Foreign Policy Creationism

Jon Henke on Libertarian Intervention:

What Balko--and the Isolationist Libertarians--seem to forget is that inaction has consequences, too. What would have been the consequences of inaction with respect to the Iraq invasion of Kuwait? What would be the consequences of a world with no Superpower to enforce moderation? Actually, we don’t have to wonder - that was, essentially, the case in Europe for much of the past few centuries. And the past few centuries in European history were -- perhaps not coincidentally -- filled with quite a lot of war. Without a moderating Authority -- read: Superpower -- as enforcer of last resort, international relations can quickly become Lord of the Flies.

What would be the consequences of a United States with no strong federal government to regulate the market? Actually, we dont have to wonder - that was, essentially, the case in our country for much of the 19th century, until FDR did away with the largely unfettered free market. And the 19th century in American history was -- perhaps not coincidentally -- filled with quite a lot of market abuses. Without a moderating Authority -- read: Superpower -- as enforcer of last resort, economic relations can quickly become Lord of the Flies.

Don Boudreaux recently observed what Glen Whitman later dubbed "Left-Wing Creationism." Wrote Don,

Creationism apparently is natural to the human mind, for so many people find it impossible to think of the world in any way other than as if it and all that is in it are the products of a single force – a single, intentional uncaused cause that creates our world. ...

But the bluest blue-state left-“liberal” atheist oughtn’t be too quick with the self-congratulatory praise of his or her own rational faculties. Most left-liberals are pure creationists when it comes to society and social order. For them, government is the creator of order – of high wages, of safe working conditions, of safe food and drink, of fair prices, of good education, of trustworthy physicians, accountants, and butchers, of peace, commerce, culture, and civility itself.

Don is describing creationism as it applies to economics. But we see the same phenomenon, on both the left and the right -- and now even among "libertarian hawks," if such a beast exists -- in the context of foreign policy. Despite the fact that (thankfully) there is not, nor has there ever been a single world government, many people believe that international order can only exist if commanded by a single authority -- read: Superpower -- as enforcer of last resort.

I suggested one possible explanation, taken from evolutionary psychology, for why so many have difficulty with the idea of spontaneous order in my post "Human Action, Not Human Design."

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Here's a direct foil to the

Here's a direct foil to the Henke quote: The unique thing about Europe the last few centuries is not a whole lotta war, but rather the unprecedented industrial and scientific revolutions. Now imagine some superpower had been "moderating" the contient all that time. We don't have to imagine the consquences -- see Qing China and the Ottoman Empire over the same time period and their impact on East Asia and the Middle East respectively.

Micha, Yea, federal


Yea, federal intervention in the 19th century was far less then what we see today. However, there was indeed a tremendous amount of intervention. Things like Hamilton's National Bank and giving land to the railroads jump immediately to mind.

A reading of federal and state legislative action throughout the century should make most free market advocates cry!

Oh, how about limited liability corporations? I'm still trying to figure out just how such things could exist in a free market, libertarian economy.

In international relations

In international relations what you see is the alpha male struggle writ large.

The current preferred solution is to let local elections take the place of violent tests of strength.

It is rememberances of what happened in the tribe a long time ago (the losers got killed or put on short rations) that makes the struggle in the last few days before an election and the first few after so hysterical.

To keep the lesser alpha males in line a super male is required. One so dominant that the idea of a fight is unthinkable to a rational actor. We are getting closer. The super male must be seen as an order bringer not a dominator or the lesser males will unite against him. The US of A mostly fills the bill.

The last two European

The last two European superpowers were Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

- Josh