Libertarians whine

Over at Cato, Libertarians are having a discussion about how to bring about a libertarian state somewhere. It was kicked off by Patri Friedman who says that they should give up on the US and democracy because:

Democracy is the current industry standard political system, but unfortunately it is ill-suited for a libertarian state. It has substantial systemic flaws, which are well-covered elsewhere, and it poses major problems specifically for libertarians:

1) Most people are not by nature libertarians. David Nolan reports that surveys show at most 16% of people have libertarian beliefs. Nolan, the man who founded the Libertarian Party back in 1971, now calls for libertarians to give up on the strategy of electing candidates! Even Ron Paul, who was enormously popular by libertarian standards and ran during a time of enormous backlash against the establishment, never had the slightest chance of winning the nomination. His “strong” showing got him 1.6% of the delegates to the Republican Party’s national convention. There are simply not enough of us to win elections unless we somehow concentrate our efforts.

2) Democracy is rigged against libertarians. Candidates bid for electoral victory partly by selling future political favors to raise funds and votes for their campaigns. Libertarians (and other honest candidates) who will not abuse their office can’t sell favors, thus have fewer resources to campaign with, and so have a huge intrinsic disadvantage in an election.

Libertarians are a minority, and we underperform in elections, so winning electoral victories is a hopeless endeavor.

Poor libertarians, they can’t win elections because most people aren’t ‘by nature libertarians’ and democracy is ‘rigged’ against them. This means they lose elections because most people don’t agree with them. Well, they can’t just deal with that, so something must be done. What’s the answer? Why to start their own little country (here’s Wikipedia’s entry on Seasteading):

Seasteading is my proposal to open the oceans as a new frontier, where we can build new city-states to experiment with new institutions. This dramatically lowers the barrier to entry for forming a new government, because expensive though ocean platforms are, they are still cheap compared to winning a war, an election, or a revolution. A lower barrier to entry means more small-scale experimentation. Also, the unique nature of the fluid ocean surface means that cities can be built in a modular fashion where entire buildings can be detached and floated away. This unprecedented physical mobility will give us the ability to leave a country without leaving our home, increasing competition between governments.

I wonder what will happen when these lovely places run into current libertarian types like pirates? Or what happens if one city-state outbids another for a group of people that are productive? Or what if there’s a natural disaster? I assume they won’t expect help from anyone. The rest of the essay is a mix of practicality and craziness (he mixes in some evo-psych junk for example). Still it’s much better than a follow-up essay by Peter Thiel. He continues with the anti-democratic sense:

I remain committed to the faith of my teenage years: to authentic human freedom as a precondition for the highest good. I stand against confiscatory taxes, totalitarian collectives, and the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual. For all these reasons, I still call myself “libertarian.”

But I must confess that over the last two decades, I have changed radically on the question of how to achieve these goals. Most importantly, I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.

and then in one paragraph really lays out a lot of craziness/misinformation:

Indeed, even more pessimistically, the trend has been going the wrong way for a long time. To return to finance, the last economic depression in the United States that did notresult in massive government intervention was the collapse of 1920–21. It was sharp but short, and entailed the sort of Schumpeterian “creative destruction” that could lead to a real boom. The decade that followed — the roaring 1920s — was so strong that historians have forgotten the depression that started it. The 1920s were the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics. Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron.

Let’s unpack a bit, shall we:

the roaring 1920’s were based on a bubble that burst in 1929 and resulted in the worst depression in US history and it wasn’t until 1933 that FDR was elected and there was large scale government intervention (shouldn’t it have been over by then?);

there were earlier depressions including the so-called ‘Long Depression’  which lasted in some form from 1873 until the late 1890’s (in the US there was a boom-bust cycle starting with the longest contraction in US history and ending with the panic of 1893 which was the second worst depression in the US and which lasted until 1898 or so);

libertarians must have a really weird way of looking at things if they haven’t been optimistic about politics at any time since the 1920’s (not in late 1945,  not in 1989 when the Berlin wall was torn down? );

and his bit lamenting the expansion of the vote to women is just stupid (are these new city-states going to only include men?) while the complaint about the extension of the welfare state is the old libertarian refrain (I suppose they want them to starve?).

If these people want to form their own little country, I really hope they do and go away.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. danarchist
    May 06, 2009 @ 21:03:50

    i think perhaps what Patri Friedman meant by “Most people are not by nature libertarians” was really that ‘most americans do not grow up to be libertarians because they are schooled and educated by the State to be statists’. i think if left to their own devices, actually, most people would be “naturally libertarian”. it seems to me that it in their personal lives most people live by libertarian “rules” such as having mutual respect for other individuals and by not starting fights (non-agression principle).


  2. Ralph Baker
    May 11, 2009 @ 00:04:31

    I believe that the major problem lies entirely with the faulty assumptions eminating from the collective, er…Public Brain. The Libertarian Party USA is doing all that it can with limited resources, but it needs to use force. Yes, FORCE!…of the national media to send a strong message to Joe Sixpack and Helen Housewife. Mainly, “You Didn’t Vote LIBERTARIAN!”.

    It’s high time and long overdue that the American public should wake up – FAST!! – and give the Libertarian Party the chance to do what the Democrats and Republicans don’t want it to do, i.e. get the Government off the public’s aching back, out of the American wallet and back into the cage of the Bill Of Rights. When Government does too much, it fails at EVERYTHING!

    Enough said. Sincere thanks from Ralph in Rhode Island!


  3. CaptainChaos
    Mar 20, 2011 @ 02:00:30

    Am I the only one amused by the idea of individualistic libertarians coming together to build an individualistic libertarian commune?


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