One of the most notable aspects of the libertarian movement is the dearth of articles, books, and speeches calling for the dismantling of America’s national-security state and the restoration of our nation’s founding governmental system of a limited-government republic.
If you have any doubts about this assertion, just take a close look at all the libertarian books that have been published in the last five years. Or watch the speeches and interviews that libertarians deliver. Or the many libertarian articles, both on the Internet and the mainstream press.
You will notice that virtually none of them ever call for dismantling the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex, the CIA, and the NSA, all of which are the principal components of America’s national-security state.
Oh sure, they’ll call for ending America’s “endless wars.” They will wax eloquent about the horrible consequences of foreign interventionism. They call for “bringing the troops home,” just as some conservatives and progressives do.
But they never call for discharging those troops when those endless wars are ended and those troops are brought home. They want them to remain on active duty here in the United States. They express no objection to a massive well-armed garrison state here at home. Indeed, when was the last time you read any article written by a libertarian or heard a speech by a libertarian calling for the closure of domestic military bases?
Why is this? After all, libertarians generally profess to favor “limited government” or even the absence of government. Why then the reticence to call for the dismantling of the national-security state form of governmental structure?
After all, a national-security state is the precise opposite of limited government. Given its omnipotent powers of assassination, secret surveillance, coups, regime-change operations, kidnappings, secret prison and torture camps, indefinite detention, torture, denial of due process, and denial of trial by jury, a national-security state is a perfect example of unlimited government.
It’s important to recall that America was founded as a limited government republic, one with just a basic, relatively small army. That’s the way it was for more than 150 years. No Pentagon, no vast military establishment, no foreign military bases, no CIA, and no NSA.
In fact, if the promoters of the Constitution had told Americans that the Constitution was going to bring into existence a national-security state, there is no possibility that Americans would have permitted the ratification of the Constitution. That would have meant that America would have continued operating under the Articles of Confederation, a type of governmental structure in which the federal government’s powers were so weak, by design, that it hadn’t even been given the power to tax.
So, why don’t libertarians call for the restoration of a limited-limited republic to our land and the end of a national-security state?
The answer lies in the tremendous influence that conservatives have had on the libertarian movement.
The libertarian movement began as a radical movement — radical in the sense that it favored a genuinely free society — that is, one in which infringements on liberty were removed, not reformed. Thus, libertarians would make the principled case for removing, nor reforming, infringements on liberty.
Over time, however, conservatives who were disenchanted with the conservative movement flooded into the libertarian movement. In the process, they brought much of their conservative baggage with them.
Much of that conserve baggage involved domestic issues, such as Social Security and Medicare and immigration controls. Such conservatives were as committed to preserving these socialist institutions as progressives were.
But the conservative baggage wasn’t limited to domestic issues. It also entailed support for foreign interventionism, foreign empire, and the conversion in the late 1940s of the federal government to a national security state. The fact is that conservatives and conservative-oriented libertarians love the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA.
Over time, the conservative-leaning libertarians have become a dominant force in the libertarian movement. They have convinced many radical libertarians that their cause is hopeless and futile. They say Americans will never embrace genuine liberty. They said that libertarians need to settle for “reform” in order to gain the respectability of the mainstream press and mainstream Americans. They have convinced many libertarians to abandon “radical” libertarianism and to settle for reforming the welfare-warfare state way of life that conservatives and progressives had brought into existence.
That’s why many libertarians today are now in the “save Social Security and Medicare” camp, in the “pro-immigration-control” camp, or in the “reform public schooling” camp. In the process, they have effectively embraced the welfare-state way of life, given that their calls for ending welfare programs they oppose naturally fall on deaf ears,
So far, the conservative-leaning libertarians within the movement have been unsuccessful in persuading libertarians to abandon their opposition to foreign wars and foreign interventions. But they have been tremendously successful in inducing libertarians to abandon their commitment to the restoration of a limited-government republic. They have persuaded many radical libertarians to make peace with the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex, the CIA, and the NSA and, through their silence acquiescence, support their permanent existence in America’s governmental structure.
In the process, such libertarians continue to advance “freedom.” The big problem, of course, is that genuine freedom is impossible under a national-security state form of governmental structure.
Posted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.