Do I Need an (Ideological) Affirmation?

1 February 2007 at 3:49 pm 8 comments

| Steven Postrel |

Arnold Kling has proposed that “libertarian conservatives” form an “Ideological Affirmation Task Force” (IATF) and requested comments on an initial draft of such an affirmation. Borrowing the lingo of Internet governance, he calls this an “IATF RFC.” I loosely qualify to be part of the interested group, so here are a few random thoughts, not a systematic treatise, on his first draft (which is a quick read, so you might want to look at it):

1. Putting “limited government” in the economics section is a bit odd, unless one takes the view that all phenomena are economic phenomena, in which case no heading would be needed. There should be a heading for “political principles” where we talk about the separation of powers, the appropriate system levels at which different decisions should be made, when collective choice is necessary and desirable and when it is not, and the role of various kinds of feedback on decision makers.

2. Under economic principles, affirm that we want rules that steer natural human instincts for achievement, competition, and status into wealth-promoting activities (innovating, discovering and meeting other people’s needs, etc.) rather than wealth-redistributing activities (stealing, rent-seeking, etc.)

3. I like the anti-envy point 4 in the proposal. I think it captures a true distinguishing feature of the Kling-on, lib-con way of looking at the world.

4. I also especially like point 7 under ethics, which captures nicely the Hayekian tension between innovation and tradition.

5. Under international principles, I would like to see an item that says): “We accept the national sovereignty of governments if and only if they a) are capable of maintaining a minimal level of order within their territory and are capable of preventing people on their territory from physically attacking or threatening those outside their territory, and b) are not savagely oppressive of those within their territory. Success in meeting those conditions causes us to grant presumptive sovereignty to governments regardless of actions or votes by international organizations. Failure to meet either of these conditions confers the right, though not the obligation, of outside parties to forcibly replace that government, with or without the concurrence of international organizations, as well as to engage in preventive or punitive military action on their territory. In addition, even unquestionably sovereign governments that choose to attack or facilitate attacks upon our country and people are also legitimately subject to forceful defense and retaliation under the traditional laws of war, though this should always be a last resort.”

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mark Terribile  |  6 February 2007 at 12:43 am

    The last point on making war is more subtle than it seems. Question 1: What constitutes the circumstances of last resort? Do you wait until the barbarians are at the gate? Question 2: What about the indirect approach? On one theory (which is it is probably not productive to debate here) our involvement in Iraq is an attack upon something that the terrorists and their sponsors cannot afford to lose: part of the Arab world which, if it becomes a democracy, will be a greater threat to them than all the world’s cruise missles together. Cruise missiles, on this theory, threaten a state. A working democracy threatens ideas, and it is ideas and emotion that are the terrorist’s great weapon. Thus (on this theory) we threaten their “center of gravity” and force them to fight against soldiers instead of bombing civilians. Whether you agree with this application or not, it’s a valid issue. Question 3: What about support for our allies, and for states that are merely friendly toward us? Maurice Bishop in Grenada merely talked with us and his Marxist backers took over his country. We kicked them out, because (I think) if someone must put himself in jeopardy just to talk to us, he won’t talk to us.

    It’s easy to say that intelligent, responsible statecraft covers this, but the idealogues who star in the mass media circus condemn such things and so do the pupils they reeducate daily. There must be a place for statecraft, and principles to guide it. Such principles must be fundamental enough to cover both the classic arena of statecraft and the new realm of “non-state actors,” be they Hizbollah or Greenpeace, and clear enough that their demands can be understood by someone who has time to read an occasional book.

    National sovereignty is ripe to be revisited by history, either by thoughtful reflection or random, costly, painful evolution. Lee Harris’s essay >Our World-Historical GambleThe Shield of Achilles

  • 2. Mark Terribile  |  6 February 2007 at 12:48 am

    –OOPS– continued from above.

    I forgot that this is HTML, and that angle brackets are Magic. The essay is Lee Harris’s _Our World-Historical Gamble_ and the book is Philip Bobbitt’s massive _The Shield of Achilles_. I consider them both essential reading for this part of the debate.

  • 3. libertreee  |  7 February 2007 at 2:18 am

    I think Mr Postrel is too full of himself regarding his foreign policy proscription. If not the world’s policeman, he sets the US up as judge and jury of other nations. By his reckoning, the US has the right to regime change in most of the world.

    But, at least I can take heart in that by his reckoning, the US has the right to invade Israel. Israel is full of threats to her neighbors, and has not restrained her agents from assassinations whenever the whim occurs…

    I am waiting for the neocon American Enterprise Institute to issue the fatwah any day now…

  • 4. Clay Stiles  |  7 February 2007 at 11:12 am

    It is with much sadness that I contemplate these ideas. Our government today would be unrecognizable to the statesmen who created our Constitution. Why cannot it be our roadmap for libertarian principles? The answer: because our Congress, our Presidents and our Supreme Court have bastardized it to this point. The ideas set forth in it constitute the basis of Libertarian philosophy.
    As an example, the right of women to vote. By amendment, that was changed. Women have had the effect on our culture of making security more important than freedom. In every instance – as has been pointed out by Ann Coulter and Neale Boortz, the women’s vote has resulted in more government and less freedom. We are a feminized culture at this point. i am not advocating a repeal of that amendment as I know the practicalities of that idea. The point that I am making is that without statesmen occupying the 3 branches of our government we are doomed to go the way of the other great domocracies/republics of past ages. A statesman is defined as a person who puts the interests of the nation, as a whole, first instead of self and partisan selfish ends.

  • [...] GOP Tent” (Sebastian Mallaby); “Arnold Kling’s Principles” de Tyler Cowen; “Do I Need an (Ideological) Affirmation?” (Steve Postrel); “Why Be a Conservative Libertarian?” (Arnold Kling); “O Futuro [...]

  • 6. TomGrey  |  8 February 2008 at 11:58 am

    Sorry, if war is a last resort, it will never be used — surrender and death would be tried first.

    In the case of 9/11, acceptance of death without justice.

    Justice requires force, violence, killing, war.
    (Is one year late too late?)

  • 7. Consevadores & Liberais (I) « O Intermitente (R)  |  17 April 2008 at 8:47 am

    [...] GOP Tent” de Sebastian Mallaby “Arnold Kling’s Principles” de Tyler Cowen “Do I Need an (Ideological) Affirmation?” de Steve Postrel  “Why Be a Conservative Libertarian?” de Arnold Kling “O Futuro [...]

  • 8. Why Be a Conservative Libertarian? | DBN  |  10 January 2013 at 6:37 pm

    [...] forward. So far, many interesting comments have been made — see in particular Tyler Cowen and Steve Postrel. I am eager to see what else people have to [...]

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