John Stuart Mill…On War

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Here is a quote, by John Stuart Mill, that I was required to memorize as an 18 year-old in basic cadet training:

“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. …A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

But here is the full quote, that was NOT shared with me (notice the part that was deleted…hmmm):

“But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer.  War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse.  When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people.  A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration.  A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.  As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.”

My reflections after more than 20 years.  This quote was pummeled into my brain, without the full context, to reinforce the fact that I am not to ask questions, but to accept that the State’s reasons for war are just.  We need more people to ask, if “people are [being] used as mere human instruments…in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master?”

Cannon Balls

Incidentally, this was written by Mill to persuade the the public to support the Union in the U.S. Civil War.

Essentially, this quote is useless in justifying war.  It is an oblique statement that says, “I hate war, but you know, this war is OK because the reasons are right.”  However, it is the reasons that are the hard part, and as long as the bar is kept low to justify war, as they are today (and drones count, by the way) then this Mill piece is nothing more than reaffirming evidence.

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Why Traffic Regulations Matter

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My last few posts have been about calls for government to make us safer on the Antelope Valley Freeway (AVF), as a result of a hypothetical multi-car tragedy.  You can read about it here.  

The final three calls for safety from that article are as follows.

  1. We need higher traffic fines.
  2. Let’s tax fuel to reduce traffic.
  3. If we build a monorail between Palmdale and Burbank, it will reduce traffic.

While my intent was to break these down individually, I realized that would get laborious so I decided to generalize: all calls for government intervention are to ask for less liberty, and to delegate away property from one person to another.  Period.

Are you a drone?

Are you a drone?

There are prominent thinkers and many others who think libertarians should stick to domestic civic issues such as traffic laws and drugs.  To some, talking about traffic laws on the AVF is exactly the lane (hey, that’s a pun!) libertarians should stay in.  To others, explaining how less State action would make for better foreign policy and less war is where I should be expending my time.  I really don’t want to get bogged down on this particular local matter, but the AVF illustrates a microcosm of a larger problem.  Separating domestic and foreign issues when it comes to liberty is a very tenuous game.  In short, the way people think about domestic issues should affect how they think about whether a nation-state has the right to reach out and kill children far-away with drones and missiles.  I know too many cannot make the connection, but it is important to bridge that gap, I think.

A libertarian mindset is a holistic one.  It is my opinion that to be “kind of” libertarian is like being “kind of” pregnant.  When you invite the State to control you, you certainly allow it to control everything.  Allowing the State to gain more and more power is based on fear:  fear of a car crash, fear of a terrorist attack, fear of poisoned foods, fear of being fat.  Eventually, you get sloth on top of the fear.  Actually, it might be a learned helplessness.  Eventually, not only do more and more people become accustomed to not looking out for themselves, those who may have wished to do so find it impossible because of the regulation, taxation, and legalized theft of property.

But the violence begets more violence.  Drone attacks on foreign soil produce enemies of the U.S. (see Blowback).  Contrary to the propaganda, they don’t hate us for our freedom (which is absolutely ridiculous), “they” hate “us” because “we” (words used cautiously) collectively approved (supposedly) our government’s interventionist foreign policy.  In essence, too many have bought that without the State, we would not be safe, we would not have justice, and people could not coexist.

Another type of drone.

Another type of drone (USAF Reaper).

As government creates more problems, it claims it needs more power to fix them…this is regardless of whether it is traffic laws or drones attacking foreign lands.  That’s why hacking away at its power one mind at a time is of the essence.

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