The classical liberal view of the ideal state — especially in its “nightwatchman state” version — is that of an umpire. Definitely not “the boss.”

But this idea has long been honored mainly in the breach.

Courtesy of Cato, I learn of the work of historian Elizabeth Cobbs:

How has the view of the United States as an “umpire” served U.S. foreign policy? Elizabeth Cobbs is author of American Umpire.


Contra this interesting scholar, I would say that our federal government ceased being primarily an umpire, domestically, long ago.

She is probably right that the U.S. characterizes itself as an umpire in its foreign policy aspect. But, if umpire it be, it is an amazingly crazed and brutal one, unpredictable other than in its strong tendency to bomb countries going through political troubles.

Hardly “umpirial”! The U. S. would be kicked out of any respectable referees’ union.

And the only way the U. S. has maintained a putative umpire status abroad has been to reduce that function at home. The umpire-like qualities of limited, constitutional government — of a republic — have long been deprecated by dirigiste ideology and progressive/conservative politics. In its place, instead of a rule of law, we have developed a regulatory state dominated by bureaucracies in the executive branch and plutocracy in the elected sphere.

America, an empire at home; a crazed, wannabe umpire abroad.

Call me an anti-umpirialist, then!

The better to support a more limited, referee status at home. War, after all, is not the health of the nightwatchman state.