– The Pillars of American Thinking – The “Father of the Constitution” and the “Father of Free Market Capitalism” – Both Warned Against Warmongers … 200 Hundred Years Ago (Washington’s Blog, Oct 8, 2014):
Warmongers Are Anti-American
Adam Smith – the father of free market capitalism – wrote a scathing critique on warmongers in the Wealth of Nations 235 years ago:
In great empires the people who live in the capital, and in the provinces remote from the scene of action, feel, many of them, scarce any inconveniency from the war; but enjoy, at their ease, the amusement of reading in the newspapers the exploits of their own fleets and armies. To them this amusement compensates the small difference between the taxes which they pay on account of the war, and those which they had been accustomed to pay in time of peace. They are commonly dissatisfied with the return of peace, which puts an end to their amusement, and to a thousand visionary hopes of conquest and national glory from a longer continuance of the war.
Numerous economists have documented that war is horrible for the economy.
The Father of the Constitution – James Madison – wrote:
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
Many other Founding Fathers warned against warmongering, as well:
Thomas Paine is generally credited with instilling the first non-interventionist ideas into the American body politic; his work Common Sense contains many arguments in favor of avoiding alliances. These ideas introduced by Paine took such a firm foothold that the Second Continental Congress struggled against forming an alliance with France and only agreed to do so when it was apparent that the American Revolutionary War could be won in no other manner.
George Washington’s farewell address is often cited as laying the foundation for a tradition of American non-interventionism:
The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
John Adams followed George Washington’s ideas about non-interventionism by avoiding a very realistic possibility of war with France.
President Thomas Jefferson extended Washington’s ideas in his March 4, 1801 inaugural address: “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” …
In 1823, President James Monroe articulated what would come to be known as the Monroe Doctrine, which some have interpreted as non-interventionist in intent: “In the wars of the European powers, in matters relating to themselves, we have never taken part, nor does it comport with our policy, so to do. It is only when our rights are invaded, or seriously menaced that we resent injuries, or make preparations for our defense.”
Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson also said that – if we do need to fight a war for defensive purposes – it should be paid for now, and not placed on the shoulders of future generations.
Postscript: While many civilians believe the myth that conservatives are pro-war, the truth is that many of the most highly-decorated military men in history – including conservatives – became opposed to war after seeing what really goes on. See this, this and this.
Indeed, I have spoken with some very high-level former military and intelligence officers. They are true patriots, who dedicated their life to protecting our country. They are also very passionate about not starting unnecessary wars, because they reduce America’s national security and cause many more problems than they could possibly solve.
Those who call themselves “conservative” – but advocate military adventurism – are not really conservative at all.