In my previous post I attempted to differentiate between Policy Libertarianism and Structural Libertarianism and explain why my interest lies with the latter. Looking back, I realize that I railed on policy libertarianism quite a bit but I didn't explain why structural libertarianism is so interesting. In this post, I hope to correct that shortcoming by quoting some passages from the modern SLs that caught my attention. Then, hopefully before my classes resume, I will get around to discussing the drawbacks of structural libertarianism, and why we might want to reject libertarianism altogether in favor of a more utilitarian theory of politics.
I apologize for going back to the same sources over and over again, but as there are few structural libertarians in modern times and the old SLs didn't keep blogs that I can easily copy and paste from. I am lazy and they are serviceable, so that is what we get.
...[I]t is hard to avoid noticing two basic facts about the universe. One is that libertarianism is an extremely obvious idea. The other is that it has never been successfully implemented.
This does not prove anything. But what it suggests is that libertarianism is, as its detractors are always quick to claim, an essentially impractical ideology. I would love to live in a libertarian society. The question is: is there a path from here to there? And if we get there, will we stay there? If your answer to both questions is obviously "yes," perhaps your definition of "obvious" is not the same as mine.
The basic idea of formalism [the author's SL philosophy] is just that the main problem in human affairs is violence. The goal is to design a way for humans to interact, on a planet of remarkably limited size, without violence....
The key is to look at this not as a moral problem, but as an engineering problem. Any solution that solves the problem is acceptable. Any solution that does not solve the problem is not acceptable.
Is it possible to design a structure of government which will be stable and predictable? Hopefully, of course, stably and predictably benign? History affords no evidence of it. But history affords no evidence of semiconductors, either. There is always room for something new.
The key is that word should. When you say your government "should do X," or "should not do Y," you are speaking in the hieratic language of democracy. You are postulating some ethereal and benign higher sovereign, which can enforce promises made by the mere government to whose whims you would otherwise be subject. In reality, while your government can certainly promise to do X or not to do Y, there is no power that can hold it to this promise. Or if there is, it is that power which is your real government. Your whining should be addressed to it.
The neocameralist [another SL philosophy] structure of Patchwork realms, which are sovereign joint-stock companies, creates a different kind of should. This is the profitable should. We can say that a realm should do X rather than Y, because X is more profitable than Y. Since sovereign means sovereign, nothing can compel the realm to do X and not Y. But, with an anonymous capital structure, we can expect administrators to be generally responsible and not make obvious stupid mistakes.
Given the choice between financial responsibility and moral responsibility, I will take the latter every time. If it was possible to write a set of rules on paper and require one's children and one's children's children to comply with this bible, all sorts of eternal principles for good government and healthy living could be set out.
But we cannot construct a political structure that will enforce moral responsibility. We can construct a political structure that will enforce financial responsibility. Thus neocameralism. We might say that financial responsibility is the raw material of moral responsibility. The two are not by any means identical, but they are surprisingly similar, and the gap seems bridgeable.
When we use the profitable should, therefore, we are in the corporate strategy department. We ask: how should a Patchwork realm, or any financially responsible government, be designed to maximize the return on its capital?
Given how far all current governments stray from the libertarian vision, it is natural that some of us have considered designing or even founding a new nation. In doing so, we sometimes assume that the major failing of present nations is the mental attitudes of their residents. Thus to ensure that a political system works, we merely need to start with libertarians. This is incorrect, because much of what we don't like about current states stems from the behavior of systems - behavior which is to some degree independent of which humans are involved. As an example, the USA started with liberty-minded founders and degenerated anyway.
Continue reading the linked material for their positive visions of government. If you know of anyone else I should read, please let me know in the comments, or at first name dot last name at gmail dot com.