The Libertarian Shit List

Recently I wrote a few posts from the Austrian Scholar's Conference. There was really too much going on for me to share more than a little of it with you, but I encourage you to check it out at the Mises Institute's media page. My particular favorite was Roderick Long's lecture Rothbard's 'Left and Right': 40 Years Later.

An idea that occurred to me after listening and talking to the good professor was which non-governmental institutions, attitudes, practices, etc., would be detrimental to the stablility of a libertarian society. I'd like to solicit suggestions from readers. Left-libertarians might say patriarchy and marriage are two culprits, Randians might offer religion and naturalist art, and hardcore Austrians could say fractional-reserve banking.

What do you, dear readers, think would harm the stability of a libertarian society?

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Any and all special

Any and all special interests that would seek to petition government to enforce their own preferences and biases. The hurdle that libertarians face today is not any of the items on your list, but the very people that "we" would like to give liberty to. The average person does not want to be free and live by their own success - they want government to "protect" them from themselves to some degree. And they certainly want government to fund/protect their preferences and biases via regulation.

In any society that is founded on any sence of democracy those biases and preferences are inevitably rolled into governmental policy.

Egalitarianism and 'radical'

Egalitarianism and 'radical' feminism.

Chris, though that is action

Chris, though that is action by non-governmental actors, I meant things entirely removed from government.



Nothing. In the absence of


In the absence of a monopolistic violence-machine (i.e., a coercive state), "society" could adapt to anything. People would have the unimpeded ability to adapt to destabilizing circumstances. Any institution (i.e., habitual behavior) that is less successful at meeting people's needs and preferences would be out-competed by others.

Lack of liberal

Lack of liberal institutions. Specifically, lack of -

- a positive-sum worldview
- belief in the systemic benefits of federalism and local control
- a realization that a free society is in one's own self-interest
- a belief that power itself is corrupting, not merely that the wrong people are in power
- some knowledge of economics
- a belief that an effective social safety net is possible even if it's not the government providing it
- a robust civil society and set of physical intermediary institutions that provided that social safety net

Nothing. In the absence of a


In the absence of a monopolistic violence-machine (i.e., a coercive state), “society” could adapt to anything.

I think this is overly optimistic. What makes you think that smaller violence-machines won't pop up in the absence of a large violence machine? Lack of effective monopolistic security in Iraq has resulted in what Bush optimistically calls "a high level of sectarian violence" and what most others call "civil war".

Yeah, I have to second

Yeah, I have to second Jonathan on that one. I'm a hardcore anarchist and all, but I believe that if the state were removed without the proper instituions in place we may very well just end up with a worse state in its place. In order for a purely libertarian society to survive most people would have to recognize that infringing on the rights of others is wrong or--at the very least--detrimental to their own goals in the long run.

I heartily agree with the

I heartily agree with the previous two posters, since I think this statement:

In the absence of a monopolistic violence-machine (i.e., a coercive state), “society” could adapt to anything.

is patently Panglossian.

Human Beings Our natural

Human Beings

Our natural animal instincts are toward hierarchical social structures, so absent a concerted effort to overcome these tendancies, any society will slowly evolve into an authoritarian state(1).

The vast majority of individuals do not consider overcoming these tendancies worth such concerted effort.

1 - 'state' in the sense of 'configuration', not in the sense of 'government'.

Procreation. Civilization,


Civilization, it's been said, is like the skin of an apple -- very shiny and very, very thin. Even if we assume it's possible to get everybody on the same moral and political page such that a stable libertarian society is possible, what happens when the next generation comes along? Political and moral philosophy are not genetic. What are the odds that the next generation would agree in every particular with the interpretation of their forefathers?

History would indicate that a perfect libertarian society would devolve quickly.

As I understood the

As I understood the question, to perform this little thought experiment, we are to assume that a "libertarian society" already exists, and the rise of some pervasive mode of behavior coalesces to the point we can call it an "institution" and threatens to destabilize things.

I tend to agree with Hoppe's definition of government as an organization that exists for the purpose of using force, and further claims to be the final arbiter on the use of force for everyone within a geographical territory. I call this, when I am feeling cheeky, a "monopolistic violence machine."

Now, if we have a libertarian society, to my mind this means that there is no monopolistic violence machine as we know it, no coercive state that can legitimately claim to be the ultimate authority for everyone. Clearly, this assumption will differ for those who understand the term "libertarian society" differently. I suspect that genuine hardcore anarcho-capitalists, however, would agree with me, or else they would not call themselves by that name.

So, what could destabilize such a society? By definition, this mode of social organization is understood to be the most "stable" form possible, on the grounds that it is the most dynamic. It maintains equilibrium not by authoritative control and restriction (which actually makes things worse), but rather by allowing the maximum degree of beneficial adaptation to changing economic conditions. Under anarcho-capitalist theory, non-aggressive behavior cannot, by definition, be destabilizing or harmful. Such forms of behavior may be more or less beneficial than other forms of non-aggressive behavior (or perhaps neutral), but the more beneficial behaviors (defined subjectively) will win out in the end and tend to become more popular. Therefore, only some form of aggression could constitute a real threat.

Private aggression still exists in the world, of course, so how does the anarcho-capitalist society deal with it? Private suppression, and other ways of adapting one's economic life to remove the incentive for such crime (i.e., better technology, better prevention devices, safer buildings, better screening procedures, etc.) Such adaptive responses to crime would, by definition, be the most efficient and cost-effective ones possible, because they are private. Therefore, private, non-monopolistic aggression cannot destabilize a libertarian society.

There is only one form of aggression that could destabilize a libertarian society -- the kind of aggerssion that can legitimately claim to have a monopoly on the use of force. The monopoly has the unique ability to interfere with the ability of people to adapt to other forms of aggression and economically destructive behavior, in addition to engaging in economically destructive behavior of its own.

Such an institution is a coercive state, as defined above. But when such a coercive state arises, we, by definition, no longer have a libertarian society.

Therefore, to answer the question, What institution could threaten to destabilize a libertarian society?

Only the rise of another coercive state.

Organized Crime I fear

Organized Crime

I fear Mafia-type organizations would form and would either form themselves into a new kind of government (and a worse one at that!) or we would enter into a new age of propetial turf war and "protection" rackets.

If a large minority of

If a large minority of society actively defends itself against such institutions, and a majority of society views such violent responses as legitimate, then any attempt at mafia style or other style of state could be violently put down every generation or so.

If it is a social understanding that the wealthy are expected to violently defend the freedoms of man, then enough of them will do so to make mafia-style coercion no longer worth it.

Of course, such a social system would be difficult to set up, and may break down over-time (500 years or so). That is why I am in favor of a divided republic. For example, the U.S. of A. before the 17th Amendment rendered the states powerless.