Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Who Is Most Responsible for the Ongoing War in Ukraine?

Posted by M. C. on August 16, 2022

The Ukrainian war’s long roots stretch back to the pre-1914 protectionist era. Protectionism led to the First World War, the Second World War, the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, countless wars in the Middle East, and the Ukrainian war. In effect, protectionism before 1914 caused a hundred years’ war. At least 150 million lives have been lost in this tragic hundred years’ war.

The only way to prevent war is to remove its root cause. If the twentieth century can teach us anything, it is that protectionism and socialism cause war. Eliminating government intervention in the economy is the key to preventing war. As Ludwig von Mises advises, “there is but one system that makes for durable peace: a free market economy.”

Edward W. Fuller

John Mearsheimer recently gave an important lecture on the Ukrainian war. He warns that “the United States is now effectively at war with Russia.” Mearsheimer argues, “The United States is principally responsible.” Alexander Stubb contends in a reply to Mearsheimer, “The only place to blame is the Kremlin, Putin, and Russia.”

Commentators who play the blame game over Ukraine do not understand the cause of war in the modern world. The Ukrainian war is the latest chapter in an ongoing hundred years’ war that began in 1914. Those who fail to realize this cannot understand the cause of the war nor how to end it and prevent future wars.

All of the governments entangled in the Ukrainian war share responsibility. Government intervention in the free market economy is the fundamental cause of all modern wars, including the Ukrainian war. All of the governments involved have systematically intervened with the free market economy for decades. Thus they are all to blame for this war.

Protectionism, Imperialism, and War

To fully understand the Ukrainian war, it is necessary to understand what caused the First World War.1 Many historians agree that a “fresh wave of territorial imperialism” after 1880 resulted in the First World War.2 But most historians cannot explain what caused the frenzy of imperialism from 1880 to 1914. The answer is protectionism.

In July 1879, Otto von Bismarck introduced a new tariff in Germany.3 As economists stress, a tariff benefits domestic producers at the expense of two groups: 1) domestic consumers and 2) foreign producers. A tariff impairs business in foreign nations, and foreigners naturally resent this.4

Bismarck’s tariff was a great mistake. However, as Ludwig von Mises emphasizes, “even if all other nations cling to protection, a nation best serves its own welfare by free trade.”5 Rather than embracing free trade, Germany’s neighbors foolishly raised their tariffs. As the table below illustrates, “all the large countries (except the United Kingdom) had very protective trade policies in 1913.”6

What does protectionism have to do with imperialism? A nation cannot profit from an empire in a world of free trade. By contrast, a protectionist nation can benefit from an empire.7 Consequently, protectionist governments are impelled to violent territorial expansion. The return of protectionism after 1880 started a new wave of territorial imperialism that culminated in the First World War.

Consequences of the First World War

See the rest here

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