Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Question Libertarians Just Can't Answer

A confused man named Michael Lind posted something in Slate a few days ago called "The Question Libertarians Just Can't Answer."  (Note to readers in the U.K. and its satellites: Libertarians are often called Liberals on your side of the pond.) 

The question goes something like this....
Why are there no libertarian countries? If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century is organized along libertarian lines?

It’s not as though there were a shortage of countries to experiment with libertarianism. There are 193 sovereign state members of the United Nations—195, if you count the Vatican and Palestine, which have been granted observer status by the world organization. If libertarianism was a good idea, wouldn’t at least one country have tried it? Wouldn’t there be at least one country, out of nearly two hundred, with minimal government, free trade, open borders, decriminalized drugs, no welfare state and no public education system?

When you ask libertarians if they can point to a libertarian country, you are likely to get a baffled look, followed, in a few moments, by something like this reply: While there is no purely libertarian country, there are countries which have pursued policies of which libertarians would approve: Chile, with its experiment in privatized Social Security, for example, and Sweden, a big-government nation which, however, gives a role to vouchers in schooling.

But this isn’t an adequate response. Libertarian theorists have the luxury of mixing and matching policies to create an imaginary utopia. A real country must function simultaneously in different realms—defense and the economy, law enforcement and some kind of system of support for the poor. Being able to point to one truly libertarian country would provide at least some evidence that libertarianism can work in the real world.
You could also ask "If women hate rape so much, why do they let it happen?"

You could also respond that "even with the curse of slavery and the lack of universal suffrage, the USA, at its founding, was the smallest, most libertarian government ever conceived.  Too bad that things didn't work well for us, and we weren't able to become the richest country with the most influence on earth."  End of rant.  Michael Lind, you're a dumbass. 

Or, you could rephrase Michael Lind's question as follows: "If your philosophy that takes power away from centralized government and entrenched special interests is so great, why haven't any centralized governments or entrenched special interests tried it?"

Or we could assume that Michael Lind is one of the self-righteous little leftie pricks, and say "If gay marriage is so desirable, why are there not many gays in this country who are legally married?" And then remind him that The Teleprompter Jesus himself only finished "evolving" on the issue a few months ago.  Overcoming the Statists is never, ever easy. 

Or, there's this imaginary conversation.....

Libertarian: Hey I've got this new flying car I made, do you wan-"
Reactionary Statist: "why haven't people made a flying car before?"
Libertarian: "uh, well, cause I'm the first person to do it."
Reactionary Statist: " But if it's so great why hasn't anyone done it before?"
Libertarian: "Because this is a new, and in the places where parts of it have been tried, it's been great!..."
Reactionary Statist: "okay crazy. I'm just going to ride my horse."

So let me get this straight.  Michael Lind says that the proof Libertarianism will never work is that we've never tried it???  Hell, now I'm curious if there were people who decried the Magna Carta because there was never any society that wasn't tyrannically ruled by God-Kings before.

And then there's this factor....

 But the best of the bunch is this one, from my drinking buddy Stefan Molyneaux.
Make time to listen to all fifteen minutes of this.  It's pure, undiluted greatness. 

Somewhere on this Internet Machine is a picture of me drinking a cold one with Stefan Molyneaux at our State Convention.  Couldn't find it.  But it happened. 

All of that answers Michael Lind's question quite nicely, don't you think? 


Tim said...

I thought the question was going to be: "what is the government good for?"

I realize it isn't a country, by why no mention of Hong Kong?

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Lind mentions it in the full piece, but doesn't count it because it's a "city-state".
Or something....

MingoV said...

"Why are there no libertarian countries?"

Anyone who understands libertarianism should be able to answer the question. Citizens of a successful libertarian government must have the following characteristics: self-reliance, honesty, complete disavowal of might-makes-right, respect for others and their properties, and tolerance of others. The percentage of the population with those characteristics is less than 50% in all existing nations. A libertarian government cannot survive if half its citizens are incapable of living within a libertarian society.

The only way to form a libertarian nation is to start from scratch. The USA came close to achieving this with its post-Revolutionary War government. But, too few people wanted libertarianism, and we drifted (and sometimes swam rapidly) far away from our almost libertarian roots.

Tudor said...

The larger the country, the bigger the government. You can't get around that.
However, that said, Italy is possibly the closest you get to a libertarian/minarchist society - possibly based on it being a loose collection of fiercely proud regions who often dislike each other (not to mention the North/South divide).
But history shows how easy it is for a central figure to use the vacuum to seize centralised power.
That said, in real terms, Italians, much like the rest of us, just get on with important stuff, like our lives, pay as little tax as possible and leave the politicians to fuck about. Literally, in Italy's case.
Shorter: There's room in every country for libertarian values and lifestyles. It's just what price point you're willing to accept to "buy off" the government to (more or less) leave you alone.