Thursday, March 02, 2006



For some reason, this came to mind this morning...
What about Libertarian ethic and the theory of a Just War?

Can these two coexist? The Just War Theory has ancient roots. With Hebrews from the Book of Judges, to Cicero, to Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas and Hugo Grotius. According to Wiki:

Just War theory is the attempt to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable uses of organized armed forces. Just War theories attempt to conceive of how the use of arms might be restrained, made more humane, and ultimately directed towards the aim of establishing lasting peace and justice.

Under that particular definition, I don't think it would follow under the Libertarian ethic -- mostly because of the use of organized force, a.k.a. governmental action. The Lysander Spooner approach would allow an individual to come to the assistance of any other individual whose rights have been infringed. But up to what point? How can an organized party of individuals realistically just stop and say, "wait that's enough fighting" as if that "justice" will serve to make the infringed party whole again?

What about national defense? Is a preemptive stike ethical? It is like being sentenced guilty before the crime was committed. I suppose under a Utilitarian approach this would be much simpler, but how does one effectively measure the "greater good"?

Also what about a "just" holy war? If individuals feel that their rights have been infringed upon by others (via cartoons, sanctions, other religions), what more do they need to justify their actions?

I think it primarily boils down to a definition of rights and what someone must compensate for if there is any infringement on those rights. The libertarian ethic includes negative rights = life, liberty, property. The positive rights approach includes some sort of entitlements, social justice, or equality of outcome. So, I suppose, depending on your definition of rights, a Just War is quite possible.

What? No takers on this one yet?

You know what I think about this already. Definitions for what is just for a society to do collectively derive from what is just for an individual to do. I paraphrase Bastiat loosely,
"Since we all have the right to protect our body, our liberty, and our property, even if we have to use force to do so; then any group of men has the right to get together and hire someone to protect them. The group has the right to hire a protector because each of them has a right to protect themselves on their own. The man that they hire to protect them was hired only to protect them. If no one is allowed to encroach on anyone else, then the hired man doesn’t have a right to encroach either."
So we must begin from the individual level and decide what is ethical. It is ethical for an individual to protect their property. If someone encroaches, they may be repulsed. But once the encroaching action ceases, the repulsion must likewise cease, and from there restitution requested. Force is now set aside in favor of justice.

The question then becomes: Is the law just? If not the entire system breaks down and all that is left is force. Law was created as an less costly alternative to force.
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