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Jason Holliston
Monday, September 20, 2004  
Libertarian Hawks Justified

Pejman Yousefzadeh pointed me to an interesting piece today written by Max Borders at Tech Central Station. He talks about a very silent group of people in the political world of today: the Libertarian Hawks. It sparked some interest for me, since I happen to be one of that group's members. I tend libertarian in social and fiscal matters, but support a very aggressive activist and pre-emptive foreign policy. He attempts to square those two views, since on the surface, they certainly don't seem to line up too well.

Does he manage to pull it off? In a word, yes. To some people, he does so very convincingly. I wouldn't use his arguments to explain the seemingly jarring nature of my beliefs, however. Read it, and come to your own conclusions. The part of it I question (and throwing this part out probably brings the whole logical house down) is this assertion:

And this is the crux of the libertarian hawk's position: "rights" as such, are not some Cartesian substance that animates the body in the manner of a soul. Rights are a human construct, just like money. The more we believe in them, the better they work. But there are situations in which the currency becomes, uh, devalued. Better said: there are limits to those on whom we can ascribe rights.

We get rights by virtue of some sort of social contract, not from our Creator. In this way, social contract theory splits the difference in many respects between libertarianism and conservatism. The social contract is an idea that people would rationally choose certain constraints on their behavior, constraints which culminate in certain reciprocal rules under which to live. I won't harm you if you won't harm me. We benefit through cooperation. And so forth. Those who would choose the rules enjoy the full benefits they confer.

The Catholic Church would have a problem with these paragraphs, and I do too. There are rights handed down from God to Man, and whether or not they are respected, all people have these rights. At the very least, the rights enjoyed by Americans today have a "kernel" of divine rights that should be respected world-wide. For example, the right to life definitely falls under this umbrella, but the right to bear arms may not. I think that the Declaration of Independence is a good place to start in identifying these God-given rights.

If everyone has these "divine rights", though, where does that leave the world's sole Super Power? If a libertarian respects the State's responsibility to stop a stranger from beating you up for your wallet, then how about the State's responsibility to stop, if possible, an insane tyrannic dictator from killing hundreds of thousands of his people? If people's fundamental rights don't end at our shores, then we must intervene. If you apply these rights evenly, the strong powers of the world have no moral choice -- they must intervene in nations where the State has failed in it's duty to protect those citizen's rights. I see these actions, from a libertarian's perspective, equal to the mugging example given above.

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