Thursday, January 26, 2023

Why Libertarians Should Support the Multipolar World

The current international tensions have intensified a debate that has existed for at least a decade, between two radically different views of the world and of international relations: the unipolar world and the multipolar world. When libertarians disagree on foreign policy, that difference of world view is often the underlying cause. The purpose of this article is to show that the concept of the unipolar world is contrary to the principles of libertarianism and that the multipolar world is an important step in the direction of liberty internationally.

Unipolar vs Multipolar

As a reminder, the "unipolar world" is understood as a world led by a single pole of power, i.e. today the "liberal rules-based international order" centered around Washington D.C. This international order is a flexible, even fuzzy, concept, distinct from international law, even though the two sometimes coincide. This is the world that the United States, with its Western allies, created in 1945 and that it has tried to expand after the fall of the USSR in 1991. The underlying idea is that the Western political systems, the "liberal democracies," have a moral superiority that justifies that the world be ruled exclusively by the West. It is therefore by definition a power of hegemonic ambition. The unipolar world is a world in which nation-states lack independence; they are dominated - for their own good it is considered - not only directly by the single center of power, but also indirectly by supranational institutions lending allegiance to that single pole.

The concept of "multipolar world" is understood to be the opposite of the world described above; it is a world which much more strictly respects international law, in particular as expressed in the Charter of the United Nations. No value judgment is applied to political systems in this view of international relations; on the contrary, they are seen as consequences of a specific political cultures, as well as of a specific past and recent histories. The multipolar world is therefore not universalist. Global political power is divided and shared in a multitude of poles, and nation-states are not subjected to supranational institutions.

As these short descriptions show, these two visions are mutually exclusive, and this explains in large part the tensions that currently exist in international relations.

Why Not Support the Unipolar World?

It might seem strange at first glance that libertarians should prefer a multipolar world to a unipolar one.

Indeed, the unipolar world is the world centered on the West, which is often deemed more respectful of liberties than the rest of the world. Moreover, libertarians are ideologically committed to an open world, with a minimum of political and legal obstacles that can hinder free trade between companies and individuals operating in different political entities.

Would it not then be natural for libertarians to be in favor of a unipolar world, where eventually a single world political entity - possibly benevolent - manages the world as it sees fit, ensuring peace and at the same time weakening the political boundaries between nation-states?

The answer to this question is emphatically "No". The support of a unipolar world is a fundamental error of classical liberalism, too rooted in a universalist view of the Western values of the Enlightenment. There is never a guarantee that the only existing pole of power will be benevolent and peaceful - what if it is not? In fact, the common support for the unipolar world can often be explained by a lack of knowledge of the true nature of the Federal Government of the United States, even though it has been exposed over many decades by intellectuals and journalists such John T. Flynn, Robert Higgs, Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano, and John Perkins, to name but a few.

Moreover, the unipolar world is not as free as it likes to see itself, neither economically nor politically. Examples abound of illiberal policies in the West, starting with crushing taxation. There has never been a willingness among the Western elites to implement real free trade, for example, between the West and the South, to the detriment of the latter. And politically, the problems of democratic legitimacy in the West have becomes all too common, as decisions are made by political leaders in opposition to the will of the majority.

Further, the unipolar world is heading straight towards political globalization, which is undeniably a form of international fascism, as professor Michael Rectenwald has shown with a brilliant series of articles on From the beginning, the unipolar world was unfair and unstable; favoring the Western financial system based on the US dollar. Different forms of coercion exist for nations which do not cooperate (the use of military threat obviously, but also the extraterritoriality principle of U.S. laws, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act). By its very nature, the unipolar world cannot exist without constant, illegal and unsolicited interventions in the internal affairs of countries that do not wish to fully adhere to the political positions of the sole center of power. This is the only way the unipolar world can not only be maintained, but also extended.

Non-intervention and Decentralization

The unipolar world therefore goes directly against the
principle of non-intervention, which is fundamental to libertarianism. The principle of non-aggression and thus the peaceful exchange between nations, so important to libertarians, is much better represented and protected by international law.

The decentralization of political power within nation-states is recognized as fundamental by libertarians. These same libertarians should then also, according to the same principle, support the decentralization of political power among nations. This is of course tantamount to supporting a multipolar world. The benefits of decentralization have been demonstrated by libertarian historians such as Ralph Raico and Donald Livingstone; namely that competition between small European political entities for centuries was key to the economic development and political liberalization of these societies.

The multipolar world is, of course, not a sufficient development from a libertarian point of view, because of the Statism that persists in such a world. But it is clearly an important step in the direction of freedom in comparison to the unipolar world. Libertarians must therefore support the multipolar world and reject the unipolar world, for the reasons outlined here. This position needs to be expressed strongly, even if it is not so popular at present, because the multipolar world is still little understood and little accepted by the West, accustomed as it is to a position of domination.

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