By Andrew Bernstein
The Nobel Peace Prize was just awarded to Jimmy Carter. Although Carter’s efforts to convince Egypt to recognize Israel’s right to exist was a genuine achievement, he has otherwise continuously betrayed the principles on which peace depend. For many years Carter, espousing collectivist ideals, has traipsed the globe treating aggressor and victim with equal respect. For example, he aided the nuclear program of North Korea, the most repressive dictatorship on earth and part of the axis of evil. Carter’s trip last May to Cuba, where he sanctioned and supported the dictator Castro, is just more recent evidence that he understands nothing of rights and peace. In choosing Carter the Nobel Committee has shown yet again that it does not understand the cause of war and so of peace.
To understand the cause of war, consider the major wars of the 20th century. World War I was started by the dictatorial monarchies of Germany and Russia. Nazi Germany caused World War II by invading Poland. Totalitarian Soviet Russia repeatedly initiated war by first aligning with Hitler in the conquest of Poland, then by swallowing up Eastern Europe in 1945, and later by supporting the Communist invasion of South Korea.
And consider recent but less global conflicts: Saddam Hussein instigated the Persian Gulf War by conquering Kuwait. The Taliban, former dictators of Afghanistan, warred against other factions in Afghanistan and then spread its terror overseas by arming and abetting Osama bin Laden’s attacks against the United States.
Observe the pattern. It is the less free nations—those in which power is concentrated in the hands of the state at the expense of the individual—that attack their freer neighbors. Such statist regimes, which deny any rights to the individual, are the cause of history’s most savage wars. Statist regimes launched the wars that ravaged much of the world in the 20th century. The reason why these regimes did so is not difficult to find.
Dictators are in chronic war against their own people. Hitler murdered the Jews; Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot each murdered millions of businessmen, landowners and bourgeoisie; Milosevic slaughtered the Muslims, Saddam Hussein butchered the Kurds. In her seminal essay, “The Roots of War,” Ayn Rand observed: “A country that violates the rights of its own citizens, will not respect the rights of its neighbors. Those who do not recognize individuals rights, will not recognize the rights of nations: a nation is only a number of individuals.”
Statism is the cause of war.
Statism rests on the idea that men can legitimately pursue their ends by initiating force against other men. In a free country such acts are properly regarded as criminal and punished by law; in a free country government uses force only in retaliation against those who initiate it. But statist regimes of all varieties—Nazi, Communist, Islamic Fundamentalist, etc.—initiate force ceaselessly against innocent victims, first within their own borders and then without. In a free country it is recognized that every individual has an inalienable right to his own life. In a statist country the individual exists in bondage to the state, his life to be sacrificed at the whim of the state.
Shamefully, the Nobel Committee has repeatedly awarded its Peace Prize to the bringers of war.
For example, it routinely bestows the prize on statists who condemn the United States—the world’s freest, most individualistic country—while praising murderous Third World dictatorships. It awarded the 1994 prize to Yasser Arafat, the brutal dictator of the Palestinian Authority, who imposed a despotic regime on his own people and initiated a murderous war against the free citizens of Israel. Even worse, in 1973 it awarded the prize to Le Duc Tho, the North Vietnamese Communist, who, along with Ho Chi Minh and other Party leaders, imposed a vicious Communist dictatorship in North Vietnam that slaughtered at least 50,000 Vietnamese in the 1950s and then invaded and conquered South Vietnam. All told, the death toll caused by that Communist dictatorship and its warring totaled two million individuals.
If one admires men who cause war, one will ignore or vilify men who promote peace. Those who respect and support individual rights and political/economic freedom are the only true lovers of peace. Private capitalists and businessmen are outstanding examples. Business requires the barring of the initiation of force. Businessmen deal with one another peacefully, by means of trade, persuasion and voluntary contracts and agreements. Because businessmen respect the rights of all individuals, they have helped liberate the best minds to innovate, invent and advance, and thereby helped produce great general prosperity and peace. By helping to spread free trade across the globe, they have created peaceful relations among the individuals of many nations. Yet perversely, capitalists are denounced as exploiters of man.
If we sincerely seek to attain the inestimable value that is world peace, it is individual rights and therefore capitalism that we must endorse. Capitalism is the only political-economic system that protects individual rights by banning the initiation of force. As Ayn Rand observed, it was capitalism that gave mankind its longest period of peace—an era in which there were no wars involving the entire civilized world—from the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
If we truly want to recognize and promote the cause of peace, let us award a peace prize to Capitalism.