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On the UN, the Birchers, and International Law

In a recent tweet, I said:

I’m continually puzzled at the hatred some lowbrow libertarians have for the UN and international law. Did they miss the “we are not Birchers” memo?

[Update: See also Murray Rothbard, “Just War,” in John Denson, ed., The Costs of War: “Classical international law … should be brought back as quickly as possible.” See also:

I got the expected flack. Including a private comment from a friend I respect who said, in essence:

There is nothing good about the UN and nothing bad about the Birchers. The UN is funded by fiat inflation and tax dollars. It’s not a voluntary organization. It’s built on theft. How can a libertarian find that anything but criminal?

He sent me this image which shows the Birch magazine actually carried Mises on its cover (October 1965, the month of my birth):




Here are my thoughts on this.

First, I kinda like the Birchers and especially their anticommunism. But they tend to be too conspiratorial for me, as do many “anti-UN” libertarians.1

I also used to sympathize with the Bircher “get the US out of the UN” bumper sticker. I’m against one-world government and centralization.2 However I believe the threat of a UN-led one-world government has diminished. The US is the main hegemon and I don’t see it letting its power go or ceding it to the UN. The UN has no taxing power, and no real power to legislate. So I don’t see it as a huge threat, although yes it does nudge and push in a socialistic direction, as with the positive welfare rights in the Declaration. Which I oppose.3 If the UN could tax, or there was a reasonable danger of it helping spearhead a one-world government, yes, I would be more alarmed. But it can’t even legislate, much less tax. Even its socialistic human rights aspirations are mostly that–aspirational.

But its core mission is a forum for nation-states to get together to try to resolve disputes without war. That is what I support. And I love international law and think it’s “real,” while many libertarians ignorantly and implicitly adopt legal positivism when they say international law isn’t “real.”

The UN charter attempts to prohibit international aggression, and limit force only to defensive force against an armed attack, or as authorized by the Security Council.4 This is why I think the UN is potentially a good thing and why this topic fascinates me.5

  1. See On Conspiracy Theories. []
  2. Rand, Objectivism, and One-World Government.  []
  3. See Intellectual Property as Socialistic “Human Rights”. []
  4. See Adil Ahmad Haque, “The United Nations Charter at 75: Between Force and Self-Defense—Part One” and Part Two. []
  5. See KOL250 | International Law Through a Libertarian Lens (PFS 2018); my various writings on international law topics, including International Investment, Political Risk, and Dispute Resolution: A Practitioner’s Guide. []
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