When Liberty And Sovereignty Conflict

Apropos the recent discussion of colonialism in response to Matt's recent post on Mill and polycentrism, I'm moving a comment I made on the Liberal Intervention post from the Mill-Fest---that we cannot consider national sovereignty sacrosanct because

states very often violate individual liberty. If state sovereignty derives from individual liberty, then individual liberty must take precedence, and it’s perfectly legitimate, if it can be done at no cost, to overthrow even a moderately illiberal government to replace it with a more liberal one. It’s not a matter of forcing people to be free—anyone who would be a slave can always find a way—but of forcing them to stop making others unfree.

In practice, of course, this can almost never be done at no cost. But the decision of whether or not to intervene should be based on a cost-benefit analysis that gives no weight to concerns such as national sovereignty or whether the illiberal government in question was democratically elected.

Claims of a right to self-government fail for the same reason: People may have the right to govern themselves, but that doesn't translate to the right to oppress an unpopular minority via a democratically elected government.

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Words. When there's more

Words. When there's more than one, they're words.

I don't know what any of

I don't know what any of this means until you explain what count as costs and benefits because people want to count all sorts of things. If a person would lose his welfare benefits does that count as a cost? And can the costs to some be balanced against the benefits to others?

I suppose you could say

I suppose you could say welfare benefits count as a cost. But that's balanced out by the fact that not having to pay them is a benefit to someone else. I was thinking more along the lines of the net benefits of a liberal government balanced against the costs of overthrowing and replacing an illiberal one.

If, every day you walked out

If, every day you walked out the front-door and found a $100 bill on your porch, you'd certainly consider that a benefit. Unbeknownst to you, the money had been slipping through a hole in the pocket of your postman's pants. If the postman were to find out that he had been thusly losing money, he would promptly stitch the pocket, or get a new pair of pants.

This is hardly an imposition of "cost" to you, the benefactor of his misfortune, nor is it a "benefit" to cease suffering unduly.

Whether you count them or

Whether you count them or not, the numbers add up the same in the end.

I don't understand the

I don't understand the premise, or maybe I just disagree completely. State sovereignety does not derive from individual liberty, it is a way of suppressing individual liberty. The only reason to form a state is to limit what members (tellingly called "subjects" in many cases) are allowed to do.

I don't think you can define "legitimate" and "cost" in this context in a way that has any meaning at all from an individual standpoint. You will ALWAYS come down to balancing things that cannot be directly compared (one persons valuation of something to another's).

The people always have a

The people always have a "right" to a revolution, they also have the right to dy for the revolution. If enough people are willing to die to overthrown the government and make a new one that there is not conflict. There is something call the "tipping point" the media is always talking about. Or a small inconsequencial incident light the fused blow the powderkeg.