Why I am not a libertarian

I'm halfway through Unqualified Reservations' Why I am not a libertarian, and loving it (although I wish it used the big-L convention, since it's more about why he is not a Libertarian). The criticism of Beltway libertarians is perfect:

In my opinion, the practical problem with grounding libertarianism in the ideals of the American Revolution is that Americans no longer hold those ideals, and Europeans never did. Both, today, follow a moral code which is essentially socialist. It is true that this is the natural consequence of "education" at the hands of a government which is essentially socialist. It is also irrelevant. The consequence is the reality. You cannot explain to people that they ought to believe in, say, freedom of contract as a fundamental human right, when in fact they don't. As Hume, again, pointed out, ethical axioms are not debatable.

The response of many libertarians, especially those who for some awful, unimaginable reason seem to have congregated in the watershed of the Potomac, is often to borrow a trick from the Fabian Society, and try to steer Washington gradually and moderately in the direction of smaller and freer government.

They should know better. As we'll see shortly, the monotonic growth pattern of the State is not a coincidence. It is one thing to surf that wave. It is another to paddle out through the breaker. When we look at the results of 25 years of Beltway libertarianism, we see hardly any substantive policy achievements. I'm sure there are some. But I can't think of any.
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I mean, why in God's name would anyone come to the conclusion that the US political system is in some sense reformable? Talk about the triumph of hope over experience. And all the energy, and money, and time, that the Beltway libertarians put into trying to apply a single smudge of lipstick to some flap of flesh in the remote vicinity of this hog's maw is energy, and money, and time uninvested in putting the beast to sleep. Moreover, since the official story of Washington is that it represents everyone, it fits all sizes, it contains multitudes, a few decorative pseudolibertarians may be just the right camouflage for it to weather another century's storms.
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Perhaps I have dug deep enough in this rich seam of defeat and despair. But in case I haven't, let's observe that the United States once had a healthy and functioning libertarian Constitution, with Ninth and Tenth Amendments that were anything but inkblots. 220 years later, we have... what we have now. Does this inspire you with great confidence in limited government as a durable and effective engineering principle? Suppose, by some miracle, libertarians elect Ron Paul, and he actually succeeds in reforming Washington and restoring the 1787 interpretation of the Constitution. And how many years would this last? Why would we expect different results on the second go?

This is exactly why I think Ron Paul is a dead-end (except inasmuch as he educates and converts people), working with the Republicans is a dead-end, working with the Democrats is a dead-end, and democratic attempts at libertarian reform are hopeless. Americans are not libertarians and constitutional democratic minarchism demonstrably evolves into a welfare state. You think it's an accident that Hong Kong, pinnacle of laissez-faire, was to some degree a dictatorship?

Instead of wasting your time on national politics, your best bet is to go sign up for my seasteading announcement list, and then go focus on your own life.

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Ah, but what of the implicit costs of avoiding engagement...

...with government and government policy? Even a rearguard action designed to prevent things from worsening is still helpful. Remember the parable of "that which is seen, and that which is not seen". We see that government has grown bigger in the time that beltway libertarianism has worked its "magic", but what we don't see is how much worse things would have been sans the effort. I would certainly concur that money spent educating young people - and everyone for that matter - is far more effective than attempting to wine and dine some congressman out of approving the building of a football stadium at taxpayer expense. Think tanks and foundations often have their feet in both the political and civil realms.

I have my criticisms of beltway libs, but it's a complaint not couched in the the supposed fatalism of political interaction period.

Myself? I aim for the whole "professional libertarian" thing because I enjoy political discussion as a hobby (though conviction of belief prevents me from being more generalized in my career plans). But I have utmost respect for people seasteadin', and confess to a bit of envy.

Seems like a better argument

Seems like a better argument for agorist counter-economics than for Seasteading.

Not convinced

Dain, is there any good reason to think there is any unseen benefit to libertarian activism? My guess is that most of it just the usual mind-numbed actions induced by politics only without any capability of accomplishing anything.

My problem with Mencius is that I don't think libertarians have any hope of "putting the beast to sleep".

Speaking about seasteading I

Speaking about seasteading I came across this, could be of interest:
http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2008/0225/062.html

More and better pictures in the magazine.

although I wish it used

although I wish it used the big-L convention, since it's more about why he is not a Libertarian

It's been a while since I read that particular essay. I have to say that in general, Mencius and his "formalism" are libertarian in a broad sense of the word, and in many respects are much like Hume's political philosophy (though Mencius says he hasn't read Hume).

There's much to like, though he seems relatively utopian about how well formalism would work. Without some sort of guarantee of movement, formalism could well devolve into a hundred tiny Mordors with walls to keep everyone in. This and Mencius's own arguments are why I think libertarians would do well to instead focus on find private sector means of replacing the public sector in a variety of activities, and that includes seasteading which not only allows for greater freedom of movement, but attempts to replaced an "informal" government with a "formal" government which is profit driven, to use Mencius's terms.

~Matt

edit: clarification

I agree that libertarian

I agree that libertarian politicking is unlikely to be useful, but there's no reason to be any more starry-eyed about seasteading. So I can't see why this essay should have any bite, with you or anyone else.

Also, this sentence: "As Hume, again, pointed out, ethical axioms are not debatable" is obviously false. We debate such things all the time.

I disagree again!

Mencius is not a libertarian, though he's definitely influenced by them. In some respects he seems downright authoritarian. He wants to take away the journalistic privilege of leaking because he has deemed the press to be part of the state that should not be covered by the First Amendment and in many cases ought to be nationalized. He has also proposed making the government the monopoly provider of oil.

We debate such things all the time.
Colorless green ideas DO NOT, in fact, sleep furiously!

No

Colorless green ideas DO NOT, in fact, sleep furiously!

If your point is that ethical discussion is on a par with such nonsense, that's false. Anyone can see putting Rawls's Theory of Justice on the same tier as Edward Lear poetry is missing something.

The government can do

The government can do whatever it wants if it actually owns the land it is making these rules on, including controlling the media, nationalizing oil, etc. Imagine anarcho-capitalism with corporate governments doing all of this. Perfectly libertarian even in the strict neoLockean definition- they have the property right don't they?

One of Mencius's key insights (and also Hume's) is that there is no abstract system of property. It's conventional. If the government has the power to do something under the current system, it has the right (Hume does qualify this a bit). Thus, we are currently living in anarcho-capitalism. It sure doesn't feel much like libertarianism, but what Mencius really seems to be pushing for (at least to me) is efficiently run governments which are operated more like corporations than anything else. Being sovereign, these corporations get to do some interesting things that normal corporations can't, but they are still supposed to be profit driven entities rather than...whatever it is we have now.

On some broad definition of libertarian, I would include Mencius based on this. He certainly isn't your standard libertarian fare, however.
But enough of semantics. If this doesn't qualify him for the label in your opinion, we'll agree to disagree.

~Matt