Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Divergence of Thought

Although I do not ascribe my political ideology to anything as rigid as a political party it is quite obvious to anyone who is paying attention that my tendency is toward Classic Liberalism. This would seem to call into question my support for Canada’s role in the war in Afghanistan, indeed my acceptance and support of the “War on Terror” in general, but Foreign Affairs and Defence issues are where Libertarianism and I diverge.

First off, true Classic Liberalism forbids the existence of all but the smallest of standing armies, and demands that those armies exist only for the defence of the Nation. There would not even be scope within the Libertarian ideal for most peacekeeping missions, as those missions are usually focused on enforcing the will of the wider world upon the warring factions within a given territory.

In “On Liberty” J.S. Mill wrote A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” I would argue that this sentiment is doubled when the actor is a Nation.

This planet is composed of a community of nations. Each nation acts on its own self-interest but that self-interest does not stop at the border of the country. Nations of the world must be willing and able to defend not only their self-interest at home but interests abroad as well.

A perfect example of this is World War 2. Where would we be now if the nations of the world had held onto the myopic Libertarian ideal of national self defence? Germany, buoyed by its successes in Europe and gathering power as it went could have picked off the remaining nations one by one.

More recently in the former Yugoslavia could any human being embodying the liberal ideals of freedom and basic rights sit idly by and watch as entire races are slaughtered like farm animals? Could we as a Classic Liberal society sit back and watch, not daring to spend our own blood and treasure to stop it? Is it freedom to become a victim of genocide? Is it liberal to allow another human being to fall victim to it?

I can not advocate that we Canadians divorce ourselves from the problems of the world any more than I could, as an individual, watch my next door neighbour be raped and do nothing. There is too much evil in the world, too much tyranny. Edmund Burke said it best when he wrote “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

Nations are no different from individuals; they have a responsibility to defend their ideals, even if sometimes they must fight to the death to do it.

With regard to foreign affairs, Libertarian thought allows for individuals to enter into “treaties” with foreign governments. The idea being that in order for a truly free market to exist, each individual or company must be free to do business with any person, group or government.

So in the context of today, Colt Canada, the makers of the C7 family of weapons in use by the Canadian Forces could enter into a contract to sell those same weapons to the Taliban. Although I would like to believe that based on liberal principal alone, any Company would refuse to sell them weapons, in my heart I know that there are those in this world unscrupulous enough to do it*.

*I am not implying Colt Canada is such a company!

Now a Libertarian would argue that any company that did make such a deal would be punished by the players in the market who, seeing this action as traitorous would themselves refuse to do business with the company. But that punishment would come too late for me. Too many Canadians and too many of our allies would already have paid for the company’s greed on the battlefield.

No, unlimited individual interaction within the free market can not always be permitted. In my mind, in cases of war, limited restrictions on trade can and indeed should be placed on the individual by government. That these special cases would be strictly controlled and bound by legislation is a foregone conclusion, after all, the tendency for government to creep into every aspect daily life must still be guarded against...

Must ALWAYS be guarded against.

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