[ExI] Is there a potential libertarianism / democracy tension?

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Thu Sep 29 18:32:02 UTC 2011

On Thursday, September 29, 2011 12:45 PM Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com wrote:
> On Thu, Sep 29, 2011 at 9:09 AM, Dan <dan_ust at yahoo.com> wrote:
>> I'll continue along with your scenario, but the problem I see here
>> with phrasing. Libertarians -- well, true libertarians -- wouldn't
>> want to get into power, but to get rid of power. :) This is like
>> saying, "When anarchist take over the state..." or "When atheists
>> control the church..."
> In order to dismantle it, it helps to be in control - however briefly.
> Otherwise, how are you dismantling it?

By no longer obeying its edicts. In fact, my view is not to elect anyone to office, but just to get people to stop obeying the state and overall seeing the state as legitimate. This will likely take a long time, which is bad news for those who want the state to disappear by the end of this year or election cycle. But this problem, to me, is not one of dismantling or abolishing the state must proceed in a gradual fashion or is really hard to do. I don't think it is. Instead, what's hard is to persuade people that the state is illegitimate and unnecessary. That will take a long time, I guessing -- at least to persuade a significant minority. (That even most people who fancy themselves libertarians don't see the state as such as illegitimate and unnecessary reveals the scope of this problem.)
>> Or, since libertarians would basically dismantle and abolish the
>> state, that the rest of the people would simply reconstitute the
>> state and that would be that. In which case, what would
>> libertarians, either as individuals or en masse, be able to do?
>> Emigrate?
> That is Amon's question - except, instead of "be able to do", what
> *would* they do?
> It is of note that, arguably, this has in fact happened.  Some
> libertarian-leaning folk got into Congress and started
> dismantling parts of government over the past few decades.
I must have missed this. What parts of the state were dismantled "over the past few decades"? I can think of one that happened back in the 1933: the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed. I'm sure that's not what you meant. Where was part of the state dismantled? And who were these "libertarian-leaning folk"?
> (They couldn't undo everything all at once - but they didn't have
> enough power to do that.  So they did what they could.)  The
> eventual popular reaction was to re-mantle.
Again, what was dimantled, even in part? I think the growth of government has been pretty consistent over the last several decades, at least in the US. (One might point to the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire as an example of government shrinking.) I don't want to make it seem like there have been no brights spots for those who champion freedom, but I'm just having a hard time seeing where government or part of it was dismantled and then "re-mantled" in the US. (Or did you mean elsewhere?)
Wait! I can think of the partial deregulation in the airline, trucking, and energy industries (started under the Carter Administration, IIRC; do you mean Carter had many libertarians in his cabinet or amongst his advisors?) and the abolition of many of the Nixon Era price controls (I believe this started under Ford Administraton and continued under the Carter one), but there has been little re-mantling there, no? So, these can really fit your model, no?
What about, in the US again, the elimination of the Fairness Doctrinue? This was not done by the Congress and doesn't seem to have yet been "re-mantled." Did you mean that?
(Granted, in all these areas, while the government hasn't reimposed these policies, there have definitely been calls to do so.)
> So, with evidence that the majority of people (who win in a democracy)
> reject the complete removal of government, and you can't simply
> impose anarchy (libertarian or otherwise) despite the wishes of
> the majority...what *will* you do?

See above. But let's say persuasion never works. There are other options, including seceding or migrating else.
>> The core principle of libertarianism establish a boundary that
>> others -- whether they call themselves the king, the majority,
>> the people, the rulers, the state, the public interest, the nation,
>> the government, the super race, the annointed of God -- cannot
>> cross... Well, cannot cross and remain consistent with libertarianism.
> The core problem is those who do not care about remaining consistent with
> libertarianism, or any other philosophy. 
Amon and I were discussing, however, libertarianism -- in particular, whether it clashes with democracy (IMO, it does). Amon also raised the issue of going against the wishes of the majority. And my answer was this doesn't matter from a libertarian perspective. In other word, as a libertarian, one wouldn't ask, "Do the majority want to burn alive all Black people? Oh, they do, then I must be for that and I'm consistently libertarian." In fact, in this example, yeah, sure, if the majority wants to do this and wants to do this strongly, libertarians are in a real pickle in terms of stopping it from happening. But any of them that state this is libertarian or that one can remain a libertarian whilst going along with this majority ruling is just plain wrong.
> They do what they want, and
> if that means busting other peoples' heads, they'll do it.  As I
> posted earlier, it is impossible to effectively deal with these
> people without abrogating libertarianism.
And I thought Fred pointed out why this was wrong. Libertarianism can deal with retaliation. The rule is no initiation of force. This doesn't mean others won't initiate force. It's merely a view of when force is allowed. Once someone else initiates, libertarianism does not counsel nothing be done.
> Either you constrain force
> response to when they are immediately present - in which case,
> they hit-and-run, knowing that you are bound to give up the moment
> they are out of sight and can claim they weren't there - or you
> allow for eventual response - in which case, you very quickly run
> into situations where you don't know who initiated force against
> you, but none of them wish to cooperate with you, so your use of force
> (necessary to discover the perpetrator) will likely initiate force
> against people who had nothing to do with the offense you're
> retaliating for.
I don't where this is coming from. You might want to read up the market anarchists on how to deal with law enforcement or in general with how to deal with those who initiate force in society. For instance, George H. Smith's "Justice Entrepreneurship in a Free Market" (PDF at http://www.mises.org/journals/jls/3_4/3_4_4.pdf ). Many of the ideas on how this would done without initiating are similar to Common Law notions of what people can and cannot do when trying to defend themselves, recover stolen property, or bring to justice people who have injured them or others. Your view seems akin to: You won't initiate force, so unless you're in a heated gun battle with those who don't care about initiating force, you're stuck to doing nothing. That's definitely not the libertarian view or even the anarchist libertarian view.

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list