RE: Stem Cell Debate --Banned in the USA ---> libertarian societies as unicorn

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Fri Aug 03 2001 - 17:41:00 MDT

Reason said

>(And my original point was that if you don't have the freedom to destroy
>society, then it's not a truly libertarian society, which is why a truly
>libertarian society can't exist).

I've been a bit critical of libertarianism as understood on this list, which
is libertarianism in the strong sense of the various intellectual systems
built by people like Rand, (early) Nozick, and Rothbard.

However, I'm not sure Reason is correct with the above. Say we have a system
like Nozick's at the end of _Anarchy, State and Utopia_. There's a
minarchist government, a set of rules about what is recognised as property,
some very basic criminal law dealing with force and fraud, rules for
commercial contracts, a basic law of torts to deal with certain kinds of
wilful, reckless or negligent harms, courts to enforce the above, the
military, taxes solely to cover what I've described so far, and the ability
of people to form their own large or small voluntary communities with much
more elaborate local socio-legal norms (including welfare systems, taxes,
additional public institutions such as schools, universities, hospitals,
even theocratic laws if that is the local agreement, etc, etc) if they want.
All this is embedded in a constitution amendable only by a supermajority of
the entire population, ie all of the local communities, to prevent a mere
majoritarian overthrow. Moreover, the deepest legal and social norms etc
(including the jurisprudence of the highest courts, the attitudes of the
military etc) are such that the constitution is likely to be honoured.

It seems to me that this system at least drastically *reduces* the freedom
to destroy the society, yet it also seems to be a truly libertarian society
in a pretty strong sense (maybe not enough to satisfy an
anarcho-capitalist). Actually, I might even favour such a society if it
could be made to work - if there's a way to get there from here.

At a more abstract level, Popper's analysis of the paradox of democracy
seems relevant here. What do you want from your libertarian society? Do you
want whatever may be the product of libertarian processes, even if the
product is not libertarian? Or do you actually want liberty? If the latter,
you may have to build institutions that limit the outcomes of liberty but
preserve liberty in practice (you may need to build in very strong
constitutional constrainst against theocratic laws, for example). This is no
more paradoxical than having a constitutional rule in a democracy which
prevents a popularly elected government from passing laws abolishing the
democracy. To a large extent you *can* build such systems in this way and
there is nothing paradoxical about it. You just have to introduce some
metalevels into the analysis.

The above may be relevant to the sysop idea, but I think this may have other
problems, as discussed by Anders.

Back to you.


Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:40:01 MDT