Friday, February 11, 2005

Leave it to the Libertarians

The Ludwig von Mises Institute has reached an all time low, equating the Bush administration’s proposed increase in Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) benefits for solders killed in combat to the money Islamic dictatorships pay out to the families of suicide bombers. According to N. Joseph Potts, a former Viet Nam-era Navy disbursing officer and contributor to the Mises Institute’s weblog:

Now, it won't just be Islamist suicide bombers whose families are limned and paid off for the death of their fighters—American warriors, too, will have a rather similar emolument, which for the economically disadvantaged families so overrepresented in the ranks of the armed forces may bulk quite as large economically as do those received by the survivors of their adversaries. If it works for Islam, maybe it will work for democracy as well. [, February 11, 2005]
Potts’ premise is appalling. The SGLI program was developed to provide insurance benefits for service members who may not be able to get insurance from private companies because of the extra risks involved in military life. SGLI is a benefit of military service, providing service members with the piece of mind that their loved ones will not be destitute in the event of their death and is no more an inducement to kill one’s self than any other form of life insurance. Yet Potts holds otherwise, claiming that since most of the fallen are without spouses or children, SGLI is little more than hush money for bereaved parents.

Potts’ view is an affront to the men and women who have fallen in combat; it impugns their act of valor as little more then death-worship and abject self-sacrifice. For all of America’s ills, only a Rothbardian-addled libertarian could claim that suicide has now become the American way.

If our nation is to have an army dedicated to protecting freedom, those who serve in it must be offered values in exchange for their service. As I observed in 2003 in a blogpost that became a letter to the Washington Times opposing calls for re-instatement of the draft:

To convince men and women to serve in the military, [y]ou need to impress upon them of the gravity of the threat today and the manner in which it impacts them. You need to convince them of the benefits of the martial lifestyle, and pay them enough so that the cost of their service is not the derailment of every other aspect of their lives. And lastly, you must keep the promise that if they are wounded or fall in battle, they and their loved ones will be cared for by a grateful nation.
If N. Joseph Potts wants to condemn statism for leading to needless warfare, he is right to do so. If he wants to condemn the low pay servicemen receive (as he attempts in his essay), he is also right to do so. But to claim that there is no justification for an increase in the death benefits offered servicemen is utterly unfounded. It blames the solder who fights and dies to protect the Constitution for the larger cultural shortcomings that prevent its more perfect interpretation. The attempt is vicious and detestable, and it serves as yet another indictment of the libertarian ideology and those who hold it.

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