Get with the SLs, or miss the revolution!

Brian Doherty wants to be all inclusive, and says:

This is not to say such taxonomic divisions and side-taking in libertarianism are useless or to be condemned--just that I think whatever such divisions you can create, it is quite likely that libertarians on either side are doing good things to help bring about a more libertarian world, even if that merely means convincing one more person that we should live in such a world.

Here's the thing, though: we libertarians have been yelling forever that what matters is not just intentions but consequences. My problem with liberals is not that they want to feed the hungry and educate the poor, it's that their methods infringe on my rights, and fail - a miserable combination. I'm not going to condemn the efforts of PLs - but I do think they (which means most libertarians) are deeply misguided, and as a result they are wasting their time and money. That's a bad consequence, and it's sad. There are few enough of us libertarians, if we're going to make a difference in the world, we need to act effectively.

Brian also says that: "Undoubtedly, as in any market, there will be plenty of efforts exerted that prove ex post to have been misguided, but it's hard to know that before hand". But I don't agree that, right now, all the paths to Libertopia look equally likely. It's not like a financial market where you have strong forces acting to equalize returns. Activism doesn't have the frequent feedback necessary for an efficient system, nor the incentives. (In my experience, many activists work for the thrill of feeling they are contributing to a cause as much as or more than the thrill of success - not a reward system which will lead to efficient activism.)

And frankly, I don't think it's even close. Working on a handful of long-shot SL proposals, knowing that only one need succeed, is far superior to the entire field of PL, which will never succeed.

In some sense, this is just an argument about methods. But that's an important argument. In the end, almost everything in life comes down to choosing methods. The view that methods don't matter and we shouldn't argue is a view that gives up on one of life's great questions: How to act most effectively to change the world.

Also , there is a specific element of Brian's strategy that I think seasteading disproves: "even if that merely means convincing one more person that we should live in such a world." In traditional libertarian activism, focused on some vague hope of a future change in the political winds causing change within a democracy, convincing people matters. But that's one of the reasons seasteading is great: we don't need to win an election. We don't need a sweeping movement. All we need to do is create one small free town. Then we can switch from arguing, preaching, and proselytizing to demonstrating the virtues of a free society by example. And that is an enormously superior method of evangelism.

Gazing into my crystal ball, I expect this argument between the people who are voting with their feet (or advocating it) and those who think we can tame the beast to heat up over the coming years. You're going to get one wing of the offensive from we seasteaders, and another from the FSPers. (I have my disagreements with the approach, but they are well towards the SL side, and I applaud their focus on concentration of power and actions over words.) The vanguard from the expatriates has been fighting for awhile now.

This has gotten long so I will refrain from exploring the subtle connections between SL/PL and actually doing and living libertarianism vs. just talking about it. But there is a connection, and it's going to strengthen. You can be a PL, and dream about freedom as a slave in the shadow of the beast, or you can be an SL, and work towards escaping from and eventually slaying the beast.

I've picked my side, and we're going win. Winning is fun, and winners get all the babes[1], so you should join us.

[1] I use this as a gender-neutral term, I assure you. Please imagine a babe of your preferred sex, ethnicity, and political persuasion.

P.S. As a random aside, am I the only one who sees huge cognitive dissonance in libertarians living in DC, like the Cato crowd? Is it any wonder they get captured by the establishment and see PL as a normal, wholesome, feasible strategy? In case no one else has yet stated the obvious: the libertarian revolution is not going to come from Washington DC - just like the American Revolution did not happen in the halls of Parliament. Power and geography are intimately tied, which is why freedom is found on the frontiers.

Share this

I was not aware that there

I was not aware that there would be babes. Maybe the "Island of Babes" can be the killer app for seasteading.

Policy Libertarianism _has_ worked

The biggest problem with the claim that "Policy Libertarianism will never work" is that it already _has_ worked, multiple times. It worked in the early 19th century, producing the golden age of classical liberalism, and it worked in the late 20th century, reversing the nationalization of heavy industry from Britain to India; see Daniel Yergin's "The Commanding Heights" for a good survey of that history.

A better argument to make would be that making such massive policy changes requires massive investments of time and money into long-term projects with little immediate return on investment, and that technological changes can help accelerate the process, or at least produce returns that may be more immediate and direct to the investor.

BTW, I independently came up with the idea of seasteading about 15 years ago, and have always thought it a strategy worth exploring. However, it will also be reliant to some extent upon the ideological sympathy of others, who will have to be relied upon not to treat seasteaders as pirates or other international outlaws.

Replace libertarianism with

Replace libertarianism with Christianity circa 300. On the one hand you have the naive Christians who think they will spread Christianity through evangelism (like that ever worked... ), you have the beltway Christians who think that the Roman Empire can itself help spread Christianity (fools, what do they expect, a Christian Emperor!?). On the other hand you have the far more realist structural Christians, who acknowledge than mere proselytism won't get them anywhere, who understand that the incentives given by Roman persecution prevent any spread, and who have concrete plans, like making a Mediterranean island a Christian country.

Yeah yeah, this is sketchy and inaccurate, but you get the point.

Seasteading is great for achieving liberty fast. Evangelism works much more slowly, but it can be extremely potent. Convert people to libertarianism at a faster rate than the earth population is growing, that's all there is to it. When the base is tiny, a small percentage improvement doesn't look like much because it's a small absolute progress. World growth rate was 1.188% in 2008. Can we get 1.2% more libertarian in the word in 2009 ? That's one convert for each 83 libertarians, how hard is that ?

Re: cognitive dissonance in

Re: cognitive dissonance in libertarians living in DC, the thought has crossed my mind once or twice (and it is a point of ridicule often used by the Lew Rockwell crowd), but even as a committed SL, there are good reasons for PLs to locate in DC, provided that you think there are good reasons to be a PL. Lobbying congresscritters can have helpful pro-liberty effects on the margin (though this is dwarfed by all the anti-freedom lobbying efforts), and once you have a few libertarian lobbying organizations, you get cascade effects attracting other libertarian orgs; for example, IHS, GMU, Institute for Justice. I think all of these kinds of organizations do some good for the cause of liberty, some more than others, albeit difficult to quantify. IJ is a pretty good example of a net positive PL organization with concrete results.

But, of course, the SL argument is that these PL changes on the margin are, well, marginal, and the resources used to achieve them could be used more efficiently for high risk, high reward SL efforts.

IJ, I suspect, needs to be in DC for Supreme Court reasons. Cato needs to be there to get guest speakers and reach out to congressional aides. IHS and GMU I think just went along with the critical mass of libertarians locating in DC. Both IHS and GMU can be looked at as examples of hybrid PL and SL organizations, as they are creators and aggregators of libertarian intellectuals and second-hand dealers in ideas. Both feed in to PL and SL efforts.