It has recently occured to me that as a group, we libertarians are a bunch of peaceniks. We may talk tough about self-defense and bearing arms and forming militias and so on, but really, we don’t want to engage in fights at all, let alone start them. We’ve got better things to do, like discuss philosophy or tinker with 3-D printers or smoke cannabis. As the pseudonymous dL puts it in this post, “Live and Let Live” is a big part of what it means to value liberty. We like life, and we hate war. Oh, how we hate war. As Randolph Bourne put it in The State, “War is the health of the state”, and oh, how we hate the state. One of our more popular sites is Antiwar.com, and they mean business. We libertarians just hate war.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “So what? Everyone hates war. You think you’re special for hating it or something? Do you think that non-libertarians like war?” And not so long ago, I’d have said something about how I think you actually hate war just as much as we do, but you just haven’t figured out how to get rid of it. But that was then, and this is now, and in between then and now, I changed my mind. Now, I don’t think you hate war as much as you think you do. I also don’t think I hate it as much as I think I do. And this poses a big problem for all of us.
My motive for changing my mind was a thorough reading of the writings of the War Nerd, alias Gary Brecher, real name John Dolan, currently writing for Pando Daily. The War Nerd does not write happy stuff. He’s entertaining, that’s for sure, but it’s dark, sick humor, reveling in humanity’s awful sins. He’ll tell you about rape, genocide, suicide bombings, and starvation, and then he’ll tell you about the practical applications of all those things and how much fun it is to watch it all. He’s like a real-life Major from Hellsing.
Now if the War Nerd were just a sick freak who really likes war, I could write him off as an entertaining loony, reading his stuff when I felt like a grim laugh. But he’s no ordinary bloodthirsty creep. He’s a smart, honest, well-read bloodthirsty creep with a message for all of us. His message is: “War is normal. War is part of the human condition. We like it – it’s fun.”
He documents his mad statements extremely well, and he’s shown some predictive power in interpreting and forecasting events. In other words, he understands what’s going on, and he helps us to understand if we listen. So I have been listening, and I don’t think I have a case against his argument. So here I am, facing the fact that if I do indeed hate war, I’m in the minority here.
But there’s a further implication to War Nerd’s message. Remember the quote from Randolph Bourne: “War is the health of the state”. Remember also the old message from Smedley Butler: “War is a racket”. And then the message from War Nerd: “War is normal”. In other words, the State (our enemy) is normal. The big racket is normal. It’s a fundamental part of who we are, and we can’t get rid of it.
Broadly, three positions can be taken on the matter. The state is either a necessity, or a convenience; or it is an imposition shored up by the delusion that it is necessary or convenient.
As the title suggests, de Jasay argues in favor of the last view, that the state is an imposition shored up by delusions. This is a view I tend to agree with. But now, I feel that the delusions that shore up the state are very strong indeed, and not easily dispelled. This leads us to a terrible state of affairs. What Bourne called “frenzied mutual suicide” turns out to be unavoidable. We refuse to stop doing the things that lead to our destruction.
But even as I write this, I refuse to despair. I like my liberty, and I like my peace, and I like my honest business, and I don’t want to give up so easily on these things. But I must face facts as they are: these are precious resources that come at a high price, and you have to be smart about protecting them.
From here, I see two broad strategies, with some overlap between the two. The one strategy, I shall call “Sewer Socialism”, after the movement of the same name. I define this as the view that states and statism are both bad and permanent, but that we can still work within them and guide them towards good ends. The motto of this view could be: “The State: it stinks, but at least it gets things done.” I think that the various Pirate Parties of the world work within this strategy. You can’t end the State, and you can’t really fix it, but you can polish it up and make it more bearable. The other strategy, I shall call “Counter-Economics”, borrowing the term from the New Libertarian Manifesto by Samuel E. Konkin III. This is the view that we can “route around” the state, in the way that the Internet is said to “route around damage”. You can’t end the state or fix it, but you can avoid it, and you can live without it. If Sewer Socialism is fitting in, Counter-Economics is bugging out, hiding out in the catacombs and dealing with it. Sewer Socialism tries to legalize a few drugs and reduce the punishments for drug-related crimes. Counter-Economics tries to make it easier to buy and sell drugs without getting caught. Both of them work together to make it easier for you to get your drugs.
The thing to realize here is that the State is not just going to go away and let you do your drugs in peace. War is inevitable, and that includes the War on Drugs, which is just the State asserting its ownership of your body. Don’t expect it to vanish. It won’t. Humans won’t let it. We like it too much. Learn to deal with it. State oppression is like death. You don’t have to like it, and you can put it off and make it more bearable, but sooner or later it’s going to happen to you and everyone else. It’s just part of being human.