How Should Libertarians Celebrate Memorial Day?

Fallen Veterans Are Some of the Biggest Victims of Statism

by Josh Guckert

On Monday, May 25, most American citizens will enjoy a day off from work as they spend time with family and remember the millions of men and women who have perished in military service to the United States.

It is important for those in the liberty movement to remember the more nuanced points of what exactly is being celebrated. We understand that most American troops did not simply lose their lives for the cause of “freedom.” However, this does not lessen the horrors endured and contributions given by American service members.

The view and treatment of veterans is one particularly complicated area within our ever-growing movement. With nearly every American citizen knowing someone who has served, it does our cause no good to paint soldiers as villains or merely an extension of the military industrial complex.

As libertarians, one of our greatest concerns is when the state infringes upon the rights of those least able to defend themselves. It is for this reason that we should use and understand Memorial Day as one of the clearest displays of our worldview.

We must never waver on our central principles, but we must also consider the way in which our thoughts may be interpreted if they are not espoused in an eloquent manner. Because of the strong role that military service has had throughout our history, being seen as the enemy of veterans will only present us with another hurdle in expanding our ideological circle.

Unless someone has personally been subjected to such an experience, no one could ever imagine the nightmare of losing a son, daughter, husband or wife to war. We ought to make the case that our philosophy of non-interventionism is what will minimize more tragedies like these from occurring.

There is nothing patriotic about flatly claiming that one must support any given military mission in order to “support the troops.” Conversely, what is truly in the American spirit and respectful of the loss of life is to question authority and inquire as to the necessity of every pair of boots which is being put on the ground.

Memorial Day should be identified as one of the most libertarian of holidays. Every year, we use this day to commemorate the loss of life, nearly all of which was facilitated by an overly ambitious federal government. The state, using the guise of rewards like free college tuition or general prestige, lures well-meaning young men and women into battles with usually unclear goals.

These enlisted, only wanting to serve and defend their country, are falsely told that missions designed to build nations and change regimes are in the best interest of not only themselves, but also the entire US.

Therefore, when we as libertarians discuss Memorial Day, we should link the many losses of American lives to the growth of the state. As Randolph Bourne said, “War is the health of the state,” and the beneficiaries of interventionist policies are certainly not the Americans who enlist.

Rather than attempting to exclude, we ought to do our do best to be inclusive, looking for ways to explain how big government policies harm all of us, not the least of which are those who have been killed in war. The soldiers who have died in service to our country deserve our respect, as they held our freedoms in high enough esteem to volunteer their lives.

Truly disgraceful is when the state capitalizes on these men and women’s noble ambitions in order to merely grow its presence around the world without any relation to the defense of the nation. It is worthy of constant remembrance on Memorial Day.

Leave a Comment