According to non-interventionism, free markets could extend to the sale of weapons on the world market. But, should they?
There seems to be this disconnect whenever an interventionist decides to call libertarians “isolationist.” It’s completely understandable because it goes against the very idea of what libertarians want, which is free markets everywhere and limited government. To suggest this means libertarians are perfectly happy to sit idly by when something horrible happens is a misnomer. I’m not speaking for all libertarians, but I am speaking for myself as a “small-L-libertarian.”
There is nothing wrong with having a military for defensive purposes only. This was a policy Thomas Jefferson held to as the nation prepared for war against the Barbary States. Jefferson told sailors it was okay for them to defend merchant ships against pirate attacks, but not to provoke conflict. Jefferson did ask Congress to declare war, which eventually happened in 1802. This follows the Constitution which requires Congress to declare war, instead of having the president decide, at the drop of the hat, which country to start fighting against. It’s a purposeful phrase in the Constitution because British monarchs could say, “We are at war with ___!” whenever they wanted. Parliament can be consulted on war, but there is never a vote on sending troops into battle.
This is what makes the U.S.’ system of declaring war so unique. There has to be agreement from both Congress and the President before U.S. troops can be the aggressor in a conflict. It’s sadly been a policy Washington, D.C. has ignored for decades.
“When Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan after the 1941 Pearl Harbor attacks, it signified the last time the U.S. officially declared war,” Time‘s Salima Koroma wrote in 2014. “Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq: technically, those were not wars. Those conflicts, and others in between, are considered ‘Extended Military Engagements.’”
Most libertarians are not in favor of the “Extended Military Engagement” philosophy, and prefer making sure Congress agrees on going to war before the President puts the lives of troops at risk. That’s the biggest issue with America’s foreign policy because it’s more focused on being “the aggressive solution” to world affairs, versus asking if it really needs to be involved in “Conflict X.”
The decision by the U.S. to start picking winners and losers, in both economic and foreign policy terms, is one reason why there are countries and people out there who hate America. This is the biggest issue for this libertarian because it doesn’t make sense to get involved in conflicts which aren’t putting American lives at risk. It’s beyond a “hey let’s send troops into Country Y,” but an issue of “hey, let’s spend X amount of cash to surreptitiously supply Government A or Rebel Group B.” This behavior by the government has fomented hatred by certain people in the Middle East, Asia, and even Latin America.
A part of me understands why the U.S. started taking this philosophy after World War II because of the fear of communism. The USSR was obviously an enemy, and the American government want to do all it could to keep its philosophy from spreading. But the question which needs to be asked is whether or not it was a good idea for the U.S. to give (or sell) weapons to certain leaders. Why couldn’t the U.S. sit there and say, “If an individual business wants to sell weapons to Country Z it should be allowed to”? This type of action allows individuals decide what they do with their lives, instead of the government getting involved. It would mean a business runs the risk of being exposed by the media for their action, but there’s nothing wrong with this. Actions have consequences, and certainly there would be consequences if it ever came out a business was selling arms to a dictator. They’d probably lose business and could end up having contracts with other places canceled. Why it’s okay for the U.S. government to sell arms to groups, but not okay for individuals to, doesn’t make sense. The Constitution was signed to put limits on the government, not limits on individuals. The only way it becomes a problem is when individuals are hurting someone, taking their stuff, or their liberty.
This is where free markets come in. The free market allows people to buy and sell whatever they want to whomever they want. It gives people the chance to better their lives. But it also means the market isn’t going to be the same in different places. There will always be places where wealth exists and places where scarcity exists. But it doesn’t mean people can’t trade items to get what they need, without the government being involved. Free markets give people the chance to improve their lives one way or the other. It doesn’t need government to “level the playing field,” but to stay out of the way so people can get what they need and want. It gets even better when businesses try to improve the lives of everyone, like Charles Koch described to The Washington Post.
Well, I don’t like the idea of capitalism anyway. Because it’s not capital we are talking about; it’s knowledge and creating well-being. Because I mean, that gets people on the wrong track when it’s capital and how we allocate capital – no. How do we create the Republic of Science here? How do we have a system of mutual benefits where people succeed by helping others improve their lives? So I don’t like that at all…
It’s like we treat employees here. We want to reward you not only monetarily, but including the value you create here, because we want you to create more value. We don’t want to put a ceiling on it because we don’t want you to put a ceiling on the value. And that’s what we want in society. If somebody is doing more and more to make other people’s lives better, have them make all they can, if that’s what drives them, because that’s what we want.
This is what free markets are and why they’re so important. It’s also how the U.S. can change its ways foreign policy wise. Not at the barrel of a gun or intervening in every which doesn’t have an impact on national security, but by letting people do what they want and helping whoever they want.