The Tragedy of “Liberal” Interventionism

by Don Boudreaux on January 7, 2016

in Hubris and humility, Man of System, Reality Is Not Optional, War

My colleague Chris Coyne and University of Tampa economist (and GMU Econ PhD) Abby Hall-Blanco have just released, through the Mercatus Center, a splendid paper whose theme I summarize with these words: “When illiberal means are used to create or impose liberal ends, the nature of the means will determine and describe the resulting ends.  Liberalism cannot be imposed.  Period.”  Here’s a slice, from page 12, of Chris’s and Abby’s paper:

Although foreign interventions are often justified on promoting liberal values, the components of the interventionist mindset are inherently illiberal. They discard the rule of law by empowering a small group of political elites with significant discretionary and unconstrained power over the lives of others. They downplay or reject the recognition and respect for other people as human beings deserving of individual sovereignty. They elevate “the government” and “the nation state” above the individual and emphasize the collective both domestically and internationally. And they ignore or reject the importance of spontaneous orders by operating under the pretense that order is only possible through state-produced social control.

Embracing this illiberal mindset, either implicitly or explicitly, is necessary for success in foreign interventions.


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