Monday, August 22, 2011

The politics of peace

If I could sum up my objection to both the right and the left in American politics, it would be to say that both movements believe that progress is made fundamentally through conflict. Conservatives believe that progress is made through protecting "Western culture" or "American values" and by defeating the enemies of freedom; hence going to war and violently defending our borders are often necessary components of progress. For liberals, progress is made by winning the inherent conflict between the rich and the poor, or between the privileged class and the underprivileged class, or between the majority and the underrepresented minority. This also manifests itself occasionally in violence, as for instance when labor unions in the past have violently coerced workers to fall in line with their policies. But even if violence is not as welcome on the left as on the right, coercion is, whether in the form of taxation or bureaucratic regulations.

The fundamental reason I am a libertarian is because I believe that progress is not made primarily through conflict, but through peace. Competition has been overemphasized in expressing the value of free markets. Yes, competition protects the consumer in a free market, but the kind of competition we're talking about is not a zero sum game, because free exchange means mutual benefit, and mutual benefit means a net positive for society. Free exchange is not only the natural result of peace, but it also helps to create peace. People who benefit from one another are not likely to soon become enemies. Nor can friends do anything but freely exchange, since the very nature of friendship is to desire mutual benefit.

I believe in open borders, non-interventionist foreign policy, free trade with all nations, and minimal regulations on private affairs. In other words, I believe the purpose of government is to promote peace in all facets of life. The reason I believe this is that I think the goal of human civilization is a world in which humans don't look at one another with suspicion, and I think the first step toward this goal is to first drop our own suspicion of others.

The politics of conflict can never be satisfied; on the one hand there always seem to be more people threatening to undo our culture, and on the other hand there always seem to be more greedy people who prey on the weak. At some point, wisdom demands that we drop our weapons and seek peace with our enemies, even if this means losing what feels like the battle for justice.

Is it possible that Americans will ever give up the conflicts which have driven our political ideologies? On the answer to that question may rest the fate of civilization as we know it.

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