Rampant Moldbuggery

I discovered the blog of Mencius Moldbug when Patri linked to this post a few months ago. You should follow that link and also this one, Mencius is well worth your time. He is one of the freshest and most interesting writers on the web, though eccentric even by libertarian standards. His ideas are promising and deserve to be presented without the less palatable garnish of his acerbic writing style.

The most compelling idea in the sprawling Moldbuggian corpus is "neocameralism". Neocameralism is a close relative to Patri's theory of Dynamic Geography in that both are forms of practical market anarchism. Its reasoning is straightforward: If you believe that government should be given incentive to govern well, then modern democracy must be thrown out. Simply trying harder to elect better candidates will not fix the familiar structural problems of democracy, such as plundering special interest groups, ever-expanding bureaucracy, and election contests with the intellectual content of an American Idol finale. However, if you think that security service providers (AKA "governments") form geographic monopolies (500,000 years of human history provides good evidence for this), then the Rothbard/Hoppe/Friedman vision of anarcho-capitalism with a competitive market in security must also be set aside as a pipe dream.

Neocameralism, then, is statist anarchism. It envisions a world filled with small monopoly states run by for-profit corporations. Neocameralism addresses many of the shortcomings of democracy and anarchy. Moldbug defends it well:

To a neocameralist, a state is a business which owns a country. A state should be managed, like any other large business, by dividing logical ownership into negotiable shares, each of which yields a precise fraction of the state's profit. (A well-run state is very profitable.) Each share has one vote, and the shareholders elect a board, which hires and fires managers.

This business's customers are its residents. A profitably-managed neocameralist state will, like any business, serve its customers efficiently and effectively. Misgovernment equals mismanagement.

For example, a neocameralist state will work hard to keep any promise it makes to its residents. Not because some even more powerful authority forces it to, but because it is very pleasant and reassuring to live in a country where the government can be trusted, and it is scary and awful to live in a country where it can't. Since trust once broken takes a long time to rebuild, a state that breaks its own laws has just given its capital a substantial haircut. Its stock is almost certain to go down.

I am provisionally convinced that a neocameralist world is likely to be more libertarian and better-governed than a world run by universal suffrage democracy. For-profit states are likely to follow libertarian economic policies, since those policies tend to create prosperous and interesting places to live. Conversely, socialism is an expensive program that attracts the indigent, not exactly prime clientèle if you are trying to turn a buck. Culturally, I expect a neocameralist world to be a patchwork of diverse burbclaves ranging from a straitlaced, caffeine-free Mormonville to a hedonistic New San Francisco. While not every state will be cosmotarian friendly, each person will have the freedom to choose where to live, presuming they meet the residence requirements of their preferred state. That sounds fair enough to me.

More importantly, my initial impression is that the logic is tight. Neocameralism seems stable and practical, or at least more so than Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism.

There are certainly difficulties with neocameralism. Transitioning to a neocameralist world is the first hurdle that springs to mind. Moldbug never clearly spells out a plausible strategy for getting from here to there. Then there is the minor matter of how shareholders in the government will keep the management under control when management presumably has all the guns. After all, in a democracy corporate shareholders can ask the government to enforce contractual obligations when management shirks its duties. Hopefully you see the problem that occurs with this model when management runs the government. Moldbug offers some technological solutions to this problem that are interesting but unsatisfying.

Still, Moldbug gives me hope that a libertarian future might be practical, which is valuable as the libertarian movement doesn't exactly have a surplus of hope. In a world that has gone through the FDR presidency, I don't see how anyone can cling to the hope that libertarianism might be achieved through a constitutional democracy. I came back from Mises University an anarchist convert, but I have since strayed from the faith due to doubts about its practicality. The arguments for dynamic geography are well-considered, but it abandons the 25% of the world's surface that humanity has historically lived on to sclerotic statism. Also, it is going to entail significant startup costs.

IANAM, (I am not a Moldbuggite), but Mencius, consider me intrigued.

Share this


Glad to see someone else interested in these ideas!

I may be starting a blog on competitive government soon. Guest posts from you would be welcome, if you're looking for a forum in which to explore these types of ideas. Or we can just link to your DR posts. Keep 'em coming!

I would be interested Patri.

I would be interested Patri. My own thoughts and writings are not as original or interesting as yours or Moldbug's, but I do try.

My recent interest is in practical libertarianism. I am a little bit worn out on the other side, which I call "policy libertarianism", which creates policies that the government should follow without thinking about whether they are at all likely to be implemented under the current government system.

I mean, does it even make sense to be a libertarian under a monarchy? What are you supposed to do, try to woo a princess?

There is the unspoken assumption in policy libertarian thought that liberal democracy is a fertile soil for libertarian ideas. They imagine that if we only hand out enough pamphlets, a libertarian society will emerge.

But what if that's not the case? What if the game is rigged? What if the incentives of a liberal democratic regime are not sympathetic to libertarianism?

Then we ought to try to come up with something better.

neocameralism is competitive government?

I think Mencius overestimates how much competition there would be with a ton of tiny geographical monopolies. It may be profit maximizing to wall your citizens in and tax the hell out of them, then use the revenue to purchase goods produced abroad - on the black market if necessary. See North Korea.

Don't forget compensating differentials either. Many people have a preference for ruling. Being tyrants even. See North Korea. Again.

Properly structuring the market for governments isn't the solution, or rather it puts the cart before the horse. If you find a way to make it cheap to change governments, the market structure will improve.

In short, Patri > Mencius.

But, yes, Mencius is extremely thought provoking.

You should

You should read more of Mencius' work. He considers the North Korea issue. He thinks that Hong Kongs will be more profitable than North Koreas, since it is much more appealing to potential customers and investors.

I've heard a similar concept

I've heard a similar concept called Heathian anarchism, which is public goods provided by competing quasi-State integrated firms.