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Libertarian Internationalism

December 16, 2014 in Economics

By Simon Lester

Simon Lester

One of the most dismissive terms thrown around in foreign policy circles is “isolationist.” If you are an isolationist, you clearly have not considered the issues carefully and rationally, and need not be taken seriously. Libertarian leaning politicians such as Ron and Rand Paul are frequent targets of this epithet.

There may or may not be a handful of actual libertarians who are isolationist, but the reality is that libertarianism is among the most internationally minded philosophies. Examining several key areas of international relations makes this clear: International trade, diplomacy and the military, and institutions.

The most obvious place where libertarians are internationalists is economic relations. True libertarians advocate the free flow of trade and investment, without government restrictions. This is about as international as you can get. For libertarians, the origin of a product or service is irrelevant. People around the world should be able to buy and sell from each other without government interference.

In the international arena, libertarians can and will have a strong voice and play an important role. That role should not be diminished by simplistic and inaccurate cries of isolationism.”

Unfortunately, in most countries today, there is a strong sentiment for favoring domestic economic actors over foreign ones. This feeling manifests itself in various forms, such as tariffs and Buy National procurement policies. Libertarians stand almost completely united against this nationalist feeling, believing that trade and other economic interaction with foreign actors benefits us all.

Diplomacy and the military is a more complicated policy area, involving a number of instances of potential relations between domestic and foreign. Here, though, there is a strong case that libertarians are more internationalist than most others. Of course, in part this depends on what one means by internationalism.

Libertarians are most frequently accused of isolationism when they object to military intervention in foreign territories. That libertarians usually object to these interventions is not in doubt. However, use of the military cannot always credibly be called internationalist. Colonialism and conquest, although they do require contact with foreigners, are not generally a positive form of international relations.

More controversially, libertarians may sometimes object to peaceful aid to foreigners as well. But this is not done out of anti-foreigner sentiment. Rather it is based on skepticism over the effectiveness of aid and its misuse as a foreign policy tool, and a general preference for markets over government support. Libertarians certainly believe in …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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