Dealing with Iran

Iran Elections
Iran Elections (Photo credit: bioxid)

A common idea among interventionists of all stripes is the notion that there exists a challenge or potential challenge, and by that fact alone government intervention — action to redirect by legal compulsion and coercion the exercise of individual rights — is warranted.

Among economic interventionists, they might look to purportedly unfavorable terms of trade among nations and conclude that trade restrictions of some sort will improve economic conditions. For the social interventionists, the problem might be that the growth rate of unwed mothers is increasing, and it is believed that government intervention to promote marriage will improve society in some fashion. To foreign interventionists, the most pressing problem seems to be the militaristic threat posed by the Iranian government.

In each of these cases, I can agree that the given circumstances are not optimal and that I would prefer that they improve. For example, I can recognize that the radical Islamists who subjugate the people of Iran may well be hostile to the interests of Americans and other members of secular nations. But I can make that observation of a particular problem independent of any commitment to a particular government action, or any government action at all, to solve the problem.

With trade, for example, it is lamentable that government controls in the United States makes the cost of doing business and hiring workers more expensive than would otherwise be the case, so the fallout of prior government intervention is that jobs are displaced to other countries. However, that fact does not justify increasing government trade controls on imports from foreign countries. A significant reason for thinking that is because prohibiting a person’s choices — like those of a consumer — especially those choices the person may very well have chosen, does not improve a person’s circumstances. One example would be how price controls, which are meant to make goods easier to purchase, reduce the supply of those goods and thus the number of people who can purchase those goods. The most likely scenario is that intervention exacerbates the underlying concern most people who supported the intervention were intending to address. The least harmful consequence would be that the intervention just shifts resources to more favored political interests from less favored political interests. Even that incentivizes more unproductive activity be spent to acquire those shifting resources, with a good portion of those resources being retained by the entity responsible for deciding who lives at the expense of others. When these interventions are scaled on a nationwide basis, the distorting effects of these prohibitory controls on the individual level are magnified a million-fold or more.

With foreign relations, the problem with government intervention is a bit more obscured, but the lesson is the same. Economic sanctions and other military actions against Iran exacerbate the threat posed to Americans by the Iranian government and anyone acting in concert with that regime. Extremists within the Muslim culture have had the most prominent voices, as the Muslims who advocate secular values and pro-liberty policies like peace and free markets get labeled by the extremists as sympathizers of the brutal Middles Eastern regimes supported by Western governments.

For anyone wanting to reduce conflict and religious strife, the solutions then is a fortunate one: liberty. Some goods steps in support of stability and peaceful coexistence would be to set a good example for pro-liberty forces in other countries by preserving liberty here at home, by ending foreign aid (which is primarily spent on corrupt big government programs in other countries), and by opening trade relations to bond in people’s minds even more firmly the spiritual and material benefits of social cooperation.

There are two ways to “deal” with Iran then. By power or market, by force or trade. To the extent that the American people continue accepting the former rather than the latter, our prospects for liberty decline and the state’s power swells from aggression.

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