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New Directions for Peace and Security
November 6, 2007
Carl P. Close, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel, James L. Payne, Edward P. Stringham


David Theroux
President, The Independent Institute

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is David Theroux, and I’m the President of the Independent Institute. I’m delighted to welcome you to our program this evening.

The program, as you may recall, is entitled “New Directions for Peace and Security,” and we’re quite pleased to have four leading experts with us this evening to discuss the issues involved.

Our program is based around a new book that’s published by the Independent Institute called Opposing the Crusader State, a rather meek title, (laughter) small ambition. The subtitle of the book is “Alternatives to Global Interventionism” and it’s edited by two scholars, one of whom is Robert Higgs and the other one is Carl Close, who is with us this evening.

For those of you who are new to the Institute, I hope that you got a packet of information about our work. The Independent Institute is a non-partisan, scholarly public policy research organization. We sponsor many studies of social and economic issues.

We publish many books, like the one we’re featuring tonight. We also publish a journal called The Independent Review. This is the current issue of the journal, which has a cover story on the Katrina debacle, which is sort of being duplicated now in Southern California—not quite to the extent, but some of the same horrific outcomes.

We also produce a weekly e-mail newsletter called The Lighthouse, which everyone is welcome to receive. It’s free, and you’re all welcome to go to our Website which, just by coincidence, is written across the podium here,, and I think you’ll find a lot of good and hopefully useful information.

Also in your packets there is a program for tonight’s program, and at the bottom of the first page, it lists our next event, which is scheduled for Thursday, December 6, and that will be an event entitled “Why Are Politicians Always Trying to Scare Us?” And that will feature Robert Higgs, who is the author of this new book from us called Neither Liberty nor Safety.

And those of you who are familiar with Bob’s work, starting especially with his book Crisis in Leviathan and his more recent book Depression, War and Cold War, as well as other books like Against Leviathan, I think you’ll find that this is an event that will be well worth your time, and events with Bob are always very exciting and popular, so we hope you can join with us.

I think we can all agree that right after 9/11, our world changed, and not for the better. Not only were thousands of lives lost that day, but what has ensued since then has been steadily getting worse, costing American taxpayers more than $1.2 trillion, according to Yale economist William Nordhaus, or 10 times the pre-war estimate. The ongoing occupation of Iraq has provoked repeated attacks on U.S. forces, journalists, and international organizations, and Iraqis are engulfed in a disastrous Civil War producing horrendous casualties.

Iraq has further become a major recruitment ground for terrorist jihadists seeking to battle the U.S. invasion and interventionism more broadly. Global leaders in Europe, Asia, Africa, and around the world view U.S. military intervention with significant alarm, and international sentiment in many parts of the world indicates that the U.S. is more hated than ever.

When I was preparing this introductory remark, I was getting some information about the human casualties, and it’s too much to go through, because we want to hear our speakers, but I just want to throw out a few numbers just to give you an idea of the perspective.

The respected Iraq Body Count Project claims that the totals for Iraqi civilian casualties range between 76,000 and 83,000 people. And these are death rates that have increased each year since the U.S. invasion.

Of these deaths, 37 percent were by U.S. forces, 9 percent from insurgents, 36 percent from post-invasion criminal violence, and 11 percent unknown. Men account for 80 percent of the deaths, and 50 percent of the deaths occurred in the city of Baghdad. Only 30 percent died during the invasion, with the remainder since. Fifty-three percent of the deaths were caused by explosive devices, with the U.S. air strikes accounting for 64 percent of these explosive deaths. These are civilian casualties of Iraqis.

Child deaths were almost completely caused by explosions from either air strikes or cluster bomblets dropped by U.S. aircraft in civilian neighborhoods. An additional 42,500 have been injured, with 41 percent of these during the invasion, again primarily caused by U.S. air strikes.

But these counts have also been attacked as under-counted. An October 2005 study by the respected journal Lancet notes that the Iraqi Body Count Project estimates do not include deaths and illness—deaths from disease and other illnesses resulting from invasion. The Lancet count, as of October 2005, estimated a total number of civilian Iraqi deaths at 654,965.

A few other numbers. All this, of course, doesn’t include about 7500 Iraqi police and military deaths, 3855 U.S. killed, 3,100 of whom are in combat, 3716 since mission accomplished was declared, 3,394 since Saddam was captured, 2,418 since the election. It doesn’t include 3,337 coalition force deaths. The best estimate for private contractors is 933, but nobody knows. But get this. The total number of refuges to neighboring countries is 1.8 million, and this is as of November 2, 2006, with an additional 1.6 million displaced internally within Iraq.

I can go on with this, but the point is, it’s been an unbelievable, unbelievable experience. But for more than a century, U.S. foreign policy, whether conducted by Democrats or Republicans, has been based on the assumption that American interests are served best by intervening abroad to secure markets, to find potential enemies far from American shores, or engage in “democratic nation-building.”

What is the record of these policies, including now in Iraq? What lessons can America’s early foreign policy tradition of non-interventionism, which largely prevailed before the 20th century, offer for today? Would a peace strategy based on free trade and diplomacy and free exchange of people perhaps have a better outcome?

So I’m delighted to have four really distinguished people with us tonight, who are going to be speaking on different aspects of this, so let us begin.

Our first speaker is an old friend and colleague, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel. Dr. Hummel is Assistant Professor of Economics at San Jose State University. He’s been Associate Adjunct Professor of Economics and History at Golden Gate University. He’s been a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution and also a U.S. Army tank platoon leader. He is the author of the very influential book Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A history of the American Civil War. He’s also a contributing author to another one of our books called Arms, Politics, and the Economy. So let me say I’m very pleased to have Jeff Hummel.

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel
Assistant Professor of Economics, San Jose State University

I thank you for that introduction, David, but how come you didn’t mention that I also once worked as Publications Director for the Independent Institute?

Back in the early days. I want to thank David and the Independent Institute for sponsoring this event on this very important subject, and I want to thank you all for showing up. You may be able to tell that I’m recovering from a cold, especially those of you who know me. So my voice is not quite normal.

And, in fact, if I had more than 15 minutes, I probably would have had to cancel this evening. So I’m going to do something completely out of character for me, which is probably use less than my allotted time, but that’ll allow a lot of time for questions from the audience.

My topic is “Non-intervention as an American Tradition.” The United States achieved its independence in a mercantilist world in which war followed war in seemingly endless succession. Towards the end of the 17th century, there had been three Anglo-Dutch wars. Those were followed by four major world wars between Britain and France, the last of which, the French and Indian War, or known in Europe as the Seven Years’ War, you may have heard of. There was the war of the American Revolution, the wars of the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars.

And as Americans were fashioning their new experiment, they wanted to create something exceptional, something different, not just in the domestic realm, but in the foreign realm as well. And it’s little known that just after the Continental Congress ended up declaring independence, they began thinking about these issues as they considered what kinds of terms they would want in a treaty of alliance with France, even though the alliance came a couple of years later.

And these discussions indicated quite clearly that from the outset, Americans wanted to apply enlightenment, classical liberal ideas to international relations. They wanted to try to adhere to principles that would diminish and contain conflict, that would protect noncombatants during wars, that would extend the rights of neutral powers, that would extend free trade and reciprocity between nations.

And within this milieu arose the ideal of non-intervention, an ideal that came to be expressed by many early American presidents.

There are some actual great quotations that I’m going to read you from the book that inspired this evening’s presentation, Opposing the Crusader State. This is the opening essay from historian Joseph Stromberg.

And so we have George Washington in his Farewell Address of 1796 proclaiming that Americans should “have with foreign nations as little political connection as possible,” although trade and impartial commerce. Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural of 1801 called for “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”

John Quincy Adams probably has the most eloquent summation of the non-interventionist principle, expressed actually before he became President in a Fourth of July address of 1821. And many of you have heard this before. “America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause by the countenance of her voice and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication in all the wars of interest entry, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standards of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force.” That last sentence is very prescient.

Now, unfortunately, the ideal of nonintervention, although implemented in part in the first century of American’s independence, began to erode from the outset. It first faced pressures from the desire for continental expansion. And you’re all familiar with that story, culminating in the spread eagle cries for Manifest Destiny of the 1840s. It also faced pressure from the hemispheric pretensions of the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. But really, nonintervention, at least with respect to Europe, dominated American foreign policy, and with respect to relations outside of this hemisphere, until it received the frontal assault of the Spanish-American War of 1898, a war conducted under the aegis of progressive ideology.

And this war is worth remembering, looking back, actually, it has some uncanny similarities to American’s current imbroglio. The Spanish-American War itself lasted only 115 days. There were only 325 American battle deaths, although there were 2,000 deaths from disease. Teddy Roosevelt complained, “It wasn’t much of a war, but it was the best war we had.”

But it was followed by the Philippine insurrection, led by Emilio Aguinaldo. As compared with the 385 battle deaths the U.S. suffered during the Spanish-American War, the U.S. suffered 4,243 combat deaths over three years suppressing the Philippine insurrection, inflicted 16,000 Filipino combat deaths, and the estimate of civilian deaths is between 100,000 and 250,000, in part by war-induced famines.

The Spanish-American War inspired the heroic resistance within the United States of a group that called itself the Anti-Imperialist League. This was as heterogeneous assortment of those opposed to the war and then the suppression of the Philippine insurrection, including former President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, industrialist Andrew Carnegie, labor leader Gompers, Jane Addams, the city reformer, Carl Schurz, and George Botwell, who were aging radical Republicans, Mark Twain, and William Graham Sumner.

In fact, this was the war that inspired William Graham Sumner’s famous essay “The Conquest of the United States by Spain,” in which he said, well, in terms of the military dimension America may win this war, but in terms of ideology, the U.S. is being conquered by Spanish ideas of militarism and government control, and etc.

Unfortunately, the Anti-Imperialist League did not succeed in its endeavors, and is sort of the last gasp of classical liberalism and across-the-board non-interventionism in American history.

The 20th century then becomes dominated by intervention. First we’ve got the continuous intervention in Latin America under Teddy Roosevelt, under Taft, under Woodrow Wilson, who, to quote him, wanted to teach the South American republics to elect good men.

There was some intense opposition to U.S. intervention in World War I—not enough to prevent the declaration in 1917, but enough to inspire the Sedition Act and the excessive suppression of civil liberties on the part of the Wilson administration, which used the war as an excuse to try to smash the Socialist Party, the International Workers of the World, and then, of course, this led to the subsequent Red scare.

Disillusionment with World War I inspired a so-called isolationist movement in the 1930s, and the isolationist movement, which became crystallized in the American First Committee, did manage to pass a series of neutrality acts, which I have mixed feelings about. If somebody wants to ask me about that during the question and answer, I’ll be happy to respond.

But of course, the attack on Pearl Harbor was one of those electrifying events in history like 9/11, where—and despite the fact that the attack had been provoked by Roosevelt’s foreign policy—everything changed. And the opposition to U.S. entry in World War II, not only against the Japanese, but also in Europe, completely and utterly evaporated.

Now I don’t think there’s much point in rehearsing the history of intervention since World War II. Many of you are familiar with it. American troops are stationed around the globe an have intervened in country after country. I do want to call your attention, in concluding, to sort of what seems to me to be an obvious effect, but nonetheless, an overlooked effect.

We’ve now had a century of government intervention—Korea, Panama, Nicaragua, the Congo, Angola, Bosnia, Somalia, Yugoslavia—and supposedly this intervention was designed to protect the American people, to protect you. And yet the net result was that on September 11th, American citizens in their homeland ended up being less safe from foreign aggressors than they have ever been since the War of 1812, nearly two centuries earlier. And I can’t think of any more revealing demonstration of the abject failure of foreign intervention in terms of its alleged goals. Thank you very much.

David Theroux
President, The Independent Institute

Thank you, Jeff. Our next speaker is Edward Stringham, who is Associate Professor of Economics at San Jose State University. Ed is also president of the Association of Private Enterprise and a contributing author to our book Opposing the Crusader State. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University. He’s editor of the Journal of Private Enterprise, and also the books Anarchy and the Law, which is a new book also from the Institute, and the book Anarchy, State and Public Choice.

I’m also please to point out that Professor Stringham’s chapter in Opposing the Crusader State received the Institute’s Olive Garvey Fellowship Award. Ed.

Edward P. Stringham
Associate Professor of Economics, San Jose State University

Thank you. Thank you everyone associated with the Independent Institute, the Therouxes, Carl, Robert Higgs for organizing all of this and putting this wonderful book together.

Today I’m going to talk about the contents of my chapter in this volume, the best chapter, “Commerce, Markets, and Peace: Richard Cobden’s Enduring Lessons.” Richard Cobden was an English writer from the 1800s, and although his writings are a century-and-a-half old, Cobden addressed many arguments made for military intervention still being made today, and I think that we can learn a lot from his writings, so I want to focus on some of them.

So what’s the issue? Many people believe, back then and today, that free markets and war go hand in hand. In a review of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, George Orwell said capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war.

If we look at the past century, we see significant advances in markets, but we also see a century plagued with war. Do capitalism and conflicts go hand in hand? Are military and markets complements? Indeed, many conservative advocates of markets are also passionate supporters of military, and many who oppose markets, also oppose war.

Richard Cobden, in contrast, argued just the opposite. He maintained that military and markets are substitutes—more military means less market. Cobden discussed whether military spending was beneficial to the economy, commerce, and peace, and in all cases, he answered no. So let me go through and discuss some of the reasons why, and then conclude why the advocate of markets is actually an advocate of peace.

Cobden’s first set of arguments emphasized the cost of military spending. He began his pamphlet with a quote from George Washington’s Farewell Address, where Washington made the political case for entanglements with none and trade with all. Richard Cobden outlined an economic case.

Unlike later economists who were influenced by Keynes, Cobden was not an adherent of the broken window fallacy. He said that whenever a government devotes resources to the armies and the navies, it comes at a cost, “every farthing of which goes, in the shape of taxation, from the pockets of the public.”

The discussion was important to Cobden because he didn’t view all of governments’ expenditures as promoting the public good. He actually saw that military spending was a drain on the economy.

Now what does the public get? He said, although England’s international affairs were conducted under the pretext of the public good, Cobden believed that much of public policy solely benefited special interests. He wrote, “The honors, the fame of war, belong not to the middle and the industrious class. The battle plane is the harvest field of the aristocracy, watered with the blood of the people.”

He says this is bad for the everyday person. He says, “No person possessing sound reason will deny that we, who find it necessary to levy millions annually, must be burdened with grievous disadvantages when brought into commercial competition with the untaxed labor of the inhabitants of America.” Remember, America was relatively non-interventionist at this time. He says America was following a better policy. He says a policy from which so much wealth, prosperity, and moral greatness has sprung, he says America is a spectacle of the beneficent affects of that policy which may be comprised on this maxim, as little intercourse betwixt governments, as much connection as possible between the nations of the world.

Cobden’s second set of arguments address those who use commerce as a justification for a war. While commerce obviously has beneficent characteristics, perhaps society has to take the bad with the good. The two choices might be to accept markets and militarism, or oppose them both. So if you support commerce, must you support war, too? Cobden recognized the popularity of this view. He writes that British intervention has usually been excused under the pretenses of protecting our commerce.

But to Cobden, this is a false marriage. Markets and military do not go hand in hand. He believed that the commerce justification for military spending was completely illegitimate. He writes, “Do we need an augmentation of the navel force in order to guard our ingenious artisans and industrious laborers or to protect those precious results of their mechanical genius, the manufactories of our capitalists?” He says the success of an economy depends on free enterprise, which does not depend on military spending.

And we can see this by looking at where government devotes their military resources. Cobden discussed how there was free trade—basically free trade between England and America, but he asks, “Now what precaution is taken by the government of this country to guard and regulate this precious flood of traffic?”

With great passion, Cobden argued that the commerce was hardly dependent on the Navy. He writes, “How many vessels of war, which are maintained at the expense of the nation at many millions of pounds annually, are stationed to welcome and to convoy the merchant ships bearing the inestimable freight of cotton wool upon which our commercial existence depends?” So how many ships are protecting commerce? This is his answer: Not one.

Or the army. He goes, “What portion of our standing army, costing seven millions a year, is occupied in defending the golden stream of trade on which floats not only the wealth, but the hopes and the existence of a great community?” To him, his answer is four invalids hold the office of defending the port of Liverpool. So to him, the world is just too big to police. There is so much commerce going around the globe, and if you look at where the government is spending military resources, it’s not protecting commerce. It’s usually protecting other military establishments.

So why are the arguments in favor of military made in the name of commerce? Why are they so popular? He says one reason is the legacy of mercantilism, under which government played an active role attempting to manage the economy. So this included establishing foreign trading monopolies by law. Since the government had to maintain these commercial monopolies with armed forces, the discussion of commerce and military went hand in hand.

Cobden argued, however, that the legacy of mercantilism—that should be abandoned. This is an old fashioned doctrine. He says the men of war to conquer colonies, to yield us a monopoly of their trade, must now be dismissed. To him, a simple solution as an alternative to mercantilist policies is to implement policies friendly to business. Triumph in the world market is determined by successful private enterprise, not by military might. Replacing military relations with commercial relations would have the advantages including bringing more peace.

He says, “But, besides dictating the disuse of warlike establishments, free trade arms its votaries by its own specific nature and not eternal truth, the more any nation traffics abroad upon free and honest principles, the less it will be in danger of wars.” Rather than creating antagonistic relationships, trade encourages peaceful relations between nations.

Cobden’s final set of arguments addressed those who try to use liberty as a justification for war. Cobden first made his case for nonintervention by appealing to the self-interest of his fellow citizens. He wrote “Our sole object is to persuade the public that the wisest policy for England is to take no part in these remote quarrels. We shall claim the right of putting the question upon footing of self-interest.”

He says, “We are not called upon to preserve the peace and good order of the entire world.” He says although many problems exist, becoming involved in every single one of them would be futile. He says, “Upon what principle—commercial, social, or political—in short, upon what ground consistent with common sense does the Foreign Secretary involve Great Britain in the barbarian politics of the Ottoman government to the manifest risk of future wars and the present pecuniary sacrifice attending the standing armaments?”

When I read all this, I thought, did he make a mistake? Wasn’t he talking about the United States in Iraq today? But I don’t know. Maybe in the reprinting they missed that part. He argues against what he calls meddling in the affairs of foreigners.

Next case he made for nonintervention was made by addressing the humanitarian-sounding arguments for a military. When a country is blessed with more liberty, does compassion compel that we help others attain it too? While Cobden certainly favored advancing liberty throughout Europe, he believed military action was not the answer. As Higgs has demonstrated, war nearly always leads to an increase in government power. Cobden wrote, “For let it never be forgotten that it is not by means of war that states are rendered fit for the enjoyment of freedom. On the contrary, whilst terror and bloodshed reign, there can be no process of thought, no education going on, which can prepare people for the enjoyment of rational liberty.”

Rather than trying to fix every problem around the globe using might, he said, England should stay out. He lists all the problems, then he says, “With such elements of discord as these fermenting all over Europe, it becomes even more than ever our duty to take natural shelter from the storm from entering into which we could hope for no benefits.”

Cobden believed that the humanitarian course of action, rather than being intervention, was one of laissez-faire. He says, “England, by calming directing her undivided energies to purifying of her own institutions to the emancipation of her commerce, would serve as a beacon of other nations and aid more effectually political progression all over the continent than she could possibly do by plunging herself into the strife of European wars.” He says that acting as a model for others to follow would be far more helpful than trying to get embroiled in their conflicts.

To Cobden, the fruitful alternative is free trade because markets and trade create peaceful bonds between otherwise separate parties. Cobden wrote, “England”—and you’ll see who he’s referring to when he’s referring to England in a second—he says, “England has united forever two remote hemispheres in the bonds of peace by placing Europe and America in absolute and inextricable dependence on each other. England’s industrious classes through the energy of their commercial enterprise, are influencing the civilization of the whole world.” So this is England’s industrious classes “are influencing the civilization of the whole world by stimulating the labor, and above all, by teaching to surrounding nations the beneficent attachment to peace.”

Arguments for the military in the name of markets have a long history. They’re still being made today. But 19th-century writer Richard Cobden addressed these arguments head on. Economic success depends on private enterprise, not military might. Armed forces may play an important role promoting commerce under mercantilism, but not under a policy of free trade. By standing by the principles of free trade and by serving as a beacon or as a lighthouse we can advance liberty more effectively than by going to war. Contrary to prevailing views, markets and war do not go hand in hand. The market promotes peace. Thank you.

David Theroux
President, The Independent Institute

Lighthouses have beacons. Thank you, Ed.

Our next speaker is James Payne. Jim has been director of Lytton Research and Analysis. He’s also another contributing author to Opposing the Crusader State. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley, and he has taught at such universities as Yale, Wesleyan, Johns Hopkins, and Texas A&M.

He’s the author of many books, including A History of Force, Why Nations Arm, The Culture of Spending, Overcoming Welfare, Patterns of Conflict in Colombia, Labor and Politics in Peru, and so forth. So I’m very pleased to have Jim Payne.

James L. Payne
Author, “Does Nation Building Work?” in Opposing the Crusader State; Author, A History of Force

Thank you, David. It’s a pleasure to be here and I want to thank all of you for coming out tonight to look into this issue in more depth.

I am, of course, very concerned about the Iraq involvement, and I’ve been spending a lot of my research effort over the past years looking into the theories that got us into it, and trying to test them out and seeing if there’s any validity to these theories. And not to keep you in suspense, there isn’t.

One aspect I want to look at in particular, it concerns this idea of nation building. I think one theme that drove the Bush Administration in its invasion of Iraq was the idea that we could implant, impose democracy on that country, which would be good for it and have a lot of other beneficial aspects for the whole region.

The basic problem I see here, which troubles me, is that the meaning of the term democracy is very unclear, and those who are advocating that we establish it don’t realize that there isn’t an it, that there’s a lot of contradictory and confusing ideas behind this term.

Look up the word in the dictionary democracy and you will see it says rule by the people. And when you first see that, it looks like a very impressive system, because it conjures up the notion that everybody in a country is getting what he wants. If you want a cotton subsidy, you get it. If you want free shoes, you can have them. If you want a war in Iraq, you can have it. You have this notion of everybody getting what he wants. And if that’s what democracy is, then it might be worth invading countries and killing a lot of people to impose it, because it’d practically be a Nirvana—people would be all happy.

What makes this so funny is if you do just a minute’s thought, you discover that what one person wants, another doesn’t want. And you can’t have your cotton subsidy unless you take taxes from me, and so on.

So you have to scale the definition of democracy down to rule by 51 percent of the people, which is quite a come down and not quite as happy a prospect, because you have the possibility of 49 percent of the people being very angry, and oppressed, and so forth.

A little more thought reveals, of course, there’s more than one issue to be decided—two, three, four, 20 issues, so that very easily, in fact, almost certainly, if each of these were decided by 51 percent, the entire country would be disadvantaged by one or more of these decisions, so in principle you could have, in a functioning, majority-rule democracy, the entire country angry at having lost one or more issue.

A little more thought shows that this whole speaking about democracy as rule by people is a little artificial, because governments undertake thousands of decisions. They have hundreds and hundreds of programs that most of us can’t even know about, let alone have an opinion about. The idea that we could control them altogether is absurd. Political scientists that look into this have realized this for many years.

Robert Dahl is a very distinguished commentator on the theory of democracy, and concludes that what democracy really is should be called rule by minorities. And if you think about each issue, like a cotton subsidy, it’s 20 or 30, 50, 100 people wanted it and that’s why it’s there. And on issue after issue, it’s a very tiny minority that is responsible for the particular subsidy or policy, and these things aren’t decided by the great mass of the 300 million Americans in any case.

So, again, we’re reaching this kind of vanishing point of what is democracy, and we’re not even clear in our own minds what it is.

A policymaker who found this out the hard way is Lieutenant Colonel John Fishel, who was the head of policy and strategy for our Panama involvement in 1989. He was given—it seems a little hard to believe—but, actually, the literal orders which he copies out in his book said, “Conduct nation-building operations to ensure democracy.” That’s the orders that were cut for him, and he, being a good soldier, he said, well, I better do it.

And he started reading books on political science, and so forth, and discovered democracy was, for all intents and purposes, an undefined term, so that he was unable to come up with what he should do driving around in his jeep to bring about a democracy there.

I mean, you can have the orders. They sound rational. But the word at the core of the order is confused. For instance, a Secretary of Defense could write, “Find Santa Claus and fix his sleigh.” I mean, it sounds like English, right? But what would you actually do?

So we’re trying to impose, with this whole theory of nation-building, we’re trying to impose or implement—create an object which is very fuzzy in our minds.

I do think there’s something behind this term. I’m not going to suggest we simply abandon it, but I think we’ve been looking in the wrong direction, and I want to just take a few minutes here to suggest a new way of looking at democracy, or what we’re trying to get at when we use the term.

I think it’s better to think of it, not in terms of institutions, but as a kind of political health. We’re trying to say the country that is a democracy is healthy in some political way. If we take the analogy with human health, we would say a person is healthy because we see he’s energetic, maybe his skin color is ruddy. So the skin color is a sign of his health, not the health itself. Same way with political institutions—elections, freedom of press, courts, constitutions, rule of law, things like that, are more symptoms of an underlying political health than the health itself.

Now what would this health, in the case of a political system, consist of? And I’m going to suggest to you it’s a very simple perspective, a very obvious point, but everybody seems to go past it when they try to talk about political systems. This political health is when you have political participants who are not inclined to use force against each other. That is, they’re not inclined to murder each other. Senators aren’t trying to kill presidents. Presidents aren’t trying to kill Senators. If a group doesn’t get what it wants, it doesn’t start a bloody riot that kills lots of people. If a candidate doesn’t win the election he hoped to win, he doesn’t start a civil war and embroil the country in years of violence.

Now it seems obvious to us that this is an actual way for things to happen, non-violent politics, but the truth is, all around the world, for most of the history of the world, this was what went on everywhere, normally, naturally. Leaders were trying to kill other leaders. And it was accepted, not in the sense that people approved of it, but they felt that’s the way the world had to work.

I’m giving a real quick summary of what I write about in this book that David mentioned, The History of Force. In this just about the last 400 years, some countries started moving away from that pattern. It’s a little bit mysterious how and why it happened, especially since it seemed so sensible in retrospect.

England, Holland, Scandinavian countries, and their rulers, we would say, decided or just moved past the idea of killing each other, and when people didn’t get what they wanted, they moved past the idea of starting revolutions.

And the result here, when you’re not going to use force, is the thing we call democracy. It’s that simple.

In other words, democracy wasn’t an invention. You didn’t have some philosopher saying, this would be a better way, let’s do it, and other people saying, yeah, we see. We’re going to approve of that. No. As leaders got less violent, and when you get less violent, it turns out you have to turn to these other practices, like an election. If you’re not going to kill someone to get him out of office, or to decide any question—if you say, I’m not going to take out any guns, what are you going to do?

Well, one first answer is you have a show of hands, and you accept it. You accept it not because it’s a smart idea or it makes very much sense, because mostly it doesn’t, but because what else can you do if you’re not going to be non-violent? If you’re not going to pull out a gun.

Same with the idea of accepting a decision of a judge, or a judicial body, and so forth. It’s not that this body is so smart or wonderful or the people themselves are noble or non-corrupt or anything. It’s that what else are you going to do if you’re not going to use force?

So that’s basically what we’re trying to say, I think, when we use the word democracy; it is a country where political participants don’t resort to physical force.

Now let me give you a kind of a test of this theory. Say there’s two ways of looking at democracy. One is institutional. You make a list of things—freedom of the press, elections, courts—say that’s going to be democracy. And I’m saying no, it’s a country where leaders aren’t disposed to use force.

Now suppose we have an election in this country where the person that gets the most votes does not take office. Instead, the runner-up is given the presidency.

Now in one scenario, lots of people, the people who lost, start a civil war. They pull out the guns and they start marching on the Capitol and when you ask them why they’re doing it, they say, “We’re democrats. We believe fervently in elections and that the winner should win an election and take office. And this didn’t happen here, so we are fighting to reestablish the purity of democratic theory.” So the country plunges into a civil war for years and years, the economy goes down, people starve—whatever. That’s situation A.

Situation B, same thing happens to the election. The guy that gets the most vote isn’t given the office. Instead, it’s the runner-up. And people just shrug it off. They say, “It probably shouldn’t have happened, but shucks, you know, I’m not interested in fighting. I’m too busy with other things.” And they go back about their business.

Which of these two countries is more democratic? You want to vote on it?

Well, no, let’s see what happens—the one where we had the civil war to reestablish the principle of the winner should be the winner. How many say that’s the true democracy? Okay, there’s three votes for it. How many say it’s where people just pass by and go on as best they can? All right, that’s got a few more.

Well, you’re taking my definition, the definition I’m trying to urge here, that democracy really ought to be thought about as a situation where leaders have decided to abandon the use of force in their struggles in politics.

Now just to quickly bring this to the problems of what would it mean for democracy, and nation-building, and trying to implement democracies abroad. You would see it’s not institutions. It’s not that you just can go hold an election and you’ve created a democracy.

And, of course, since we’ve done that about 75 times—in Nicaragua, in Cuba, in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and so forth—and these things collapse into dictatorships and civil wars again, it’s clear that that’s a faulty point of view.

Instead you’d say, a democracy is this place where leaders aren’t disposed to fight. So if you go into a country where they’re still disposed to fight, you have a violent political culture, then when you leave, they’re going to go back to fighting in one form or another. You’ll have a civil war or you’ll have a dictator that will be able to suppress the other guys so they can’t throw him out of power.

And the other side of this coin is, if you go to a country that has a peaceful political culture, then you don’t have to do anything in particular to set up a democracy. You can just go home, or stand back, or close your eyes and they will do it. And this is the example of Germany. Yes, it’s in this book; I write about it at some length. We did just about everything wrong in Germany in terms of any helping of a democracy. But a democracy managed to emerge because the leaders, once you got rid of that violent clique of Hitler’s, were peaceful, and you didn’t have to do anything special.

So the bottom line is, nation-building in the sense of creating a democracy by invading a country is always ineffective. Thank you.

David Theroux

Jim had a great article in a recent issue of The Independent Review on what happened in Germany after the surrender of the German government in World War II, and it really refutes the mythology about what was going on. It was really a system of policies that were punitive and not constructive. And if you’re interested in that, I can direct you to that.

James L. Payne

It’s in the book that we’re selling tonight.

David Theroux

So with that special bonus, our fourth speaker is Carl P. Close, who’s Research Fellow and Academic Affairs Director here at the Independent Institute. He’s also the Assistant Editor of The Independent Review and is the editor of our e-mail weekly newsletter called The Lighthouse.

Carl is, as I’ve mentioned, co-editor of Opposing the Crusader State. He’s also co-editor of two of our other books called—one’s Re-Thinking Green and the other one is called The Challenge of Liberty. I’m delighted to introduce Carl P. Close.

Carl P. Close
Research Fellow, the Independent Institute; Co-editor, Opposing the Crusader State

So it’s the end of a long day, and you’ve had maybe a couple of glasses of wine, and you’ve heard three very information-packed lectures, so I’m going to give you a quiz. But it’s not a written quiz. It’s not exactly an oral quiz, so don’t shout out the answer if you know it. And we’ll try to answer it over the course of my brief presentation.

The question is, why are Americans perennially disappointed with their foreign policies? Why don’t we get the foreign policy outcomes that we want?

And I want to offer three possible answers. Is it mainly because of poor or ignorant leaders, A? Is it B, that the goals are worthy, but they’re inherently difficult and therefore there are going to be messes from time to time, so we will have disappointments? Or is it C, that Americans are just not properly engaged and therefore they need some help, maybe from European countries, or maybe they need to participate more in multi-national organizations, that sort of thing.

So we’re going to consider each of these and then see how some of the material from Opposing the Crusader State can help answer them.

Okay, the first potential answer: is it poor leadership? If so, then you might think that the main solution to our foreign policy problems is simply to replace the leader. But consider George Bush’s metamorphosis.

In the year 2000, when Candidate Bush was running for election, Candidate Bush looked around and he saw American’s reaction to such things as Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, and so on, and Americans were asking, what are we doing here? What is the vital national interest that requires that we be here? And we saw that deadlines for withdrawal were not being met, for example, in Bosnia. We saw peacekeepers going to Haiti, but no real stability being created, so what happens if you pull out the troops, do you get more instability? I would imagine so. That’s why the troops are still there.

So could it be that Bush simply wasn’t equipped to deal with the pressures that he would face after 9/11? Perhaps he didn’t know the rationale very well for the more humble foreign policy that he called for. That’s a possibility.

Now, Hillary Clinton has called for a lot of similar policies that Bush advocates in Iraq. She wants to pull a lot of troops out, but she still wants to leave behind a quick-action force to do things like prevent Iraq from becoming a safe haven for terrorists, to prevent a civil war form occurring, and so on. So it really doesn’t look like it’s terribly different from George Bush.

Also, let me give some other examples. We see George W. Bush enforcing a lot of policies created by Bill Clinton. And Bill Clinton enforcing a lot of polices created by George H.W. Bush. And we see Richard Nixon continuing a lot of policies of Lyndon Johnson, and we see Eisenhower continuing a lot of policies of Harry Truman. So with this much continuity, can we really expect a change in leadership to produce a real significant, long-term change in foreign policy?

Now for answer B: Could our foreign policy failures and disappointments be caused by the fact that we have worthy goals, but they’re inherently difficult. If so, you might think that we ought to stay the course, grin and bear it, assume our so-called global responsibilities, and maybe change a few things, mend, but don’t end.

This, however, I think is also flawed, because a lot of our goals conflict with each other, so they can’t all be worthy goals. For example, we intervene militarily in the Middle East to keep down to keep down the price of oil—that’s one rationale—but we see the price of oil going up. We see the cost of war escalating. It sure doesn’t look like a good deal on any kind of cost-benefit comparison. Also, we see a lot of our interventions creating new enemies, something that’s obviously counterproductive.

The third alternative: Could it be that failures happen because American citizens are not properly engaged with foreign policy? Now, again, there are different versions of this argument. One version is that Americans are not as cosmopolitan, say, as Europeans, and therefore, we need to participate more in these multinational organizations to do things like peacekeeping, and humanitarian missions, and so on. Another version is that Americans are too pragmatic and need to be more principled. We hear Rudy Giuliani, for example, as one who’s making something like that as part of his platform. Another version is that Americans are too idealistic and therefore need to be more realistic.

Well, overall, these assumptions share something in common that’s not often discussed, and that’s the idea that Jim Payne alluded to: the idea that democracy works well at translating citizens’, voters’ preferences into public policy, and therefore that citizen involvement can be effective at monitoring foreign policy, at discovering problems before they become big catastrophes. Now let me just ask a rhetorical question.

How many of you knew about Al Qaeda before 9/11, or knew about this growing hostility shared by Islamists that led to things like the 1993 World Trade Center building bombing before those happened? Okay, a few of you. Now you folks who come to events like these are probably not a representative audience.

I’d submit that American democracy is not structured well enough for very good, active citizen involvement. We just don’t see problems, most of us, until they appear on the front pages.

Okay, so why the foreign policy failures and disappointments? Is it poor leadership? Is it that we’ve got worthy goals, but they’re too hard to implement? Is it that there is a lack of citizen engagement?

I’d say in some ways all three are correct. In other words, leaders are weak, leaders are ignorant, leaders do share a lot of dubious assumptions. That’s why you see continuity of bad policies. We do see policies that conflict, but we do know that the business of foreign policy, protecting American lives, is difficult and getting more and more difficult with the advent of non-state groups that might potentially have access to weapons of mass destruction. And third, we know that Americans are unengaged, and unengaged for a good reason—rational ignorance. So I would say that the answer is a little of all of the above.

And more fundamentally, we have systemic failures, and therefore the solutions need to be systemic.

So I want to talk about some of the reforms that are suggested in Opposing the Crusader State. First, there’s a chapter on Robert Taft, Mr. Republican, a Republican Senator from Ohio, from 1939 to 1953. Now he was confronting a lot of challenges similar to what we’re confronting today. He saw the Truman and later the Eisenhower administrations pursuing foreign policy that he considered a little too much of a crusader state. Those included such things as giving money to foreign governments to woo them in our court. It included using the military to secure access to raw materials, using the military to ensure open markets for U.S. exports. And he looked at this, and he says, this is all baloney, and he gave several good reasons. He was very articulate in his defense of this earlier non-interventionist foreign policy orientation.

First and foremost, Taft called for U.S. policy to be fundamentally one that is protective of the liberty of American citizens. That’s the number one thing—protect American citizens. And that includes protecting them from the threats of a growing government—say, a government that gets too large, starts spending too much, wrecks the economy, and hurts Americans economically.

His second foreign policy goal was for U.S. government to maintain the peace. And that meant protecting Americans only from direct threats. So Taft saw himself as an opponent of FDR’s Four Freedoms policy. FDR gave a speech in which he said that our goal now is to defend everywhere in the world—freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear. And of course that, Taft saw, was an open-ended commitment, totally divorced from protecting American lives from direct threats.

Taft even rejected the Marshall Plan. The modern-day equivalent—well maybe not so modern today, but which happened in the early ‘90s—the Soviet Union falls, and what does the U.S. do to try to keep Russia from reverting back to Soviet ways? A huge economic bailout. Well, did we get what we paid for?

There were alternatives to things like the Marshall Plan. One might argue that more cost-effective methods were things like the CIA trying to buy elections. There was the 1948 election in Italy where the CIA threw some money around to prevent the election from going to the Communists, whom Moscow was funding.

But those kinds of adventures are not risk-free. If you look at the recent election in the Palestinian territories, when Israel surreptitiously gave money to Fatah. What happened when this was uncovered in the press? Hamas came to power. Palestinians were outraged, and saw Hamas as the group that was fighting for their interests. So those kinds of interventions can also backfire.

Now, Taft was also very vocal about keeping policies from creating new enemies. He saw NATO, for example, as provocative—something we didn’t need to do, really, to secure American lives. A modern-day equivalent you might see as Bush’s plan to put an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic, which now has led Putin to escalate the rhetoric and to start rattling his saber.

Taft also challenged Truman’s assessment of the Soviet military threat in 1948. So, again, that sounds eerily similar to some recent assessments of our enemies, right? The White House’s assessment of the Iraqi threat. So somehow, Taft, like Nostradamus, made a lot of predictions that seem to have a lot of relevance today.

Taft also was a big critic of the United Nations. He felt the United Nations would be totally ineffective in keeping the peace. That was because, for one reason, it was not based on any underlying law. Second reason, it gave the Security Council members these veto powers, so it would practically be a coincidence for an institution like that to effectively prevent war and civil war.

However, Taft did favor U.S. involvement in international institutions, provided that they have a very limited agenda. And what he had in mind was an international council in which every country would have a voice. It would intervene militarily only when there is a war or near-war between two countries. It was there to ensure the peace, and it would not interfere at all in a country’s internal affairs.

This sounds a little naïve to some of us, but it’s not so different from what some people are considering today. Maybe it’s less naïve than what Hillary Clinton, for example, is considering. Hillary wants documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be enforced by a new international organization. And I don’t see how anything like this could be workable, and if it were attempted I think it would be a disaster.

For example, that declaration’s Article 16 has to do with promoting women’s rights, and it has to do with family, and marriage, and so on. And these things would directly conflict with a lot of the policies of Muslim countries. In fact, Sudan and Pakistan have said as much. They view that declaration as based on Judeo-Christian values, and they see it as incompatible with what they want, and what, even more, some of the radicals in their midst want, which would be the sharia.

Also, Article 19 is a sort of a First Amendment—a free-speech bill. But again, Hillary would try to enforce this in every country. And then Article 22 deals with Social Security. Article 22 says every citizen has a right to Social Security. Well, what about countries like Chile, which are actively pursuing private alternatives to Social Security?

So again, it sounds like the Four Freedoms of FDR all over again, and I think that if the choice were between Taft’s proposal and Hillary Clinton’s proposal, Taft’s would make a lot more sense.

And it’s not just Hillary Clinton. John McCain sure has a lot of these views of Hillary Clinton—both call for some new group to keep the peace in Darfur. The UN is ineffective, the African Union has about 3,000 troops there. They are ineffective.

And, in fact, even if we don’t get Hillary or McCain, we’re getting things like that already. Just a couple weeks ago there was a new naval strategy announced, that the U.S. Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard are now going to undertake humanitarian missions. This is the biggest change in naval strategy in 20 years. We’re moving in that direction of so-called “humanitarian interventionism.”

Now, we do see crises like Darfur, and we want to do something about them. We wish they would go away. These disasters are always going to be going on somewhere, and we desire to not have people suffer like this, at the hands of a brutal government, so what can we do?

Well, in the mid-‘90s, the UN had a very interesting idea for dealing with the civil war in Rwanda. The UN contemplated sending private security groups there. There was one called Executive Outcomes, and another, Sandline International. And the idea was that these trained, professional private contractors—mercenaries, essentially—could go down there and keep the peace between the Tutsi and the Hutu. But, sadly, the UN decided not to do this, and instead they relied on poorly trained policemen from Zaire, and as a result, 800,000 people were murdered.

Now, it’s not to say that there would have been zero casualties had these private contractors been involved. But we know they were better trained.

So here’s a novel idea—how about employing private security in Darfur?

Now certainly, I know what you’re thinking—“wouldn’t it be a good idea if we took contractors from Blackwater and put them into Darfur?”

Now one of the problems with what happened recently in Iraq—well, it’s been pointed out that Blackwater answers directly to the U.S. military. Their agenda is not to protect all Iraqi civilian lives—so, they don’t. So how about having the UN hire Blackwater to police Darfur? Or better yet, private NGOs hire Blackwater or other contractors? Now, Jeff alluded to a problem, and that is that something like this would violate our neutrality laws, so we might want to prod him for a discussion on that during Q & A.

Now, some other potential solutions in Opposing the Crusader State. The democratic peace theory. Jim Payne talked about some problems with democratic nation-building, the concept of democracy is quite fuzzy. One of the sections from the book is a debate on democratic peace theory. We have one of the leading proponents of the theory, R. J. Rummel from the University of Hawaii, debating Ted Carpenter from the Cato Institute—and both go at it no holds barred, it’s bloody and it’s fun. It’s like watching the UFC.

Now, Rummel has also done the great service of tallying up the number of civilian deaths caused by government. And he puts the figure in the 20th century at something like 262 million. He notes that in none of these countries were the murders caused by democratic governments.

He also argues that democratic governments never go to war with each other and that it’s not a coincidence. He says that’s because they are democracies—democratic governments share power. And because power is dispersed, decentralized, you’re much less likely to get government killing its citizens in any large numbers.

Carpenter counters that and says, well, wait a minute, I can think of some counter examples. Furthermore, there are a lot of close calls between democracies, where they’ve almost broken out in open warfare. He also argues that the real reason for the relative peace between democracies has more to do with balance of power considerations.

Now, I think it’s a fascinating debate, and I’m going to leave it as a homework assignment for you guys to read and decide. I won’t tell you who I think wins, or even whether the debate is actually settled in the book.

But already that debate has had an impact in the real world. Jim Payne mentioned a few—there are other things on the legislative front. It’s not just President Bush who’s trying to promote democracy abroad. The Congress has gotten into the act.

Both houses have put forth something called the “Advance Democracy Act,” which would give lots of money to help promote democracies abroad. But this is so much less informed than the debate by the democratic peace theorists. It’s sponsored by people like Senator McCain and Representative Tom Lantos. And it’s been pointed out that the way the legislation is written, they seem to think that democracy is a one-size-fits-all-thing that you just push and suddenly a country becomes democratic. It ignores the long culture of non-violent conflict resolution that democracies have, and so on.

Now I think there has been some quieting within the administration about democracy. We’ve seen some elections go kind of the wrong way, and they’re, I think, putting that on the back burner for now. But those arguments are still out there, so that’s one thing to be careful about.

Also in the book, a fascinating chapter on private-property rights. An alternative to the democratic peace theory is the private-property theory of mass murder—or maybe that’s not the best description—the property-violations theory of mass murder, by Stephen Carson. And he points out that where these disasters occur is where property rights are weak. The solution, therefore, is to strengthen private-property rights. His view is complementary to democratic peace theory, but it’s not dependent on it.

So one advantage, he says, is that his theory better explains cycles of mass murder within a country, like in the Soviet Union you had mass murder increasing with collectivization, with greater invasions of private-property rights. And as those invasions recede, there’s less murder. It’s really a brilliant theory.

I’m going to cut it short so I can just talk briefly about the last chapter of the book, and that is the capitalist peace theory. Erich Weede is a sociologist from Germany, and here he talks about something also complementary to democratic peace theory, but a little different. And that’s simply the idea that trade facilitates peace. So he advocates free trade, foreign direct investment, and so on as ways to help—not just to increase prosperity—but to keep countries from going at it with each other.

And this is already going on. Probably the number one reason why—well, maybe number two reason—why China hasn’t taken over Taiwan, is their economic interdependence. The U.S. and China have a lot of trade going on, and that certainly acts to help soften tensions. So what we might consider is really pushing free trade, globalization as a peace strategy.

So where would you want to see this? Well, in places like India and China. Get them to increase their commerce with each other, lower trade barriers. Or Turkey and Kurdistan, let’s say.

So we’ve got several great ideas that can really, really make the world more peaceful, more secure. And I think, though, that a lot of these efforts—especially with the last two things I mentioned, promoting property rights and promoting free trade, really are going to take greater efforts on the part of individuals.

Now, China recognizes the value of propaganda, and recently they’ve created Confucius Institutes at more than 100 universities across the world. The idea is to help people better understand China, their culture, their language—also, how to do business in China. Some good things, but there may be some propagandistic elements there.

What we need is for freedom-loving people everywhere to, in a more organized way, tout the benefits of private-property rights and free trade. I think that’s ultimately the long-term cure for war and also the best thing we can do to increase prosperity and reduce misery, and so on.

With that I want to close with something very eloquent written by William Graham Sumner. This is from the same speech in which he lamented the Spanish “conquest” of the U.S., via the U.S. accepting the ideas of imperialism. In that same speech he wrote:

“Our ancestors all came here to isolate themselves from the social burdens and inherited errors of the old world. When the others are all over ears in trouble, who would not be isolated in freedom from care? When others are crushed under the burden of militarism, who would not be isolated in peace and industry? When the others are all struggling under debt and taxes, who would not be isolated in the enjoyment of his own earnings, for the benefit of his own family? When the rest are all in a quiver of anxiety, lest today’s notice they may be involved in a social cataclysm, who would not be isolated out of the reach of disaster? What we are doing is that we are abandoning this blessed isolation to run after a share of the trouble.”

Now, non-intervention doesn’t mean disengagement. It only means non-intervention by the government. And that allows for the possibility that we the people can go out in the world, and acting through voluntary institutions of civil society, make our case for liberty, peace and prosperity. Thank you.

David Theroux

Thank you Carl. One thing I might just add in real quick before we start our questions is, we’ve heard four different speakers, and they’ve touched on different aspects of this issue—which is a big issue. The tradition of non-interventionism is to say that invasive acts, aggressive acts, are not civil, are not acceptable. So the idea of the rule of law of taking aggression against an innocent person is not acceptable.

So the idea is that you have a rule of law that you say that invasive acts are not acceptable, but that also means that defending yourself from aggression is acceptable. And you make that clear distinction between the innocent party and the guilty party.

So let’s open it up to questions. This gentleman right here. Wait for the microphone, and hold it horizontal too.

Audience Member

Question for Jeff. Do you really think that the Spanish-American War necessarily represented a sea change, or was it simply a process whereby America became powerful enough to project power overseas?

I mean, certainly if we look at the Mexican War, infiltrations of Americans into Texas and California causing so-called “separation movements,” maybe really that was just part and parcel of a much longer-term project of expansionism that we’d been going through for the last 200 years.

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

Yeah, I think there is some truth to that way of looking at it, but there still is the critical distinction between continental expansion and overseas expansion.

And, I mean, what you’re suggesting is that if the U.S. hadn’t had the opportunity for continental expansion, maybe it would have engaged in overseas expansion earlier—and that’s quite possible.

But it does really represent a sea change in the role of the United States in the world.

I also want to say something about Texas and California, because I think we may need to make a distinction between governmental expansion and private expansion, and notice that, at least initially, the Texas event was a kind of private expansion.

That’s too strong a way to put it, but there was an element of private expansion in the continental growth of the United States. In Texas, Americans moved in partially at the invitation of the Texas government and then got involved in a civil war within Mexico, which resulted in an independent republic. I don’t think that everything that occurred in the Texas revolution can be justified from a libertarian standard, but on the other hand, I think that’s in a different class than the outright conquest that took place in the Mexican War, and we need to be sensitive to these distinctions.

Audience Member

Question for Jim Payne regarding democracy. We’re seeing democracy in Iraq where the Prime Minister cannot leave the Green Zone; democracy in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai cannot go out of the palace; democracy in Pakistan where Musharraf cannot freely walk out of the presidential palace. What type of democracy this is and when do you think the head of these states can really walk into the cities? Thank you.

James L. Payne

It’s a good question. In the terms that I was trying to introduce, I would say Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan are high-violence societies, high-violence cultures, where political participants are inclined to be violent and I think this is likely to be the case for quite a few years to come. Not forever, because I believe in a general overall declining trend in the use of violence, but it takes a long time.

So you can have some institutions of violence, some elections, for example. Some courts can be independent for awhile. But I don’t think what we’re trying to talk about a country that is politically healthy. I don’t think it can exist in those three regions for a long time to come.

Audience Member

I’m just throwing this open to the general panelists. Do you think that there’s a “threat inflation” built into the system, the idea that if we understate the risks to U.S. property and U.S. citizens, it would be too horrible to contemplate, so government officials have a sense that they need to amplify the threats to keep themselves in power or that they actually believe that they’re protecting American citizens? It’s just a general question about threat inflation.

Edward P. Stringham

I’ll start out. It’s an excellent question. My take on it would be that, especially in this kind of hypermedia age, our politicians have become inured to the idea that they should say they can protect us from everything.

And that’s where the error begins, because the real way you have to look at it, and I’d like to see a politician say this, is that we live in a dangerous world, where many terrible things can happen—diseases, epidemics, earthquakes, fires—and these are going to happen. And I as a politician and we as government cannot prevent them.

I’m afraid someone who said that, which is very much the truth and very sober, would get pummeled. That the style is you have to say I will never let it happen, and he says it might happen, and we’re going to put him on the dustbin of history.

So I think that’s where it’s coming from, is the inability of a politician today to recognize it’s a dangerous world, and so to speak, shrug his shoulders a little bit.

David Theroux

Anyone else?

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

I think there is a definite threat inflation. Since the government is running a protection racket, it’s very convenient to have an enemy to protect you from.

But I think the problem is actually more pernicious than that because the threat inflation tends to be self-reinforcing. In other words, inflating a foreign threat leads to policies that engender a foreign threat, and so you get a kind of mutual reciprocal relationship between antagonists, in which their antagonistic policies promote antagonistic policies on the part of the opponent in an increasing cycle of hostility.

So, in other words, threat inflation, unfortunately, is very often self-fulfilling.

David Theroux

The gentleman right here.

Audience Member

Mr. Theroux spoke of the other nations opposing us, and President Bush came out with a comment after 9/11, talking to the other nations, that you’re either with us or you’re against us. And I think we know, now, where the other nations do stand. They are very much against us.

And why is it that they are against us?

I’m the alpha male here in this room. I’m the alpha person in this room because I know best. And what are you thinking? Your reaction to that is very negative.

But isn’t that what we hear when George Bush makes a speech? I know best. I’m the alpha male. I hear that from him. And why our diplomatic efforts are received poorly, and not working, is because of that. And so as why they are not working, perhaps there is a fourth reason that they are not working, and that is our attitude toward them.

And I think the four of you have given us some very strong evidence that we don’t know best in this world and our attitude when we deal with others, we do not know best.

David Theroux

If I could just make one quick point that relates to the previous question—and this relates to the work of Bob Higgs, who we keep on referring to.

And one thing that Bob points out is with this crisis-mongering, you create the sort of nationalization of authority in society, and the view that Jim was just talking about—the politician can’t deny risk and pain and death. It happens. And so the political leader is sort of a deification, and sort of becomes this divine sort of Caesar-type figure that promises everything. And so it relates, I think, to this question.

Audience Member

This is for the general panel. Would you comment upon the intelligent function in this country. We’re spending over $40 billion a year on apparently 16 different intelligent agencies to keep us safe. Mr. Close said that one of the items is maybe we’re not as sophisticated as the rest of the world. We’re not as knowledgeable as the rest of the world. But we’re all busy. We’re paying a lot of money into our intelligence agencies and apparently are not doing the job. And I would just like a comment from the panel as to where they see this thing going and how do we get better at this?

David Theroux


Carl P. Close

I’ve read a little on this and there’s a great book out there by a former CIA analyst on the failure of strategic intelligence. He was at the CIA for a dozen years, and he talks about the culture of non-learning at the CIA.

For example, he was a Ph.D., and he knew of other Ph.D.s who kept their education sort of hidden from their managers. “We don’t want Mr. Smarty Pants in here. We want a team player.”

Another example, if you want to learn another language—you want to learn Pashtun, or Farsi, or something like that, do it on your own time. They didn’t support acquisition of foreign language skills.

They were also extremely paranoid about bringing into the agency people who have spent any time outside of the country or the children of recent immigrants.

So the culture there needs to change. There are a lot of other things that need to be done, first and foremost at the policy level, but even without those changes, the analysis division is or it was—I don’t know what its state is now—a brain dead bureaucracy.

Ed Stringham

I think it’s a good question. Randolph Bourne said that “war is the health of the state.” And one could take the view that the government is just bumbling and not solving the problems that they could solve if they were smarter, or one might just take the view that it’s not in their incentive to solve these problems, that the more conflict that they get us into and the more danger Americans see ourselves in, the more government is able to get away with numerous bad policies around the world.

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

I think the question actually hints at one of the most powerful arguments in favor of non-intervention.

You know, Hayek talks about a knowledge problem with respect to the domestic economy, and that’s one of the reasons why central planning will always result in inefficiencies. And the international environment is exactly the same. It’s not that there’s no way of improving the intelligence, because there’s a certain level of uncertainty about the international realm. In other words, I would never make the argument that foreign intervention is always going to have bad results for the United States. I don’t have sufficient knowledge to say that.

My argument rests on a more fundamental, epistemic humility, which is that I don’t know, and the United States government doesn’t know, when foreign intervention will result in good outcomes versus bad outcomes. And even if I did know, I can’t conceive of any incentive structure that would confine the U.S. government to interventions with good outcomes and prevent it from engaging in interventions with bad outcomes. And therefore, given the cost of intervention, the best policy is a hard-line opposition to all foreign intervention.

David Theroux

One point also related exactly to what Jeff is saying is, there’s a certain sort of disconnect in the idea of central intelligence. In other words, the idea of central intelligence is that some government agency is going to be funded by taxes, and is going to essentially plan some sort of intelligence gathering and analysis, and then deciphering of what this is good for.

And yet this view of centrally planned information has been totally disputed in every other field of society. We don’t do it with food. We don’t with clothing. We don’t do it with steel production. We don’t do it with housing. Nobody really believes that that’s a better way of operating. But for some reason, intelligence gathering has this view.

And the irony of this is that an economy is a coordination system of people using information. And Jeff mentioned F.A. Hayek, the economist who talked about the fact that in a complex economy you have this decentralization of information, and a process of discovery, and competition in getting information to flow through people in that no one has perfect knowledge of anything in society. In fact, everybody has a peculiar knowledge of his or her own circumstances. And that it’s the interaction and peaceful exchange and coordination among people that makes a market economy more efficient than a centrally planned one.

So right from the outset, the idea of a central intelligence agency itself is, in my opinion, a great hubristic view.

James L. Payne

Let me do my turn here and follow up what you said.

You’re absolutely correct that the problem is in intelligence. The speaker is correct that this is probably one of the biggest scandals in this country, that we have—figures I’ve seen, and calculated, is we have 100,000 people in security intelligence of various kinds—diplomatic and so forth—which is a staggering army.

And one of the big flaws in the whole operation is that it’s secret. The thing about business coordination and economic coordination is it’s public. That is, what you are charging and so forth is public knowledge. And the whole premise of intelligence in all the bureaucracies is that it is to be kept secret, even from the other bureaucracy, where it can’t be challenged, and tested, and so forth.

And the bureaucrats themselves know this. I had an occasion in an earlier phase in my life to hang around the State Department a great deal, and I’d be in there and what were the officials in there reading? It turns out every—we had this huge apparatus of political reporters in every embassy and they’re funneling this stuff, and it’s coming in, and it’s top secret—do not distribute and so forth—cables.

Well, on the desk of everybody in the State Department are the Washington Post and the New York Times. That’s their information, which is not even tax-funded, but they depend on it more and more consistently than their own internal information that we pay billions for.

Audience Member

I was wondering what role embargoes play in an isolationist, non-interventionist policy—American policy.

David Theroux

Sir, one thing I might mention is the term isolationist needs to be clarified because—

Audience Member

Suppressed. (laughter)

David Theroux

The term isolationist was invented, I guess during World War I, right? It was basically used as a term to smear those that were critical of the intervention, and the view is that you were self-absorbed and not engaged in reality. And the popular notion of isolationism is linked with extreme protectionism, no trade, no travel, etcetera.

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

I wanted to answer the question, but I need you to repeat it.

Audience Member

Well, what role does the embargo play in non-interventionism?

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

Oh, yeah, really good question, because it relates to American history. Jefferson, although he didn’t always adhere in practice to his ideals, was an advocate of non-intervention and peace. And as a result, during his administration, when a British warship had fired on an American warship and killed several American sailors, and seized some sailors off the ship, and impressed them into the British Navy in what is known as the Chesapeake-Leopard affair, Jefferson was so determined to avoid war that he instead responded with an embargo, which turned out to be an economically disastrous policy.

In other words, it’s one of the most dramatic examples of misplaced idealism. In other words, his goals were peace and yet the self-inflicted blockade that resulted from this embargo destroyed the New England economy, and he had to agree to its repeal before he left office.

You know, I’m sympathetic to voluntary boycotts on the part of individuals, but I’m completely opposed to any kind of government trade restrictions, no matter what the rationale.

Audience Member

The follow up question is, in the case of Japan and our refusal to sell them steel and oil, so they could no longer continue building their evil empire, how is that a bad thing? You had mentioned it was a provocation by FDR that got them to attack us.

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

Well, you answered your own question. It provoked the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Audience Member

How is refusing to trade with someone a provocation?

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

It got the U.S. involved in World War II. I can’t think of a less desirable consequence.

Audience Member

How is refusing to trade with an evil empire a provocation?

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

Look, I think that you as an individual have a right to refuse to trade with anyone you consider evil, whether it’s an empire or another individual. And you have a right to persuade other people to refuse to trade with empires or individuals that you consider evil.

But when you cross the line and you use the power of the state to prevent me from trading with them, because you haven’t been able to convince me, I think that that policy is not only wrong, but also incredibly impractical and counter-productive.

David Theroux


Carl P. Close

So embargoes don’t always turn out the way they are planned. They often have unintended consequences. One rationale for Iran’s nuclear program is to provide it with plentiful energy. Now why would Iran, which has such huge oil reserves, need a nuclear program?

Audience Member

Global warming. (laughter)

Carl P. Close

Aside from the fact that An Inconvenient Truth has been translated into Farsi? But seriously, Iran has lots of crude oil. It doesn’t have lots of gasoline refineries. And one reason is that it costs billions and billions of dollars to build gas refineries.

The organizations, the companies that have the technical know-how to do that are forbidden by the sanctions. They are also, even without the sanctions, at this point they still might be quite skittish. But had we lifted the sanctions regime on Iran, and then Iran continued to build their nuclear energy program, at least then you might be able to say that their motives for the nuclear program are more transparent.

As it is now, the sanctions both help motivate the nuclear program and if they do have in mind the development of nuclear weapons, the sanctions regime helps give them cover.

Audience Member

I just wanted to ask the panelists what they think is the proper response to 9/11. I gather from hearing some of the responses that they don’t think intervention is a good strategy or a response to the attack is in any way justified.

James L. Payne

All right, I’ll try first. I think given the clear location of the attackers in Afghanistan, we had to do something about that. But I think it should not have been covered up with all this nation-building blah, blah, blah. You go in there and they were out in six weeks, and they go home.

Now other things may develop from that. Maybe they’ll be back in there and so forth, but then you take this policy of saying we can’t control the whole world. The world is a dangerous place. If Al Qaeda gets started up again there, let’s see what they do. But again, I don’t think that politically we’re back into that problem. Anything more—the Iraq thing, was, of course, total irrelevance.

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

I’m going to have to partially disagree with that answer. I think that non-intervention, by which I mean withdrawal of all U.S. troops from all bases abroad, elimination of all U.S. government military aid to foreign countries, all U.S. economic aid to foreign countries—that was the proper policy before 9/11, and therefore it was the proper policy after 9/11.

Now it is true that 9/11 created a kind of dilemma where none of the options looked good. But what’s the reason that none of the options look good? Because of this history of U.S. government intervention. In other words, what’s happened.

Israel is in a similar situation where a consistent history of intervention has produced a situation where all of the short-run options have an unpleasant possible downside and when you’re in that situation, the best thing to do is to take a step back and eschew the mindless and counterproductive reliance on military intervention and have the courage to pursue the policy that will maximize the long-term prospects of peace and justice, and that is nonintervention.

Carl P. Close

I would say you have to vigorously pursue Al Qaeda, but you’ve got to do it in such a way that you don’t recruit more into their ranks.

David Theroux

The proposal that we made after 9/11 was to have letters of marque and reprisal legalized, which, for those of you not familiar with this, in the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, there is a portion where Congress can authorize so-called letters of marque, and letters of marque are essentially legalizing bonded agents, private agents, which then compete to go after some pirate or terrorist or whatever, and they get paid on a performance basis. But if they injure any other parties in the process, then they themselves can be viewed as targets.

So the idea was that this would be a criminal justice response in the best sense of that, which is targeted toward the specific individuals who are culpable for the deaths of the innocent people who died on 9/11 as opposed to—let me put it this way. The question is what do aircraft carriers, stealth-bombers, spy satellites, and anti-ballistic missiles have to do with combating people who carry box cutters or have a suitcase bomb? The answer is nothing. And unfortunately, the establishment in Washington is geared for the latter.

The particular history of what happened is that we made this proposal. Congressman Ron Paul picked up on it. He had 10 other co-sponsors of a bill in Congress that would authorize this. And the bill didn’t even suggest eliminating anything else—just to legalize this one thing. But the iron triangle of Washington shut it down and it didn’t go anywhere.

Ironically enough, if you look at the actual success stories of capturing Al Qaeda, plus the Saddam family, etc., they were all done by private bounties. Any other questions?

Carl P. Close

Can I point out?

David Theroux


Carl P. Close

There is a bounty on bin Laden’s head, and bin Laden is still alive and at large. There are bounties on other Al Qaeda leaders. And incentives work, but incentives don’t always work. And monetary incentives are not always the best incentives. The people who are around bin Laden are loyalists and they’re not motivated by money, so I don’t think that’s sufficient.

David Theroux

Well, I would disagree with Carl because the point is that in fact, at this time, there is a group of high tech business people who are putting together a billion-dollar bounty fund to get bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders and that essentially is illegal now. Only government bounties are legal now.

Audience Member

If you take into account that the CIA and ISI in Pakistan funded much of this, and then if you take into account the Saudi Royal family backed bin Laden completely, we invaded the wrong countries.

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel

We didn’t invade any country. The U.S. government invaded.

David Theroux

Well, we’ve been going on for quite a while, and I want to thank all of our speakers. If you’d join with me for a hand of applause.

Audience Members


David Theroux

It’s something of a challenge to have a forum that conveys the scope of the book that Carl and Bob Higgs have edited. So we hope that you will get a copy, and I know that the authors here would be delighted to autograph copies for you. Remember our next event is December 6th with Bob Higgs. And thank you for joining with us. And goodnight.


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