(Note: these are responses to this post.)
To the good gentleman representing the Libertarian community of Los Angeles:
I very much appreciate the niceties, but I don’t represent any community; I only speak for myself. If others agree, I welcome them - but that is their choice (and they are not limited by geography).
In reference to hipsterlibertarian’s use of “WE,” I believe the hipster knows it’s the government doing it, not the people of the United States. But understanding the basics of representative government, the administration has in fact been elected by a majority of the people and so they do have the authority as such to carry out nation-to-nation relations on our behalf, and in this case, to impose sanctions. Despite thinking that the hipster may have mis-spoken, he is not error.
“Representative government” without the unanimous consent of the governed in every aspect the so-called government claims to have authority is a sham. Democracy is illegitimate. Majority rule is tyranny.
Kindly take a few minutes to read my post “On the Illegitimacy of Democracy” (as well as “Self-Ownership Isn’t Conditional on the Agreements of Past Generations”, “Re: Silly Libertarians”, and “Re: Libertarian Basics”). Then take a look at just some of Rothbard’s thoughts on democracy here and here. If that’s still not enough, try Spooner, Nozick, Mencken, and Hoppe.
The short of it is this: no person or group of persons, even if they call themselves “government,” may initiate force or fraud against a peaceful person or group of persons. This is because - although a person may relinquish certain authority over one’s life or hire another to perform a task on his behalf - no person or group of persons, even if they call themselves “government,” may be empowered to do something others may not.
If it is improper for you to break down your neighbor’s door, put a gun to his head, rip him away from his family, confiscate his property, and put him in a cage with violent criminals (who may rape him) simply for participating in a peaceful activity you happen to not like, then how can you empower a third party to do the same?
But more to the point: even if most people agree that such a penalty would be proper against your neighbor’s activity, if your neighbor did not agree to those terms then how can he be under any obligation to them?
Those who didn’t vote at all cannot be said to have consented to the outcome of the vote. Those who voted against the candidate or policy cannot be said to have consented to the outcome.
(Your claim that “the administration has in fact been elected by a majority of the people,” is, in fact, false. Even after historic voter turnout, Barack Obama’s 66.5 million votes represents only 21.8% of the total population of 305 million.)
But even some of those who voted for the candidate or policy cannot be said to have consented to the repercussions of the result. For starters, a policy’s implementation can be reinterpreted by those in power in a way counter to expectations, and a candidate can change his position after the election. I’m sure some Obama supporters would have made a different choice (including not choosing at all) if they had known that the so-called peace president would kill civilians daily, the so-called transparency candidate would deny more FOIA requests than anyone, the whistle-blower supporter would lock away Bradley Manning, the champion of minority causes would deport more immigrants in three years than Bush in eight, the constitutional scholar would sign the NDAA, Patriot Act, ACTA, and the death warrants of Americans “tried” without due process.
Then, there’s the matter of voting for “lesser of two evils.” As Rothbard explained, such terms - choosing between evils - are never used by people when they act freely for themselves: “No one thinks of his new suit or refrigerator as an “evil”—lesser or greater. In such cases, people think of themselves as buying positive “goods,” not as resignedly supporting a lesser bad. The point is that the public never has the opportunity of voting on the State system itself; they are caught up in a system in which coercion over them is inevitable.”
So we’ve got those who didn’t vote, those who voted against, those who voted for an idealized version that never materialized, those who simply voted for the lesser of two evils and never truly agreed with specific policies, and even those who may have changed their minds for any other reason.
The will of the people, therefore, is not reflected in the state.
And even if it can be said that an enthusiastic majority support the state and the elected rulers, it is still, as stated previously, tyranny over the minority.
So even in the most gracious interpretation of representative democracy, the government is not “we.” The state is not society. I have no doubt whatsoever hipsterlibertarian knows that “it’s the government doing it, not the people of the United States.” She’s incredibly bright and, doubtless, it was simply an oft-used turn of phrase. But, employing the word “we” is rhetorically dangerous. It falsely conflates the state with society so that the actions of the state may be said to be representative of the will of the people. Often, they’re merely the will of the politicians, plutocrats, and corporatists who stand to gain most. Especially when it comes to atrocities that one clearly does not support, it’s crucial to make the distinction.
Sanctions are not an act of war. In fact, they are a very weak soft control mechanism used to prevent it. Sanctions along with embargoes are legal ways to limit trade. The UN has consistently supported sanctions when countries have not ‘played well with others.’ I don’t think such an esteemed organization would do so if they considered it an act of war.
Another blogger, tofamoustocare, echoes your sentiment:
Those sanctions are NOT an act of war. That is just utter nonsense. How is not giving someone something “an act of war”? …
This is exactly why I stressed that the state is not “we.” Just as the U.S. government becomes a proxy for the myriad individuals within its borders, so does the Iranian government become proxy for the myriad individuals within theirs.
If person A wants to peacefully exchange goods with person B, it is of no concern to anyone else. If someone in Iran wants to buy a bag of pencils from someone in Kentucky, and a third party interferes through force (imposes sanctions) - then that third party is committing aggression.
If Iran imposed sanctions on the United States and the many individuals within its borders, would it not be considered an act of war? It was economic sanctions, after all, that provoked Japan to attack Pearl Harbor.
It is free and open trade that promotes peace, not threats and impediments to free exchange. As Bastiat said, “when goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.”
(Oh, and there’s nothing esteemed about the U.N. It’s merely another governmental entity complete with taxes, bureaucrats, courts, and a standing army. It is, functionally, a global government that places itself above even the autonomy of other states, and thus has even less concern for the will of the people (that is, individual will). Just like all states, it often serves to grant favors for connected cronies, supports cartels and despots when profitable, and prevents peace by obstructing trade. The U.N. has even less legitimacy than the U.S.)
If a kid keeps spitting at you when you try to invite him to the kickball game it’s okay if we don’t offer him our peanut butter cookie.
I don’t even know how to interpret these silly contortions. I’m assuming the “kid” is Iran. But what’s the “kickball game”? And how are they “spitting”? Wouldn’t it just be easier to stop inviting the kid to the kickball game since he clearly doesn’t want to go? And what’s “our peanut butter cookie”? Again, this is the danger in looking at states as an aggregate of the people themselves.
Iran may or may not be working on a nuclear weapon. So far the threat is very implausible, much less actionable. Even if it were, who is the United States - the only entity to have used nuclear weapons against a population and subsequently killed hundred of thousands, mostly civilians - to decide how other countries arm themselves?
If there is an imminent threat of attack, then most people would understand aggressive action in defense. (tofamoustocare believes that the true purpose of the sanctions is in response to funding terrorists and not the stated purpose of preventing the development of a nuclear weapon - the argument still stands.) But obstructing the peaceful exchange of individuals only escalates problems. The average American has no quarrel with the average Iranian. If the states and rulers don’t like each other, they should leave us out of it. Your support of their interventions only fosters the resentment that leads to antagonism. After all, no one seems to bother with Switzerland because the Swiss prefer not to meddle.
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