April 26, 2004

Plus, we've already paid a month's rent on the battlefield
Posted by Jon Henke

Two blog posts are mingling in my head this morning. While each, on its own, makes a good point...I think the most important point is best made by the two, together.

Billy Beck writes...

This man has a grip on the essence of the thing.

"Politics is war by other means."

Fair enough. I agree, too, but now isn't the time to get into the fundamental nature of force, and the reason governments actually came into existence: to ameliorate and/or focus force.

To his point, though. If politics is, indeed, "war by other means", then does that not make non-participants essentially pacifists, unwilling to participate in the war to any meaningful degree? And is there truly any honor in that?

If the philosophy of pacifism, when it comes to war, is a "knowing enabler of evil"- "good men doing nothing writ large" - then on what principle is political pacifism substantially better?

The second blog post expands on this a bit....

I've given up on big-L Libertarianism. The people of this country have had 30 years to get to know the Libertarians, and the results have been about the same as the pimply-faced Chess Club geek asking the Homecoming Queen out for an evening of Dungeons and Dragons.

Doctrinaire Libertarians can keep slamming their foreheads against the wall if they like. Me, I choose -- like the much more successful Green Party -- to pick up allies on an issue-by-issue basis. And -- unlike the Greens -- to always have an eye on liberty and victory.

Distasteful? Oftentimes, yes. Successful? Sometimes. Which is about as often as anyone can hope for success in politics.

Philosophically, one might call that approach "utilitarian libertarianism". Politically, I call it - and my own approach - "Hobbesian libertarian". As Thomas Hobbes wrote "During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man."

I would argue that the presence of a government does not eliminate that condition called "war". It simply focuses the powers fighting that war into different (hopefully, more civilized, less brutal) means.

So, what is the utility - or even principle - on which one can justify non-participation in the political system? Frankly, if one rejects pacifism as a moral philosophy, I have trouble seeing how one can bring it back to life as a political philosophy.

UPDATE: Parked at the Beltway Traffic Jam.



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