I think a fundamental issue with libertarianism is that libertarianism is not a stable configuration; it will eventually turn into something non-libertarian.

The saving grace is, this isn't unique to libertarianism - this is true of all governmental forms! And it isn't unique to government, either: nothing will last forever. If your problem with a particular governmental structure is that it won't last forever - that it will transform into something else over some timeframe - then either you're engaging in an isolated demand for rigour, or, more likely, your actual problem isn't with the specific governmental structure in question, but rather with reality itself.

I think the great advantage libertarianism has, in this respect, is that, once established, it has to go through several intermediary forms before turning into something truly horrible.

Small-state anarchism, versus large-state minarchism, both offer their own advantages. Small-state anarchism fails relatively gracefully; failures are, assuming inter-state security (nobody is invading anybody else) is a relatively solved problem, mostly localized, and there exists capacity to rebuild the broken node.

Large-state minarchism, on the other hand, fails relatively slowly. Scott Alexander has his "whale cancer" metaphor, and at least one founding father of the US, whose exact identity fails to come to mind, explicitly believed that the size of the United States would eventually help protect against sudden political shifts. That is - by the time a political movement has successfully "infected" the last few states, the first few states will have already moved on to something else, providing a constant moving buffer against sudden political shifts.

I think there's some validity to this: European nations move much more politically quickly, both for good and for ill. The US moves quickly only rarely, and for the most part is a goliath which takes longer to arrive at a political destination than it takes for it to change its mind.

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Have you read The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (Neal Stephenson, 1995)?

He envisions a world where nanotech has made scarcity much less of a factor in human society and cryptocurrency had made tax collection impossible. People form clans, trade unions, and quasi-country groups.

It's a super interesting thought exercise to read it and think about the implications...

I wonder if tech in our current world is leading towards more freedom or less. I guess it remains to be seen, but, as an escapee of the police state of 'Murica, I can vouch that living free is much better.

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Here's a recent debate where Caplan does a great job defending anarchism against a minarchist.


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I have an off topic question for you and I would like to ask you what is your principled position on the topic. Despite being classically liberal and libertarian I am finding it a little hard to grapple with. This question is about a popular Chinese social media app Tiktok, but the specifics are irrelevant since we are only discussing the principles. Assume these are facts (though in reality these could be claims hard to verify).

1. American social media is not allowed in China but Chinese social media is allowed in USA.

2. Chinese social media secretly shared data of Americans with Chinese government. This is hard to prove in any American court of law because of technical challenges. American governments need warrant to get access to their Citzen's data but not Chinese government which can just get it from Chinese social media.

3. Chinese government can use these social media apps as weapons to program American minds and especially that of children and they are already doing. One way to do is is to by boosting a very specific type of misinformation, another is to promote usage of drugs and other harmful behaviour through their algorithms.

Do you think is there any argument that is consistent with your notions of liberty that would make you support ban on such Chinese apps ? If so, what should be that principle that we can apply uniformly ?

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What I dont understand about your proposal is what is capitalist about it? The way I understand Capitalism is a recognition that people have the natural right to their life, liberty and property, and this cannot be renounced.

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There are plenty of criticisms of anarchism that I agree with (in fact I make one below), but the idea that such a system won't be able to defend itself from outside forces is the one that I don't understand. The natural world is already full of problems where everybody has to work together or else something bad will happen. If there is a way of limiting pollution, the same system should work for funding and carrying out a defensive war. That the other major criticism of anarchism is the issue of limiting pollution, I guess, makes sense... but for some reason, there are more ready answers for that than for war.

A capitalist anarchy could prove to be something of a menace to its neighbors, if there is no way to stop the formation of neighboring-city-raiding companies. Forming a mechanism to stop the neighbors from hating the anarchy, or in other words creating a single foreign policy, also sounds a lot like controlling pollution. I think there are such things as natural monopolies, and I can't help but wonder whether foreign policy bodies or defense forces are examples. If a single defense force is a natural monopoly, anarchism and minarchism "collapse" into one idea.

> Libertarians believe that freedom works, that libertarian law is closely, if not perfectly, correlated with efficient law. If that belief is correct, there will be a strong tendency for the market to generate libertarian law.

It is hard to look at the past hundred years of American politics surrounding social issues, and not conclude that control, collective or individual, is at least for some a basic desire. If there is a sort of comparison shopping going on between different systems of law, this desire will be expressed as a preference standing against economic efficiency, in the same way that preferences for aesthetically pleasing buildings stand in the way of cost saving. I can't offer a more concrete example without a concrete system of market-driven law selection to go with it, but I feel like this high-level "existence proof" style argument may be enough (it only presupposes that preferences influence whatever the selection process for law-systems is.)

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I can think of many reasons why you wouldn't, all good ones.

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I loved the van Rijn stories. I think I have all of them.

I tend to believe that human nature cuts against libertarianism (as well as anarchy) in the longer term. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to have and use such a system.

I have had the misfortune to know 3 actual sociopaths during my life. They don't care (or didn't) what the system was, they wanted what they wanted, and damn the cost in resources or human lives. One, in particular, wanted literal power over others.

Then there are, I don't know what to call them -- near sociopaths? -- who are not totally ruthless but still seek to exploit every part of any system to their advantage and the disadvantage of others. They seek to 'win' -- something. To be exalted over others.

Stronger governing systems certainly appear to make the success of both of these types more likely than anarchist or minarchist systems. But the question for me is still, "How do we deal with them in and anarchist/minarchist system?" Absent such people an anarchist/minarchist, libertarian system would appear to be relatively stable and long lasting. But how would we get to that point?

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I think there's another issue with the idea of an efficient (meaning economically efficient) theory of libertarian law. It's based on an assumption that I believe is incorrect - that economics is the highest order that individuals will optimize. I believe economics is a very strong goal, but not an ultimate goal. I believe that power and/or control is often (I hesitate to say always, but that may be) the true ultimate goal.

If I am correct, that would bring into question the incentives of enforcement agencies. Rather than going to the highest bidder, that will instead likely be optimized for who or what gives the agency the most power. This may work our similarly in some cases, but there's less reason to think it will be based on any kind of economic concerns or be optimized towards better economic outcomes.

For evidence of people choosing power over money, I will submit pretty much every war ever fought. Similarly when people choose revenge, genocide, anti-immigration, and a whole host of choices that are economically inefficient or downright negative.

There's also the concern that economic benefits for some people often come at the expense of others. One person or group may be incentivized towards certain policies or outcomes because it benefits themselves, even at the expense of specific other people and the overall group economy. Again I'll mention immigration, as that does tend to increase a country's GDP, but often at the expense of competing workers who may be against the immigration due to their personal economic wellbeing.

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It seems to me that because the market gives what people want, a stateless society "spends" most of its resources on what most people want. Therefore if most people in an area want a powerful state, the anarchy will end. Similarly, if most people in the area don't want to spend much resources on defense then the area might be conquered. Is that how stateless societies collapsed in history? Is there a way to prevent such collapse without coercion?

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I hope you comment on the book that's getting so much attention: "Milton Friedman, the Last Conservative." He must be turning in his grave to be called a conservative. Here's what Planet Money said: "In 1967, Milton Friedman took a temporary leave from the University of Chicago to spend a quarter teaching at UCLA. UCLA was then jokingly called "the University of Chicago at Los Angeles" or, more simply, "Chicago West." Its economics faculty — like Chicago's — was one of the few in the country that fundamentally embraced free-market capitalism and opposed the dominant school of Keynesianism, which supported stronger government involvement in the economy.

While in Los Angeles, Friedman befriended a local businessman, Henry Salvatori, a mover and a shaker in conservative politics. One day, Salvatori invited Friedman to accompany him to a dinner at the home of California's newly elected governor, a former actor and rising conservative star who Salvatori had helped elect. His name was Ronald Reagan.

"I was delighted to find that he was not only a warm, attractive human being, but that his views on educational issues were very much in line with my own," Friedman would recall in his memoir about his first meeting with Reagan.

Over dinner, the two discussed Reagan's goal of increasing tuition costs for kids attending California's public universities, and Friedman's controversial idea for school vouchers, which would give tax dollars to parents who chose to send their kids to private schools instead of public schools. Reagan was apparently already familiar with the idea because he had read Milton Friedman's free-market manifesto, Capitalism and Freedom, which had been published five years before.

Several years after this fateful meeting, Friedman joined Governor Reagan in his statewide campaign for Proposition 1. The ballot measure was Reagan's attempt to amend the California constitution and impose a permanent cap on annual state spending. The governor and the professor flew from city to city together in a private plane, making the case that lawmakers shouldn't be able to spend like drunken sailors anymore. At one stop, a reporter asked Friedman if he would support Reagan in a future presidential bid. He answered with an enthusiastic yes.

Proposition 1 ended up failing. But a few years later, in 1978, California passed a similar ballot measure: Proposition 13. It dramatically slashed property taxes in the state. More than that, it heralded a new era of tax and spending cuts, deregulation, and "small government" politics that would spread across the nation and culminate with the election of Reagan as president in 1980. Friedman, of course, was along for the ride, serving as an important advisor and hype man for the Reagan Revolution.

Rare for any economist, with the exception of perhaps Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes, Milton Friedman's ideas would come to shape and even define an entire era of politics and public policy. Leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan closely allied themselves with this 5'2" Chicago economist who, until the 1960s, was little more than a fringe intellectual counterrevolutionary, opposed to the massive expansion of the size and scope of government during the mid-twentieth century.

In her new book, Milton Friedman: The Last Conservative, Jennifer Burns traces the life and career of this influential economist, from his humble beginnings in Rahway, New Jersey, to his worldwide renown as hero to the Right and a villain to the Left. And she reconsiders Friedman's legacy in the wake of a "bipartisan assault" against his ideas over the last decade.

The Last Conservative?

Burns admits that she selected her subtitle — The Last Conservative — with "some trepidation." For one thing, she notes, Friedman rarely referred to himself as a conservative. He tended to call himself a liberal, in the classic sense, meaning a believer in individual rights and freedom, free trade, and limited government. (Interesting, another recent book, which is about another famous free-market advocate named Friedrich Hayek, is titled Liberalism's Last Man. A sign of the times?)

But Burns dislikes calling Friedman a liberal because, in the United States, "that word has become inexorably associated with the New Deal order Friedman opposed throughout his life."

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Nov 7, 2023·edited Nov 7, 2023

The bear joke - one I'd heard long before I even became interested in ancap - is analogous to an argument I've had for a while in defense of ancap:

Every market failure I can see springing up in an ancap, is also evident somewhere in any alternative to that ancap, to an equal and often greater extent.

For example, a factory owner may find it more expensive to process his waste products into a less harmful form before disposing of them, than to simply dump those products into a nearby river, where the cost of dealing with that waste is now distributed to everyone downstream. Even if we do the ancap thing as laid out in TMoF and start everyone off with equal partial ownership in the river (and perhaps waiting a bit for people to trade their river shares until a lull occurs, signaling that everyone is roughly satisfied with their subsequent share), and set up a framework for the owners to sue the factory owner for damage to their property (or delegate that task to a rights enforcement agency), a traditional collectivist may be dissatisfied by the fact that the owners had to expend resources to implement the suit, rather than relying on the state to protect their rights. However, the alternative, which requires a state, also requires a tax levied on some or all members in order to carry out the state's duties. The externality under the ancap regime has become an externality under the state regime, with the added problem that the state's incentives are not as directly aligned with that of the river owners. To bring it into alignment, the owners would have to spend even more, and possibly no amount of resources might change the state's mind if it knows it will exist regardless.

I haven't gotten around to trying to write a proof of this theory - I'm not sure how I'd construct the formal equivalents of real world conditions. Nevertheless, it's appealed to my intuition for decades now, and I can think of only one potential counterexample.

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