mean we should refuse to associate with those who we don’t agree 100 per cent with.

Brian Macker April 16, 2009 at 9:31 pm

“I couldn’t help but feel a bit dirty when it was all over.”

Me too. I think it was the show tunes. Yes, a guy started off with God Bless America and I was already feeling silly, then Yankee Doodle Dandy, and segued into Broadway.

Steve Andolsun April 16, 2009 at 10:03 pm

So in a stateless society, terrorist organizations like Al- Qaida wouldn’t exist? Come on! I hate to tell you guys this, but the world is still a dangerous place.

Bob Kaercher April 16, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Golly Mr. Andolsun, I think all us kids understand it’s a big, bad world out there. There’s just some of us who recognize that government “protection” is based on coercion, and hence inefficient, wasteful, and mind-bogglingly self-defeating, since for every terrorist that is killed or captured, hundreds if not thousands of innocent people are slaughtered in the process, understandably infuriating their countrymen and creating ever new armies of aggressors for the government to “defend” us from. The New England Journal of Medicine has just published a study in which they conclude that of all the bombing missions flown over Iraq since the start of that war, nearly 40% were women and children. I suppose they were “al-Qaeda.”

And if being protected from aggression is so important to you, where was your government “protection” on 9-11? How much differently would that day have turned out if those airliners had armed flight crews, or armed private security on the planes?

Bob Kaercher April 16, 2009 at 11:25 pm

I just realized I left a out few very important words from one line in my previous post: “…of all the bombing missions flown over Iraq since the start of that war, nearly 40% OF THOSE KILLED BY THEM were women and children.”

Enjoy Every Sandwich April 17, 2009 at 7:39 am

So, who are these small government, pro-liberty Republican pols that libertarians should be trusting (and of course we’ll be totally forgetting about all of the other times they dry-humped us and didn’t even give us a kiss afterwards)? Other than Ron Paul, can you name any? Can you offer any sliver of evidence that they won’t turn on us once they have their hands on the levers of power?

dewind April 17, 2009 at 8:47 am

@Enjoy Every Sandwich

No, there is not guarantee that they won’t turn on us if we become bed buddies. However, if we show up to these events as individuals — not collectivist members of the ‘right’ — and hand out literature and speak intelligently we could potentially turn the masses against their masters.

Enjoy Every Sandwich April 17, 2009 at 9:40 am

@dewind–that’s a good answer and I’ve no problem with doing that. I do have a problem with those who propose that the logical next step will be voting Republican. (It sounds like you’re not in that camp, and my statement is really directed at those who are.)

William P April 17, 2009 at 10:52 am

@ Bob Kaercher

“Why not trust freedom and allow people to voluntarily enter into their own preferred arrangements for protection of their lives and property using their own funds?”

I believe this comes down to a fundamental disagreement on the potential for workable anarchy.

James Madison summed the conservative argument up best, saying “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

Federalist Paper #51

AC April 17, 2009 at 1:04 pm

To William P
Great quote from Madison.

There is evil in the world. Tyrannts do rise and destroy. If the US took all of its military and dismantled all of it, we would be invaded the following day. Its easier to destroy and steal wealth than to produce it.

I don’t advocate for the US to go around the globe looking for oppressive dictators to overthrow, either. If libertarians and conservative republicans (not necessarily party Republicans) can work together to get back closer to limited gov’t principles, then in the future perhaps a more thorough debate on the size of federal militaries, compared to state militias, size and scope of military policy, etc. can be engaged in. We’re not even close to being able to have a meaningful debate on that currently.

There is another debate that should be had before we try to go “give” liberty to oppressed peoples. That debate question is “are there cultural prerequisites to a society of liberty, and if so what are they.” Because if indeed there are prerequisites, then our attempts at “giving liberty” to peoples who’ve not met those cultural prerequisites will fail.

dewind April 17, 2009 at 1:12 pm


That debate question is “are there cultural prerequisites to a society of liberty, and if so what are they.”

I think if there was one lesson to take away from Star Trek (Yes, they demonized capitalism via Utopian socialism and the portrayal of the Ferengi) it was the prime directive. In that we should have no contact with a civilization that does not reach a certain level. Post Magna Carta, for instance.

Bob Kaercher April 17, 2009 at 1:20 pm

William P.:

“[Y]ou must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

As Sheldon Richman says in the mast heading of his blog: “Fat chance.”


Gabe April 17, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Everybody saw the CNN clip in Chicago about tax day. Please watch the 2nd part of this clip which shows what CNN excluded from coverage http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd2tg8gxCDU

Please watch the full clip and respond to Jeff Deist. I was at the protest in Boston and similar things happened. People there were clearly against Bush and Obama. I talked to dozens of people who were talking about which Murray Rothbard books they had read. I talked to young peace activist who had gotten fed up with the left and were now learning about how the wars are funded and the peace movements are also co-opted…..This is transpartisian and only blatant media manipulation is getting this ridiculous message out there

Briggs Armstrong April 17, 2009 at 1:41 pm


I think that you have taken it a bit too far in saying “no contact…” I think the proper thing to do is engage in peaceful trade and absolute non-interventionism. I am not very familiar with Star Trek but from the few episodes I watched of the version with Patrick Stewart in it, it seemed that non-interventionism was more important than absolute withdrawal of contact. I could be wrong though.

My point is that the best way to “export freedom/liberty” is to engage in peaceful voluntary trade and lead by example. Generally, good ideas are copied given enough exposure and time.

Gabe April 17, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Clearly we have to fight as hard as we can not to let Dick Armey and a bunch of neocons take over the movement, if only because they will throw the movement under the bus if it gets them back in power.

Glenn Beck was calling us terrorist just last year.

However, that does not mean you can’t go to teaparties or other events where ex-neocons are likely to be. Just make sure they understand that the “End the Fed” is not comprimisable. Make sure thye understand that the False Left-Right Paradigm is getting smashed.

dewind April 17, 2009 at 1:58 pm


Indeed, “no contact” is a bit strong. I am open to free and friendly trade.

ogo April 17, 2009 at 2:22 pm

I completely agree with this great post. I am a conservative, not a republican and I feel the same way you do. I over the last 8 years was grateful to W for keeping the country safe but continued to get aggravated about the spending and a lot of his economic policies. I definitely criticized him. I do somewhat understand how some Republicans where no where to be found in last 8 years because of similar reasons to mine as well as they figured he was getting dismantled by Democrats and they just didn’t want to sort of pile on. I do wish they would publicly acknowledge this instead of just trying to hijack Tea Parties and act like they’ve been fiscally responsible and adherred to free market principles all along. Great post, even though you go to Auburn (I just finished from LSU).

William Palumbo April 17, 2009 at 2:34 pm

@ Bob Kaercher

Fat chance that anarcy doesn’t devolve into gang rule. I’ve learned much over the last year from the Austrian school and its superb economic analysis. It is no overstatement to say that, as a Bachelor of Commerce, mises.org has taught me more about the nature of business and society than any MBA course likely ever will. For this I am grateful to Mises, Rothbard, et al. and all the contributors to the Mises Institute. However, it is a difficult pill to swallow, anarchy.

I think that economic analysis can be brought so far. The Austrian school, if I can take a stab at it, puts morality first as the basis for a workable market economy. This coincides nicely, as I see it, with Adam Smith’s primary role as a moral philosopher (to say nothing of his economics). Solid morals provide a basis for all honest dealings.

If men cease to recognize their own limitations, shortcomings, and decency, society in any form will collapse. Even the best institutions are imperfect because they are human. I don’t know how much more foundational political philosophy gets than acknowledging universal human foible. No less than Thomas Aquinas, whose stature I don’t intend to dimish by referring merely to his limited political philosophy, recognized the primacy of this truism whenever writing of political matters. I don’t believe anarchy can work because it is only a matter of time before force is used unjustly, ultimately devolving into a gang rule and undermining the chance for ordered liberty to arise.

Finally, yes, the United States has disturbing and disruptive economic policies that are largely a product of economic ignorance. Yet I do believe that our decadent popular culture, too often bombastic and base, is the source of rot. No structural reform can fix what began as a sickness of the soul.

Gabe April 17, 2009 at 2:48 pm

William Palumbo ,
Is it possible that 12 years mandantory attendence in government controlled mind control camps for all children might play a role in “popular culture”?

or perhaps confiscating 50% of the income of all people is having an affect on “popular culture”?

or is the “sickness fo the soul” you blame our problems on merely due to mysterious animal spirits?

Bob Kaercher April 17, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Utah Phillips was right. Talking to a conservative is like talking to your refrigerator. The light goes on, the light goes off…

William Palumbo April 17, 2009 at 3:18 pm

It is easy to respond to straw men. I am emphatically not in favor of government controlled education, and would say that yes, it absolutely contributes to the destruction of a healthy culture. I am also in favor of drastically reducing taxes in such a way that would only fund the legitimate functions of government. I would consider both of these goals of the conservative movement, although the spectrum is vast.

No, I am not a refrigerator. The light is always on, and it’s on you at the moment to prove your case. Original sin, imperfectability, inherent shortcomings… whatever name you give it, cannot be abolished even if you abolish government. When you can authoritatively refute Aquinas on these matters I’ll be more inclined to entertain what I regard as an extremist position: anarchism. Incidentally, in my reading of Mises’ Nation, State & Economy, I noticed he is far from an anarchist, in fact a classical liberal, which is close in many ways to a traditional American conservative.

The use of force should be reverential due to its nature. Electing a man who is humble enough to recognize this is the responsibility of the electorate, and we should respect that high office until the respect is more costly than the alternative – i.e., armed revolution. In my opinion we are not even close to that option; any revolution we look to accomplish must be through politcal means. Cf the French for a tour of imprudence in the course of revolution.

Lastly, it is somewhat telling when the case cannot be made through point by point refutation and the insults begin. I won’t engage in that type of childishness that basically admits defeat. The day that Austrian inspired anarchists take over the government I’ll eat my hat… if I have even that left at the pace Obama is going.

Bob Kaercher April 17, 2009 at 3:52 pm

William, I could have written that it’s precisely *because* human beings are so imperfect that government should be abolished. That’s a compelling reason *against* centralized power, not a reason for it.

But I have a hunch you would have replied with a lot more unfalsifiables and non-sequiturs.

Christopher Lewis April 17, 2009 at 4:16 pm

We must work together. Period.

Bob Kaercher:
“The anarchists contend that a social order in which nobody enjoys privileges at the expense of his fellow-citizens could exist without any compulsion and coercion for the prevention of action detrimental to society. Such an ideal society could do without state and government, i.e., without a police force, the social apparatus of coercion and compulsion.
The anarchists overlook the undeniable fact that some people are either too narrow-minded or too weak to adjust themselves spontaneously to the conditions of social life…An anarchistic society would be exposed to the mercy of every individual. Society cannot exist if the majority is not ready to hinder, by the application or threat of violent action, minorities from destroying the social order. This power is vested in the state or government.
The state is essentially an institution for the preservation of peaceful interhuman relations.”
Human Action, von Mises

Christopher Lewis April 17, 2009 at 4:32 pm

I forgot something that I just had to question: when did the New England Journal of Medicine begin those kinds of statistical studies? I believe that its description states: “The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) is a weekly general medical journal that publishes new medical research findings, review articles, and editorial opinion on a wide variety of topics of importance to biomedical science and clinical practice. Material is published with an emphasis on internal medicine and specialty areas including allergy/immunology, cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology, kidney disease, oncology, pulmonary disease, rheumatology, HIV, and infectious diseases.”

They should add a bit more to their disclaimer now, no? Thats exactly like the hogwash 20/20 Barbara Walters special on ABC the other night, “If I Only Had a Gun”, where they used a gun statistic from the CDC. The Center for Disease Control???

Bob Kaercher April 17, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Far be it from me to disagree with Ludwig von Mises on a point or two. Or for that matter, far be it from his student Murray Rothbard.

“The anarchists overlook the undeniable fact that some people are either too narrow-minded or too weak to adjust themselves spontaneously to the conditions of social life…”

“The statists overlook the undeniable fact that government bureaucrats are every bit as narrow-minded and self-interested as everyone else, and being privileged with monopolizing the initiation of force, have no incentives to adjust themselves spontaneously to the conditions of voluntary cooperation.”–Bob Kaercher

Can someone please explain to me what magical feat it is that cleanses government bureaucrats of all the foibles and flaws of human nature?

Christopher Lewis April 17, 2009 at 4:41 pm


Theoretically, the election process. The belief is that society tends toward a democratic state so that it can control those who are in power. Again, it is theoretical as to whether or not that actually works. As is it theoretical that in a completely anarchic society, there will never be tyranny.

Bob Kaercher April 17, 2009 at 5:07 pm

“Theoretically, the election process. The belief is that society tends toward a democratic state so that it can control those who are in power.”

Ah, yes. Majoritarian wishful thinking.

“Again, it is theoretical as to whether or not that actually works.”

Well, that all depends on how you define “works.” If you prefer slaughtering innocent people in other countries, imprisoning your countrymen for buying and selling certain products and substances that anyone’s free to refuse, or stealing what others earn in order to finance the aforementioned murder and kidnapping, then I’d say statism’s your thing.

“As is it theoretical that in a completely anarchic society, there will never be tyranny.”

I’d take just one single day of total liberty over the self-fulfilling prophecy we’re living now.

AC April 17, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Stealing someone’s hard earned goods is cheaper and easier than producing it yourself.

To the degree a group of individuals voluntarily do not initiate force against each other’s person or property, that group will experience greater prosperity. Fraud, theft, killing, etc. are very expensive to a society monetarily and emotionally. Individuals or a “state” has to protect others and that has costs. If I have to do it myself, that means I’ve got to purchase defensive items and weaponry. I’ll need to invest my time to attain and maintain a certain level of proficiency. Or I could hire it done. I can hire an attorney to lookout for my interests in contract negotiation where the other party is always looking for a way to take advantage of someone else. That also costs money. The more ways I can get scammed, killed, stolen from, the more cost there is to me to keep from being taken advantage of or killed.

The problem we encounter when we create gov’ts to do this, is that they are also made up of people, which are corruptible.

Free market capitalism thrives when the participants work to find ways to benefit their customers and themselves, but not benefit themselves at the expense of their customers. Yes I know that was a very subjective standard. I want to do a better job for my customers than my competitor and in the process I’ve served my fellow man better.

If we want smaller or no gov’t, we must first demonstrate that there is no need to fear your neighbor. That we won’t steal his stuff, harm his person, etc. And to do that, we’ll need to improve our general decency, that we treat one another kindly, honestly, that we can vigorously compete with one another without descending into fraudulent practices to achieve our goals, to be able to redress our grievences that sometimes arise between us without resorting to violence or hauling everyone and their brother into courts of law.

I agree that the gov’t isn’t helping in this, nor by its nature, can it help, nor is it going to help with it in the future. It is up to us as market participants to lead by example, in personal relations, professional relations, everyday transactions we enter into, in sum, in totality of our actions.

William Palumbo April 18, 2009 at 1:53 am

OK, so I still look for a cogent explanation on how anarchy does not devolve into gang rule. So far as I can tell, the power structures remain the same: the powerful rule, no matter what…?

What is to stop a powerful service from serving the majority and destroying minorities? What is to stop minorities from attacking the majority in a terrorist manner?

Ironically, these Hegelian transgressions, in my opinion, are in vain. As a believer in positive ethics, I think that the role for a central government can be deducted form natural law. I believe the Constitution of the United States is as perfect a document as man has yet been able to produce. The Amendment process exists to alter the document and change anything that the voters deem worthy of establishing as foundational to proper government.

Far be it from me to detract eminence from great economists and great social philosophers. Let me express my personal gratitude to Mises, Locke, Burke, Smith, and great contemporary philosophers Michael Novak and Thomas Sowell.

–The Refrigerator

Tom April 18, 2009 at 8:08 pm

Regarding some of the comments from and to William Palumbo.

I thought Government was to protect private property. Which makes it hard for Anarchy to gain much. But it’s been discussed the protection from government leads into protection of other things, like Jarts. But the essential idea is if a gang of thugs show up, a formally organized gang of thugs will give them a sound thrashing. You could always hire the thugs as mercenaries. Then they have to follow your rules to get paid.

Tom April 18, 2009 at 8:12 pm

I was not impressed that there was a lot of glumming by the Republicans on the TEA parties. But this is something of an Enemy of my Enemy…

But rather than get bogged down on details about who’s here and who’s not at these parties I would like to know if there is any discussions about having another one prior to next April 15th?

I supposed May 1st might be a great day since it was very popular with Soviet Russia.

Gil April 18, 2009 at 10:39 pm

“OK, so I still look for a cogent explanation on how anarchy does not devolve into gang rule.” – William Palumbo

Duh! You’re probably stumped because of the term ‘anarchy’ when the idyllic aftermath of a statist society would be more of a ‘private-archy’ – there are no public institutions called government but everything is entirely privately owned and private owners trade with other private owners. Another block is the terminology of ‘gangs’ and ‘force’ – ideally in the statist aftermath there will be ‘gangs’ and ‘force’ but the ‘gangs’ will be groups of private landowners who legimately own their land and who use ‘force’ to retaliate against those who would infringe upon their private sphere.

The problem of history has been the way private landowners haven’t traditionally made themselves strong enough to repel public interests and keep finding essentially ‘swallowed up’. Presumably modern ‘anarchists’ are figuring out how they can become so strong that one day there’ll never be a gang or government capable of taking their land and belongings away from them again.

newson April 18, 2009 at 11:22 pm

why isn’t gang rule by many little gangs always better than gang rule by THE BIG ONE?

Gabe April 19, 2009 at 8:52 pm

“William Palumbo”
“OK, so I still look for a cogent explanation on how anarchy does not devolve into gang rule. So far as I can tell, the power structures remain the same: the powerful rule, no matter what…?”

ya this could be a problem, but competition is tough. When there is one army covering a whole world then it is easy for a small cabal of theives to use this force for evil…we see that now.

When the local monopolies on force are much smaller it is harder to abuse the power.

“What is to stop a powerful service from serving the majority and destroying minorities? What is to stop minorities from attacking the majority in a terrorist manner?”

self-interest. It is better to have 70% of the public buying your service than just 60%.

“I believe the Constitution of the United States is as perfect a document as man has yet been able to produce. ”

This is a bit Panglossian. The document is good, but look at where it has gotten us. We are f$@$^&.

“The Amendment process exists to alter the document and change anything that the voters deem worthy of establishing as foundational to proper government.”

“it is just a goddamn piece of paper” – George W Bush.

J. Henriquez October 21, 2010 at 2:13 pm

As a former Republican I have to say hold up. Most Republicans believe in smaller government. Please remember Ron Paul is a Republican and there is a Republican Liberty Caucus. Do the Democrats have a similar organization?

Calvin Coolidge was a Republican that actually shrunk the Federal government.

Yes Republicans have been nearly as bad in growing government as the Dem’s. Who ever wields the reins of an extremely powerful government will tend to grow it. However, I think the Democrats will push us over the brink of economic disaster faster.

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