Why Anti-War Libertarians Should Join Greens in Boycotting and Divesting from Nuclear Weapons

There are approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world today. That’s about 15,000 chances for an accident to happen or some suicidal madman to start a fiasco that will render the Earth uninhabitable (or nearly so) for humanity. Even a single detonation, without any retaliation, could kill millions of people.

This is an extinction threat. A threat of mass, mass violence. Surely, the goal of avoiding such extreme violence, the kind with the potential to cause the extinction of humanity, ought to transcend all other differences of opinion.

Fortunately, we can wage nonviolence against nuclear weapons. One of the strategies we are using is to identify nuclear weapons producing corporations, and the banks and other financial institutions investing in those nuclear weapons producers. Then we boycott and divest from those banks and other financial institutions. Nonviolent campaigns actually have twice the effectiveness of violent campaigns: “The more violence, the less revolution.”

This is just as well, as many of us believe that it’s impossible or at least unlikely to achieve good results by violent means anyway. As stated in a green Anarchist Cookbook, “that means determine ends—the use of horrifying means guarantees horrifying ends.” To quote Leo Tolstoy:

“Some persons maintain that freedom from violence, or at least a great diminution of it, may be gained by the oppressed forcibly overturning the oppressive government and replacing it by a new one under which such violence and oppression will be unnecessary, but they deceive themselves and others, and their efforts do not better the position of the oppressed, but only make it worse. Their conduct only tends to increase the despotism of government. Their efforts only afford a plausible pretext for government to strengthen their power.

Even if we admit that under a combination of circumstances specially unfavorable for the government, as in France in 1870, any government might be forcibly overturned and the power transferred to other hands, the new authority would rarely be less oppressive than the old one; on the contrary, always having to defend itself against its dispossessed and exasperated enemies, it would be more despotic and cruel, as has always been the rule in all revolutions.

While socialists and communists regard the individualistic, capitalistic organization of society as an evil, and the anarchists regard as an evil all government whatever, there are royalists, conservatives, and capitalists who consider any socialistic or communistic organization or anarchy as an evil, and all these parties have no means other than violence to bring men to agreement. Whichever of these parties were successful in bringing their schemes to pass, must resort to support its authority to all the existing methods of violence, and even invent new ones.

The oppressed would be another set of people, and coercion would take some new form; but the violence and oppression would be unchanged or even more cruel, since hatred would be intensified by the struggle, and new forms of oppression would have been devised. So it has always been after all revolutions and all attempts at revolution, all conspiracies, and all violent changes of government. Every conflict only strengthens the means of oppression in the hands of those who happen at a given moment to be in power.

[…]

And of this mass of men so brutalized as to be ready to promise to kill their own parents, the social reformers–conservatives, liberals, socialists, and anarchists–propose to form a rational and moral society. What sort of moral and rational society can be formed out of such elements? With warped and rotten planks you cannot build a house, however you put them together. And to form a rational moral society of such men is just as impossible a task. They can be formed into nothing but a herd of cattle, driven by the shouts and whips of the herdsmen. As indeed they are.”

Even your own philosopher Mr. Rothbard found pragmatic reason to support nonviolent revolution, “In the coming period, then, it becomes especially important for radicals in the anti-war movement to avoid as the plague any stigma of violence, which would reverse the process of radicalizing the liberal masses, and give Nixon the opportunity to move unopposed into open fascism.”

Nuclear weapons producers include: Boeing, Honeywell International, Lockheed Martin, Airbus Group, Aecom, Northrop Grumman, Leonardo-Finmeccanica, Bechtel, Fluor, Orbital ATK, BAE Systems, Raytheon, Safran, General Dynamics, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Jacobs Engineering, Textron, Thales, Moog, Serco, BWX Technologies, Larsen & Toubro, Aerojet Rocketdyne, CH2M Hill, Engility, Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, and Walchandnagar Industries.

The top 10 banks and other financial institutions investing in nuclear weapons, based on the data we have available, are: BlackRock, Capitol Group, Vanguard, State Street, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Evercore, and Goldman Sachs.

All of these top 10 banks and financial institutions are US-based companies. To quote the specifics:

“BlackRock (United States) owns or manages shares of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 32,032 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding shares at the most recent available filing date are included. […] BlackRock (United States) owns or manages bonds of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 837 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding bonds at the most recent available filing date are included.”

“Capital Group (United States) owns or manages shares of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 28,677 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding shares at the most recent available filing date are included.”

“Vanguard (United States) owns or manages shares of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 26,493 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding shares at the most recent available filing date are included. […] Vanguard (United States) owns or manages bonds of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 1,450 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding bonds at the most recent available filing date are included.”

“State Street (United States) provided loans for an estimated amount of US$ 352 million to the nuclear weapon companies […]. The table shows all loans closed since January 2013 or maturing after August 2016. […] State Street (United States) owns or manages shares of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 27,374 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding shares at the most recent available filing date are included. […] State Street (United States) owns or manages bonds of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 54 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding bonds at the most recent available filing date are included.”

“Bank of America (United States) provided loans for an estimated amount of US$ 10,048 million to the nuclear weapon companies […]. The table shows all loans closed since January 2013 or maturing after August 2016. […] Bank of America (United States) underwrote share issuances for an estimated amount of US$ 4,114 million to the nuclear weapon companies since January 2013 […] Bank of America (United States) underwrote bond issuances for an estimated amount of US$ 4,216 million to the nuclear weapon companies since January 2013 […] Bank of America (United States) owns or manages shares of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 6,646 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding shares at the most recent available filing date are included.”

“JPMorgan Chase (United States) provided loans for an estimated amount of US$ 12,569 million to the nuclear weapon companies […]. The table shows all loans closed since January 2013 or maturing after August 2016. […] JPMorgan Chase (United States) underwrote share issuances for an estimated amount of US$ 406 million to the nuclear weapon companies since January 2013 […] JPMorgan Chase (United States) underwrote bond issuances for an estimated amount of US$ 3,629 million to the nuclear weapon companies since January 2013 […] JPMorgan Chase (United States) owns or manages shares of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 5,514 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding shares at the most recent available filing date are included. […] JPMorgan Chase (United States) owns or manages bonds of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 60 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding bonds at the most recent available filing date are included.”

“Citigroup (United States) provided loans for an estimated amount of US$ 12,989 million to the nuclear weapon companies […]. The table shows all loans closed since January 2013 or maturing after August 2016. […] Citigroup (United States) underwrote share issuances for an estimated amount of US$ 348 million to the nuclear weapon companies since January 2013 […] Citigroup (United States) underwrote bond issuances for an estimated amount of US$ 4,184 million to the nuclear weapon companies since January 2013 […].”

“Wells Fargo (United States) provided loans for an estimated amount of US$ 6,302 million to the nuclear weapon companies […]. The table shows all loans closed since January 2013 or maturing after August 2016. […] Wells Fargo (United States) underwrote bond issuances for an estimated amount of US$ 2,007 million to the nuclear weapon companies since January 2013 […] Wells Fargo (United States) owns or manages shares of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 3,598 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding shares at the most recent available filing date are included. […] Wells Fargo (United States) owns or manages bonds of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 31 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding bonds at the most recent available filing date are included.”

“Evercore (United States) owns or manages shares of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 10,843 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding shares at the most recent available filing date are included.”

“Goldman Sachs (United States) provided loans for an estimated amount of US$ 3,495 million to the nuclear weapon companies […]. The table shows all loans closed since January 2013 or maturing after August 2016. […] Goldman Sachs (United States) underwrote share issuances for an estimated amount of US$ 1,491 million to the nuclear weapon companies since January 2013 […] Goldman Sachs (United States) underwrote bond issuances for an estimated amount of US$ 3,599 million to the nuclear weapon companies since January 2013 […] Goldman Sachs (United States) owns or manages shares of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 1,249 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding shares at the most recent available filing date are included. […] Goldman Sachs (United States) owns or manages bonds of the nuclear weapon companies for an amount of US$ 8 million […]. Only holdings of 0.50% or more of the outstanding bonds at the most recent available filing date are included.”

Here is the complete 2016 report, including all of the nuclear weapons investors we have data on, along with recommended nuclear weapons-free banking options for folks residing in the United Kingdom, Italy, or the Netherlands. You can find links to a number of country-specific Halls of Shame here. It is best to avoid all of the banks and other financial institutions listed in the “Hall of Shame,” but at the very least try to avoid the top 10. Possible alternatives include credit unions or small local banks not listed on the report. It’s probably a good idea to write the pro-nuclear bank a letter explaining why you are divesting from them.

I realize the idea of a credit union may be distasteful to libertarians. Even so, consider how much worse it would be to blow up the world. Unless you wish to bring capitalist banks to cockroaches, surely avoiding pro-nuclear-weapon banks should be the priority. One of your own libertarian philosophers, Karl Hess, pointed out the impossibility of remaining neutral in situations such as these (short of not having a bank or credit union account at all), “The impossibility of simple neutrality in this situation should be apparent. You cannot just say ‘a pox on both of your houses’ because, unfortunately, you happen actually to live in one of the houses. By that act alone neutrality is made impossible—except for those very rare few who actually can withdraw totally, to dream out their isolation so long as, and only so long as, the unleashed dogs of the system, against which they have refused to struggle, are not set upon them.”

The simple act of boycotting banks and other financial institutions is far less risky than the risk taken by green anarchist Henry David Thoreau, who while not as committed to nonviolence as most modern greens, went to jail for tax resistance in protest of the Mexican-American war, which was threatening to expand slavery into Mexico. “If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose. If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.” (We note that Thoreau’s description of civil disobedience as a duty is rather reminiscent of Stoicism, see Epictetus for example.) And it’s much less risky than the risks taken by many modern greens, who are willing to risk things such as tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons in freezing weather, and even death.

To quote Chase Iron Eyes:

“Who are we to abandon our struggle? Who are we to forsake our ancestors’ sacrifices? Who are we to forsake the 550 people who have been arrested? Who are we to forsake those who have been shot with rubber bullets, those who have had their limbs blown open by law enforcement explosives? Who are we to forsake who’ve had their lives put in immediate risk by the water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures? Who are we not to stand up for our treaty rights, our human rights, our civil rights, and our constitutional rights, which are being brutally violated by the corporate state, by the police state. This isn’t just a fight for our liberation, and the fight for our liberation is enough, enough on its own, but this is a fight for your constitutional rights, your human rights. This is a fight for a true dignified life. What you’re asking us to do when you ask us to leave, is you’re asking us to return to a state of imposed poverty. You’re asking us to return to a state of oppression, legal, economic, and political oppression, that’s 500 years in the making. But we are also a new generation, with the tools, the mind, the strength, the fortitude, and the dignity, to dissect the institutions that this society has used to erase us, to try to make us feel ashamed of ourselves, and to try to disconnect us from our connections with the land, with the water. That’s why we can’t leave. What’s happening here is an international monument, an international prayer monument, a living monument that lives in each and every one of us within which a sacred motion is at work, in every molecule of water on this earth. What we are saying is that we can’t live like this anymore, and everybody who’s here, everybody who has committed themselves to this struggle is here in love and compassion, bravery, and we are answering to our spiritual nature. There’s nothing to fear from us. We are not violent and we are unarmed, and because of that, we are stronger than any weapon, any bomb, any institution which seeks to brutalize our struggle. We will win this. This is how we win a peaceful revolution. But peace is not passive. Brothers and sisters, peace does not back down. Peace is power. And what you see here, in this whole camp is power, the power to connect with each other, and rely on each other.”

If anything, banking with an institution that does not invest in nuclear weapons is probably safer. We are not demanding martyrdom here.

Your own libertarian philosophers, Mr. Rothbard and Mr. Childs, have written on the importance of nuclear disarmament and avoidance of war.

From Mr. Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty, Chapter 25, pages 190-191:

“It has often been maintained, and especially by conservatives, that the development of the horrendous modern weapons of mass murder (nuclear weapons, rockets, germ warfare, etc.) is only a difference of degree rather than kind from the simpler weapons of an earlier era. Of course, one answer to this is that when the degree is the number of human lives, the difference is a very big one. But a particularly libertarian reply is that while the bow and arrow, and even the rifle, can be pinpointed, if the will be there, against actual criminals, modern nuclear weapons cannot. Here is a crucial difference in kind. Of course, the bow and arrow could be used for aggressive purposes, but it could also be pinpointed to use only against aggressors. Nuclear weapons, even “conventional” aerial bombs, cannot be. These weapons are ipso facto engines of indiscriminate mass destruction. (The only exception would be the extremely rare case where a mass of people who were all criminals inhabited a vast geographical area.) We must, therefore, conclude that the use of nuclear or similar weapons, or the threat thereof, is a crime against humanity for which there can be no justification. This is why the old cliché no longer holds that it is not the arms but the will to use them that is significant in judging matters of war and peace. For it is precisely the characteristic of modern weapons that they cannot be used selectively, cannot be used in a libertarian manner. Therefore, their very existence must be condemned, and nuclear disarmament becomes a good to be pursued for its own sake. Indeed, of all the aspects of liberty, such disarmament becomes the highest political good that can be pursued in the modem world. For just as murder is a more heinous crime against another man than larceny so mass murder-indeed murder so widespread as to threaten human civilization and human survival itself-is the worst crime that any man could possibly commit. And that crime is now all too possible. Or are libertarians going to wax properly indignant about price controls or the income tax, and yet shrug their shoulders at or even positively advocate the ultimate crime of mass murder?”

From Mr. Childs’ “Review of Hospers’ Libertarianism“:

“Classical liberalism failed largely because of the pitfalls of utilitarianism, evolutionism, and its failure to confront in bold and uncompromising terms the growing militarism of the turn of the century. I think that this is the worst threat to libertarianism as well.”

Mr. Rothbard, For a New Liberty page 334, “the very nature of modern nuclear warfare rests upon the annihilation of civilians.”

Mr. Rothbard, For a New Liberty page 347:

“Many libertarians are uncomfortable with foreign policy matters and prefer to spend their energies either on fundamental questions of libertarian theory or on such “domestic” concerns as the free market or privatizing postal service or garbage disposal. Yet an attack on war or a warlike foreign policy is of crucial importance to libertarians. There are two important reasons. One has become a cliché, but is all too true nevertheless: the overriding importance of preventing a nuclear holocaust. To all the long-standing reasons, moral and economic, against an interventionist foreign policy has now been added the imminent, ever-present threat of world destruction. If the world should be destroyed, all the other problems and all the other isms—socialism, capitalism, liberalism, or libertarianism—would be of no importance whatsoever. Hence the prime importance of a peaceful foreign policy and of ending the nuclear threat.”

Mr. Rothbard, For a New Liberty page 366:

“Since it is in the interest of all people, and even of all State rulers, not to be annihilated in a nuclear holocaust, this mutual self-interest provides a firm, rational basis for agreeing upon and carrying out a policy of joint and worldwide ‘general and complete disarmament’ of nuclear and other modern weapons of mass destruction.”

Mr. Rothbard, For a New Liberty pages 368-369:

“To which we might add that anyone who wishes is entitled to make the personal decision of ‘better dead than Red’ or ‘give me liberty or give me death.’ What he is not entitled to do is to make these decisions for others, as the prowar policy of conservatism would do. What conservatives are really saying is: ‘Better them dead than Red,’ and ‘give me liberty or give them death’—which are the battle cries not of noble’ heroes but of mass murderers. In one sense alone is Mr. Buckley correct: in the nuclear age it is more important to worry about war and foreign policy than about demunicipalizing garbage disposal, as important as the latter may be. But if we do so, we come ineluctably to the reverse of the Buckleyite conclusion. We come to the view that since modern air and missile weapons cannot be pinpoint-targeted to avoid harming civilians, their very existence must be condemned. And nuclear and air disarmament becomes a great and overriding good to be pursued for its own sake, more avidly even than the demunicipalization of garbage.”

Granted, Mr. Rothbard and Mr. Childs leaned much further in the direction of pacifism than many modern libertarians, but even so, surely the important matter of not destroying the world should be sufficient cause for solidarity between greens and libertarians on this issue, regardless of our other differences?

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