Re: Incremental Progress (was: Private Property and Capitalism)

Eric Watt Forste (
Fri, 18 Oct 1996 14:46:04 -0700 (PDT)

On Wed, 16 Oct 1996 wrote:
> Eric Watt Forste offers, for the U.S., a decentralization of power back to
> the states as one step on the path toward incrementally moving toward a
> regime of anarcho-capitalsim. I'm all for this, to the extent that it
> implements polycentric legalism. However, I see each state claiming total
> sovereignty within its own territory (while implementing laws different from
> other states) and thus this path seems to take us no closer to a stateless
> world. In fact it may not really be an instance of legal polycentricity any
> more than the international legal order is, because of the concept of the
> territorial state. Nothing in the modern "states' rights" movement seems to
> point to a devolution of state power, per se.

I agree with you. However, because the Federal government has yet to start
ignoring the constitutional guarantees of free migration and free trade
between states, individual states will be much more easily punished (by
emigrating people and corporations) for overlegislating than the Federal
government can be. But US history is full of examples of individual states
unconstitutionally and illegally abusing their powers during periods when
the Federal government was powerless to stop them: in particular, there
was the removal of the Cherokee nation to Oklahoma, which was carried out
by the Federal government under Jackson, but *only* because Jackson was
powerless (not enough money or troops) to prevent the Georgia state
militia from systematically slaughtering the Cherokees, which is what
probably would have happened had the Feds not removed them.

I guess I'm a historical relativist here: right now the big threat in the
US seems to be Federal power. I'm well aware that after this problem is
successfully addressed, we will probably need to turn our attention to
reining in the states.

> Also, BTW, I think your reference to Friedman's interesting work on the
> Icelandic example, Eric, bears out my original thesis regarding the relative
> ease of implementing agoric legal systems in truly "new worlds". As I
> recall, that regime developed amongst colonists (political refugees)
> emigrating from Scandinavia to essentially unpeopled country.

Yes. In fact, long before I heard of the extropians, I was a vaguely
libertarian activist in the L5 Society. It eventually occurred to me that
it was the current political situation that presented the greatest
obstacle to space development. (Pouring half your gross world product down
a government rathole can do that to a planet.) So I became more than
"vaguely" libertarian. Now you are telling me that it seems we'd have a
much better chance of bringing about agorist social institutions on a
frontier... and getting to the frontier was my whole motivator in the
first place! So it seems to be a bit of a chicken and egg problem, which
we must attack on several fronts at once, which is why I think ExI is so
excellently conceived.