Monday, May 24, 2010

Walter Williams, Statist "Libertarian"

I actually saw this piece by Williams first at Lew Rockwell, but since I'm linking to a post by Roderick Long, I'll give credit to him.

It's called Immigration and Liberty, and opens with the following:

My sentiments on immigration are expressed by the welcoming words of poet Emma Lazarus' that grace the base of our Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Those sentiments are probably shared by most Americans and for sure by my libertarian fellow travelers, but their vision of immigration has some blind spots. This has become painfully obvious in the wake Arizona's law that cracks down on illegal immigration. Let's look at the immigration issue step by step.

There are close to 7 billion people on our planet. I'd like to know how the libertarians answer this question: Does each individual on the planet have a natural or God-given right to live in the U.S.? Unless one wishes to obfuscate, I believe that a yes or no can be given to that question just as a yes or no answer can be given to the question whether Williams has a right to live in the U.S.

He would like to know how libertarians answer his question, not fellow libertarians, so I guess he doesn't consider himself libertarian.

In any event, as Long observed, Walter Williams departs from "libertarian perfection" on other issues as well, such as the "war on terror". In the essay titled Fight terror war like we did WWII, Williams basically justifies any and all "collateral damage", although it's worse than that, as that terminology implies that civilians are not or should not be deliberately targeted, but that some may die anyway as we pursue the bad guys. Williams, however, want us to fight as we did in the "Good War" WW2, by seeking out civilian targets and murdering men, women and innocent children by the hundreds of thousands. As he writes:

Horrible acts can be committed in countries where most of the people are peace-loving and simply want to be left alone to attend to their affairs. I imagine that described most of the people in the former Soviet Union; however, that did not stop the killing of an estimated 62 million people between 1917 and 1987.

Thank God Williams wasn't President of the United States in the early 1960s in place of the peace-loving John F. Kennedy. Using the Walter Williams' logic, a full-scale nuclear preemptive strike on the USSR could have been justified, including the incinerating of millions of ordinary Soviet citizens, because everyone in the nation was collectively responsible for Communist crimes.

He goes on:

At this particular time, fanatical jihadists are calling the terrorism shots in many Muslim countries. Their success in committing terrorist acts is in no small part the result of the actions by the millions of peace-loving fellow Muslims. First, there is not enough condemnation of their terrorist acts by the Muslim community. More important is the direct or indirect assistance terrorists receive through the silence of their fellow Muslims. There is no way terrorists can carry on their operations, obtain explosive materials, run terrorist training camps and raise money without the knowledge of other Muslims, whether they're government officials, bankers, family members, friends or neighbors.

Because those millions of peace-loving Muslims do not speak out and expose terrorists and don't more fully cooperate with domestic and international authorities trying to stop terrorists, they become enemies of the West just as the peace-loving people in Germany, Italy and Japan became enemies of the Allied powers during World War II. Like them, Muslims should be prepared to suffer the full might of the West in its efforts to fight terrorism.

Can not the "terrorists" also justify the targeting of civilians using the same logic? That ordinary people in the U.S. know what our foreign policy is doing to innocents that we've murdered in the tens of thousands in our occupations of Islamic countries, and that the U.S. government and military would not be able to continue its acts of aggression without the tacit approval of the population. What Williams has done is morally justify 9/11 and all other violent acts that are aimed at non-governmental and non-military targets.

While I can understand the grievances of Islamic radicals, I can never and will never approve in the slightest of their murdering of innocents in their war against the U.S. government and other Western powers. But since the West, under the leadership of the U.S., has been and is the aggressor against Muslim populations, those within those populations who choose to fight back have the moral high ground in the "terror war", and Walter Williams cannot call the deliberate killing of civilians (even on a mass scale, as occurred in World War Two) evil, as he already makes the case that it is okay, since the "terrorist" can't carry on without the passive support of people who are otherwise just minding their own business.

Unlike the statist mass murderer Williams (by his own logic, he is responsible for the U.S. Empire's killing sprees) I equally condemn all murder, no matter who is responsible or what their justification may be.

But back to the immigration issue. Long responds:

Williams himself has written elsewhere:

I have a right to travel freely. That right imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference.

If Williams means what he says, then he has just acknowledged his own right to cross the borders of other “nations.” How, then, can he deny the right of other people to cross the borders of the “nation” in which he lives?

And how can he condemn acts of "terror" against civilians when he so clearly believes (like every good statist) in the collective guilt of entire populations.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of all these fake "libertarians", and it's time we stopped considering them part of our movement or even allies on some issues. Because with friends like Walter Williams, we don't need any enemies.


  1. While I disagree with Williams' pro-genocide foreign policy, I have to admit that I've started to understand the paleolibertarian/Hoppean objection to completely open borders.

    To give one example: allowing mass immigration from Islamists has led to Shariah courts in the UK. This is not exactly a victory for libertarians or leftists of any stripe, but both continue to think they're somehow sticking it to the social conservatives by supporting mass immigration.

    While I'm in favor of getting rid of welfare for immigrants (as well as everyone else), it seems hard to do so when they can just come and vote themselves more of it.

    This is not to say that everyone from the "third world" is a statist or bum--not by a long shot. But the left certainly seems most interested with inviting the bums and statists from those countries. It's just too obvious that they support immigration solely to build their own voter base--it has nothing to with libertarian concerns of free trade or travel.

  2. I don't really disagree, Cork. It is certainly something worthy of debate considering the current situation. Of course, if people are coming to a geographical region to impose a new tyranny (Shariah law), self-defense would require opposition to such migrations.

  3. Sadly "self defense" against that invasion and imposition of tyranny will be promoted by the controlling MSM as "racism" and all debate will be cut off and the invasion will continue in full force. Even L. Neil Smith recognized this weakness in the anarchist position.

  4. this weakness in the anarchist position.

    It's not a weakness in the anarchist position, because there would be no "controlling MSM" without the support of the State, nor would there be elections where you can vote yourself benefits or lobby for and pass laws that can be imposed involuntarily on others.

    The immigration "problem" is entirely a creation of the state itself. And any negatives of doing away with borders would be made up for by the freedom of movement we would all have. I would love to be able to go anywhere in the world without passport or visas and stay as long as I wanted or even settle permanently.

    The debate where I find myself in agreement with Cork is that we don't have a stateless society now, and therefore mass immigration under current conditions can indeed lead to a takeover where newcomers impose alien values by taking control of or using the state to initiate force.


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