Inner peace is a tough thing to come by. In between the rush hour-style of life that defines the modern economy, few moments are given to calmness. To be sure, we live with more material abundance than ever before. But it doesn’t come for free. We sacrifice our time and energy to keep up a steady stream of comfortableness. Stress levels may increase, but it’s certainly better than having shot nerves worrying about whether you will have something edible for dinner.
Considering the gains made in our general standard of living, the last thing anyone would seem to need is outward violence. Yet, war and coercion are still a part of life. They are unfortunately seen as the best means to settle some disputes. Currently in Ukraine, protesters are attempting to reform their government with Molotov cocktails. In Venezuela, one form of exploitive socialism is seeking to replace another. Uncle Sam’s playground in the Middle East is still a bubbling cauldron of sectarian violence – much of which is perpetuated by the United States government.
It would seem wherever politics is concerned, so is needless violence. Governments, no matter right-leaning or left-leaning, can’t seem to gorge enough on barbarity. We are told social democracy is the key to establishing peaceful living relations. So why isn’t everything sunshine and dove feathers in places where democracy is home?
During the Bush Administration years, Washington was enamored with conquering the graveyard of empires and its surrounding locales. Liberals were quick to throw charges of “treason” and “Hitlerism” at the White House. Just like during the Vietnam-era, progressives were equated with being utopian peaceniks. With the election of Barack Obama, it was thought the worst excesses of imperial hubris would be curbed. Conservativism was now one with aggressive neoconservatism, and liberalism was supposed to be its antithesis.
Not long after Obama took office, it became clear he had no interest in reining in his predecessor’s military foibles. A troop “surge” was proposed for Afghanistan that had the backing of right-leaning pols and pundits. Where were the once stalwart defenders of peace and liberalism? They came out in full force for their guy’s offensive effort. The result was not peace or an advancement of American interests; just death compounded on top of death. As Andrew Sullivan writes, “Obama sent many more soldiers to their deaths in Afghanistan than Bush did.” But even Sullivan, the conservative-turned-moderate progressive, still concedes Obama was right in the end.
The Sullivan conclusion is how most of Obama’s supporters justify their support for a president who campaigned against foreign hubris but governs in the exact opposite manner. An air strike in Libya, drone wars in Yemen and Pakistan, force-feeding prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, the surge in Afghanistan, NSA spying at home and abroad, boots on the ground in Sudan, and the snuffed military action in Syria – this is the Obama doctrine. And nary a word of criticism is directed at the White House by progressives. Daily Show host Jon Stewart recently took the Obama Administration to task for its drone policy by making apt comparisons to the torture of prisoners that occurred under Bush’s watch. Once again, rabid progressives came to Dear Leader’s defense. It just goes to show the lengths some fools will go to prove themselves correct.
So if leftists no longer inhabit the void of being strictly anti-war, who does? Old-style conservativism is traditionally in favor of a restrained foreign policy. On other issues however, it concedes to aggression. Libertarianism is the only political philosophy that maintains peace above all else. The crazed adherents of the non-aggression principle are the only ones who consistently errs on the side of not hurting others.
Theories are only respectable insomuch as they are consistent. Libertarianism is logical because it doesn’t make excuses for violence against the innocent. Whether domestic policy or foreign policy, real libertarians don’t advocate for theft and violence. It is therefore the only philosophy that can claim the mantle of peace. When a liberal claims their beliefs are rooted in establishing a more harmonious world, you need only ask him: then why is your hand in another’s pocket? Or when a hawkish conservative proposes sanctions on an embattled country to establish a peaceful outcome, he should be pressed: how does coercion equate to tranquility?
Lucky for the right-centrists and neoconservatives, few took them as bongo-bashing hippies with doves tattooed on their forearm. Progressives on the other hands have a reputation of tie-dye tolerance. They are supposed to be in favor of a kind and generous world. The problem is, this peace is acquired by armed soldiers and thuggish bureaucrats. It’s not “peace” at all but rampant statism. The left preaches goodness with a finger on the trigger.
Libertarianism rejects dubious claims of civility. The only way to be peaceful is to not engage in violence, unless it’s in self-defense. This is where all other political theories fail.
Something should be said about the slippery concept of “social justice.” In a perfect world, dignity would be shared by all. Of course, perfection and reality hardly get along. Still, reality isn’t an excuse to not try. To treat others well is an effect of peace, rather than a cause. The same goes for the amicable distribution of resources. In a recent article for First Things, editor Russell Reno makes a good point about inequality in agency. He writes that our common notion of equality doesn’t just pertain to law but also “to describe an inclusive social order, one in which ordinary people count, have a say, and are involved in their society’s consequential activities and decisions.”
Diminishing economic prospects weigh heavily on an individual’s ability to act freely. Economic security is not a right, but there is a right to one’s person. And often times, it’s the bureaucratization of society that strips power from the little guy in favor of the politically-connected. Attaining peace doesn’t just mean limiting global conflict. There are also the interpersonal relationships that form society. The more those are fostered and kept free of coercion, the more humanity flourishes.
As far as political theory is concerned, boosting the esteem of others has little relevance. As Murray Rothbard once wrote, “[P]olitical theory deals with what is proper or improper for government to do…” If monopoly government – or better termed “the state” – is illegitimate because it tramples on property rights, then government should have no role in establishing independent agency for individuals. That’s a personal matter solved only through non-coercive means.
Political theory is not the end-all be-all of civilization. But it clearly has an effect on whether a society is just, prosperous, and tranquil. Since libertarianism eschews the use of force against the innocent, it is sine qua non for any kind of mannerly culture. You can’t be violent and peaceful at the same time. And you can’t be for peace and for aggression at the same time either. That makes libertarianism unique when compared to other political philosophies. It also has the added benefit of being right.