Re: Libertarianism and Extropia?
Sat, 1 Mar 1997 09:01:51 -0500 (EST)

Having missed out on contribution to the "Anarcho-Capitalism Stability"
thread due to work pressures, I thought I'd toss in a couple of comments

In a message dated 97-02-27 19:12:51 EST, John Blanco-Losada writes:

> Do you feel that you can achieve personal freedom within the confines of
> current government structures, or would you only feel truly free living
> in a libertarian society?

Except at the extremes, personal freedom is a matter of degree. I think
individuals are more or less free, not either/or. Thus my personal "liberty
meter" can register a higher degree of freedom in some societies than others
and in different "axes", i.e. in some countries I am more free to do one sort
of thing, and in others more free to do others.

> Do you feel that a libertarian society can be realized by working within
> the political system to change existing governments, or do you feel that
> such a society can only be realized by starting fresh from scratch?

I think T0Morrow's comments in the "Anarcho-Capitalism Stability" thread are
very apt in answer to this: There are many fronts on which the sphere of
personal liberty can be enlarged using existing tools of polycentric law in
many currently existing societies, especially the U.S. Depending on the
extent to which one is a "minarchist" or a radical anarchist, it may well be
possible to realize a society of maximal personal liberty by gradually
enlarging the sphere of personal liberty.

One problem with this approach in the U.S. is that, while the federal
constitution defines (at least in theory) the central national government as
a limited sovereign, the constitutions of the states do not. In theory, the
U.S. states are "ultimate soveregns" claiming all residual political power.
Thus -- again in theory -- a gradualist approach will ultimately bump up
against a limit to individual liberty in the sovereign power of the states.
A successful program of gradualism, however, might approach this limit so
gently, though, that by the time it is reached, cultural expectations of
persoal liberty could be great enough that the "ultimate sovereign" might
"wither away" peacefully, with a wink and a nod.

> Would you "put your money where your mouth is" and actually move to a
> libertarian colony?

This question has been discussed before, with some acute insights from Robin
Hanson, if memory serves. The problem is one of relative benefit and cost.
Immigration to a "new society" will have costs associated with it for
specific individuals. The more economically and socially established and
successful an individual is in the "old world", the less favorable an
immigration decision will be. Likewise, the more economic opportunity and
liberty is available in an "old world" society, the less favorable an
immigration decision will be. A review of the character of phases of
immigration to North America reflects these factors starkly.

In practical terms, these factors mean that the new "libertarian colony" has
to offer significant relative advantages to entice immigrants from the "old
world". They also mean that the immigration decision will be evaluated
differently for differently-situated inhabitants of any specific "old world"
society. The paradox is that some of the people that a "brave new
(libertarian) world" will want most to attract are the ones with the highest
threshhold to overcome in this equation.

Thus, the answer to the question is, "it depends". For a young person with
few roots in the old world, living in a repressive society with few
opportunities, immigration is relatively easy. For a succesfully established
person living in a relatively free society with good economic prospects, the
decision is harder.

Factors that would act as immigration "magnets" certainly relate to legal
advantage and the availability of new resources. Thus a luxurious tax haven
built in the asteroid belt sounds pretty good to me. A "colony" consisting
of some dilapidated structures in a Third World country doesn't.

Greg Burch ----<>----<> -or-
"How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in't"
-- W. Shakespeare, _The Tempest_