by Tim O'Brien
"Peace on earth and goodwill towards men." It is hard to imagine a more inspiring blessing or a loftier goal -- at any time of year. But, as with so many oft repeated words, the meaning of this holiday greeting has been lost in its sheer repetition, any attempt to actually realize it never even considered.
Libertarians, finding no great mystery in what is required to either bring "peace one earth" or "goodwill towards men," actually wish to make this lofty ideal a reality. We the people of the United States, sovereign citizens of what is far and away the most prosperous and powerful nation on earth, are clearly best situated of any people to bring the fruits of liberty to a troubled world.
Let us lead the way in creating "peace on earth" by first recognizing and proudly proclaiming that, while we will maintain every ounce of our strength, we will, henceforward, confine the use of our military forces only to the defense of the United States from foreign attack.
Though we need do nothing that would compromise our own security, the rest of the world would be stunned by this abrupt 'about face' from a century of foreign meddling. And, if the early history of our republic is any guide, they will be inspired, as well.
Our military is neither a moral nor an effective tool for changing the internal political structure of other countries. The attempt, however, has proven to be very effective at destroying our good name and provoking the resentment and even hatred of people all over the world.
Neither should we use our awesome power to either promote or hinder international commerce -- in oil or anything else. The hand-wringing of posturing politicians notwithstanding, even a billion barrels of the sweetest crude is not worth a single drop of our brave servicemen and women's blood. Our armed services volunteers signed up to defend our country, not the price of gasoline.
Without compromising our own security one iota we could withdraw from all military alliances, so-called "mutual defense treaties" (the "mutual" aspect of which is of dubious value to us in any case) ending this perpetual subsidy to our wealthy trading partners. As for one world government organizations such as the United Nations, to paraphrase the astute movie mogul Sam Goldwyn, "Include us out."
We should immediately withdraw from all military engagements and occupations, eventually closing all of our foreign military bases and bringing all of our troops and equipment home to defend our own country.
We should scrap our entire stockpile of strategic nuclear weapons -- unilaterally, if no one else is willing to follow our lead. Unlike the tactical variety (in the kiloton range) that have some theater utility, these megaton monstrosities can have only one function: the incineration of entire cities and their civilian populations. These "weapons" are now and always have been of no practical, military value, useful only as a terrifying bluff or for unimaginably devastating, after-the-fact revenge.
Just as confining the use of our military forces to only defending the United States from foreign attack will promote peace on earth, so confining the use of our police forces to only defending citizens from criminal attack will promote "goodwill towards men."
Government simply cannot protect individuals from the consequences of their own bad habits through "vice laws." Lack of self-control is a personal, moral problem, the proper realm of church and family. It is certainly not a legitimate object of criminal law. Attempting to protect people from themselves is a fool's errand and the consequences of prohibition are as inevitable as they are horrific: tainted, black market products and services, gang warfare by suppliers who are necessarily denied access to the normal systems of dispute resolution, court dockets and prisons overcrowded with pathetic people who never harmed anyone but themselves, corruption of law enforcement, and on and on.
As has been so amply demonstrated in countries throughout the world, using government to centrally plan the economy cannot more efficiently allocate resources than a free, competitive marketplace. Instead, we get not only ubiquitous, bureaucratic inefficiency but, worse, a regulatory system that is essentially for sale to the highest bidder. Giant corporate interests find it far easier and cheaper to subsidize the campaigns of elected officials willing to use their authority to strangle infant competitors in the crib rather than have to deal with new competition in the marketplace.
Government can only be a perverse caricature of genuine charity. There is no evidence whatever that we Americans are unfeeling scrooges who will dismiss the plight of our less fortunate fellows as an opportunity to "decrease the surplus population." There is absolutely no reason to believe that in the absence of schemes for forcible redistribution of wealth we will all stand around and watch while the truly needy go without food or shelter or health care. However, there is plenty of evidence of what happens to the work ethic when government provides a dole which can be claimed as an "entitlement," what happens to families when government replaces fathers as the household provider, what happens to education when government funds and operates a one-size-fits-all, monopoly school system.
Libertarians hold to the simple belief that people who are peaceful and honest have an absolute right to control their finances, raise their children -- in short, to live their lives -- however they see fit so long as they do not infringe on the right of everyone else to do the same. We believe that the only legitimate purpose of government is to protect us from anyone who would violate this most fundamental right.
A society built upon the premise that the only legitimate use of force is in self-defense is the only one that will ever have a chance to truly bring peace on earth and goodwill towards men.
Tim O'Brien is the Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Michigan.