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A call for a libertarian theory of foreign relations

Posted by Richard on April 15, 2005

Pejman Yousefzadeh, who runs this fine blog, has a new article at TechCentralStation in which he challenges libertarians to do one of two things:

  • Develop a coherent theory of international relations that debunks the prevailing realist theory and supports the libertarian minimalist/non-interventionist foreign policy prescriptions.
  • Alternatively, explain how "libertarian minimalism can somehow be consistent with the Hobbesian realist outlook."

Notice that Yousefzadeh is posing a rather different challenge than the one that’s typically posed by libertarians who advocate a "muscular foreign policy," such as Ryan Sager and the "neolibertarians" at QandO. The others generally want libertarians to rethink their policy prescriptions. Yousefzadeh argues that libertarians first have to think about a theory of nation-state behavior that can serve as the underpinning for their policy prescriptions.

Yousefzadeh’s argument is analogous to saying about economics that you need to think about and understand the nature of human action and interaction before you begin prescribing economic policies.

I hope he’s right when he says:

I hope to see a comprehensive attempt at a rebuttal of realist theory by the libertarian minimalist school. It will take the debate over the intellectual rigor of realism to a whole new level, and it will allow libertarians in general — and libertarian minimalists in particular — to find their own voices on foreign policy. Happily, it would appear that serious libertarians have started this dialogue. Let’s hope it continues and that more people join in. Serious foreign policy thinkers — whether or not they are libertarians — will benefit mightily if they do.

I certainly think that some serious effort in this direction will serve the LP better than having its presidential candidate commemorate 9/11 by mourning the victims of US aggression. Asshat.

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2 Responses to “A call for a libertarian theory of foreign relations”

  1. Anonymous said

    “Asshat” is actually a perfect term for Pejman Yousefzadeh, who seems among other things to be ignorant of what “realism” means in standard IR theory. See Justin Logan for a sensible discussion. Also, there is already copious “theory” behind movement-libertarian “realism,” which can be glossed as the conviction that Hayek does not stop at the water’s edge, among other things. So either PY is ignorant AGAIN, or he just doesn’t like the theory and wants to pretend it doesn’t exist.

    Jim Henley []

  2. Anonymous said

    Sorry, Jim, you’re wrong. “Asshat” isn’t an appropriate term for just anyone you happen to disagree with or think is ignorant. It takes more than that.

    “Asshat” is, however, perfectly appropriate for someone who’s so callous, insensitive, and lacking in humanity that he’d think it a clever PR move to thumb his nose at the people who jumped from hundred-story buildings, their surviving families, and the millions of decent Americans who watched and grieved.

    Visit me @

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