Libertarianism (by )

I just came across this in a text file while cleaning up an old home directory prior to deletion, so thought I'd put it up here...

It occurs to me that we do live in a libertarian world. At the global level, there is no higher level of government; all nations are free, limited only by their own desire to not invoke their neighbour's wrath. Organisations like the UN are voluntary, and have to bargain or impose sanctions to get their will followed, rather than being able to impose.

What does this mean? Well, if we had an infinite amount of land, then we would be in an individually libertarian society, since as long as we could sneak out of our home country, we could just pick an unused plot and set up our own nation, living as part of the international libertarian society, like kings of old.

Perhaps space travel and interplanetary colonisation is the answer.

And this shows that we all started as a totally libertarian society; the idea of people having control of other people emerged at some point, leaving only the people at the top of local hierarchies as still being 'free', as tribal chieftans gave rise to kings and so on.

Perhaps that means that libertarianism is inherently unstable, that some people will always be able to take control of others, and so hierarchies and 'nations' will always form.

Or perhaps it just means we got it wrong then, when forming into tribes with a chieftan seemed like a good idea, and we could now try again with the benefit of hindsight.

Perhaps tribes was the best it got. Within a tribe, if somebody felt constrained by allegiance to the chieftan, they could split off and form their own tribe elsewhere. While the majority of people, who seem perfectly content to follow like sheep, would keep following their chieftans, considering the cost of allegiance and the benefits of the community less than the dangers of striking out on their own.

And, also, people could live on the fringes of clans, enjoying more freedoms and less benefits, without entirely seperating.

For the purposes of designing a stable libertarian society, perhaps we can divide people into three groups: Independent bold visionaries, sheeple, and troublemakers.

The independent bold visionaries really don't benefit from being told to conform. They have their own ideas, and restraint is their nemesis. They are happy to lose the support of a society in order to go their own way, even if their goal is to ensure the survival of the society.

Sheeple, however, just want to be told what to do and have somebody else worry about making sure the group survives. They're not interested in the bigger picture so much. They are at their happiest embedded in a society that can care for them, and that they can repay by working for the common good.

Troublemakers, however, are the greedy people. They want to abuse society in some way, either through direct theft, or enslaving people (directly or indirectly). These are the people who will often be trying hardest to gain power and influence in a society, because they seek it for its own sake, and are not distracted by an eventual goal (like the bold visionaries).

How does one cater for the needs of the visionaries (who, after all, are the ones who think about the big picture for the good of themselves and the sheeple), while making sure the sheeple are fed and protected and not exploited by the troublemakers?

And if one has an answer to that question, then how to ensure that the system will survive without external influence despite the concerted efforts of the troublemakers, the ease of deception of the sheeple, and the apparently random attention of the bold visionaries?


  • By Charlee, Wed 2nd Aug 2006 @ 11:00 pm

    We're not the only ones though are we, most animal species divide into herds, flocks, showls etc. We've just "evolved" the tribal concept a bit too far.

  • By Alaric Snell-Pym, Thu 3rd Aug 2006 @ 8:49 am

    Indeed - I think one downside of 'classical' libertarianism is that it's not for everbody. If we did ditch all the governments and go straight for anarcho-capitalism, lots of people would be crying out for a leader and leaders would soon arise. And they'd probably not be very nice people.

    I have a few theories about systems of government that might work well for different types of people:

    1) Lots of small, competing, countries where it's easy to move between them, so you can just move to a country that has a government you appreciate. Some would be overprotective, with few individual freedoms, while some would be lassez faire, little more than a group of people grouping together and pooling some of their income to get a set of emergency services and somebody to maintain the roads. If these countries were the sizes of small towns, a bit like the city-states of old, it'd be easy to migrate to a city-state with the kind of government you feel happiest in

    2) A multi-tier society. One central government, but a range of levels of citizenship, each granting different rights. There'd be special compulsory levels like "child", "criminal", and "foreign visitor", but generally if a citizen reaches maturity (some retarded people might stay in the 'child' level for life, always needing a legal guardian to be responsible for them) they get to choose between two or more levels I'd have to think carefully to come up with good names for - ranging from "The government assigns you a flat to live in, and you can go to the canteen in the block of flats to get fed, and you get pocket money to buy fun things but have no actual bills, and you are assigned a job in consultation with a career expert, and you are monitored by doctors and psychologists to make sure you're healthy in all ways" to "you're on your own; the police will have a word with you if you do anything that has an undue negative effect on others, and it's up to you to find work to earn an income to pay for yourself to have a place to live, medical care, and so on.". Perhaps with some intermediate stages.

    Changing levels would take a month or two, and there'd be restrictions on how often you could do it, to avoid potential scams (go free, get into lots of debt, then go into the managed accommodation so all your debts are wiped out... I think you'd have to demonstrate that you had no debts before you'd be allowed to go managed, for example, and if any debts became apparent after you'd changed over, you'd be booted back out to being free again).

    People who go free after being managed would be given a small grant to get them started.

    The second approach has the advantage that it's easier to switch back and forth; (1) sort of assumes you'll take one path for life, choosing your city state when you first set out into the big wide world, but (2) has a bit more flexibility. You might leave home and start off 'managed' in order to get work experience, then strike off on your own when you feel ready to try to get rich. However, (2) has a single central government, and is thus open to corruption as time passes (in the way the once nicely balanced US democracy has over the past century or so boiled down into 'the President runs things with some restrictions imposed by Congress')

  • By ella, Thu 3rd Aug 2006 @ 9:07 am

    Libertarianism, as I understand it, does not mean that every individual is an island by themselves, the idea is that everyone has the chance to go their own way and pursue their own goals, and that everything that they make for themselves or invent or create is theirs by right and that they can trade if they wish and not if they don;t want to. The non-visionaries, or sheeple, as you so neatly put it, are encouraged to work at the limit of their ability (as yo work below the limit of your ability stultifies your mind, and to do a job that you are not able to do leaves you fearful and busy covering your own arse, trying not ot be foudn out) which means that they can trade their ability to work for money, they don't have to try and be visionaries, they can just work for hte visionaries. This is what I understand from Ayn Rand's philosophy, which is, I think, related to libertarianism. It's not anarchy.

  • By Alaric Snell-Pym, Thu 3rd Aug 2006 @ 5:13 pm

    I'd say that "everyone being an island" is one form of libertarian society, while what you describe is a generic philosophy of libtertarianism that could apply to various libertarian societies... I'd say they're orthogonal axes.

    My point is more that I see a continuum of 'designs for societies' ranging from anarcho-capitalism to a big central government that tells people to eat and think - and people argue over which is best; and I think that the reason nobody ever manages to come up with a coherent argument that one is any better than the others is because different people would be happy in different societies.

    I mean, a lot of people would actually be perfectly happy to be part of a 'hive' with Big Brother watching over them, guarding the standards of Moral Righteousness and Normality (think Daily Mail readers), while also a lot of people would much rather have their family be its own sovereign nation, with their own military and everything (think stereotypical American survivalists).

    We need to allow for both kinds of people, and the majority who sit somewhere inbetween - either by finding ways for both kinds of societies to coexist, or finding a single society in which both extremes can coexist.

Other Links to this Post

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

WordPress Themes

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales