Today’s Quote of the Day…

…is from page 155 of the Liberty Fund’s edition of Adam Smith’s 1759 book The Theory of Moral Sentiments (emphasis added):

In war and negotiation, therefore, the laws of justice are very seldom observed. Truth and fair dealing are almost totally disregarded. Treaties are violated; and the violation, if some advantage is gained by it, sheds scarce any dishonour upon the violator. The ambassador who dupes the minister of a foreign nation, is admired and applauded. The just man who disdains either to take or to give any advantage, but who would think it less dishonourable to give than to take one; the man who, in all private transactions, would be the most beloved and the most esteemed; in those public transactions is regarded as a fool and an idiot, who does not understand his business; and he incurs always the contempt, and sometimes even the detestation of his fellow-citizens. In war, not only what are called the laws of nations, are frequently violated, without bringing (among his own fellow-citizens, whose judgments he only regards) any considerable dishonour upon the violator; but those laws themselves are, the greater part of them, laid down with very little regard to the plainest and most obvious rules of justice. That the innocent, though they may have some connexion or dependency upon the guilty (which, perhaps, they themselves cannot help), should not, upon that account, suffer or be punished for the guilty, is one of the plainest and most obvious rules of justice. In the most unjust war, however, it is commonly the sovereign or the rulers only who are guilty. The subjects are almost always perfectly innocent. Whenever it suits the conveniency of a public enemy, however, the goods of the peaceable citizens are seized both at land and at sea; their lands are laid waste, their houses are burnt, and they themselves, if they presume to make any resistance, are murdered or led into captivity; and all this in the most perfect conformity to what are called the laws of nations.


Tying it Together (Part 3 of 3)

My previous two posts dealt with two seemingly unconnected items: the difficulty of advocating liberty at all times and different forms of pacifism.  But there is a common theme here, namely what I believe to be the chief tenets of liberalism (using, of course, the classical sense of the word as opposed to its modern use).

Liberalism is the recognition and defense of rights for all people, not just those who share one’s beliefs or occupy a certain plot of land.  It is also the recognition that violence should be used only in self-defense of life, property, and liberty.  These are the values that made America a great idea* and will make America great again.

Unfortunately, the simple ideas of peace, justice, and freedom are under assault in this country from all sides.  Both major political parties’ candidates for President have been openly hostile to the ideals of classical liberalism.  There are members of Congress who complain due process is too strong in this country.  There are members of Congress (and both major-party presidential candidates) who want the power to sue or silence anyone who disagrees with them.  Indeed, these are dangerous times for the classical liberal.

Fear, I suspect, is the major driving force behind this illiberal movement.  Trump is capitalizing on fear of foreigners and terrorists.  Clinton is capitalizing on fears of guns and foreigners and of Trump.  Fear makes people scramble for any sense of security and the power-hungry types are all to willing to throw people in metaphorical jail (for their own safety, of course).

That is why the tenets of classical liberalism are so powerful and foster peace rather than war the way modern liberalism and conservatism do: they discourage, and indeed even resist, fear.  But fear is a powerful emotion, and as we have seen, it can override everything else.

But this storm, too, shall pass.  Classical liberalism may die out in America, as it did in Britain and Europe, but it shall spring up in somewhere else.  And that’s the glory of it: unlike fear, which is a fleeting thing, liberalism is a steady idea, built upon a foundation of rock and not of sand.  Liberalism has survives the Communists, the fascists, the monarchs, and all other forms of totalitarianism that has risen and fallen.  It will survive this, too.

*I say “idea” because there are many times, even when the founding fathers ran this country, they did not live up to those ideals.

Views of Pacifism in the Star Wars Universe (Part 2 of 3)

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about the TV versions of Star Wars (both Cartoon Network’s The Clone Wars and Disney’s Rebels) is their exploration of the moral consequences of war and rebellion.  I could write an entire book on the different aspects they bring up and how the various characters deal with them.  For nominally kid’s shows, they deal with surprisingly adult topics.

One of the topics they discuss is pacifism.  This is very obvious in the Clone Wars series, which is where my focus will be today (to save time, I will not be recapping major plot points or background information except what is absolutely necessary.  Please follow this link to a more detailed description of the Clone Wars).

Resistance is Futile

In the first season of Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker, his Padawan (apprentice) Ashoka Tano, and their detachment of Clone troopers crash on the planet Maridun.  Anakin is injured and they find a village of natives called the Lurmen.  Wishing to remain out of the conflict between the Galactic Republic and the Confederation of Independent Systems (CIS), the Lurmen initially refuse to even grant Anakin medical care (although they eventually do). Shortly thereafter, a CIS recon force lands and, (unaware of the Republic’s presence), make their way to the Lurmen village, proclaim the Lurmen are under the protection of the CIS, and station troops on the planet, all over the objections of the Lurmen.  However, the Lurmen leader refuses to fight at all, believing any form of violence is immoral.  He acquiesces to the CIS demands, declaring (in a very Chamberlain-esque manner) that he has secured peace for his village.  The leader’s son objects to his deal, asking pointedly “Peace for now, but for how long?”  Eventually, the CIS leader returns and tries to test a new weapon on the Lurmen village.  The Republic forces stop him.

Defense is the Best Offense

In the second season of Clone Wars, Republic Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi is dispatched to the planet Mandalore to explore a terrorist plot by a group called Death Watch to overthrow the pacifist government lead by Dutchess Satine Kryze.  Mandalore was once a planet full of warriors who often was a thorn in the side of the Republic.  However, after a particularly brutal civil war, the Mandalorians renounced their warrior ways and instead embraced pacifism.  During the time of the Clone Wars, Mandalore is a neutral planet.

Satine meets with Obi-Wan and assures him the threat of the Death Watch is well-contained.  However, the Republic still wants to land troops to maintain the planet’s neutrality, a plan the Duchess compares to an occupation.

On a trip to Coruscant (the Galactic Republic’s capital) to beg the Senate not to land troops, she faces several assassination attempts and ably defends herself from them with the help of Kenobi.  Kenobi is impressed by her fighting skills and asks why he trained for war if she is a pacifist.  She replies “just because I am a pacifist doesn’t mean I won’t defend myself!”

The Styles of Pacifism

The preceding sections, show the two main styles of thought in pacifism: 1) violence of any kind is abhorrent. ‘Tis better to be a peaceful slave than a chaotic freeman (the Lurmen), and 2) The goal is to avoid conflict, but self-defense is permitted (Duchess Satine).

Duchess Satine’s version of pacifism is more realistic than the Lurmen’s.  It is the form of pacifism I practice myself: try to avoid conflict, but do not be afraid to defend yourself should conflict arise.  Unfortunately, there will always be those who want conflict with you or who want take your property, either “for your own good” or simply because they think they are entitled to it.  You have the right to your property, but if you are unwilling to defend said right, it’s not worth much.