One complaint that I often here levied against myself and other libertarians is that we have a lack of compassion for the horrors that are being endured in many countries of the Third World. Honestly, I don’t know how every individual libertarian feels about global poverty. I’d imagine that many, and hopefully most, do care, but perhaps there really are some that don’t. Regardless, what I do know is that I have personally seen the kinds of situations that people in the Third World deal with every day, and it was a study of the root causes of such situations that was a huge factor in pushing me towards libertarianism. Here’s a very brief commentary on two libertarian steps towards helping the situation in the Third World.
End the War on Drugs
A great first point for libertarians to bring up in such discussion is the War on Drugs. Both the illegal nature of drug production and US cooperation with South American dictatorships have given “drug lords” in South and Central America a massive amount of market power. While I’m sure these drug lords would love to think that they are the source of their own wealth, the reality is that they have been handed this power — gift wrapped with a bow — by United States drug policy.
Taped up on the wall in my dorm room is an opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal co-authored by former presidents of Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico. While I’m not sure if these individuals are completely innocent in this situation, they make several great points about the link between the drug war and the state of this region of the world. They write:
The revision of U.S.-inspired drug policies is urgent in light of the rising levels of violence and corruption associated with narcotics. The alarming power of the drug cartels is leading to a criminalization of politics and a politicization of crime. And the corruption of the judicial and political system is undermining the foundations of democracy in several Latin American countries.
The first step in the search for alternative solutions is to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of current policies. Next, we must shatter the taboos that inhibit public debate about drugs in our societies. Antinarcotic policies are firmly rooted in prejudices and fears that sometimes bear little relation to reality. The association of drugs with crime segregates addicts in closed circles where they become even more exposed to organized crime.
More info on the War on Drugs can be found here.
Separate government and corporations
While the War on Drugs is certainly one method by which US policy perpetuates Third World conditions around the world, another and arguably greater cause of this perpetuation is the symbiotic relationship between American multinational corporations and the American government. Remember, being “pro-market” does not necessarily mean that one must always be “pro-business.” Corporations historically have attempted to harness government power to further their own aims (see the Federal Reserve System.) Ironically, we can trace this symbiotic relationship in many ways back to the “progressive” Woodrow Wilson, who said:
Since trade ignores national boundries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process.”
I think that Edward Hermann sums up extremely well the effect that government corporatism has on the Third World:
“… the establishment can’t admit [that] it is human rights violations that make … countries attractive to business — so history has to be fudged, including denial of our support of regimes of terror and the practices that provide favorable climates of investment, and our destabilization of democracies that [don’t] meet [the] standard of service to the transnational corporation…”
” There is …a huge tacit conspiracy between the U.S. government, its agencies and its multinational corporations, on the one hand, and local business and military cliques in the Third World, on the other, to assume complete control of these countries and “develop” them on a joint venture basis. The military leaders of the Third World were carefully nurtured by the U.S. security establishment to serve as the “enforcers” of this joint venture partnership, and they have been duly supplied with machine guns and the latest data on methods of interrogation of subversives.”
Being libertarian does not in any way mean that we ignore the rest of the world. It simply means that we want to have peaceful, rather than coercive, relations with this world. Despite what many on the left might say, the libertarian ideas of ending the War on Drugs and having a true free market economy would be huge steps towards a better life for many of those who inhabit what we refer to as the Third World, as drug lords would no longer have US drug policy handing them pre-packaged markets, and multi-national corporations would no longer have the US military or the CIA to secure foreign markets and economic dependence.Published in