Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Second Round on Libertarianism and Ukraine

In a follow-up to my post, How Should Libertarians Stand On Ukraine? an anonymous commenter wrote:
I don't really understand it. If any group of individuals wants to throw off the rule of any group for any reason, whoever takes their side supports libertarianism. So we should sheer for Putin because he helps a group of individuals somewhere near the Russian-Ukrainian border to separate themselves from the Kiev government. But we should not sheer for the American government because they helped a group of individuals to throw off the unwanted government of Yanukovych. This logic is double-standard.
The anonymous commenter than responded to another commenter (Stanley) with this:
 Stanley, thank you. Look, libertarianism as it's used by you and RW doesn't shed any light on the war in Ukraine. If we are taking about Eastern Ukrainians (btw, meaningless concept), some of them want to be ruled by the Ukrainian government (What's the Kiev government?). They elected it. Some other Eastern Ukrainians don't want to be ruled by the Ukrainian government. They want to be ruled by the Moscow government. The annexation by Russia was the original idea behind the separation of Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic from the Ukrainian government. So the Ukrainian government has to protect its people from the Russian separatism because the separatists don't want to separate only themselves and their private property from Ukraine. And then let anarcho-capitalism figure out the rest. They want to take control of at least two provinces of Ukraine, including lives and assets of millions of other Eastern Ukrainians. And Putin is helping them. Should we still cheer for Putin? One cheer for Crimea. Two cheers for Donetsk and Luhanks.
This to me is a profound misunderstanding of the situation, but seems to be held by many pro-US supporters in Eastern Europe.

There are many Ukrainians (from the western part of Ukraine) who now live  here in SF and they all seem to think the same way.

I think they are conflating different levels of analysis. They see Russia as the big, bad and evil---so I am guessing they are not ethnic Russian Ukrainians. And they just don't see the Putin regime doing anything better than any other country, ever.

But I believe when we are talking about the Ukraine crisis with the US and Russia in mind, we are thinking on a specific level where we accept that governments exist and we must look at how these governments are acting.

Given that the Kiev government wants to prevent eastern separatists from separating from Ukraine at this "level" of argument there is no justification for the US to support Kiev. On the other hand, if Putin is supporting separatists, then he must be viewed as something similar to Lafayette or Kosciuszko, during the American Revolution. This is, of course, setting aside, for both sides, the question of whether a country should get involved in foreign entanglements in the first place, where they get the money for such adventures, whether there, in fact, should be governments etc. But if we do set aside these factors, for both sides, what we have left is the U.S. supporting an anti-separatist group, while Putin is doing the opposite. In other words, at this level, Putin is holding the libertarian high ground.

Libertarians should always and everywhere support libertarian/separatist activities.

This doesn't mean that Putin is a libertarian, who is about to Rand Paul-like, shed his coercive pose and declare to the world he is a libertarian. It only means that if we look at the actions of Putin's Russia versus the actions of the U.S., in this instance, Russia is supporting the libertarian separatist position. The U.S. is not. Indeed, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently made clear that the U.S. does not support separatist activities and that something called,"Ukraine's territorial integrity must be restored and must be respected." Such a comment should make every libertarian vomit.

As for other details from the anonymous commenter, he charges that the term Eastern Ukranians is a meaningless term, but he then uses the term, himself, in the sentence immediately following and continues using the term Eastern Ukrainians for the rest of his comment!

Further, to call for support of the current government in Kiev because it is "democratically elected" is the ultimate in a journey through a path that could have only been designed by Salvador Dali with side counsel from Joseph Goebbels. The only reason that the current government exists in Kiev is because the previous democratically elected government was overthrown by intrigue involving the US government. Note well: The U.S government was caught on tape plotting the overthrow.

The rest of the commenter's argument is again mixing different levels of the debate, when we look at the level where the US and Russia are playing, the US is supporting a government that wants to prevent a separatist movement and the Russian government is supporting those who are attempting to defy the Kiev coercion and break away. Is it really that complicated to understand which government is in this case supporting separatism and which government is supporting "territorial  integrity"?



  1. I try to remember to not use the words “always” or “never” in my writing, unless I really mean it – or want to exaggerate a point. I am not sure which it is in this case, but I feel pretty safe in suggesting that political decentralization is ALWAYS a good thing, and something that libertarians can support.

    Decentralization means smaller political units; decentralization means more political units; decentralization means more choices for individuals.

    Most importantly, each act of decentralization leads us one step closer to my view of a libertarian world, one with about 1.5 billion sovereign units – one per household.

    None of this means one has now become a supporter of Putin (in this specific case), or that one cheers violence to achieve the separation (the USSR and Czechoslovakia offered wonderful examples where violence was not necessary).

    And it doesn’t mean one supports Putin when suggesting that one considers a map or the makeup of the population: Ukraine is an awful lot closer to Russia than it is to the US; Ukraine is populated with many more ethnic Russians than ethnic Americans.

    Given that we live in a world with tyrannical governments, it seems rather obvious that what is happening in Ukraine is far more important to Russians than it is to anyone in the US.

    And I will bet people in Russia can at least find Ukraine on a map.

  2. Great insite from both of you. I really don't see where there can even be a debate among Libertarians on the Ukraine issue.
    Besides the part of it being none of the U.S. Business ess

  3. Wow didn't mean to hit publish.
    Anyway, I don't see why Libertarians, who don't believe a word the State says on domestic policy, buy hook line and sinker whatever D.C. Says about foreign policy. Ukraine seems simple to me, it's none of my business. If people want to secede, they surely have a right to. Being forced to associate politically with any body that one does not want to, is wrong. We should all ultimately seek to secede down to the very individual. How this is construed to be support for Putin or Russia is ridiculous. I don't support any government except my own personal governance, and I don't respect any government except an individual's own governance of himself and his property. I wish Alaska would secede from the U.S., and I wish our borough would secede from the State of Alaska, I wish Fairbanks would secede from our borough, as it would surely make it easier for me to secede from Fairbanks, and yet not have to physically leave it to do so.