What a Libertarian Society Would Look Like

in philosophy •  last year

As a vocal proponent of the Classical Liberal/Voluntarist/Anarcho-Capitalist/Austrian Economic/Objectivist/Libertarian point of view, I am often asked what "our" sort of "Utopia" would be like. This question, however -- in itself -- is practically impossible to answer.

The reasons, of course, are complex and multi-layered: first, it's very difficult for us to imagine abstract concepts that we have rarely seen played out in real life (the Cognitive Dissonance is strong with us); second, seldom are such examples taught nowadays in history courses; and third (perhaps most importantly), there are no centralized planners to solve problems in such a Utopia -- everyone would be free to come up with his or her own solution or to implement someone else's that had already been proven to work ...
As far as Cognitive Dissonance is concerned, we humans have an inborn defense mechanism that, while protecting our "fragile" psyches from "life-threatening" ideas, also gives us a tendency to reject new pieces of information -- even clear evidence and facts -- that contradict our belief systems and world-views . So, in a very real sense, we are programmed to stop learning beyond a certain stage about "reality."
The Dunning-Kruger Effect is also extremely interesting from my point of view. It basically says that less intelligent people lack the skills to recognize their own stupidity (and thus reject what smarter people try to teach them), whereas more intelligent individuals incorrectly assume that less clever people have cognitive abilities just as developed as their own. (What a mess!) Click here for John Cleese's take :D
Now, historical examples of truly voluntarist or (dare I say) capitalist successes are not completely lacking -- just not often heard of. As an American, I was fascinated several years ago to come across the idea of the "Tragedy of the Commons." At a certain point in colonial America, the very socialist approach of requiring all members of the community to "produce according to their abilities and consume according to their needs" began to lead to starvation. The solution?
Private property and individual responsibility. Each family received a parcel of land to cultivate for its own survival. Suddenly, no longer able to "call in sick" or to claim more of the harvest "according to need," people had to take care of themselves -- and starvation disappeared.
Additionally, is it not true that people take better care of their own property than they do of others'? Home-owners, for instance, are better at keeping up their domiciles than are renters, no? People are also more likely in public spaces to litter or, let's say, drop their cigarette butts on the ground. This concept also applies to the welfare state, of course, as Benjamin Franklin said.
I also think the explanation of how people spend money is relevant here:

Spending money.jpg

All the above leads me to my final point, which is that -- in a truly stateless society (or in a minarchy) -- people would make their own decisions and take care of themselves. They would be responsible for educating, feeding, clothing, sheltering, and making themselves a living. It would also be up to them to defend their property and families. There would be no central "authority" telling them how to act or what is moral or legal or healthy or wise.
It is at this point that the argument usually comes in that there would be total chaos, that there would be exploitation of others a la "Might makes right," etc. Sort of like at a rave party where people are so high on freedom that they trash the place and enslave others, just because they can???
Well, that's why I say, if you want to imagine what a libertarian society would look like, think about being at a party with friends. Sometimes someone gets a bit too plastered or rude or annoying or aggressive. What do you do at that point? Do you call the cops, or do you try to solve the problem amongst yourselves?
I know which solution I prefer, and I trust my reasoning is clear enough for the rest of you to follow. We all have a fairly decent sense of right and wrong, and we need to learn to work things out with each other. If we are to be free, it means we have to be free to make mistakes, to learn from them, to hone our communication and social skills, and to develop and improve ourselves naturally, without too much centralized control -- at least not of the governmental sort!

I hope you all have a healthy and fulfilling 2018, unhindered by government! Ciao за now.

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It's easy to imagine how things are going to go perfectly for your preferred utopia, but this is not how you demonstrate that it's worth striving towards or that it has any chance to work in practice. Many things work nicely on paper, but break down when you try to put them into practice.

Here, you are presenting a best case scenario but to show that something is viable, you need to demonstrate or at least have a clue how it deals with the worst case scenario as those are going to emerge sooner or later.

Let's take your party analogy. What if a gang that's stronger than your friends comes into your party uninvited and starts breaking stuff and torturing and raping people with a clear ability overpower you and your friends. Wouldn't you prefer to be able to call the police on them? Wouldn't you want the gang punished?

People are criticizing your idea because it has clear points of failure when a powerful group of people decides to start abusing the regular folk.

I for one would much rather be living under a lawful democracy taking advantage of all the benefits of organized society, instead of having to deal with all the downsides of anarchy.

Remember, we are communicating here via a medium (the internet) that was created and maintained through the state. Anarchy doesn't really have the means to create globe-spanning things like this and those are the things that make our modern lives modern.

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Riddle me this:

What if the cops are the gang?

Which group of people now holds a monopoly on violence?

If the police are so effective at what they do, why does a market for private security guards exist?

Could the private market ever provide an effective police force?

What did Jefferson mean when he said, "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it"?

Or Franklin, when he said, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"?

Finally, do regulations and subsidies help or hinder innovation?

If you can't answer these questions, then please ask. They are all small, but vital parts of the big picture. Good luck on your quest!

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The box explains it all

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Let's see if @rocking-dave can agree.

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"Children learn the fundamental principles of natural law at a very early age. Thus they very early understand that one child must not, without just cause, strike or otherwise hurt, another; that one child must not assume any arbitrary control or domination over another; that one child must not, either by force, deceit, or stealth, obtain possession of anything that belongs to another; that if one child commits any of these wrongs against another, it is not only the right of the injured child to resist, and, if need be, punish the wrongdoer, and compel him to make reparation, but that it is also the right, and the moral duty, of all other children, and all other persons, to assist the injured party in defending his rights, and redressing his wrongs. These are fundamental principles of natural law, which govern the most important transactions of man with man. Yet children learn them earlier than they learn that three and three are six, or five and five ten. Their childish plays, even, could not be carried on without a constant regard to them; and it is equally impossible for persons of any age to live together in peace on any other conditions" -- Lysander Spooner.

It's interesting to hear from all of the libertarians/anarchists on here. Of course the idea of less government involvement (I am absolutely not a socialist) is very attractive to me, especially as things are now, but particularly as a young woman (who has read and been horrified by Lord of the Flies), the idea of no overarching authority is distressing, as I am inherently weaker and an obvious loser in a society like that. There are hierarchies no matter what. It's our animal nature. As humans, however, we can choose our hierarchies to some degree, in a rational, distinctly human manner--however imperfect this often is--rather than leave it to the animal instincts and pure brute strength--whether that's physical, or, in this day and age, in the form of tech knowledge and wealth.

But there is much to be said; in the end, I think a lot of people that propose so-called anarchy come quite close in their idea of it to just very small, efficient, barely-involved government. You might be very interested in a Catholic social principle discussed at length--the principle of sudsidiarity. It sounds like what you're talking about, and it's the perennial vision of the Church for a healthy government: in essence, the people closest to the problem at hand are the ones best equipped to deal with it; smallest possible government--exactly like your party example.

Anyway: this isn't a treatise, but just felt worthwhile to say.

I know you're a reader. I will try to find which document it is and send on the title to you. It's 100 years old.

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Libertarians don't believe in no authority -- just in no governmental authority. I'm not quite sure there has to be a hierarchy, per se, but I certainly do believe in an orderly society, which presupposes certain rules or "agreements" that all members share. There can even be a private police and a private "government," as long as all participation in it is voluntary -- meaning no forced taxes, etc.

Subsidiarity sounds quite appealing to me as an idea, as I certainly believe that problems should be solved locally, not by some centralized, out-of-touch group of "experts."

Many libertarians are also Christians (and vice-versa ;)), by the way, including Tolkein, C. S. Lewis, and Ron Paul, for instance. I personally welcome many Judeo-Christian values (such as not stealing, etc.), though I lament the fact that so many Christians have taken Christ's ideas about loving others to mean they have to support laws that increase revenues for social programs!

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Cool. lol

Not enough brain power to fully respond in an adequate way right now, but this is interesting to think of--and comforting! Everyone here is always touting anarchy and I'm like.. uhhhh. Do you really think with power you would be all that more virtuous than what we have? Not all that likely. Many people who think they are arguing for anarchy are actually just arguing for a different form of power structure.

Classical liberalism, the first name you gave it, is actually appealing from this expansion you gave. My guess is that subsidiarity is nearly identical to that.

And yes--ugh to the social programs, and the poor malformation in many Christian circles. Generosity, a keystone to a properly lived Christianity, is necessarily voluntary, otherwise it isn't generosity. When 1/2 your income is taxed, it's hard to even feel you have the chance to be generous! And thus you're robbed of an incredible, joy-giving, relationship-building virtue.

My response requires nuance, but the essence of it is that people are always better left to take care of themselves where possible, and to be directly supported by people who know and love them in some capacity where not, as you say, I think? I have been in that latter position myself--needing to be carried through some very difficult periods. But I somehow always knew in my gut it wasn't the right thing to seek out government aid.

So tired. But basically agree, I think.

Many Christians are very confused without good rational and intellectual formation alongside a lived faith, which flounders in the face of ideology because it doesn't have arguments with which to respond.

You'd make a good Catholic, Brent :). Night!

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It's a more than adequate response, Kay, and I appreciate your taking the effort to digest the information and reply thoughtfully.

Interestingly, one of the most common pro-government arguments is that people cannot be trusted to take care of themselves. The come-back, of course, is "Why should we give some people power to govern others, then?"

I totally agree with you that forced generosity is not generosity. It reminds me of Milton in his "Treatise on Education," in which he lays out the basic idea that morality cannot exist in a vacuum, meaning God gave us the ability to make bad decisions because, if we had no choice, doing the right thing would no longer be a virtue.

I guess Lewis also discussed this in "The Problem of Evil":

Anyways, "people are always better left to take care of themselves where possible, and to be directly supported by people who know and love them in some capacity where not" sums it up well!

Talk to you soon!

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You've made some really good points, and although I do not affiliate with or associate myself with any political party, I do believe in the liberties of free press, free speech, free markets and trade, and most importantly self responsibility. I have been working on classical liberalism piece and will post it on Steemit soon. Millennials, my age and younger, who mostly identify as "liberals" have no idea what true liberalism is - and I think that is such a shame. I often find myself discouraged because the amount of socialistic brainwashing is so rife within the millennial's population - and we will be the largest percentage of American voters in 2020 - and even as a millennial myself, that terrifies me.

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Disclaimer: I belong to no political party, either. (Whew -- glad I finally got that off my chest :))

At any rate, it sounds like you might be a few decades ahead of your peers -- if not in years, then in the lessons life loves to teach us.

I would love to read your work when it's finished, by the way. Could you possibly post it here, or in a comment on a more recent post of mine, when it is? You can even use classicalliberalism101 as a tag if you want.

I hope more people will catch on to how the language is being manipulated, basically to confuse alliances (divide and conquer) -- if not just to confuse. The term liberal -- as you imply -- is an apt example of a word that no longer carries its original meaning anymore; in fact, it means just the opposite. (Don't worry, it was a confusing term even in the 80s.)

Doublethink and Doublespeak have never been more prevalent than they are today, I fear. I'm just glad to see that there are those of you who cannot or will not be brainwashed, no matter how prevalent the propaganda.

Be strong, @millenia. Someone needs to raise the standard!

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Well, I graduated HS in 2002, which makes me one of the oldest millennials, really - but I became a mother in 2001 so, I had to grow-up pretty abruptly :) luckily, I also come from an awesome family of patriots.

I will definitely share my piece on one of your posts and at classicalliberalism101! Thanks, @brentssanders!

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Family is so important :) Looking forward to the story!

Very well said about spending money by people and the way they think differently in different situations.

I think it all depends on how and in what type of environment we grow, needless to say the role of our parents and friends .

Thanks for sharing.

Christmas and New Year Wishes.

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Yes, in my mind, environment more or less equals education, and it is very important that we are trained properly by our parents to respect the rights of others. Have a great year!

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Thank you. Have a great day :)

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You, too, sir!

Unfortunately government hindering will be a part of my 2018, but I will strive to get over or around those hurdles.

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May you be successful at it!

In the past, I was quick to dismiss these concepts as idealistic fantasies. My jaded thinking led me to conclude that even if a true libertarian society could actually exist, it would only be corrupted over time because, after all, people are people. A little bit of education and some expanding of my mind has caused me to consider that maybe it's not all that far-fetched. Perhaps it's time to take a trip to Liberland to see how it's done.

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Glad to see you've been thinking about these ideas. Liberland would be very cool to visit. Maybe we can drag @freemanreporter along with us.

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Somehow, I don't think there would be any dragging required.

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We might have to lock him in the trunk, just in case ;)

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He'd probably like it there because he could work without distraction.

And...of course I'm thinking about these ideas. How could I not with the company I have been keeping? ;)

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Well, yeah -- didn't your mom warn you about the people you make your friends? :D

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Probably, but I was her rebellious child.

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Oh, yes, you are quite the rebel. Naughty Sam!

It's fun to think about how a "libertarian society" would look like and I have thought about it a lot over the years, although I've become increasingly interested in diagnosing what obstacles are blocking from this ever happening or more importantly what can one do who finds himself in a world where respecting the individual has been tossed outside.

There are some root questions sunken deep in our civilization that need to be resolved and looking at how it would be like on top of utopias hill definitely aides in having a vision to strive for, I just think without some awareness and understanding it's like trying to get there without a compass.

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That is a very thought-provoking comment. Thank you. I think the main obstacles are, as mentioned above, cognitive bias and cognitive dissonance. People just don't like to be proven wrong or even just to find out for themselves that they are wrong. That is a huge obstacle to overcome. As far as what one can do, I believe that theme has been thoroughly explored in most dystopian novels and films. Nearly every protagonist in such works of the imagination are individualistic. And yes, you're right -- without awareness and understanding, there is no progress. Thanks again for your interesting input!

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Thanks for the post, made me think about this subject again.

I agree bias and dissonance is the fundamental reason why people don't change or even begin to question things. This makes me wonder why some do and others don't. What makes someone a more individualistic versus collectivist ? Obviously you have this awareness along with many others, so perhaps it's something ingrained in us brought out and strengthened by our temperament in how we deal with circumstances in life...who knows. Also, indoctrination and propaganda are massive tools used by the controllers.

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Yes, and I have always been particularly questioning of authority, so I grew up with a natural suspicion of propaganda and even fads.

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Part of the difficulty in this question is that there doesn't seem to be a specific consensus on what a "libertarian society" would be. That being said, the older I get, the more unlikely it seems that any ideology perfectly realized will lead to good results.

The problem with ideologies is that they are imperfect models that attempt to constrain the abundant and varied details, desires, and contradictions of man (and woman).

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Part of the difficulty in this question is that there doesn't seem to be a specific consensus on what a "libertarian society" would be

This is true and for sure a problem, although I take it most libertarians would say it's a society which is based on liberty not domination; one based on self-interest, looks at things as they are using reason, where everyone respects the individual, is laissez-Faire, and promotes one's own pursuit of happiness.

The problem with ideologies is that they are imperfect models that attempt to constrain the abundant and varied details, desires, and contradictions of man (and woman).

Yeah, at the end of day I think having common sense and awareness is what matters.

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I think that's a great definition, and as I said above, for the most part, ​it's my starting point when discussing issues. Even so, it can still be twisted into problematic contradictions if you twist hard enough. :)

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"I take it most libertarians would say it's a society which is based on liberty not domination; one based on self-interest, looks at things as they are using reason, where everyone respects the individual, is laissez-Faire, and promotes one's own pursuit of happiness." That sounds about right to me, and let's not forget taking care of each other, because that's the way things worked before the 20th century.

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Again, it's just a bit strange to call libertarian ideas "models" because we propose a bottom-up, grass-roots approach to solving problems, not a plan or grid to impose on individuals or groups of individuals. That is also why there is no "consensus." The one exception to imposing a model would be on government, as laid out in the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as I see it. The Magna Carta is another apt example.

Hello @brentssanders, very cool post I really enjoyed reading it. Some of the comments made me smile and I have so much respect for your thoughtful replies. Thanks : )

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Glad to have you on board. I'm following you.

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That is very good news. I have a new post on the way.
It lacks that pissed off tone that the first one had lol

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I didn't even open it, though I did notice it was one post among hundreds of resteems ;) I am looking forward to reading your new one. Oh, and don't forget to include a picture!

Let me start by saying that with most issues I tend to have a libertarian gut-reaction. Generally, I believe if someone wants to do something that does not injure others, they should be free to do it. (However, I think it's a rare Libertarian who would want zero government authority, as you do.)

The problem, when I think about many of these gut reactions, is that often it becomes apparent that an action that seemed to not injure others actually can and does. But we can table that idea for the moment.

The strangest idea in what you wrote, from my perspective, is that somehow a non-governed population will act like a group of friends. Now, look, of course I think we should all treat every individual with respect. But that doesn't mean we're friends. It's not possible to have 350 million friends (despite what Facebook would have you believe). This country was founded on a certain amount of distrust in human nature - and rightly so. There are all kinds of people out there looking to take advantage of the next guy; so to assume everyone is your friend is both naive ​and possibly immoral.

Like @kayclaricity said in another comment above, I'm certainly open to "less government" on a case by case basis. But to do away with government entirely flies in the face of reason. Force is going to play a part in society in one way or another: it can be the force of law and the state, or it can be the force of the strong against the weak.

In any event - it was an interesting read!

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I haven't really stated my opinion, other than I want the smallest government possible, and that the free market could solve problems better. In general, I consider myself a minarchist, though I believe there should be no taxes.

As far as the friends thing goes, I just meant that there is no one person at the party that makes all the decisions (unless it is the property owner), but people generally tend to get along -- even with people they don't know. We don't have to sit around and remind each other it is wrong to start fights, or steal, or sexually abuse each other, for instance. And most people live by those rules.

That is not to say that there are not those who would try to take unfair advantage, but think about it. If some guy wants to trash a party or abuse the people there, which would be most effective in that case -- waiting for the police to arrive and subdue the aggressor or doing it yourselves? It has nothing to do with "assuming everybody is our friend" or not.

Less government can never be achieved on a "case to case" basis, however, as bureaucracies are created to solve "societal problems" overall -- because that's how centralized authorities work: they assume that one solution fits all. And again, I'm not against government; I am against its coercive nature. If you can eliminate the force involved, I'm fine with it (though I might no longer use the same term).

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Unfortunately, force can never fully be taken out of the picture. It's the nature of a law: you must do this. If you do not do this, there will be consequences. Those consequences equal force.

Again, that's either going to be you at your party with your brute strength or your gun telling the drunkard to knock it off; or it's going to be a call to your local police. We are all a bunch of conflicting balls of will. Often (hopefully) we can talk and reason things out. But there are times when talking no longer works.

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Or, you call security ...

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Okay. But security is another form of force. I'm not sure what you're getting at.

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Well, the point is that security can be private -- there are other solutions than the usual governmental ones.

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Sure. But the other solutions still come down to competing force groups. There is no getting around force as the final arbiter.

The question then becomes: is it in society's benefit to split that force between competing groups? Or do we put that force into a government? Both choices come with certain costs. And clearly the value of each choice can be different depending on the circumstances (you probably don't want your force solely in the hands of Nazi Germany Or communist Soviet Union).

And by the way, this discussion seems to be restricted to clear-cut criminal actions - like theft or murder. But really, these are probably a minority of the cases. The thing is, even people with the best intentions can and will have conflicting perspectives and values. Many times these conflicts can be resolved through conversation; but many times they cannot. That's why we have civil courts, etc. While we may not think of small claims court as a place of violence and force, really, it is. Two people disagree. The court makes a decision. And the loser needs to pay up. Or else.

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I accept your point about force. I have never said anything against it. I do of course think force should be used only in self-defense or in defense of the weak, but I do not believe there will ever be a world in which violence and aggression are absent. So let's agree to agree on this point, ok? ;)

Balance of power is always preferable to centralized power (which can be abused much more easily and more effectively, i.e. violently), in my view. Also, we believe in the Non-Aggression Principle (the NAP), which means we are much more inclined to have a constitutional republic based on Austrian principles and liberty than we are to accept communism or fascism.

Finally, I agree about your disputes, but I do not agree that government courts are the only or the best solution to such problems. I believe Scotland (or Ireland?) had a private arbitrator system that worked effectively for something like half a millennium. Basically, both parties in a dispute would agree on hiring one arbitrator (it was a business, with competition amongst them to keep prices down, and to ensure the two parties would try to find an arbitrator they both respected). At the end of the day, they had to both accept the arbitrator's decision.

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What is government? Are people in government more likely to make things worst or better? Who brings us more control and gives us more of what we want, the market, the monopoly?

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The market, of course.

This post has received gratitude of 1.08 % from @appreciator thanks to: @brentssanders.

PS: I'm glad to see you writing!

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Thanks :)