Like all good novels, this one tries also to
be about life and death, love and hate, beauty
and ugliness, intelligence and stupidity,
and, most importantly, good and evil.
How Libertarians Can Fight Islam
by Paul Bonneau
Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
I’ve been spending a lot of time on gab.ai lately, mostly because rightists seem more tolerant of the idea of liberty, than leftists do these days. Every now and then, someone there who promotes a rightist-collectivist view attacks individualism or even calls out libertarianism specifically. When this happens I usually respond with a correction to his (usually straw-man) argument.
Yet I wonder at times, what is behind these attacks. One possibility is this notion floating around, that Western Civilization carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction—usually connected with its trait of tolerance, and specifically, its tolerance of Islam, which is a hostile meme if ever there was one. Since libertarianism is essentially Western Civilization in spades, this notion makes libertarianism seem impossible or unrealistic “in the real world”.
Yet, how true is it, that libertarians must tolerate Islam?
Keep in mind what Islam is: an aggressive, liberty-destroying meme (I’m using “meme” in the original sense of the word, not meaning a picture with a caption). Were libertarians helpless against socialism and communism, which are other examples of aggressive, liberty-destroying memes? No, of course not. Classical liberals (such as Ludwig von Mises), were at the very forefront in the defense against socialism and communism, and remain so. Of course, just as Mises did against socialism, libertarians can and should attack the meme of Islam directly. We have a unique perspective that can enhance that attack.
In what follows, we are talking about defense against the individuals who hold these aggressive memes, rather than against the memes themselves. There is no defense, and there can be no defense, against an idea—other than superior ideas.
I used to live near Portland Community College. Since there were Muslims enrolled in the college, and since there was a mosque nearby, I’d now and then see burqua-covered women walking down the street. Now those women—are we really saying we can and should defend against them, when they are taking no action that harms us? What does libertarianism say about preemptive defensive action?
Jeffrey Miron makes the case here that preemptive action is in most cases not a legitimate rationale. “Preemptive actions … while not necessarily to be ruled out completely a priori should face incredibly strict scrutiny.”
As to our example of Muslim women walking down the street, it does not appear that preemptive actions against them can withstand much scrutiny. There just ain’t much of a threat in such a case; or at least, the threat is very remote.
Yet those Muslim women, taken together, are a demographic threat. They are usually accompanied by several children.
Until the war starts, there is not much to be done. But the way things are going, at some point those Muslim women will be collected up and deported from the country (or worse). At that point, there is no moral obligation for libertarians to point out that those actions are a violation of the Non-Aggression Principle. We can and should simply stand aside and let it happen, without interference. It’s like opposing a lynch mob—the first thing to worry about is not the guy being lynched, but you and yours. You don’t have to speak up. And even if you have no worries about your own security, you still have no obligation to speak up and support your ideological enemies. A man needs to know when to keep his mouth shut.
Can we advocate that they be deported? Or at least, can we advocate their immigration be selectively blocked?
The minarchists can, with no problem, if I’m not mistaken. It’s a bit more difficult for anarchists, with our natural dislike of anything having to do with the state. Also, principles aren’t to be ignored at the first inconvenience; that’s why they are called principles. I’m currently of the opinion that anarchists should not advocate that (again, just keeping our mouths shut), but I am interested in seeing arguments to the contrary, if any.
After the war starts, of course, such principles go out the window and it becomes “kill or be killed”. People naturally don’t pay much attention to philosophical arguments when that is going on.
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