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By Pete Moore On May 28th, 2012

The great Robert Higgs on war, from an interview with Paul Craig Roberts. My emphasis:

PCR: From your extensive research into previous U.S. wars, have you drawn any conclusions that shape your thinking about the present situation?

RH: One conclusion stands out: from the Civil War onward, engagement in war has left Americans less free when the war was over than they had been before the war. In countless ways, the warfare state has proved inimical to the preservation of liberty, just as patriots such as James Madison warned us long ago that it would. War brings higher taxes, greater government debt, increased government intrusion in markets, more pervasive government surveillance, manipulation, and control of the public. Going to war is the perfect recipe for expanding the size, scope, and power of the federal government. You have to wonder why so many conservatives, who claim to cherish liberty, enthusiastically embrace the government’s schemes for plunging the nation into war.

“War is the health of the state”, Randolph Bourne once wrote. He wasn’t wrong. I’m continually amazed at conservatives who cannot see that even though wars eventually end, they always leave our liberties so diminished, and treasuries so empty, that in the long run – even when we win – they are almost never worth fighting.

31 Responses to “ATW QOTD”

  1. Moronism is no longer the province of the extreme left or the extreme right. Professional lunatics like Roberts and Higgins demonstrate that many libertarians have embraced the ridiculous.

  2. You’re familiar with Higgins?

  3. The truth is always somewhere in the middle, right Mahons? lol

  4. It’s an interesting opinion, for sure (and I’m not sure where I stand on it), but Higgs does not (in the linked interview extract) really go into the hows and whys of his observation. He says that Going to war is the perfect recipe for expanding the size, scope, and power of the federal government. Why is that so? How is that so? I’m not saying that I automatically disagree, but I do want to hear his whole line of reasoning. Is it a deliberate thing, or a merely accidental (but happy) outcome for the State?

  5. Pete – I thought he was great in My Fair Lady.

    Petr – No. But the fringes tend to produce more quacks.

  6. opinions are like Aholes we have them, and they all stink, but the TinFoil hat brigade will glom on to this like it was gospel

  7. Mahons –

    I won’t tell anyone you’ve never heard of him.

  8. Higgs aays ” the state ” and bemoans loss of ” liberty “. Therefore, he must be a genius.

  9. Tom Tyler –

    We’ve no need to reflect on the two British social and political revolutions unleashed by the world wars. We can see the fortunate effects of war for statists just by looking at what has happened in the US in the last decade.

    – Since 9/11 the federal government launched a preconceived war on Iraq and imposed the Patriot Act on the American people. Both were planned prior to 9/11.

    – Unmanned drones (which will soon be armed) now monitor Americans.

    – The federal government declares that patriots, conservatives, libertarians, returning veterans et al are potential terrorists.

    – Americans are assaulted and sexually abused simply because they wish to travel.

    – Every act of electronic communication is monitored.

    – The president can now have any American detained indefinitely, without trial, without having to disclose why, at unknown locations.

    – The president, now claiming the power of the emperor gods, can have any American, simply on his word, murdered.

    All of these things, and more, are direct consequences of the “War on Terror”. The war is not one against terror, it is a war against the liberties and wealth of the American people and others. It is preconceived and carried out by and on behalf of special interests for whom the federal government acts.

    It’s a spectacularly successful war and guaranteed further success. Why? Just look at drones like Troll. How can it not succeed when supposedly liberty-minded people like him cheer their own enslavement?

  10. The war is not one against terror, it is a war against the liberties and wealth of the American people and others

    Eh, not forgetting countless hundreds of thousands of innocent, Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis……

  11. OK, Pete, but it’s a bit of a push to insinuate something along the lines that WW2 was deliberately manufactured by the powers-that-be, in order to ease the introduction of the Welfare State! Correlation does not always equal causation.

  12. Hate to break it to you but I am free and so are you.

  13. Tom Tyler –

    No, however Atlee’s government could not have collectivised so much of British commerce and industry without WW2. In fact, without WW2, there’s no way that such a government could have come to power.

  14. No, I disagree with you there, Pete. Maybe WW2 created the particular atmosphere in which Atlee’s socialism was given a chance to flourish, sure. But I do not think that the Atlee gov’t could not have come into power without WW2 as the backdrop.
    All it takes for an Atlee-type gov’t to get elected (and I think you actually agree with this) is universal suffrage, coupled with basic human greed on the part of an electorate. In other words, an electorate with a sense of entitlement to other people’s money, and political candidates promising them just that. WW2 might have helped, certainly, but it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

  15. (Mind you, having said that, we’re probably just splitting hairs here, and going off-topic, so I’m happy not to pursue this line, and to get back to the question of war as a means to further ‘the state’).

  16. Tom Tyler –

    You mention a sense of entitlement among the electorate. That’s precisely what it was, but my opinion is that WW2 was a necessary precondition.

    Working men had just spent six years fighting all over the world, women had become, for the first time, working women in factories and on the land. They weren’t willing to simply return to a pre-1939 world. Though they were misguided in what to do, they had sacrificed much, we had been through great hardship, now they wanted a payout, if you like.

    Without WW2, the Thirties, probably, would simply have become the Forties. Because of WW2, a social revolution hit as soon as the war ended, State forces capitalised and the government became powerful to an extent that no-one could have believed just six years earlier.

  17. I’ve never heard of Higgins, and neither have most people. He’s a type who can convince the childish that folks were better off in 1866.

  18. Believe that the guy’s name is Higgs, not Higgins

  19. No wonder my My Fair Lady joke failed.

  20. Ah, OK, I think I see what you mean, Pete. Actually, I remember watching an episode of (the original LWT production) “Upstairs, Downstairs”, where James Bellamy is contesting a seat in parliament in 1920 or so, and a heckler says to him “we fought in the trenches thinking that after this, it would all be different, no more of the same old order” (or words to that effect). I had never really thought about or heard of that opinion before, but it strikes me as plausible – that the ordinary man thought that he was fighting not just to defeat an enemy, but for a change to the old order of things. (Alas, it never happens).
    And it also strikes me: were those soldiers so wrong to expect and want a better world, to want some payback after having given themselves, given their very bodies, their futures, in the so-called service of the state? Absolutely, they did deserve a payback, an entitlement.
    Poor bloody fools, for thinking deludedly that the State would recompense them for giving themselves in its service.

  21. The essence of Ron Paulism is that the past was a Golden Age and that all regulation and expansion of state service over the past 100 years has been a step backwards .

    Its a Big Lie that falls apart after five minutes of analysis.

    The average person is freer and richer by any measure than those of 100 years qgo.

  22. and Tom earns his roll of tin foil

  23. Excuse me, Phantom, but that is not the essence of Ron Paul’s message, as far as I understand it. That is merely the way that unthinking simpletons perceive his message.

  24. If you’re gonna tell a lie make it a very big one and the Paulies and Alex Jones followers will believe every word of it

  25. Tom

    Which regulation or expansion of state service does the Quack from Texas approve of?

  26. RonPauls message is he is George Washington, Adams, and Jefferson rolled into one, but the reality is he the political Bernie Maddoff

  27. True, ao true

  28. http://www.thescratchingshed.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/TinFoilHatArea.jpg

  29. Troll, that’s a hurtful thing for you to say of me. However, I’m in my mid 40’s, and slowly, I’m waking up to what is going on in the world. You’re a nice guy, Troll, but I really do think Pete’s advice to you is sound: Get on a plane, go visit some other countries, absorb some non-American cultures, just for a short while. I forgive you for cracking a cheap “tin-foil” joke at me, because your mind hasn’t yet been expanded by travel. The USA is a really great place, and I know because I’ve been there. I’ve been to Texas, I damn nearly got married there, and it ROCKS! Fantastic place, but still, you need to experience other world-views.

  30. Texas is great but…how is that they keep electing the UFO Commander to the House?

  31. I too have been to Texas. Was in Austin many moons ago and enjoyed it hugely.