Brian Holtz: Defining and Measuring Libertarianism

Posted by Brian Holtz at Libertarian Intelligence and in IPR comments:



Not having a binary litmus test for libertarianism doesn’t mean that one thinks the term is meaningless. Just because I can’t tell you what number of hairs you need to be non-bald doesn’t mean I think only the absolutely hairless are bald. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorites_paradox.

That said, the draft St. Louis Accord arguably smuggles in both a threshold definition of libertarian and a metric for libertarian-ness. A person is a libertarian if he “wants more personal and economic liberty” and thus distinguishes himself from both the Left and the Right. A person is more libertarian to the extent that he “defends the full rights of each person to his body, labor, peaceful production, and voluntary exchanges” and shares the “ultimate goal of banishing force initiation and fraud from human relationships”. I’m not saying that this threshold is deterministically binary, or that this metric imposes a total order on the set of all libertarians, because I don’t think anybody can seriously claim that either is possible.

I dispute that the LP needs any more machinery for litmus-testing its representatives. Those who advocate more such machinery need to explain precisely how it would work (feel free to dry-run it on me), and in particular why it would do a better job than the Pledge and Statement of Principles have done in dissuading the LP from choosing insufficiently-libertarian representatives.

LP representatives should generally be free to disagree with any of the 27 planks of the platform, as long as they clearly advocate substantially more personal and economic liberty and don’t mislead people about what policies the LP advocates. For a long list of issues on which the LP itself has taken no stand, see http://libertarianmajority.net/free-variables-in-libertarian-theory.

Update by Brian Holtz: One way to numerically score your libertarian-ness is to take my online test by clicking this image:

Readers are invited to report their score below, and litmus-testers are invited to say what scores (or answers) they’d require.  My score is, not surprisingly, 100/100.

114 thoughts on “Brian Holtz: Defining and Measuring Libertarianism

  1. Eric Sundwall

    I’m happy if voters have the option to enroll/register Libertarian and candidates have a shot at ballot access. Politics is compromise, an ‘ism’ is an ideology. . . . am I being bi-polar ?

  2. Robert Milnes

    The Libertarian Party is dominated by rightists of various types. This skews policy, platform and candidates etc. To the point of being marginally or even not libertarian. The Libertarian Party has a responsibility to require that all party officials actually be libertarians. I have proposed a bylaw to that effect to be implemented by a Peer Review Board. This should be done as soon as possible to avoid another catastrophe like 2008. Bob Barr should never have been an approved candidate. Ron Paul-out of the question. The difference is the difference between a progressive/revolutionary LP and a reactionary/counterrevolutionary LP.

  3. Robert Milnes

    cont. And Candidates actually be libertarians. Anyone can claim they are a libertarian and join the party. First to be approved should be the Peer Review Board by some sort of exclusive panel. Peer Review could be confidential but not its conclusion-obviously.

  4. Aroundtheblockafewtimes

    Mr. Milnes is free to set up a Peer Review Board and release its findings at any state or national convention. In fact, there needs to be more information available to delegates selecting party officers and nat com members. The parade of seekers saying “I will do this and I will do that” needs to be tempered by someone saying, but “he’s never done that when given the opportunity on the state level” or “she’s been so bad a regional leader these ten former state chairs endorse someone else.”

  5. Proof in the Pudding

    That test just proved my point. The Green Party is very close to COMMUNISM. The only party that comes close on this test is the Constitution Party. AGAIN I STATE MY CASE. The New Whig party, Boston Tea Party, and the Constitution party should get together and make a great big party and some of the 1/4 differents should be put aside to get 3rd party in office.

  6. Don't make a mistake

    I do agree however, I DO NOT WANT someone to claim being a libertarian and become a Candidate for the libertarian party and then end up giving the party a bad name because some of the people are stupid enough to do that.
    NO LIBERALS PERIOD.

  7. Michael H. Wilson

    Brian why don’t you have anythingf about subsidizing foreign governments, or did I miss it and how do you define an adult?
    Thanks

  8. mdh

    The idea of creating machinations for litmus-testing potential leaders strikes me as flawed for a lot of the same reasons that “secure borders” are flawed. An election process (perhaps with a more effective/efficient voting method than we have now, but that’s a whole other discussion) is probably our best bet. Become educated about your LNC candidates, kids!

  9. Brian Holtz

    There are a few issues that don’t fit into the two Nolan-chart dimensions of economic and liberty: e.g. foreign policy, immigration, and franchise issues (like when is a fetus a person, or when is a child an adult).

    Adulthood is intentionally left imprecise in the quiz. My own position is that communities may choose the age, between 14 and 18 years, at which a person is no longer rebuttably presumed to be a child, and instead is rebuttably presumed to be an adult.

    Matt, I agree that elections are the only formal litmus test the LP needs.

  10. paulie Post author

    Brian@11,

    The lack of a dimension for foreign policy is, I think, the biggest problem with the Nolan quiz concept.

    3-d is tougher to model on paper, but we should have a 3-d Nolan chart which adds foreign policy as an additional axis. Big government abroad is just as dangerous as big government at home, and one always leads to the other.

  11. paulie Post author

    Mistake,

    See https://independentpoliticalreport.com/2009/09/green-party-watch-is-there-hope-for-a-greenlibertarian-alliance/

    Actually read the post and the links I included, not just the comments.

    And I’d ally with the Green Party long before I’d ally with the theocrats and migrant-bashers.

    On the scale of bad things government can do to people, mass murder through war or domestic extermination is the worst (akin to mass murder when done by non-government entities); social repression is the second worst, akin to rape; and economic repression is least worst of the three, akin to robbery.

  12. Michael Seebeck

    Don’t @7:

    You just stated the big (if not the biggest) reason to oppose top-two balloting in CA…

  13. mdh

    Realistically, I think we have a lot of common ground with the CP, though. I strongly disagree with some of their stances – banning porn and prostitution, GLBT issues, border policy, and protectionist trade policies – but they are anti-war, anti-interventionist, they support sound monetary policies, ending a lot of regulations that stifle business, etc.

    We also have a lot in common with the GP. They’re also anti-war, support human rights (sometimes in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons, though), an end to prohibition, and legalizing sex work. On the other hand, I strongly disagree with some of their positions such as a support of maintaining certain discriminatory practices, and their overall collectivist feel.

    At the end of the day I think the most important issue on which all three parties should come together on is opposition to war. The Dems and Reps are both pro-war parties, and the LP, CP, and GP are all anti-war parties. This is our biggest single issue opportunity.

  14. paulie Post author

    @17

    Good point.

    After peace, my next priority is civil liberties, which is why I personally ally more with Greens than Constitutionalists, but I’ll generally take any of the three over the corporate-warmonger parties.

  15. Michael H. Wilson

    @ 17 mdh writes: “At the end of the day I think the most important issue on which all three parties should come together on is opposition to war. The Dems and Reps are both pro-war parties, and the LP, CP, and GP are all anti-war parties. This is our biggest single issue opportunity.”

    The number of civilians who have died from foreign intervention by the U.S. since the end of WWII is probably in the 2 million plus range.

    That is a serious violation of human rights and liberty.

    I just wish that as you say “This is our biggest single issue opportunity” that the national office would pay attention to this issue.

    The costs to the American worker who has to support this with tax dollars is huge.

    Lives, liberty and treasure down the drain.

  16. Brian Holtz

    1) The “peace” issue is very divisive among libertarians. “Give me peace or give me death” etc. Revisionism about WWII and the Civil War may help us get our iconoclasm on, but marginalizing the freedom movement gives aid and comfort to the nanny state.

    2) The elections of 2000 and 2004 provide empirical evidence that the antiwar issue doesn’t grow the LP:
    http://knowinghumans.net/2007/06/anti-war-doesnt-grow-lp.html

    3) War is obsolete. See Steven Pinker at http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/pinker07/pinker07_index.html. The Cold War is over. Democracy has spread widely, and democracies generally don’t start wars. The world is developing rapidly, and developed countries generally don’t start wars. Starting with the agricultural revolution, one of the most cost-effective ways for a rich polity to get richer was to conquer territory in order to control the non-capital factors of production associated with it: arable land, natural resources, and unskilled labor. This ceased being true sometime around the middle of the twentieth century, because of the massive shift in the relative productivity of 1) land and natural resources and coercible labor versus 2) harder-to-coerce human capital and fragile technological capital. Plundering invasions by industrialized nations will pretty much never happen again and will probably not even be attempted again, because they aren’t cost-effective in the context of modern economic and political institutions.

  17. paulie Post author

    The “peace” issue is very divisive among libertarians.

    Yes, because A) it isn’t a dimension on our standard filtering quiz (I think it should be, except that it is difficult to model on paper – less the case now with computers) and B) The LP has deemphasized it in order to appeal more to disgruntled Republicans.

    The elections of 2000 and 2004 provide empirical evidence that the antiwar issue doesn’t grow the LP

    The antiwar issue was never emphasized by the LP in those elections.

    War is obsolete.

    Not to the many millions of people living and dying in warzones all over the world. Not to governments such as the US, which spend trillions preparing, training, arming and fighting in wars every year. Not to all the people maimed, made homeless, and driven out of their minds by their experiences as soldiers and civilians in warzones.

  18. mdh

    Brian, were you specifically parodying a bunch of untruthes? While 1 and 2 were subjective analyses – ones which I disagree with, but nonetheless – number 3 is full of factually inaccurate statements and just doesn’t make sense at all.

  19. libertariangirl

    BH_1) The “peace” issue is very divisive among libertarians.

    me_ you say that like its ok or acceptable. its not . The LP SHOULD BE leading the antiwar movement

  20. libertariangirl

    BH_war is obsolete

    me_ you seriously didnt say that.

    what about the people dying today , i wonder how many innocents the US will kill in Somalia , Iraq , Pakistan, etc . not to mention all the wars worldwide the US isnt involved in .

    seriously B , thats the dumbest thing youve ever said. one article by some dude is not proof war is obsolete .

  21. libertariangirl

    peace is a divisive issue …
    ahahahahaha , somethins wrong if thats true

    peace , divisive , dear god how deep is this rabithole

  22. Brian Holtz

    Peace/defense wouldn’t stop dividing Libertarians just because the issue got added to The Quiz or was promoted more by LP HQ. Until you can find us data showing that a supermajority of Libertarians are revisionists about WWII and the Civil War — i.e. say that wars worth fighting don’t ever really happen — then Libertarians will continue having disagreements about when the U.S. military should act.

    Pinker’s analysis stands unrebutted. I’ll quote him:

    “Global violence has fallen steadily since the middle of the twentieth century. According to the Human Security Brief 2006, the number of battle deaths in interstate wars has declined from more than 65,000 per year in the 1950s to less than 2,000 per year in this decade. In Western Europe and the Americas, the second half of the century saw a steep decline in the number of wars, military coups, and deadly ethnic riots.

    Zooming in by a further power of ten exposes yet another reduction. After the cold war, every part of the world saw a steep drop-off in state-based conflicts, and those that do occur are more likely to end in negotiated settlements rather than being fought to the bitter end. Meanwhile, according to political scientist Barbara Harff, between 1989 and 2005 the number of campaigns of mass killing of civilians decreased by 90 percent.”

    Badnarik was an antiwar candidate in 2004. Of his four campaign commercials that I found online, only one didn’t mention the war, while two of them made it their focus. Watch this one: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5962025631321697644&hl=en

    I repeat: in 2004 there were about 2.6M voters up for grabs who in 2000 had voted for pro-peace third-party candidates and who in 2004 rejected Nader/Reform/Constitution. They thus chose among 1) the pro-war major parties, 2) anti-war Badnarik, and 3) NOTA. How many of them did Badnarik attract? Virtually none, since Badnarik’s results were almost indistinguishable from Browne’s in 2000. That’s right, these 2.6M proven third-party voters either voted for a pro-war major party, or stayed home. It’s hard to imagine better empirical evidence that emphasizing our anti-war position is not the best way grow the LP.

    The antiwar issue has lost even more steam since then:

  23. paulie Post author

    Peace/defense wouldn’t stop dividing Libertarians just because the issue got added to The Quiz or was promoted more by LP HQ.

    Yes, it would take a while, since change happens incrementally, but if peace/military aggression was added as a dimension on the quiz and promoted by LPHQ, after several years I predict that “liberventionists” would be about as big a faction in the LP as those who agree with Mike Gravel on economics or Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson on social policy.

  24. paulie Post author

    the number of battle deaths in interstate wars has declined from more than 65,000 per year in the 1950s to less than 2,000 per year in this decade.

    This does not take into account civilian deaths, or for that matter off-battlefield deaths caused by battlefield events.

  25. Michael H. Wilson

    Well Brian two things. I don’t think Badnarik was very vocal about being against any war.
    Number two, the biggest free riders currently are Germany, Japan, Korea, England, Italy and all the other countries where we maintain our troops. Our troops spend a lot of money abroad and the DoD buys a lot abroad and employs a lot of foreign workers.

  26. paulie Post author

    Meanwhile, according to political scientist Barbara Harff, between 1989 and 2005 the number of campaigns of mass killing of civilians decreased by 90 percent.

    I’d like to know more about this. It contradicts much of what I have read.

  27. paulie Post author

    Badnarik was an antiwar candidate in 2004. Of his four campaign commercials that I found online, only one didn’t mention the war, while two of them made it their focus.

    I doubt Badnarik’s commercials reached very many people or formed their impression of the LP.

  28. paulie Post author

    Starting with the agricultural revolution, one of the most cost-effective ways for a rich polity to get richer was to conquer territory in order to control the non-capital factors of production associated with it: arable land, natural resources, and unskilled labor.

    Wars didn’t start with the agricultural revolution. They are an extension of territorial behavior among animals, and have been fought with weapons for as long as humans have made use of opposable thumbs, if not longer.

    They are a function of the reptilian and pre-reptilian brain core, and are far from always being economically rational.

  29. paulie Post author

    Brian, it looks like your figures exclude a lot of spending that is in one way or another war-related.

    Also, what I said was “Not to governments such as the US, which spend trillions preparing, training, arming and fighting in wars every year.” That means not just the US, but all governments put together.

    You also say, “Badnarik doesn’t make a commercial like that unless it’s one of his very top issues. ”

    Badnarik didn’t make his commercials. I would guess offhand that, of those people who made an impression of the LP based on the Badnarik campaign, far more would have seen him interviewed in print, web, radio or TV, seen him in person, etc., than seen his commercials.

  30. Brian Holtz

    Paulie, Pinker’s data about sharply declining levels of violence in human history show that wars are not a deterministic outcome of our evolutionary wiring.

    I didn’t say wars started with the agricultural revolution, but of course war as we know it is impossible in hunter-gatherer societies that lack food production. However, Pinker’s data show that such stateless societies have something far worse than modern war:

    Here’s Pinker again:

    Contra leftist anthropologists who celebrate the noble savage, quantitative body-counts—such as the proportion of prehistoric skeletons with axemarks and embedded arrowheads or the proportion of men in a contemporary foraging tribe who die at the hands of other men—suggest that pre-state societies were far more violent than our own. It is true that raids and battles killed a tiny percentage of the numbers that die in modern warfare. But, in tribal violence, the clashes are more frequent, the percentage of men in the population who fight is greater, and the rates of death per battle are higher. According to anthropologists like Lawrence Keeley, Stephen LeBlanc, Phillip Walker, and Bruce Knauft, these factors combine to yield population-wide rates of death in tribal warfare that dwarf those of modern times. If the wars of the twentieth century had killed the same proportion of the population that die in the wars of a typical tribal society, there would have been two billion deaths, not 100 million.

  31. Brian Holtz

    Paulie, we’ll have to agree to disagree about whether a candidate’s campaign commercials accurately reflect the issue priorities that he tries to put forward in all his paid and earned media. I’ve offered my data. Feel free to cite any major Badnarik 2004 campaign appearance where he didn’t include “peace”/Iraq in a media setting where he could choose what issues to mention.

  32. paulie Post author

    If the wars of the twentieth century had killed the same proportion of the population that die in the wars of a typical tribal society, there would have been two billion deaths, not 100 million.

    Fair enough, although perhaps an additional 200 million died at the hands of their own governments in that same period.

    No small potatoes!

  33. paulie Post author

    I’ve offered my data. Feel free to cite any major Badnarik 2004 campaign appearance where he didn’t include “peace”/Iraq in a media setting where he could choose what issues to mention.

    Sorry, I wouldn’t know off hand where to find an archive of his media appearances. Youtube was not around then, for instance.

    I do recall paying attention at the time and not noticing a major focus on the war in his speeches and writings.

  34. libertariangirl

    I think now that everyone , including the left realize Obama is same as it ever was , its a perfect time for the LP to pick up the antiwar ball . Ecsp with the invasion of Somalia. I wont hold my breath:)

  35. Brian Holtz

    On Badnarik’s 2004 campaign site, the Iraq war was third on his list of 17 issues, behind only The Economy and Free Trade. The four commercials I mentioned (three of which were antiwar) were the only four on his site’s videos page. Only one of his radio ads had a title in common with any of his tv ads: “The Peace President” (the video I linked above). Of the last 14 press releases of his campaign, 12 are about horse-race topics (polls, endorsements, etc.), and two are about issues: both about Iraq.

    Debra, I have no problem with the LP continuing to call for withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, and to emphasizing that issue to “antiwar” audiences. E.g.:

    I just don’t think that this issue has the broad appeal and long-term staying power needed to make it our central issue — especially in the middle of the biggest economic crisis (and anti-nanny-state backlash) of several generations.

  36. paulie Post author

    I think that bumper sticker is exactly the message we should be conveying. Truly fair and balanced, unlike faux news!

  37. libertariangirl

    B-I just don’t think that this issue has the broad appeal and long-term staying power needed to make it our central issue

    me – yet.
    give Obama a little longer. First stop Somalia, next , who knows…anyones guess.

  38. paulie Post author

    yet.
    give Obama a little longer. First stop Somalia, next , who knows…anyones guess.

    exactly

    The only question will be whether the LP will get any share of the people who will feel majorly duped by Obama on the peace issue – there will be more and more of those as time goes on…a lot more.

  39. libertariangirl

    hence the timeliness of picking up that ball.
    just as the Rights increasing awareness and dissatisfaction rose dramatically during a GOP reign , so will those on the left undergo the same awakening.

    Let the disillusionment begin!

  40. libertariangirl

    we need to be waiting with open arms . Just as we need to be during a conservative influx of disillusioned from the GOP .

    send us your disillusioned !

  41. libertariangirl

    but I fear w/o a better outspoken advocacy for ending wars and such , they will go elsewhere.:(

  42. paulie Post author

    News.google.com

    Top story: Mullen says US needs more troops in Afghanistan
    Christian Science Monitor

    World »

    Mitchell urges ‘action’ on peace

    Iran talks must answer nuclear concerns: Clinton

    Man who threw shoe at Bush, Muntazer al-Zaidi freed after jail …

  43. Brian Holtz

    Oct 2004: “Which of the following issues is most important to you in deciding how you might vote for president in November? . . .”

    24% Economy
    24% War on terrorism
    18% Iraq
    14% Health care costs

    Aug 2009: “Which of the following is the most important issue facing the country today?”

    41% Economy
    20% Health care
    15% Federal deficit
    8% Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan
    8% Education
    5% Terrorism

  44. paulie Post author

    Right, which simply means that the answer changes over time and the wars could become more important again.

    If/when that is the case, will the LP be there ahead of time, after the fact, or barely if at all?

  45. Michael H. Wilson

    Brian it is quite possible that most Americans have no idea how many troops are deployed overseas or the costs. Those numbers are not in the press very often and if they are they most likely are not on page one.

  46. Brian Holtz

    On the contrary, it’s a famous result in the study of voter ignorance that people over-estimate how much the federal government spends abroad. 41% of Americans think that foreign aid is one of two of the largest areas of federal spending, when in fact it is only 1% of the federal budget. Ron Paul makes this kind of mistake when he breezily claims that bringing the troops home can yield enough savings to protect seniors from cuts if he let people opt out of the entitlement programs they benefit from.

    I repeat: as of 2008, the “warfare state” budget was $310 billion, while the welfare-state budget was $1.6 TRILLION. This doesn’t count the trillions in recent bailouts, or the $50-$100 TRILLION in unfunded entitlement liabilities.

    You’re right that most Americans “have no idea” about the relative costs of what the government spends its money on — and that includes some of the Americans in this thread. 🙂

  47. Mik Robertson

    As Steven Pinker points out:

    “To be sure, any attempt to document changes in violence must be soaked in uncertainty. In much of the world, the distant past was a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it, and, even for events in the historical record, statistics are spotty until recent periods. Long-term trends can be discerned only by smoothing out zigzags and spikes of horrific bloodletting. And the choice to focus on relative rather than absolute numbers brings up the moral imponderable of whether it is worse for 50 percent of a population of 100 to be killed or 1 percent in a population of one billion.”

    Until the last half century, going after civilian populations was part of warfare, and in many cases still is. In WWII when Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki were bombed, civilians weren’t “collateral damage”, they were the targets.

    The development of modern weapons of mass destruction has made conducting warfare on civilians immoral, as if it wasn’t in the past. Changes in communication that allow word of massacres to be spread faster may also have an impact.

    Trying to extrapolate the percentage killed by warfare in ancient cultures is extremely dicey. Perhaps the bulk of the arrowheads in skeletons were hunting accidents, or it may be that those remains that were not subject to ritual funeral actions, such as exposure to the elements, were better preserved.

    In any case, I would agree that there are other issues of greater concern to the average voter, but this one is significant enough that it should factor into any aligning of positions that any alternative political parties want to do.

  48. Michael H. Wilson

    @ 53 Brian writes; “I repeat: as of 2008, the “warfare state” budget was $310 billion”

    Brian you underestimate. I don’t have time to research this at the moment, but will in the future.

  49. Mik Robertson

    If you add up all the military-related spending, including the cost of ongoing overseas military operations outside the DOD budget, you may come up to $1 trillion per year.

    It is still eclipsed by social spending, but how much is actually necessary for national defense is the question.

  50. Thomas L. Knapp

    “41% of Americans think that foreign aid is one of two of the largest areas of federal spending, when in fact it is only 1% of the federal budget. Ron Paul makes this kind of mistake when he breezily claims that bringing the troops home can yield enough savings to protect seniors from cuts if he let people opt out of the entitlement programs they benefit from.”

    “Bringing the troops home” would not realize a cut in the miniscule “foreign aid” budget. It would realize a cut in the extremely bloated “defense” budget.

    “I repeat: as of 2008, the ‘warfare state’ budget was $310 billion”

    You can repeat that as often as you like, but that won’t make it true.

    Even if we underestimate the “warfare state” budget by only counting moneys directly routed through the Department of Defense, that number is $800 billion. And even if we give DoD extreme benefit of the doubt and allow that as much as 25% of its budget may have actually been spent on real “defense” items and actions, the “warfare state” fat comes to a minimum of $600 billion.

  51. Brian Holtz

    Even if you ludicrously count every penny of defense-related spending — veteran’s pensions, border security, Coast Guard, Energy Department, etc. — as a cost of “overseas empire”, it’s still only half of what the feds spend every year on entitlements and “human services”. And that’s with two wars under way. In ten years, spending on Iraq and Afghanistan will be about as much as we now spend on Kosovo, whereas entitlement spending will be far higher than now.

    Blood, yes. Treasure, not nearly so much.

  52. Michael H. Wilson

    Well I found some time.

    “FISCAL 2008 DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE BUDGET RELEASED

    President George W. Bush today sent to Congress his defense budget for fiscal 2008.

    The budget requests $481.4 billion in discretionary authority for the Department of Defense base

    budget, an 11.3 percent increase over the projected enacted level for fiscal 2007, for real growth

    of 8.6 percent; and $141.7 billion to continue the fight in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) in
    fiscal 2008.”
    http://www.defenselink.mil/comptroller/defbudget/fy2008/2008_Budget_Rollout_Release.pdf

    But you miss my point. There is no adequate coverage of this in the press and the LP has walked away from the issue. Regardless the amount we spend overseas is significant. Some estimates that it is at least a quarter of the DoD budget. Maybe $100 billion annually and that doesn’t count the wars, CIA overseas, or the taxpayer funded arms sales. I’d guess off hand at least $300 maybe $600 when all is said and done for each and everyone of us.

    Now if that money was spent here at home we could reduce the welfare expenditures and of course the interest on the national debt, which again is a boatload of bucks.

  53. Brian Holtz

    For Immediate Release
    Monday, December 22, 2008
    Libertarians Accuse Obama of “Hawkish” Foreign Policy

    Party Says Obama Following Missteps of Bush Administration

    America’s largest third-party is accusing Barack Obama of pursuing the same “hawkish” foreign policy of his predecessor George Bush. “What we hoped to see with the incoming Obama administration were plans for a total withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq,” says William Redpath, national chairman of the Libertarian Party. “Instead, we’re seeing the same missteps of the Bush administration that have kept our troops in the Middle East since 2001.”

    This past September, the Libertarian National Committee passed a resolution calling for the withdraw of U.S. troops from Afghanistan “without undue delay.” However, current Pentagon plans call for potentially doubling the size of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan to 60,000 troops.

    “Shifting troops from one front to another is not ‘bringing them home,’ as Democrats promised to do in 2006,” says Redpath. “Obama is pursuing a hawkish foreign policy that should worry any advocates of non-intervention. He’ll keep us in that region for his entire presidency.”

    “The United States should both abandon its attempts to act as policeman for the world and avoid entangling alliances,” reads the Libertarian Party’s platform. “American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world and its defense against attack from abroad. We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid.”

  54. paulie Post author

    as a cost of “overseas empire”, it’s still only half of what the feds spend every year on entitlements and “human services”.

    Some “human services” are also the result of empire.

  55. paulie Post author

    In ten years, spending on Iraq and Afghanistan will be about as much as we now spend on Kosovo, whereas entitlement spending will be far higher than now.

    How do you know? Perhaps in ten years it will all be one giant world war, or perhaps the US government will no longer even exist. We simply have no idea.

  56. paulie Post author

    Trying to extrapolate the percentage killed by warfare in ancient cultures is extremely dicey. Perhaps the bulk of the arrowheads in skeletons were hunting accidents, or it may be that those remains that were not subject to ritual funeral actions, such as exposure to the elements, were better preserved.

    Good point.

  57. paulie Post author

    It is still eclipsed by social spending, but how much is actually necessary for national defense is the question.

    How much social spending is in some way connected to veteran care, medical expenses, crime and homelessness of veterans due to combat-caused mental problems, or the effects that the death, wounding or deployments has on families, friends and communities?

  58. paulie Post author

    For Immediate Release
    Monday, December 22, 2008
    Libertarians Accuse Obama of “Hawkish” Foreign Policy

    Party Says Obama Following Missteps of Bush Administration

    America’s largest third-party is accusing Barack Obama of pursuing the same “hawkish” foreign policy of his predecessor George Bush. “What we hoped to see with the incoming Obama administration were plans for a total withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq,” says William Redpath, national chairman of the Libertarian Party. “Instead, we’re seeing the same missteps of the Bush administration that have kept our troops in the Middle East since 2001.”

    This past September, the Libertarian National Committee passed a resolution calling for the withdraw of U.S. troops from Afghanistan “without undue delay.” However, current Pentagon plans call for potentially doubling the size of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan to 60,000 troops.

    “Shifting troops from one front to another is not ‘bringing them home,’ as Democrats promised to do in 2006,” says Redpath. “Obama is pursuing a hawkish foreign policy that should worry any advocates of non-intervention. He’ll keep us in that region for his entire presidency.”

    “The United States should both abandon its attempts to act as policeman for the world and avoid entangling alliances,” reads the Libertarian Party’s platform. “American foreign policy should seek an America at peace with the world and its defense against attack from abroad. We would end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid.”

    Very good. But what percentage of official LP statements since 2001 have dealt with the wars and their consequences?

  59. Brian Holtz

    Paulie, that chart claims that 80% of interest spending is military-related, which is obviously nonsense. But what makes it a complete joke is that it “excludes trust fund money (e.g., social security), which is raised separately (e.g., the FICA and Medicare deductions in paychecks) and is specifically ear-marked for particular programs”. That is, your chart excludes most of the Entitlement State from the federal budget.

    FAIL.

    P.S. My $310B figure above includes a carry-the-one math error, and should have been $410. Here is my original March 2008 blog posting that I was working from:

    At http://thirdpartywatch.com/2008/03/07/can-raimondo-come-out-for-bob-barr/ Justin Raimondo is quoted: “We simply can’t afford to police the world, and we’re going bankrupt in the attempt.”

    What is annual federal spending on Homeland Security and the so-called “War on Terror” (including Iraq)? $170 billion.

    How much does that figure go up if one claims that fully half of the REST of the DoD budget is for “policing the world”? $240 billion.

    What is annual federal spending on entitlements and “human services”? $1.6 trillion. (Apportioning federal debt service only tilts the needle more toward the welfare state and away from the warfare state, given the recent spike in world-policing costs.)

    What is the unfunded liability for the current path of federal entitlement spending? $50 to $100 TRILLION dollars.

    So who does Raimondo say is the remaining candidate who can save America from going “bankrupt”? Why, the one who advocates making our healthcare system even more socialized than it already is.

    Healthcare entitlements will still be pushing America toward bankruptcy in 10, 20, and 30 years, but in that timeframe our spending on Bush’s wars will be comparable to the current levels of spending on Clinton’s Balkan war (remember it?) that Raimondo founded antiwar.com to oppose. Justin needs a t-shirt that says: “I surfed an antiwar movement that crested with the Sunni-Shia fighting of 2006, and all I got was socialized medicine.”

    American public finance over the next few decades will be about one issue: healthcare entitlements, stupid.

  60. paulie Post author

    *Analysts differ on how much of the debt stems from the military; other groups estimate 50% to 60%. We use 80% because we believe if there had been no military spending most (if not all) of the national debt would have been eliminated. For further explanation, please see box at bottom of page.

    Why Do the Percentages Vary from Group to Group?

    The U.S. Government says that military spending amounts to 20% of the budget, the Center for Defense Information (CDI) reports 51%, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) reports 43%, and the War Resisters League claims 54%. Why the variation?

    Different groups have different purposes in how they present the budget figures. WRL’s goal has been to show the percentage of money that goes to the military (current and past) so that people paying — or not paying — their federal taxes would know what portion of their payments are military-oriented. Also, some of the numbers are for different fiscal years.

    There are at least five different factors to consider when analyzing the U.S. budget:

    discretionary spending vs. total spending
    budget authority vs. outlays
    function vs. agency/department
    federal funds vs. unified budget
    time period
    Discretionary Spending. The Center for Defense Information (CDI) has used “discretionary” spending — budget items that Congress is allowed to tinker with — which excludes so-called “mandatory” spending items (such as interest on the national debt and retirement pay). WRL does not make such distinctions and lumps them together.

    Past Military Spending. If the government does not have enough money to finance a war (or spending for its hefty military budgets), they borrow through loans, savings bonds, and so forth. This borrowing (done heavily during World War II and the Vietnam War) comes back in later years as “hidden” military spending through interest payments on the national debt.
    How much of the debt is considered “military” varies from group. As mentioned above, WRL uses 80% whereas FCNL uses 48%. Consequently, FCNL reports that 43% of the FY2007 budget is military (29% current military and 14% past military). WRL’s figures are 54% of the FY2009 budget (36% current — which includes 7% for Iraq & Afghanistan wars — and 18% past).

    Outlays vs. Budget Authority. WRL uses “outlays” rather than “budget authority,” which is often preferred by the government, news media, and groups such as CDI. Outlays refer to spending done in a particular fiscal year, whereas budget authority refers to new spending authorized over a period of several future years. Consequently, CDI reported $421 billion in FY2005 budget authority for the military and $2,200 billion “over the next five years.” While WRL reports outlays of $803 billion, plus an anticipated $162 billion in supplemental spending requests for Iraq and Afghanistan wars, plus $484 billion in past military spending — totaling $1,449 billion — just for FY2009.

    Function vs. Agency/Department. Not all military spending is done by the Department of Defense. For example, the Department of Energy is responsible for nuclear weapons. Consequently, calculations of military spending should consider the function of the budget item regardless of the department or agency in charge of it. However, not everyone agrees what constitutes a military function. For example, WRL includes the 70% of Homeland Security (which includes the Coast Guard), and half of NASA in military spending, while other groups do not.

    Federal Funds vs. Unified Budget. WRL uses “federal funds” rather than the “unified budget” figures that the government prefers. Federal funds exclude trust fund money (e.g., social security), which is raised separately (e.g., the FICA and Medicare deductions in paychecks) and is specifically ear-marked for particular programs. By combining trust funds with federal funds, the percentage of spending on the military appears smaller, a deceptive practice first used by the government in the late 1960s as the Vietnam War became more and more unpopular.

    What period are we talking about? Finally, there is some variation in figures because different fiscal years are used. WRL’s figures (above) are for FY2009 (Oct. 1, 2008 to Sep. 30, 2009) as are the most recent U.S. government figures. FCNL sometimes does their analysis for the most recent completed year or FY2007 (Oct. 1, 2006 to Sep. 30, 2007).

  61. paulie Post author

    Hmmm, how about prison, jail, court, and police costs? How much of that is in some way war-related?

    The criminals are frequently military veterans, and it often has to do with what led them to crime. The police, prison guards and their weapons and tactics – particularly the paramilitary ones – are also often from the military. I would argue that these costs contribute heavily to crime and the drug war; not all of this spending is federal, of course.

  62. paulie Post author

    10, 20, and 30 years, but in that timeframe our spending on Bush’s wars will be comparable to the current levels of spending on Clinton’s Balkan war (remember it?) that Raimondo founded antiwar.com to oppose.

    Wild and unfounded speculation. How can we know this?

  63. paulie Post author

    Paulie, that chart claims that 80% of interest spending is military-related, which is obviously nonsense.

    Not obvious at all. If the military spending had not been undertaken, but other spending had been, it;s likely that in many years there would have been no deficit or a very minimal one.

  64. Brian Holtz

    Ah, so you assume military-related spending is what any borrowing was used to finance. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_pleading

    But even funnier is how you hand-wave about how defense spending ripples out to cause or increase nearly every form of government spending, while you dismiss it as “speculation” when I point out that our $50-$100 trillion in statutorily-mandated-but-unfunded entitlement liabilities dwarf by two orders of magnitude even the most fevered claims (i.e. $2T in the Stiglitz paper) about the total future cumulative costs of Bush’s wars.

    Thanks for playing, please accept a copy of the home game. 🙂

  65. paulie Post author

    Ah, so you assume military-related spending is what any borrowing was used to finance. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_pleading

    If so, than you are certainly doing the same in reverse.

    However, I don’t think I am. I didn’t say that it was false that if military spending was the only thing undertaken there would be no debt; however, it also is true that if other spending was undertaken but military spending wasn’t, there would have been far less debt – maybe even none (we don’t and can’t fully know what the ripple effects are; I’ve brought up just a few of many).

    while you dismiss it as “speculation” when I point out that our $50-$100 trillion in statutorily-mandated-but-unfunded entitlement liabilities dwarf by two orders of magnitude even the most fevered claims (i.e. $2T in the Stiglitz paper) about the total future cumulative costs of Bush’s wars.

    Again, we don’t and can’t know what the total cost of the wars and their ripple effects will be. What if it ends up leading to the collapse of the US money system – how will we even estimate costs then?

    The wars are by no means over – if anything, they are escalating. We have no idea when they will be over or how much they will cost.

    However, I should point out that this is not what I said was speculation; I said that we don’t know how much will be being spent on these wars in 10, 20 0r so years. We don’t and can’t know. That is a simple fact.

  66. Brian Holtz

    We don’t know the future, so anything could be true. Stiglitz’s estimate of $2T for the Bush wars could turn out to cost $100T, and the $50-$100T in unfunded entitlement liabilities could turn out to cost 99 cents after a magic healthcare/retirement pill is invented tomorrow.

    I am decidedly not “doing the same thing in reverse”. I wrote: “Apportioning federal debt service only tilts the needle more toward the welfare state and away from the warfare state, given the recent spike in world-policing costs.” Entitlement spending has dwarfed military spending for the decades during which most of the federal debt has accumulated, but I didn’t try to claim that all the debt is due to entitlements. Please re-read the word “apportioning”.

  67. Thomas L. Knapp

    Brian,

    You write:

    “Even if you ludicrously count every penny of defense-related spending — veteran’s pensions, border security, Coast Guard, Energy Department, etc. — as a cost of ‘overseas empire'”

    Quit trying to switch horses in midstream. What was at issue was not “overseas empire,” it was “the warfare state.” The former is a consequence of the latter, but it’s not necessarily the totality of the latter.

  68. paulie Post author

    Brian: War is obsolete.

    My original response: Not to the many millions of people living and dying in warzones all over the world. Not to governments such as the US, which spend trillions preparing, training, arming and fighting in wars every year. Not to all the people maimed, made homeless, and driven out of their minds by their experiences as soldiers and civilians in warzones.

    p2: Notice I did not say “per year” or “only the United States.” I also did not say only the federal government; as I pointed out in several commenst above, various state and local spending and “social spending” at all levels is the consequence of war/empire.

  69. paulie Post author

    Stiglitz’s estimate of $2T for the Bush wars could turn out to cost $100T, and the $50-$100T in unfunded entitlement liabilities could turn out to cost 99 cents after a magic healthcare/retirement pill is invented tomorrow.

    The wars may very well cost far more than anyone can now know. What if there is terrorist blowback in the form of nuclear attacks on US cities or widespread germ warfare? What if the war expands into a broader conflict in the middle east? Already there is saber rattling towards Pakistan – a large population nation with nuclear weapons and a large radical Islamist movement, and the likely new base for Al Qaida. Pakistan is at odds with India, also a nuclear power. India has some level of territorial conflict with yet another nuclear power, China.

    There’s also hostility with Iran, which could conceivably trigger war with Russia. Arab “allied” regimes (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan) are teetering atop a revolutionary radical Moslem cauldron, and could topple. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the same neighborhood. Syria has been the object of war talk before, and could become so again. The Sudan and Somalia already have wars going on, and there is likely to be US intervention.

    Keep in mind that the Crusades nearly a thousand years ago are still big issues in the middle east, and that the Arab-Jewish conflict allegedly traces back to the feud between Jacob and Esau sometime around 1500 BC. So saying that the conflict will be over or effectively over in ten years is, indeed, speculation.

  70. paulie Post author

    and the $50-$100T in unfunded entitlement liabilities could turn out to cost 99 cents after a magic healthcare/retirement pill is invented tomorrow.

    Far more doubtful, but yes – anything can happen. I don’t think it will involve magic, though. However, there is the possibility of nanotechnology being used to repair damage from diseases of all sorts at the molecular level.

  71. paulie Post author

    “Apportioning federal debt service only tilts the needle more toward the welfare state and away from the warfare state, given the recent spike in world-policing costs.” Entitlement spending has dwarfed military spending for the decades during which most of the federal debt has accumulated, but I didn’t try to claim that all the debt is due to entitlements. Please re-read the word “apportioning”.

    Saw it the first time. I addressed this in both 72 and 74. There are any number of ways to calculate how much of the budget is military-related, and that includes the calculation of how much of the debt is military-related. WRL is going on the assumption that military spending is the most unnecessary part of the budget. I tend to think that all parts of the budget are unnecessary, so it is equally true that if some other equivalent portion of spending had been eliminated there would have been little or no debt.

  72. paulie Post author

    Brian: War is obsolete.

    My original response: Not to the many millions of people living and dying in warzones all over the world. Not to governments such as the US, which spend trillions preparing, training, arming and fighting in wars every year. Not to all the people maimed, made homeless, and driven out of their minds by their experiences as soldiers and civilians in warzones.

    p2: Notice I did not say “per year” or “only the United States.” I also did not say only the federal government; as I pointed out in several commenst above, various state and local spending and “social spending” at all levels is the consequence of war/empire.

    p3: Another point: note that I said “preparing, training, arming and fighting in wars” (and should have also said, dealing with their consequences). It appears from subsequent comments that Brian only noticed the “fighting” portion, yet if wars were truly obsolete, why would any of the money on training, preparing and arming for wars need to be spent?

  73. Mik Robertson

    Perhaps a public policy position that all anti-war alternative parties could agree on is that the United States military should be disbanded in favor of state militias that can be called into federal service at a declaration of war.

    The states could of course voluntarily cooperate to construct or maintain equipment necessary for national defense.

  74. paulie Post author

    From Anti-war.com:

    Following confirmation by the French military that they definitely weren’t in the process of invading Somalia, the United States military is now confirming that it is, in fact, American forces that are pouring into the southern portion of the country in a helicopter-backed invasion.

    US military officials confirmed to the Associated Press today that forces from the US Joint Special Operations Command had invaded the lawless African nation, and were the ones responsible for the attack on the tiny village of Barawe this morning that was the first staging ground of the attack.

    What the officials wouldn’t comment on was exactly why the United States, which launched a failed “peacekeeping” operation in the nation in 1993 and backed an Ethiopian invasion in 2007, had decided to launch yet another foreign adventure, though media outlets speculated that it was probably something to do with al-Qaeda.

    The United States has recently been supplying the self-described Somali “government” with “tons of arms,” according to the State Department. Yet reports on the ground suggest that forces loyal to this faction, which only controls a handful of city blocks in the capital city of Mogadishu, have generally just sold the US-supplied weapons on the open market.

    Though without any concrete information about what the American military actually intends to do in Somalia it will be difficult to speculate about the size and scope of the invasion, with roughly 200,000 soldiers committed to Iraq and Afghanistan (and more escalations on the way in the later) it seems hard to imagine the nation is looking to commit to yet another long-term occupation.

  75. Brian Holtz

    Tom, I didn’t switch horses. The complaint here originally was about “foreign intervention” (@19) and troops stationed “abroad” (@30) — not anarchist objections to the existence of a tax-financed standing defense force. On the “peace” issue, the bait-and-switching comes from those who dream of parlaying popular disgust with Bush-Cheney overreach into support for the fringe positions of anarchism and revisionism about the Civil War and WWII.

    Paulie, I’m not predicting peace throughout the Middle East. I’m just predicting that America’s blood-and-treasure levels there will return to 1990’s levels. If you want to predict that instead those levels will climb from the Bush-Cheney era, I leave it to readers here to evaluate our competing predictions.

    I wonder if my anarchists friends on this thread have any inkling of how their extravagant rhetorical over-reach — while perhaps making them feel good about themselves — only undermines whatever hope they might have of moving people toward their position.

  76. paulie Post author

    Paulie, I’m not predicting peace throughout the Middle East. I’m just predicting that America’s blood-and-treasure levels there will return to 1990’s levels. If you want to predict that instead those levels will climb from the Bush-Cheney era, I leave it to readers here to evaluate our competing predictions.

    I’ve made no such predictions. I said it is possible, and that we have no way of knowing what the costs will be.

    Discussing ripple effects further, if we suppose that Al Qaida really carried out the attacks on 9/11, and not at the behest of elements in the US regime, it was blowback for previous US intervention in the middle east. How much did that attack cost us in overall terms – economic consequences, etc? What about the new “homeland security” measures which are making travel by foreign nationals to the US – and US citizens abroad – a hassle? Do you think that might be costing us some business?

    http://freestudents.blogspot.com/2009/09/welcome-to-worlds-largest-prison.html

    There are many other c0sts like that I have not even considered here yet.

  77. paulie Post author

    From the freestudents link above…

    The world is a poorer place because of the morons in Homeland Security. They have trapped millions of Americans within the United States and they have discourage many millions more from visiting the U.S. Airlines are now avoiding connecting flights in the U.S. because the travel Gestapo mistreats and abuses visitors to our country. So, these measures are now keeping Americans from traveling abroad and keeping foreign visitors from coming here. Hundreds of millions of dollars of profits, both here and abroad, have been destroyed by this heavy-handed government intrusion. Government is the great wealth destroyer.

    […]

    Of course, the American travel gestapo has been harassing everyone. Individuals who have connecting flights in the international section were forced to exit through customs and passport control merely so Big Brother could accumulate data on each person, even though who really aren’t intending to visit the US. Individuals who only wanted to catch a flight from Canada to Mexico, with a brief US stopover, had to go through customs. If the U.S., for any reason, decided the person was unwelcome (and billions of people fit that category these days) they were not allowed to finish their flight to Mexico, but forced onto a plane to return to Canada.

    The U.S. has mistreated foreign tourists so much that airlines are dropping the United States from their itinerary when possible. Air Canada had a flight to Sydney with a stopover in Hawaii. They dropped the stopover promising travelers their new route helps them “avoid the United States.” Air New Zeland had a flight from Auckland to London, with a refueling stopover in Los Angeles. They dropped the US and moved the stopover to Vancouver, so that their customers wouldn’t be harassed by the travel Nazis. Wikitravel warned:

    You may wish to avoid transit in US airports because:

    * Anyone arriving into the United States or one of its territories (like Puerto Rico) and not covered by the Visa Waiver Program requires at least a C-1 transit visa to transit the airport. This can be expensive (US$131 minimum) and time-consuming to obtain, and you can be denied the visa: the requirements are the same as the full B-2 tourist visa. If you arrive without this visa, even for a fuel stop or transit, and aren’t eligible for a waiver, you will be sent home and recorded as having been denied entry to the US.
    * The United States does not allow sterile transit, which means that even if you have an immediate connecting flight, you have to pass through Customs and Immigration. This is time-consuming and tedious (4 hours or more is recommended to be safe), and all travellers transiting in the USA using either a transit visa or the Visa Waiver Program will be photographed and fingerprinted.
    * You have previously been denied entry to the US or overstayed in the US, and have been advised that entry may be refused in future. Transit entry is as likely to be refused as any other entry, it will almost certainly be easier to avoid risking it.

    Discover America Partnership is a collection of businesses that rely on tourism. They have been complaining that government mistreatment of tourists has become so pervasive that American business is suffering. The U.S. government is scaring away customers. Geoffrey Freedman, of the group, says: “International travelers will tell you that they find that they are treated like criminals, that they are barked at by US officials. They simply feel unwelcome and that is leading them to choose other countries.” The group estimates that these actions by Homeland Security thugs has cost around 200,000 jobs in the United States.

    A survey of international travelers found that more of them listed the U.S. as the most unpleasant place to visit when it comes to bureaucratic abuse. Freeman noted that a survey showed that foreign visitors have “more fear our immigration officials than of terrorism or crime.” (Alas, Mr. Freeman seems to think those are three distinct categories, as the US government proves, they often overlap.) All this means a dramatic drop in tourism.

  78. robert capozzi

    bh 84, yes, it must be a complex rationalization for some to calibrate just how much macho flash one should engage in. END NORAD NOW! seems a bit much. U.S. OUT OF GEORGIA! some actually say.

  79. paulie Post author

    bh 84, yes, it must be a complex rationalization for some to calibrate just how much macho flash one should engage in. END NORAD NOW! seems a bit much.

    Brian is the one who made the breathtaking claim that war is obsolete. If war really is obsolete, why would anyone need NORAD?

    U.S. OUT OF GEORGIA!

    Indeed, I would advise against getting involved in any conflict between a former Soviet Republic and Russia. Russia still has a large nuclear stockpile, after all, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as 150 ml. shot glasses and a tradition of finishing vodka bottles once they are opened.

    Oh, you meant the other Georgia? Well, probably not a short term project, but decentralization to smaller-territory government units would be a good thing on balance, I think.

  80. paulie Post author

    From the PSL. I may post this as a separate article later. Assuming their statistics are accurate, why would arms sales be going up if war is obsolete?


    U.S. arms sales soar during capitalist economic downturn

    By: Sean Pavey

    War profiteering is a criminal enterprise

    According to a recently released Congressional Research Service report, the United States has firmly established itself as the home of the most successful military arms dealers in the world. While the worldwide capitalist economic crisis has led to a significant drop in profits in arms deals in other parts of the world, U.S. arms deals have risen by nearly $12.5 billion from 2007, increasing from $25.4 billion to $37.8 billion. According to the report, “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2001-2008,” U.S. transfers represent over two-thirds of global armament sales, making the United States the world’s largest arms dealer.
    U.S. arms sales far outpace Italy, the country second on the list, which had $13 billion in sales.

    The congressional report explains that this rise in U.S. arms sales can be attributed to “the continuation of significant equipment and support services contracts with a broad-based number of U.S. clients globally.” Almost $30 billion of U.S. arms sales went to client states like Saudi Arabia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates and Taiwan. Client states not only serve as markets for arm sales, they help to protect the interests of U.S. imperialism across the world.

    The U.S. government spends more on war and weapons than the rest of the world combined. The official defense budget for the 2009 fiscal year is somewhere between $533 and $544 billion, accounting for 54 percent of U.S. federal spending. But this does not account for all of the United States’ military spending. In addition to the money allocated to the Department of Defense, $205.5 billion has been dedicated specially to the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. When those funds are added to the rest of the military budget, it adds up to $739.2 billion. This amount dwarfs the money the United States spends on health and education, which combines to make up roughly 11.5 percent of all federal spending.

    The U.S. ruling class is not only in the business of making war on the world, it is also in the business of making great profits from war and repression in addition to the billions of dollars made from arms sales. War profiteering is a criminal enterprise.

  81. paulie Post author

    In fairness, I do see one problem with their statistics…500-x billion is nowhere near 54% of the federal budget – they are probably conflating the WRL estimate discussed above with a much lower figure of specific Defense Department appropriations.

    But this does not mean they are necessarily wrong about arms sales increasing.

  82. Thomas L. Knapp

    Brian,

    You write:

    “I’m not predicting peace throughout the Middle East. I’m just predicting that America’s blood-and-treasure levels there will return to 1990’s levels. If you want to predict that instead those levels will climb from the Bush-Cheney era, I leave it to readers here to evaluate our competing predictions.”

    No need to predict — that can be established by direct observation.

    * President Obama’s “defense” request for the next budget is not only larger than the request for the previous budget, it’s larger than the Bush administration’s out-year projections.

    * President Obama has added troops back into the Iraq boondoggle and only months into his administration is already signaling that he intends to pour tens of thousands of new troops to the Afghanistan fiasco (yes, I know that Afghanistan is not technically the “Middle East,” but most of these discussions tend to lump central Asia into the same region).

    “Tom, I didn’t switch horses. The complaint here originally was about ‘foreign intervention’ (@19) and troops stationed ‘abroad’ (@30) — not anarchist objections to the existence of a tax-financed standing defense force.”

    There you go again. My objection was explicitly non-anarchist in construction. I allowed that as much as 25% of the “defense” budget might be legitimately (i.e. within the context of presumed, for the sake of argument, legitimacy of government-provided defense at all) ascribed to actual “defense” activities.

    As usual, when pressed you start resorting to arguing with what you wish your opponent had said rather than what he actually did say. And as usual, I’ll respond that that’s a neat trick if you can get away with it, but that I won’t let you get away with it.

  83. robert capozzi

    pc, while I’d love to see war obsolete, it demonstrably is not. I support there being a NORAD for the foreseeable future.

    I might support a move toward self determination by GA after a procedure was agreed by constitutional contract…Calhoun’s argument was too weak and speculative IMO. I support the Nonarchy Pod option today.

  84. Brian Holtz

    Tom,

    1) Re-read what I originally wrote: ““Even if you ludicrously count every penny of defense-related spending — veteran’s pensions, border security, Coast Guard, Energy Department, etc. — as a cost of ‘overseas empire’” …

    2) Look up the word “if” in the dictionary.

    3) Try to grok that my paragraph was setting an upper bound on how crazily inflated a fraction that “antiwar” types could claim about the “warfare state”, and showing that it’s still half of the size of the Entitlement State. Of course, Paulie then quickly showed that crazy knows no bounds here.

    4) You brought in the zero-DoD horse when you wrote: Even if we underestimate the “warfare state” budget by only counting moneys directly routed through the Department of Defense, that number is $800 billion. And even if we give DoD extreme benefit of the doubt and allow that as much as 25% of its budget may have actually been spent on real “defense”… Sorry, but your tepid hedging in the latter sentence doesn’t let you outrun your anarchist views. Nice try, though.

    Paulie, my statement that “war is obsolete” is shorthand for the analysis immediately following it, claiming that in coming decades war will dwindle in its claims on the blood and treasure of developed nations. By contrast, it’s a dead certainty that the Nanny State will continue to grow as a fraction of output in the developed world. I don’t see any serious evidence or arguments here against my prediction. Note that my prediction of less warfare involving developed nations doesn’t magically mean that any developed nation could completely disarm itself overnight. That would be pretty much guaranteed to upset a crucial part of the equilibrium I’m positing.

    Tom, I’d love to bet you real money on whether U.S. spending on wars in the region between Egypt and India in 2011-2020 will in real terms be more than even half what it will total in 2001-2010. It ain’t gonna happen. Sorry.

    Paulie, arms sales are still significantly below what they were during the Cold War. You’re looking through a straw.

    Also, I already told you why your pie chart is a lie: they consciously exclude a TRILLION DOLLARS in payroll taxes and the entitlement programs (SS and Medicare) those taxes fund. You should ask yourself: how much of the other lefty propaganda that you believe is similarly deceptive?

    OK, I’m off to work, and will try to ignore this thread for at least 12 hours.

  85. Thomas L. Knapp

    “Try to grok that my paragraph was setting an upper bound on how crazily inflated a fraction that ‘antiwar’ types could claim about the ‘warfare state’, and showing that it’s still half of the size of the Entitlement State. Of course, Paulie then quickly showed that crazy knows no bounds here.”

    Gore Vidal asserts that 90% of US government spending is done either directly or indirectly in support of maintenance of the military-industrial complex. I haven’t been able to find his extended argument for that number, though.

    But, once again: I allowed for a non-anarchist perspective on “defense” spending. You’re the one playing the “anarchy” card, and you’re doing so for a reason. The most obvious reason would be that you know your argument is weak. If you have a different reason, pray tell me what it is.

  86. Erik Geib

    BH: “war is obsolete”

    Are you kidding me? I’d recommend a thorough reading of General Rupert Smith’s The Utility of Force.

    The style of war of which you speak is dying, yes, but new styles of war are becoming increasingly used (and effectively).

    The true future of war is economics.

    Unfortunately, the move towards centralization in this world (an ever-increasing-in-power U.S. federal government, the EU, etc.) makes these kinds of wars more tenable and profitable.

    The greatest flaw of a heavily centralized system is the ease with which it may be conquered. All one has to do is chop off the head at the top and replace it with a new one.

    The LP’s focus, and something with which the GP and CP agree, should be towards as much decentralization as possible. Not only does it make things harder to conquer, but it also makes it harder for the machinery of an elitist big government to operate. Don’t forget that the first radical departure from the U.S.’s Constitution was under its author (Madison) during the War of 1812. Madison found the system unworkable to conduct a large-scale war (which I tend to think of as a good thing), and thus allowed the changes to take place that have put us on the path to statism ever since.

    Also don’t forget that without such centralization, rights abuses such as those perpetrated by the Nazis and Soviets would have been incredibly difficult to pull off.

    Centralization of virtually any variety always takes power from individuals and puts it in the hands of ruling classes, and must be vehemently opposed.

  87. paulie Post author

    There you go again. My objection was explicitly non-anarchist in construction. I allowed that as much as 25% of the “defense” budget might be legitimately (i.e. within the context of presumed, for the sake of argument, legitimacy of government-provided defense at all) ascribed to actual “defense” activities.

    But that still leaves a 12-figure “defense” budget. Why would we need that if, as Brian says, “war is obsolete”?

  88. libertariangirl

    war is obsolete … hahahaha
    definately not Holtz’ strongest argument . its a blanket statement that cannot be proven ,so uncharacteristic of him to say something so wrong.

  89. paulie Post author

    pc, while I’d love to see war obsolete, it demonstrably is not.

    I agree with you; Brian is the one who said war is obsolete. I’ve argued against that claim.

    I support the Nonarchy Pod option today.

    Me too, as I understand the concept. I’m more apt to call it the “Archy Pod” idea, but it doesn’t matter for implementation purposes – the market for an/archy will determine what the population distribution will be. Given that we are now all forced into archypods, it can’t but be an improvement.

    Not sure how that got smuggled into this discussion, but I’ll roll with it 🙂

  90. paulie Post author

    Paulie, my statement that “war is obsolete” is shorthand for the analysis immediately following it, claiming that in coming decades war will dwindle in its claims on the blood and treasure of developed nations. By contrast, it’s a dead certainty that the Nanny State will continue to grow as a fraction of output in the developed world. I don’t see any serious evidence or arguments here against my prediction.

    I don’t see any argument for it, either. Seems to be a bunch of clouded crystal ball guesswork to me. As for me, I have no idea what the next few decades will bring. Singularity? Global epidemics? Massive climate change? World war?
    grey goo? Who knows? All options are on the table.


    Note that my prediction of less warfare involving developed nations doesn’t magically mean that any developed nation could completely disarm itself overnight. That would be pretty much guaranteed to upset a crucial part of the equilibrium I’m positing.

    I haven’t suggested any such thing, either. We may well make do with per capita “defense” spending in line with Europe, Japan, or Canada, for instance, although I haven’t looked up what that is.

    I do believe we could manage as well as Costa Rica by ending the practice of standing armies, but that’s an entirely separate question.

  91. paulie Post author

    I’d love to bet you real money on whether U.S. spending on wars in the region between Egypt and India in 2011-2020 will in real terms be more than even half what it will total in 2001-2010. It ain’t gonna happen. Sorry.

    OK, if you turn out to be correct, I’ll part with US $5, assuming that still has any meaning approximate to what it does now in the year 2020 and we’re both still alive.

  92. paulie Post author

    arms sales are still significantly below what they were during the Cold War.

    Supposing that is correct, so what? They are going up, and it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility that they will get to and/or above their previous levels.

  93. paulie Post author

    I already told you why your pie chart is a lie: they consciously exclude a TRILLION DOLLARS in payroll taxes and the entitlement programs (SS and Medicare) those taxes fund.

    Yes, and I addressed that point. Not all social spending or state and local spending is unconnected to the military.

    See comment #81 as to why your response to my original statement that “(war is not obsolete) to governments such as the US, which spend trillions preparing, training, arming and fighting in wars every year” fails on several counts. I stand by that statement.

  94. paulie Post author

    The LP’s focus, and something with which the GP and CP agree, should be towards as much decentralization as possible. Not only does it make things harder to conquer, but it also makes it harder for the machinery of an elitist big government to operate.

    Excellent point. Thanks!

    Don’t forget that the first radical departure from the U.S.’s Constitution was under its author (Madison) during the War of 1812.

    I’d count the Whiskey Rebellion.

  95. Brian Holtz

    Paulie, it’s an indisputable fact that in the last half-century, a rapidly-increasing fraction of the wealth in developed countries has consisted of stuff other than what an invading army can appropriate. The resulting trend is very clear:

    The trend is so clear that the Human Security Report 2005 (http://www.humansecurityreport.info/) had an entire section titled Why The Dramatic Decline In Armed Conflict? How could you “antiwar” types not be familiar with the basic narrative here? It seems to me that American “antiwar” types only care about war victims that can be laid at the doorstep of American “militarism”.

    You keep pointing to data blips and anecdotes, and I’ll keep documenting the long-term historical trends.

    Erik, I think that that our top policy strategies should be 1) constitutionalist decentralism and 2) market-based environmentalism (e.g. a green tax shift). I’d love to believe that the GP agrees with decentralism, but they just now endorsed expanding federal Medicare into universal health insurance.

  96. Michael H. Wilson

    BTW Brian the word utilitarian was first used, as I recall, in the book “Annals of the Parish” by John Galt from which John Stuart Mills and Jeremy Benthem got their idea for the Utilitarian Society.

    But that is beside the point. Explain to me why the American worker should be required by the U.S. government to subsidize the defense of his/her foreign economic competition?

  97. Susan Hogarth

    Holtz @36: There’s something to be said for the idea of having club-wielding asshats (sorry; ‘noble savages’) whack each other dead, rather than having nuke-wielding asshats (sorry; ‘statesmen’) bludgeon taxpayers into paying to have their sons and brothers whack each other dead.

    But of course the club-wielding asshats no doubt involved bystanders as well. Time to make another leap for’ads, peeps.

  98. Brian Holtz

    Michael, I reject both your premise that international trade should be considered zero-sum “competition”, and your premise that America should subsidize the defense of other countries.

    Susan, re-read Pinker’s graph. When an order-of-magnitude higher portion of us are getting “whacked dead” under arrangement A compared to B, then for me that trumps my concerns that B involves mandatory return of the ground rents created by institutionalized prohibition of whacking.

  99. paulie Post author

    your premise that America should subsidize the defense of other countries.

    I don’t think that Michael said that. In fact I think he said the opposite.

  100. Susan Hogarth

    Brian @110 I wasn’t going for an analysis, just an off-the-cuff remark. I really don’t think you can get a whole lot of insight comparing the apples of tribal warfare to the oranges of institutionalized warfare.

    I’m not a fan of the ‘noble savage’ concept; but I’m no more a fan of the ‘noble statesman’ concept – a bunch of dunderheaded asses setting up and facilitating the wholesale slaughter and starvation of civilian populations from their safe havens in the seat of Empire.

  101. Erik Geib

    Brian @ 107:

    I can agree with the two aims you’ve laid out (as a geo-leaner I particularly like elements of #2), but I still believe you’re missing the point on armed conflict. Just because one style of waging war is becoming obsolete, it does not mean war itself is obsolete. War, like technology, is constantly evolving. Those who consider themselves ‘anti-war’ still have many legitimite concerns.

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