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Monday, December 22, 2008

When Anarchists Concede Aggression Is Quantifiable

It would seem inconsistent to say we don't know whether Truman's decision led to a net prevention of deaths in the 1940s, but that there may be future deaths that we will learn can be laid at Truman's feet.  Instead of imagining that the books on Truman will still be open nearly a century after Hiroshima, maybe we should ask whether FDR should have listened to Jewish pleas to bomb Hitler's death camps.  Or whether Claus von Stauffenberg should have planted his bomb against Hitler even if the only opportunity for it would have taken out some innocents. I don't see how all this talk of "time horizons" can result in a metaphysical guarantee that forswearing all possibility of collateral force-initiation will always lead to the least number of innocent deaths -- or whatever metric of force initiation you might want to use.(*) We just have no reason to think the universe is constructed such that, by taking such a tool out of your toolbox, you guarantee yourself better results.  (* It's interesting how anarcholibertarian quibbling about how to quantify aggression seems to disappear when we start counting deaths of innocents.)

Jim, I didn't bring up the subject -- Susan did.  Like I said, it's in her mental box labeled “In case of Holtz winning argument, break glass”.  :-)  I don't care much about whether Truman himself was moral; I just found it interesting a few years back to ponder what decision I would make if I were teleported into his shoes.   I have zero interest in nuking any cities in Pakistan or Iran, but feel free to fantasize that I do if it helps you rationalize our various disagreements.  Demonizing a debate opponent is as close as most libertarians ever come to conceding they are wrong, so I sort of welcome demonization from you.

You're certainly correct that Truman cared more about American lives.  If the world had magically turned anarcholibertarian when the bomb went off over Hiroshima, then Truman would have been tried by a jury of his peers.  There's no mystery about what verdict they would have reached.