Pirates & Emperors: Libertarian Schoolhouse Rock?

Pirates and EmperorsI’ve been having a conversation with a few people about educating the public on libertarian points of view using Schoolhouse Rock type animations when I remembered that someone has already done a short a while ago that brings up the duplicity in allowing the government to commit crimes that would put individuals in jail.

In the cartoon Pirates and Emperors (video), the tale starts in Roman times and quickly moves forward to paint a duplicitous foreign policy around the world, ending in Iraq:

ALEXANDER THE GREAT: What meanest thou by keeping hostile possession of the sea?

PIRATE: What meanest thou by seizing the whole earth; because I do it with a petty ship, I’m called a robber, whilst thou who dost the same with a great fleet art styled emperor.

It’s sharp and witty and handily reiterates the libertarian ideal of minding our own business (“Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” Thomas Jefferson).

I hoping the author has plans for more of these libertarian-ish common sense cartoons in the future.

After Googling “libertarian schoolhouse rock:” Benjamin over at Libertarian Longhorns wrote:

I find one of the most difficult libertarian positions to defend is non-interventionist. It’s hard to defend the idea of not coming to the aid of victims. Unfortunately good intentions in the minds of common people and in the minds of our leaders, turn out to be wrong, often disastrously so. Since WWII, the U.S. has supported, then rebuked a long line of tyrants. The philosophy of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” has led to supporting Saddam, the Mujahideen, the Shah of Iran, and many others.

Stephen VanDyke

I've published HoT along with about 300+ friends since 2002. We're all Americans who are snarky and love our country. I'm a libertarian that registered Republican because I like to win elections. That's pretty much it.

  1. Pirates and emporers. Today’s equivalent would be Baathists and NeoConservatives perhaps.

    I agree that it’s hard to rebuke interventionism on “humanitarian” grounds. But entangling alliances leads to foreign meddling which leads to interventionism which ultimately leads to war. Randolph Bourne put it best: War is the Health of the State.

    I’m glad to have found your site. Most people who call themselves “libertarians” are really just Republicans in disguise. It’s nice to see that you’re the real thing.

  2. From the post:

    What meanest thou by seizing the whole earth; because I do it with a petty ship, I’m called a robber, whilst thou who dost the same with a great fleet art styled emperor.

    Reminds me of variation of this quote from the movie “Cliffhanger” where John Lithgow’s character makes the observation:

    Kill a few people, they call you a murderer. Kill a million and you’re a conqueror…

    It’s the scale of the thing… after a certain point, when it no longer becomes personal, people just don’t care.

    This is similar to the actions of our elected representatives who can get away with things on the national (impersonal) level, but if they attempted the same crap at the local commissioner’s meeting they would be hanging from a tree branch before the end of business that day.

    One thing the Libertarians in my area have been trying to do is present the national issues on a personal level. It seems to work in most cases.

  3. Benjamin the Longhorn is in a difficult position because he hasn’t quite thought non-intervention through. Whether either of us intervenes to come to the aid of a (perceived) victim is an individual decision and neither of us ought to be forced into taking or not taking action contrary to our wishes.

    The impulse to act to protect an innocent is so common as to be hard to distinguish from human nature. Even if it involves the libertarian no-no of initiation of force. But where’s the problem? If I walked around a corner and saw a child in the middle of the street and in the path of a speeding truck I would, if I could, push her out of the way. Initiation of force? Of course it is. My expectation is, if anything, to be thanked and not accused of assault and battery. However, my decision to initiate force is also my decision to accept the responsibility for doing so. If the child was acting in a movie, and in no danger, then my act would likely be met with anger and possibly with a claim for damages. So be it.

    It’s not that a libertarian may not intervene. It’s that a libertarian must accept the consequences of intervening.