An Open Letter To The Peace Movement: Reply To A Friend’s Criticisms

A recent emailing of Roderick Long’s, “An Open Letter to the Peace Movement,” precipitated some criticisms from a non-libertarian and non-anarchist friend. This post will be a response to those criticisms. The author’s name will be withheld. If he so chooses, he can reveal himself in the comments section. The original text of the piece is in italics, and my friend’s criticisms are in bold.

“Dear Peace Activists:

All honour to you. In your opposition to the United States’ impending war on Iraq, you represent a welcome voice for sanity and civilisation, lifted up against the incessant baying of the dogs of war.

But I want to urge you to follow the logic of your position just a bit further.

Much has been said, and eloquently so, about the need, in dealings between nation and nation, to choose persuasion over violence whenever possible. Hear, hear!

But why this qualification: between nation and nation?

If persuasion is preferable to violence between nations, must it not also be preferable to violence within nations?

Here comes the shift from macro-level (nation) to micro-level (persons). Is it really useful to extend this metaphor? Hard to tell. Nations can cause a lot more damage than individuals when they get roused to action, mainly from the collective ability to dish out pain wholesale.

True enough, but the underlying principle of violence over persuasion remains. Nations or other macro collectivities may do more damage, but that doesn’t change the basic principle involved.

Suppose my neighbour runs a business out of his home, and I’d rather he didn’t. If I call the zoning board and ask them to shut his business down by force, am I acting like a peace activist? Or am I acting like George Bush?

So if someone wants to open a pig farm next door or an opium den, I just have to sit by in a non-mobile “investment” or house that now has diminished value. So someone with property can impose expenses on others by using his property with no regard for others (this is why people think of libertarians as selfish assholes, if you didn’t figure that by now.)

You’re more concerned with property values than human freedom. What’s truly destructively selfish is your willingness to use initiatory force to uphold your property values. Freedom matters more.

That’s all for now, but I will address the rest in a future blog post.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory