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December 21, 2016

Do you support our opposition to John Bolton for Assistant Secretary of State

Rand Paul is right. John Bolton should not be Asst. Sec of State. Retweet

In this message:

  • Why we’re changing our strategy about presidential appointments
  • Our standard of judgment for supporting or opposing appointments
  • The conditions under which we, as voluntaryist libertarians, support foreign intervention, the conditions under which we oppose it, and how that applies to the rumored nomination of John Bolton for Assistant Secretary of State
  • A sample letter you can send to Congress if you agree with us that Bolton should not have this position

Our new strategy

We’ve never opposed a presidential nomination to an Executive Branch position. Objecting to individuals (as opposed to ideas and proposals) has always smacked of high school politics to us. We didn’t want to join partisan frays. But we were wrong because…

Personnel is policy

The people a President hires to execute policy may actually have more control over that policy than the President himself does. If true, then it’s folly to remain silent about appointments. Instead…

We will tend to oppose appointments where the candidate would clearly move things in the wrong direction.

This is what we should have done during the Bush and Obama years. It’s what we will do during the Trump years. So…

What’s the wrong direction?

To us, it’s any action that increases The State’s use of initiated force. We believe legitimate government only uses force defensively, such as for criminal due process. Of course, you may have a different standard, so you’re always free to work with us when we agree and decline when we disagree.

Which Trump appointments would move things in the wrong direction?

Maybe all of them. It’s hard to tell in advance since many of his appointments will be working in state positions for the first time. But the rumored appointment of John Bolton as Assistant Secretary of State is another matter. He’s a rabid interventionist with an appalling track record. Here’s why we’re concerned…

The right and wrong of foreign intervention

Libertarians believe you can legitimately use violence to defend yourself or others. Well, doesn’t foreign intervention qualify as the defense of others? Yes, it does, depending on how that intervention is funded and controlled. There are two main problems with the current approach to foreign intervention…

  1. It’s tax funded
  2. It’s politically managed

Tax funding is…

  • Immoral because it uses threats of violence to make people pay for things they don’t want or that their consciences abhor.
  • Impractical because it removes the need to perform well — the money comes whether the service provided is good or bad.

Second, tax funding implies political management, which makes foreign intervention doubly impractical. Randolph Bourne observed that “War is the health of The State.” The great libertarian scholar Robert Higgs showed in Crisis and Leviathan that Bourne’s observation is true. War causes The State to grow and politicians to gain new powers. In other words…

Politicians benefit from war even when no one else does.

These factors suggest that tax funded and politically managed foreign interventions will usually do more harm than good. We’ve tested this claim. In seven articles that reviewed all U.S. wars and interventions between 1812 and WW2. We asked the following questions about each conflict…

  • Did it defend freedom?
  • Did if defend America?
  • Did it make the world better?

The evidence pointed the same way for every question for every conflict — it did not defend freedom, it did not defend America, it did not make the world better.

This suggests that foreign interventions will not reliably serve a defensive purpose so long as they are…

  • Tax funded
  • Politically managed

You might get better results from foreign intervention if our military was voluntarily funded.

This would give citizens control over the purse strings. You could pump more money into “good interventions or deny funding for interventions that appeared ill-conceived.

We understand that this is a bold new way to think about things. It’s initially shocking. We don’t expect most of our subscribers to embrace it immediately. But it’s worthy of your consideration. The more you ponder it against the actual evidence the more sense it makes.

Barring such a change in how U.S. wars are funded and managed we must conclude that…

Tax funded foreign intervention is initiated force not defensive force.

As such, we oppose it and those elected or appointed officials who advocate it. John Bolton is an example of such a person. We’ve created a new campaign and written a letter to our representatives opposing his potential appointment and confirmation as Assistant Secretary of State. The hardwired letter to Congress for this campaign reads…

Deny your support to John Bolton for Deputy Secretary of State.

You can add personal comments by copying or editing what we wrote to Congress…

John Bolton is one of the arsonists who set the world on fire. He was a proponent of the Iraq war and all the other policies that have inflamed the Middle East.

He continues to endorse those policies, proving that he’s incapable of learning from his mistakes. Even worse…

He’s been an advocate of the old George W. Bush policy that we should never negotiate with anyone unless they first submit to all our demands. This is the negation of diplomacy. It instantly disqualifies Bolton to be the Deputy Secretary of State.

Mr. Bolton should never again hold any government position. I will be watching what you do in this matter.


Thanks for being an ACTIVE DC Downsizer,

Perry Willis & Jim Babka

Downsize DC

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