Why no libertarian countries?

Writing recently for the online news and entertainment website Salon, the American left-wing public commentator Michael Lind asked a question that has left political commentators abuzz.

And that question is: ?why are there no libertarian countries??

Specifically, Lind asks ?if libertarianism was a good idea, wouldn’t at least one country have tried it? Wouldn’t there be at least one country, out of nearly two hundred, with minimal government, free trade, open borders, decriminalised drugs, no welfare state and no public education system??

Lind suggests that the libertarian critique of economically and politically self?imploding communist regimes should not be represented as a telling blow against socialism, arguably most vigorously practiced in the Western world by continental European countries, more generally.

He asked ?if socialism is discredited by the failure of communist regimes in the real world, why isn’t libertarianism discredited by the absence of any libertarian regimes in the real world??

The Lind question is perceived by some as a devastating critique of libertarian ideas, although it would be seen by most, if not all, libertarians as a largely superficial question that reveals a lack of understanding of the nature of libertarian scholarship and public commentary, not to mention the contemporary challenges which confront the exercise of freedom.

The first point to be made in response is that Lind appears to lack a sense of irony when depicting the notion of ?libertarian countries.?

The term country is often used, including by Lind, as a short hand expression for the nation?state, famously defined by sociologist Max Weber as an abstract entity which claims a monopoly on the use of violence within a given geographical area.

Consistent with this definition, a government is the operational apparatus which exists to enforce the state?s violence?monopoly.

Through the pages of recorded history these concepts have been given life by people who have sought to perpetuate state power, and in the process maintaining their livelihoods by appropriating the incomes and output produced by others.

From the earliest time of roving nomads raiding settled agricultural communities, to absolute monarchs dispatching armies to conquer faraway lands, through to democratic politicians competing for voter support to control parliaments and public treasuries, the inherently coercive nature of the state has remained largely intact.

There have been no ?libertarian countries,? as Lind describes it, simply because the nation?state construct is, by definition, synonymous with the monopoly on violence, representing the antithesis of freedom and voluntary association, as exercised by the political class.

Nonetheless, it is apparent that the quality of formal institutions maintained by political actors can have an important influence upon the degree of freedom exercised with a country, with significant implications for economic prosperity and social cohesion alike.

Nations whose politicians do not impose excessive taxation or prescriptive regulations, who use taxes to fund efficient public sector services, who subscribe to policy consistency, and who accord a modicum of respect to commercial activities are nations that maintain economic freedom in a relative sense, which will tend to result in more robust private sector growth.

The tensions between coercive political action and the degrees of freedom needed for voluntaristic economic activity can be further abridged through political restraints posed by constitutionalism and adherence to the rule of law, and a willingness of countries to compete against each other on fiscal and regulatory grounds to eliminate their worst, anti?growth policy excesses.

Although relative economic freedom indexes are dismissed by Lind, they do remain instructive when they disclose that some nations, such as Australia and the rest of the Anglosphere, tend to more hospitable to the exercise of economic liberties than others, say in Africa or the Middle East.

Their usefulness is compounded by their growing use in empirical applications, which confirm a positive association between higher economic freedom ratings and stronger economic performance and, indeed, an improved quality of life.

Researchers are also extending economic freedom indexes to incorporate other elements of liberties, such as freedom of speech and religion, and freedom of association and assembly.

A recent study has shown that, in rank order, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Australia and Canada rank in the top five of nations along the dimensions of economic and personal freedoms.

A ?libertarian country? cannot exist by definition, but this in no way invalidates the libertarian ideal which aims to extend the scope of economic and personal liberties, hence minimising the incidence of coercion and force, in every conceivable realm of human existence.

As described by nineteenth century British historian and politician Lord Acton, a liberal (or in the modern parlance, libertarian) is one ?whose polar star is liberty ? who deems those things right in politics which, taken all round, promote, increase, perpetuate freedom, and those things wrong which impede it.?

With issues such as fiscal recklessness, monetary policy misadventures, over?regulation, the surveillance state, drone warfare, immigration, drug decriminalisation and gay marriage all coming to the fore of public debates, we might hopefully find that Western countries become more libertarian than less.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

113 Responses to Why no libertarian countries?

  1. Rafe

    Try Hong Kong before the Chinese took over.

  2. Gab

    Wouldn’t there be at least one country, out of nearly two hundred, with minimal government, free trade, open borders, decriminalised drugs, no welfare state and no public education system??

    America, 1776 up until about 1900?

  3. John Mc

    Human progress at any point in time in human history – measured by any index you’d care to list: economic, technological, social, political, educational, peace – correlates directly to the extent that individual liberty is established under a functioning rule of law.

    The article’s author might as well ask “why are there no socialist countries approaching the socialist vision we keep touting to people?”

    Furthermore, there is no country with large amounts of liberty and rule of law that is doing badly. There are plenty of socialist countries that are doing badly.

  4. Infidel Tiger

    A recent study has shown that, in rank order, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Australia and Canada rank in the top five of nations along the dimensions of economic and personal freedoms.

    I won’t even bother looking at the survey. Including Australia in the top 5 shows it’s worthless junk.

    Honk Kong has also turned into a bureaucratic toilet since the Chicoms took over.

  5. Infidel Tiger

    America, 1776 up until about 1900?

    Until Woodrow Wilson ruined the joint.

  6. m0nty

    Try Hong Kong before the Chinese took over.

    A dependent territory of the British Empire is hardly an example of a coercion-less state.

    America, 1776 up until about 1900?

    The slaves didn’t experience much liberty.

  7. John Mc

    America, 1776 up until about 1900?

    The UK from late 1700s through to early 1900s (the time it was leading the world).

  8. Gab

    The slaves didn’t experience much liberty.

    There was this little was over slavery…

  9. I’ll expend my one per day comment by noting the following:

    * Julie may well have read of this article elsewhere (it was getting a lot of publicity in the US), but I was the first to raise it at Catallaxy in an open thread some days ago. It attracted little comment, apart from the “just piss off” variety, and daddy dave accused it of being deliberately provocative to dare raise it at a libertarian themed site (even though, as many others now point out, the threads are dominated by conservatives.) This is an example of the completely out of whack treatment yours truly receives at the blog – it was an interesting argument well deserving of comment, but because I am the one to raise it, I am the one who deserves punishment.

    * Isn’t it gob smackingly ironic for the complaints at this blog regarding the alleged crushing nanny statism which Australians are suffering under that Julie is citing recent research ranking the country high in the matters of economic and personal freedoms? I haven’t been able to download the paper at the link, but people who can should perhaps explain why it doesn’t support my contention that the blog is full of exaggerating panic merchants?

  10. John Mc

    The slaves didn’t experience much liberty.

    1. What does that say when America was still one of the freest countries in the world, if not the most free?

    2. It wasn’t socialism that freed them.

  11. John Mc

    Show me the socialist state that’s working really well and I’ll point out the free markets, the immigration, the low minimum wage and easy dismissal rules, the strong property rights, the level of gun ownership, the lack of regulation in things like drugs that’s making it that way.

  12. Gab

    Seriously though, there can never ever be a Libertarian country anywhere while leftism exists. They are far too meddlesome in the lives of the populace and always want to control the population via social engineering. Liberty and the Left are incompatible.

  13. m0nty

    A ?libertarian country? cannot exist by definition, but this in no way invalidates the libertarian ideal which aims to extend the scope of economic and personal liberties, hence minimising the incidence of coercion and force, in every conceivable realm of human existence.

    This makes libertarianism sound as extreme and irresponsible as radical environmentalism, and leads to the conclusion that libertarian factions inside major parties are the equal and opposite danger from the right as the Greens are from the left. You can’t have the Greens running things because their fundamental philosophy is incompatible with modern social democracy, and so it is with libertarians.

    Which is nothing new, of course, but it’s good to be reminded of these things lest we forget that the Greens and LDP are not “normal”.

  14. Rod Clarke

    All libertarians should checkout whats going on in Nigeria right now:

    1) the “cashless” nigeria project http://www.cenbank.org/cashless/

    2) Mastercard issuing Biometric identity cards to all ppl over 16 http://www.fastcompany.com/3009549/nigerias-futuristic-national-id-cards-are-also-debit-cards

  15. Woolfe

    I don’t believe that a country lead by a Libertarian Government could not compete in an election against another party offering ” Free Stuff” to the voters.

  16. John Mc

    Have you ever noticed when lefties are forced to admit their ideology is flawed they start to defend the centralist position?

  17. Jarrah

    The answer is that no country or nation-state has been designed from the ground up, they’re all descendants of whatever came before. So political development has to cope with the myriad mechanisms by which government power is perpetuated and expanded.

    It’s taken 3,000 years to get to the point where some of us live in places with the institutions and restraints on political power to enable what freedoms we do have, and a majority of the world hasn’t caught up even to that level. It’s a constant fight to keep our liberties, too.

  18. Tom

    there can never ever be a Libertarian country anywhere while leftism exists.

    Correct. Modern leftism strangles liberty by imposing ever bigger and more meddlestone government. As here with the Gillard rabble, having the Black Jesus in the White House merely completes the existing leftist strangulation of liberty in the USA through the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the media and academia.

    The USA is the only country on earth with a libertarian constitution. It is a precious gift and example to humanity. The ghosts of the founding fathers weep.

  19. Pedro

    “The answer is that no country or nation-state has been designed from the ground up, they’re all descendants of whatever came before.”

    That’s only true in the narrow sense that the states that were established through conscious design were necessarily some reflection of the various polities previously existing. The US is such a State and started off pretty much a libertarian country for its citizens (yes, not the slaves).

    “there can never ever be a Libertarian country anywhere while leftism exists”

    It’s not just leftists that are anti-liberty.

  20. m0nty

    Ooh, I know a place where libertarianism exists!

    Westeros.

  21. Pedro

    I know you’re trying to be funny monty. But that was your usual fail.

  22. Gab

    Please let’s not have this thread derailed by arguing with the leftist monty. It’s pointless really as he has nothing constructive to add to the topic, not even in the form of a critique. He only mocks and sneers.

  23. m0nty

    The connection between libertarianism and feudalism has already been made in this debate.

  24. Grumbles

    As if the Illuminati would allow a Libertarian Country, lol….

  25. Grumbles

    Haha Westeros is a Monarchy, which can never be Libertarian.

  26. Pedro

    The reason there are no libertarian countries now is that there are very few libertarians. Take this blog, which is self-proclaimed as our leading libertarian and centre-right blog. But I’m guessing a majority of the regular commenters are social democrats or conservatives.

  27. Pedro

    Monty, normally you parrot stuff you don’t understand. this time you’ve linked something that the original writer clearly didn’t understand. There is zero connection between feudalism and libertarian concepts of the appropriate state.

  28. Leigh Lowe

    Gab 893686

    The slaves didn’t experience much liberty.
    There was this little was war over slavery…

    I think that is what was meant.

  29. Grumbles

    Monty the fuedalism argument is negated easily by placing a value on Human Life as all Libertarians do especially those coming from a Christian perspectavive. Yes someone could sell themselves into slavery but the contract holder would be taking resposibility for their welfare into his own hands, unlike the stick, with no personal rights or identifiers, the slave would still be a person governened by the main backbone of Libertarianism which is that you are free to do as you choose as long as its not to the detriment of others. Further very few people would sell themselves into slavery, and libertarians are firm believers that you are free to suffer the consequences of your own decisions.

    Lastly Fuedalism was again a Monarchy which is in no ways a Libertarian Society (small servitude government that only ever caters to needs not wants)

  30. Trent

    Why no libertopia? Short answer: they won’t let us.

  31. Gab

    Yes, thank you for that, Leigh. I’m sure people here are quite dumb and couldn’t fathom what I meant due to a misplaced letter.

  32. sdfc

    There was this little was over slavery…

    Wasn’t the war over the southern states’ right to secede?

  33. Tom

    Grumbles, Pedro, Monty does a great impression of the lowest form of life, the troll. At least a parking cop does what he does to put food on the table. The life form that Monty aspires to has no redeeming features.

  34. Gab

    Historians debating the origins of the American Civil War focus on the reasons seven states declared their secession from the U.S. and joined to form the Confederate States of America (the “Confederacy”). The main explanation is slavery, especially Southern anger at the attempts by Northern antislavery political forces to block the expansion of slavery into the western territories. Southern slave owners held that such a restriction on slavery would violate the principle of states’ rights.

    Let’s hope this thread doesn’t turn into a debate about the cause of the Civil War.

  35. Grumbles

    All good Tom, just putting out there that Monarchy and Libertarianism are incompatible. Its a pointless argument, a Libertarian DOES NOT think he/she has the right to rule over anyone else.

  36. Pedro

    “Wasn’t the war over the southern states’ right to secede?”

    Yes, but slavery was one of the big issues that led to secession. and of course, the repeal of slavery was not a war aim, but became a war weapon.

  37. tgs

    The answer is that no country or nation-state has been designed from the ground up, they’re all descendants of whatever came before. So political development has to cope with the myriad mechanisms by which government power is perpetuated and expanded.

    It’s taken 3,000 years to get to the point where some of us live in places with the institutions and restraints on political power to enable what freedoms we do have, and a majority of the world hasn’t caught up even to that level. It’s a constant fight to keep our liberties, too.

    Well written. I agree wholeheartedly.

  38. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    Yes, leftism strangles liberty. It is an old debate, about the role of the State and the importance of freedom to think against tyranny. I have spent the morning reading an interesting old book, published in the 50’s, called “History in English Words”, by Owen Barfield. It has an pleasantly archaic but highly accessible style. It reviews the origins of Indo-European language, and via the archaeology of language (how I love that concept) it explores how language reflects cultures. He shows how the Romans can be seen to have seized metaphors of military conquest and the state, and the Greeks those of innerness or ‘outlook’ and human consciousness. Thus just about all our words for authority, words like dictator, dominion, government, rule, subordinate, come from Latin, whereas words for anti-authority such as ‘tyrant’ and ‘despot’ come from Greek. He comments on the eventual synthesis of Indo-European and Hebraic thought: “Rome’s task was to erect across Europe a rigid and durable framework on which the complicated texture of thought, feeling and will, woven in the looms of Athens and Alexandria could be permanently outspread”. Given that the American Constitution draws so heavily on this heritage, I think it is worth raising in the context of libertarianism too.

  39. Infidel Tiger

    Ooh, I know a place where libertarianism exists!

    Westeros.

    Moron, the closest thing to libertarianism is the Wildings north of the wall.

  40. A recent study has shown that, in rank order, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Australia and Canada rank in the top five of nations along the dimensions of economic and personal freedoms.

    A ?libertarian country? cannot exist by definition, but this in no way invalidates the libertarian ideal which aims to extend the scope of economic and personal liberties, hence minimising the incidence of coercion and force, in every conceivable realm of human existence.

    In other words, there’s no actual evidence that significant libertarian reform in Australia (or those other countries) would necessarily be an improvement.

  41. Balatro

    Surely the rebuttal to the question is this: the concept of a Socialist society and a libertarian one is a theoretical construct. The attempts to create them in reality reveal flaws in function. This is similar to the scientific process of testing a theory. If the theory is supported by empirical evidence it is tested further until it is accepted widely. No libertarian societies have been attempted in the modern world, but plenty of Socialist ones have, and the empirical evidence is against them. The excuse offered by the apologists is that the wrong method was used.
    I think the people inclined towards Socialism have fundamental flaws in personality – wanting to force others to adopt their ideas for a start, backed up with punitive measures when things go pearshaped -that cause the failure of the theory. In other words, the wrong people are in charge.

    It would be interesting to consider how a group of Libertarians might organise a Socialist society.

  42. Ant

    The slaves didn’t experience much liberty.

    For the period mentioned, slavery was outlawed – except where a psuedo-slavery through various ‘policies’ such as segregation existed outside law through corrupt administrations as well as racial discrimination at an individual level.

    In the southern states, such as Mississippi and Alabama during the darkest days of segregation throughout much the 1900’s, unfortunately for the likes of Monty and other Lefties, I’m afraid the Democrats, either directly or indirectly through various proxies such as their beloved KKK, ruled the roost.

  43. Ant

    Apologies. Glasses on. “For the latter part of the period mentioned…”

  44. Infidel Tiger

    It would be interesting to consider how a group of Libertarians might organise a Socialist society.

    Very easily.

    One long orderly queue with a meat grinder at the end for those in charge.

  45. brc

    Wouldn’t there be at least one country, out of nearly two hundred, with minimal government, free trade, open borders, decriminalised drugs, no welfare state and no public education system??

    America, 1776 up until about 1900?

    I know I am late to this discussion, but this is precisely the point. Early USA was a paradise of liberty as much as the times would allow it. At the time the freedom was unprecedented compared to the absolute monarchies and empires on offer – during the 1800s France was still executing people for refusing their fiat paper currency. So people voted with their feet and went to where liberty reigned supreme. Slavery was himan rights issue common at the time, but one that had been around for a millennia and it took a free country like the USA to be able to throw it off. Ultimately slavery was doomed because of capitalism and access to affordable energy.

    Places like Detroit could do worse than experiment with a bit of libertarian rule through a special economic zone like Hong Kong was. A successful and vibrant community can be built quickly if the population decides to give socialism or tyrannical absolute rule the shove.

  46. whyisitso

    There was this little was war over slavery…

    The civil war wasn’t about slavery – it was about States’ rights versus centralised government rights. The end of slavery was a by-product.

  47. Jarrah

    “it took a free country like the USA to be able to throw it off”

    *cough*

  48. Pedro

    “In other words, there’s no actual evidence that significant libertarian reform in Australia (or those other countries) would necessarily be an improvement.”

    Improvement of what? Policies lead to outcomes. If the policy is well crafted and implemented it might even lead to the intended outcome. Various claims are made for the outcomes that will follow the adoption of libertarianism and whether those outcomes are an improvement depends on your preferences. As a social democratic kinda guy Desi, I’d expect you to think libertarian outcomes a shit sandwich.

    I think there is lots of evidence that economic freedom leads to economic growth and that constraints on economic freedom lower growth. You can have Danish style economic freedom with a fair degree of tax and redistribution and end up with generally high living standards. You can have german style liberalisation of the labour market and get a big reduction in unemployment. So even a social democrat can take some important lessons from libertarian thinking.

  49. Gab

    Why is this thread now about the civil war? and chance people wanting to debate the civil war and slavery take it to the open forum?

  50. Rabz

    Libertarians are juveniles, Conservatives are Adults and leftists are imbeciles.

    End of debate, the science is settled.

  51. Scott

    What a strange article by Michael Lind. It’s clear he doesn’t understand the concept of Liberty as used by the proponents of free markets. Liberty is a measure by degree. It is not an absolute as Michael Lind contends. It’s blindingly obvious we are all slaves to nature. No freedom here. Given the focus of the article is to criticise Ron Paul who has drawn his views, in part, from the Austrian School of Economics and it’s adherents, Lind would do well to actually read Mises before he goes off half-cocked. From Human Action, Chapter 4:

    “This is what is meant if one defines freedom as the condition of an individual within the frame of the market economy. He is free in the sense that the laws and the government do not force him to renounce his autonomy and self-determination to a greater extent than the inevitable praxeological law does. What he foregoes is only the animal freedom of living without any regard to the existence of other specimens of his species. What the social apparatus of compulsion and coercion achieves is that individuals, whom malice, shortsightedness or mental inferiority prevent from realizing that by indulging in acts that are destroying society they are hurting themselves and all other human beings, are compelled to avoid such acts. “


    That a government “claims a monopoly on the use of violence within a given geographical area” doesn’t make it against liberty per se. It’s what they use the violence for. If it’s to uphold freedom of speech, the right to assembly, the right to property and the rule of law then, generally speaking, the government is more libertarian than a government which uses violence to protect those who steal from others such as those governments which tend to be more centrally planned than others.

  52. wreckage

    The UK has an effectively Libertarian history, as does France, the US, Australia. I would say any nation that set out with the intent of protecting individual liberty from the legislature itself can be considered Libertarian.

    The State monopoly on violence is a red herring. Ultimately even a State that exists only to prevent violent coercion must have the capacity to meet violent offenders with violence. Besides which not all Libertarians espouse statelessness. That’s the furthest form; it’s like saying unless you embrace a collectivised agrarian poverty you’re not a socialist.

    As has been pointed out, many of the so-called “socialist” European countries have actually considerably more liberal laws resulting in a freer market despite talking socialist; the US or Australia might be lower-taxing but we have far more stealth-taxes and far more regulation in many spheres; for example in the US if you import something and it comes under any environmental regulation, you must comply with US regulations, the foreign regulations, and US interpretations of the foreign regulations, whereby even having all approvals in place with all levels of government in the country of purchase, you can still be in breach of the law!

    It’s the legal load of three jurisdictions! Plenty of “socialist” nations don’t expect that kind of nonsense.

  53. wreckage

    Sorry, first sentence should read “can be considered Libertarian to that extent.”

  54. MACK1

    It’s all about the psychology of democracy – people think it is unfair that other people have a higher standard of living than they do, so they vote for politicians who promise them stuff by taxing Someone Else, and by borrowing the money. The system allows politicians to buy votes using other people’s money, so that’s what they do. They invent more and more taxes and let them go higher and higher. It’s called pork-barrelling, Tony Windsor is the Australian expert, and there doesn’t seem any way to stop it. The politics of envy seems here to stay.

  55. Alfonso

    A libert national system will always eventually fail when the punters /underclass understand they can vote themselves other people’s money. If they can , they will. End of story.

  56. brc

    It’s true that socialism is conflated with welfarism. A truly socialist state doesn’t pay people to sit around. It allocates them to a tractor factory and pays them to meet an arbitrary quota. Welfare requires the vibrancy of private enterprise to support it, whether through charity or state welfare departments. Of course, socialists love welfare because of its vote buying potential, but make no mistake, in a true socialist utopia, a dole is an unlikely thing.

    Heavily state-dominated countries like France also have very liberal freedom of expression laws, which are definitely not a feature of socialism.

    Oh, if the *cough* link above is about the uk abandoning slavery first, no argument from me. The point is that the USA had a legal framework where they could abolish slavery by the will if the people. A routine matter now, but most humans in history have been denied this ability and were stuck with the status quo, and only violent rebellion was their option. That the Uk was far along this path as well does not dilute the argument.

  57. John Mc

    The State monopoly on violence is a red herring. Ultimately even a State that exists only to prevent violent coercion must have the capacity to meet violent offenders with violence.

    It’s not a red herring at all. The point is not who can wield the ‘right’ level of force, that’s missing the point. The point is there is a terrible risk and potentially high cost to using force immorally or inappropriately, for everyone, right up to the government of the day. If no cost can be brought to bear in the short term against a government that wields force immorally, the temptation is just too great and it will happen at some stage. As history has proven and continues to prove time and time again.

  58. John Mc

    While the UK took steps to ban slavery, particularly in the UK homeland itself, I though it actually banned slavery in the colonies some time after the USA had done it.

    (No I haven’t looked at the link yet, will do so tonight.)

  59. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    I noted above that things libertarian in philosophy were likely to reach for the Greek, as Mises does:

    He is free in the sense that the laws and the government do not force him to renounce his autonomy and self-determination to a greater extent than the inevitable praxeological law does. What he foregoes is only the animal freedom of living without any regard to the existence of other specimens of his species.

    ‘ praxeology (Gr. praxis (??????), action, and logos (?????), talk, speech’: a term not developed by the Austrian School of Economics, but now seen as mainly theirs.

    Although we live also with the strong heritage of Roman and Hebraic inputs (among many others) in the philosophies that we dream of, or those that we find ourselves somewhat haplessly living with. The constraints we are prepared to put up with to forgo this ‘animal freedom’ are by no means agreed upon.

  60. Jarrah

    “Oh, if the *cough* link above is about the uk abandoning slavery first, no argument from me.”

    You didn’t click the link? What do you think they’re for? If you were worried it was a lengthy essay, try just hovering over it.

  61. pedro:

    Various claims are made for the outcomes that will follow the adoption of libertarianism and whether those outcomes are an improvement depends on your preferences.

    My point was that there is no evidence that at the macro level a more libertarian approach would have the outcomes claimed (high wealth, etc). Thus there’s no evidence to support a libertarianism for the sake of libertarianism approach to policy development. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t areas that a reduction in government involvement would be a positive thing. Rather that each case needs to be considered on its merits, weighing freedom (economic or otherwise) with other factors that are also correlated with happy and prosperous societies.

    So even a social democrat can take some important lessons from libertarian thinking.

    While a ‘social democrat’ label is probably reasonable given my political positions, I do consider liberty and important factor in policy development. I just don’t consider it the only one.

  62. stackja

    Freedom to vote. Freedom to succeed. Freedom to fail. Freedom to keep trying. Freedom for some to help the helpless.

  63. wreckage

    My point was that there is no evidence that at the macro level a more libertarian approach would have the outcomes claimed (high wealth, etc).

    Liberalisation in the economy and related spheres almost always works; protectionism and legislative rigidity almost always fail at all levels, resulting in outcomes worse even in their own terms than those flowing from Liberalisation. In terms of wealth Libertarianism or at least Classical Liberalism wins hands down; it almost always succeeds, the alternative almost always fails, and Lbertariansim delivers the purported benefits of more rigid systems more often than those systems do!

    So, liberalising trade and economics is not only usually effective, it is the only thing that is even so much as usually effective; a point in favour of Libertarianism inasmuch as moving towards it provides benefits and moving away from it is detrimental.

    Democracies, for all their faults, continue to be the best, most stable, most prosperous, and most culturally rich nations, again, a point in favor of Libertariansm; moving towards it is beneficial, moving away detrimental.

    Freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association, freedom of religion; all these things weigh in favour of Libertarianism in that, whenever the ideals of Libertarianism are moved towards, benefits flow, whenever they are moved from, detriments accumulate.

    weighing freedom (economic or otherwise) with other factors that are also correlated with happy and prosperous societies

    The Spirit Level hypothesis was false at every level, even unto declaring that less hierarchical nations are happier whilst declaring Japan one of the happiest nations on earth! Statistically things that “make people happy” in terms of surveyed happiness are: having a job, being married, and going to church! Hardly the usual wish-list of people who propose to make society happier, usually through the implementation of Marx’s discredited theories!

  64. Token

    Jonah Goldberg put together a very good response in National Review Online:

    Why are there no libertarian countries?”

    In a much-discussed essay for Salon, Michael Lind asks: “If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century is organized along libertarian lines?”

    Such is the philosophical poverty of liberalism today that this stands as a profound question.

    Definitions vary, but broadly speaking, libertarianism is the idea that people should be as free as possible from state coercion so long as they don’t harm anyone. The job of the state is limited to fighting crime, providing for the common defense, and protecting the rights and contracts of citizens. The individual is sovereign; he is the captain of himself.

    …Indeed, what’s remarkable about all of the states Lind identifies as proof that libertarianism doesn’t work is that they are in fact proof that it does. What made the American experiment new were its libertarian innovations, broadly speaking. Moreover, those innovations made us prosper. Even Sweden — the liberal Best in Show — owes its successes to its libertarian concessions.

  65. wreckage, I see a lot of assertions in your comment, but very little evidence. Specifically I’m looking for evidence that supports the notion that libertarianism and the support of absolute freedoms is more successful than a general liberal approach that considers freedom an important (but not only) factor in government policy.

  66. Grumbles

    Desipis, would you sacrifice the freedoms of many for the bad behaviour of a few?

  67. struth

    Australia only survives due to being a resource rich country. To those wankers out there that base their argument on the thought bubble and pigion holing ,and catergorising of a left wing nut job and some study by probably uni students looking for something to do…….get a life. I mean seriously get out there and see for yourself. After a recent trip to N Z I discover for myself a much more free, less bureaucratic, nation than ours, and a recent trip to Hong Kong assures me they have still much more personal freedom than us….not so bad with [email protected] and easier on smoking and dogs at cafes etc etc. Have you got out much to notice New Zealanders who are now going home, leaving industries where they were once filling gaps in Australia. One of the worst things that can happen to both sides of politics is when people use politics to try to aspouse their one upmanship in the intellectual stakes. Too much emphasis is placed on the meandering thoughts of some bubble brained academic who hasn’t left his suburb in years and reads the thoughts of other snobby little tossers. Australia hasn’t been a free market economy really ever. We have always had too much government interference. If we hadn’t with our recources would have been a superpower. We languish in pathetic mediocrity due to the hold leftism has always had on this country.

  68. Token

    More from Goldberg:

    That phrase, “the wave of the future,” became famous thanks to a 1940 essay by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She argued that the time of liberal democratic capitalism was drawing to a close and the smart money was on statism of one flavor or another — fascism, Communism, socialism, etc. What was lost on her, and millions of others, was that this wasn’t progress toward the new, but regression to the past. These “waves of the future” were simply gussied-up tribalisms, anachronisms made gaudy with the trappings of modernity, like a gibbon in a spacesuit.

    The only truly new political idea in the last couple thousand years is this libertarian idea, broadly understood. The revolution wrought by John Locke, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, and the Founding Fathers is the only real revolution going. And it’s still unfolding.

  69. Grumbles

    If freedom is not considered paramount in policy development then someone is being disadvantaged… who is that and what right do we have to disadvantage said free individual?

  70. struth

    It’s pretty simple isn’t it grumbles. Your either on the side that wants freedom from overzealous, controlling, government, better use of your taxes , so as to help the truly needy in our society and to build infrastructure or you are a Monty.

  71. MattR

    desipis, All studies show that there is a strong, positive correlation between prosperity, wealth and individual freedom within a society. How much more evidence do you want?

    Or are you one of those social democrats that continually demands evidence when the evidence provided doesn’t suit your ideology?

  72. Desipis, would you sacrifice the freedoms of many for the bad behaviour of a few?

    That depends on the freedom and the behaviour. For example, I would sacrifice the freedom to kill others based on the negative impact of those who would abuse that freedom. Likewise, I would sacrifice certain financial freedoms to reduce the risk of another Bernard Madoff or GFC occurring. Alternatively, I would not sacrifice freedom of speech merely because someone else might be offended. Nor would I sacrifice freedom to run your own business merely because some businesses are dodgy.

  73. desipis, All studies show that there is a strong, positive correlation between prosperity, wealth and individual freedom within a society. How much more evidence do you want?

    “All studies”? Do you have any citations for all these studies?

    I’m after evidence that the correlations are strong enough that they can be extrapolated past the existing data in contradiction to the other positive correlations with wealth and happiness.

  74. MattR

    http://www.learnliberty.org/

    Tonnes of videos, many citing hard evidence that individual freedom promote prosperity and many other things we would consider positive.

  75. Pauly

    “Wasn’t the war over the southern states’ right to secede?”

    The articles of the confederation of the USA drafted 1777, ratified by 1781 stated that to alter/dissolve the union required agreement of all signatories. So the right to secede, if it existed at all since there was a later Supreme court ruling that the Union was indissoluble, would have required the agreement of all states.

    Secondly a reading of the articles of secession shows that slavery was the prime motivator for the vast majority of states that did secede.

    Reading what people wrote at the time helps understand why they did what they did.

  76. MattR

    And another one:

    http://www.learnliberty.org/content/economic-freedom-and-growth

    I know you will ignore these or create some reason why they don’t fit your criteria.

    Feel free to show us the genuinely free nation, with a small government and little/no intervention in markets, external/internal security, that HASN’T prospered over the long term.

    Hint: a recession or two doesn’t mean a country isn’t prospering.

  77. struth

    The banks that loaned money to people they should not have…….causing the GFC, are they not a dodgy business that you would not sacrifice their freedom to run themselves or what. Seems to me you would not let those businesses run themselves and chose their own borrowers. So there’s another scrubbed out line in the sand. This is the problem we now face as a civilisation. Government coming in to fix a problem that it feels it must and bang, it ends up worse in the long run. We’ll still be paying for KRudds little panic for years to come.

  78. Gab

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure the question about the civil war has been answered thoroughly today. Pity the thread’s not about the civil war though.

  79. struth

    Here’s a study, look at the lives of Americans during the sixties, and the lives behind the iron curtain at the same time.

  80. Grumbles

    Without a doubt the crux of the GFC was Crony Capitalism, Libertarians are against this….

    There is no such thing as freedom to kill… Remember that the FIRST point in Liberatarian freedom is you are free to make your own decisions as long as they are not to the detriment of others freedoms.

  81. JC

    Without a doubt the crux of the GFC was Crony Capitalism, Libertarians are against this….

    No it was’t the main cause and yes we are.

    Libertarians are for free markets, not for business.

  82. Grumbles

    Crony Capitalism distorted property values/ lending practices. In a true Libertarian society no central bank would mean independant lending practices, property prices would not be distorted by those with loans that they can’t afford, no crash, simple. All the issues from the GFC can be drawn back to a point where government policy or intevention (as a majority customer) distorted the free market.

  83. JC

    Likewise, I would sacrifice certain financial freedoms to reduce the risk of another Bernard Madoff or GFC occurring.

    You idiot. The US has and had the strictest financial laws in the world. There is no way to ever insulate against other Bernies who devise new ways to rip people off. There is also no way to ensure against another deep recession. The fed and the other big central banks caused the recession as they allowed nominal GDP to collapse and were too slow in reacting .

    Alternatively, I would not sacrifice freedom of speech merely because someone else might be offended. Nor would I sacrifice freedom to run your own business merely because some businesses are dodgy.

    Pull the other leg. You along with nearly every single leftwing turd remained silent with the recent attacks on our free speech by the leftwing trog government attempting to enact Finkelstien and c..t Conroy’s laws.

    Don’t even fucking pretend. Those laws were a test for every leftwinger and most failed.

    You fuckers need to stop pretending as we’re not gullible.

  84. Ellen of Tasmania

    There have been no ?libertarian countries,? as Lind describes it, simply because the nation?state construct is, by definition, synonymous with the monopoly on violence, representing the antithesis of freedom and voluntary association, as exercised by the political class.

    Could one have a libertarian society without borders, organised protection, or an agreed rule of law? And if that libertarian society was not a nation-state, or country, what would you call it?

  85. Joe

    There is only one right:

    The right to own property.

    There is only one law:

    Do not steal.

    There is only one moral:

    Be kind.

    There is only one punishment:

    Death.

  86. sdfc

    The crisis is the consequence of a credit boom fuelled by loose monetary policy.

  87. sunshine

    As far as I can recall the research shows there is no correlation between wealth and happiness once basic needs are taken care of . I think most people know this intuitively .

  88. blogstrop

    Yeah, thanks for that ray of illumination, sunshine. Never heard that one before.

  89. blogstrop

    Oh FFS sdfc, have you never heard of the CRA and the boondoggling activists who bent the whole mortgage system in the USA? Sinc, do we have to live forvever in Groundhog Day to participate in this “border protection, whut?” blog?

  90. Gab

    As far as I can recall the research shows there is no correlation between wealth and happiness once basic needs are taken care of

    True, someone with $100million in the bank is no more happier than someone with $90million in the bank.

  91. Tel

    And that question is: ?why are there no libertarian countries??

    Not a new question, it’s been asked plenty of times before.

    Lind suggests that the libertarian critique of economically and politically self?imploding communist regimes should not be represented as a telling blow against socialism, arguably most vigorously practiced in the Western world by continental European countries, more generally.

    Socialist implosion has killed upwards of 100 million people, depending on how you count it. Even if libertarians have failed, at least they didn’t take too many innocent bystanders with them.

    However, studying examples of how the two systems come to an end is in itself instructive. Socialism pretty much always ends in tragedy. North Korea is still struggling on, but even the most rabid Australian socialists wouldn’t be interested in living there. Libertarian societies are consistently productive and dynamic, and eventually they get taken over by some type of central government (generally a slow and peaceful transition) and drift into a mixed economy and then stagnation. The USA is most of the way down this path. Here’s an interesting historic example:

    http://mises.org/daily/1865

    Where is Pennsylvania today? Paying tax like the rest of us, but for a long time they successfully (and productively) resisted. The trouble is that sooner or later, by whatever means, the tax collection machinery gets installed (along with the systemic violence that goes with it) and after that there’s no way back. In a nutshell, Libertarianism is an unstable equilibrium, but tax collection backed by organized violence is a stable equilibrium. That of course is why Feudalism and Libertarianism are nothing similar to one another, but in the long run, Feudalism comes to the fore (which is happening in the USA right now, even while the “Progressives” declare themselves victorious).

  92. Tel

    Likewise, I would sacrifice certain financial freedoms to reduce the risk of another Bernard Madoff or GFC occurring.

    You are more than welcome to do that, no one around here would stop you… sadly such sacrifice would not satisfy you because what you really want is for everyone else to do the same as you do. On what basis do you get to decide which freedoms other people should sacrifice?

  93. sdfc

    Blog

    Not only did the CRA not force banks into loading their balance sheets with shit assets but the majority of the increase in lending was driven by financials not covered by the CRA.

    That the US was not the only country to experience a housing boom during the loose money pre-GFC period should provide a clue that the CRA was not the primary cause of the crisis.

  94. Tel

    The banks that loaned money to people they should not have…….causing the GFC, are they not a dodgy business that you would not sacrifice their freedom to run themselves or what. Seems to me you would not let those businesses run themselves and chose their own borrowers.

    Yes, the banks should be allowed to run themselves and “chose their own borrowers”. Sadly, no bank in the Western world has been free to do this since governments instituted central banking about 100 years ago. The banking system operates under an umbrella of a compulsory cartel. Any bank should be able to issue private currency, and should be at risk of going bankrupt. Basic rules of business should require that all currency declare to the holder exactly what it is backed by (i.e. reserve requirements printed right there on the note) and I mean physical reserves, not paper backed by more paper. To do otherwise is abject fraud.

    The US government had their fingers in the GFC, and they know it which is why they bailed out the banks. GNMA offered government backed guarantees on mortgage debt, so after the housing market crashed the government needed to make good with those guarantees. Their first offer was TARP, and their current offer is having the Fed directly buy mortgage debt. None of this will fix the problem of course.

    So there’s another scrubbed out line in the sand. This is the problem we now face as a civilisation. Government coming in to fix a problem that it feels it must and bang, it ends up worse in the long run. We’ll still be paying for KRudds little panic for years to come.

    In the US, government is pretending to fix a problem that it created. Like I said, it won’t work. In Australia we are to some extent the cork that floats on someone else’s ocean, our economy is too open and too one-sided to operate alone. Rudd was right to spend money in the face of the GFC, but spending money is easy, saving money requires discipline. Rudd should have thanked Howard and Costello (for the economy). Getting past the GFC was just a short term thing anyhow, the massive boondoggles that came after (many years after) were another thing entirely.

  95. blogstrop

    Not only did the CRA not force banks into loading their balance sheets with shit assets ….

    Sorry to disappoint you, but there were legislated obligations on the banks to force them to loan to people who could otherwise have been refused on the grounds that their income wasn’t up to the mark.

    I am not entering into any further discussion on this sort of shit, it has been well documented, except in the MSM.

  96. egg_

    The answer is that no country or nation-state has been designed from the ground up, they’re all descendants of whatever came before. So political development has to cope with the myriad mechanisms by which government power is perpetuated and expanded.

    e.g. Euro Hanseatic Leagues n all of old: Brussels EU carbon scheme vs PIGS debts – balance, in the Libra scales of justice sense? /Karma

    A new Hanseatic League in place of the EU?

  97. sdfc

    Banks already create their own money Tel. What advantage is there in introducing credit risk into the currency?

  98. kelly liddle

    If democracy is a principle then there is no possible way a libertarian country could exist. HK was never libertarian. My personal view is that the compared to the status quo then libertarian principles are in the correct direction when comparing to where basically every country on the planet is now.

  99. JC

    Kelly

    What the hell are you trying to say? The above is just incoherent babble.

  100. kelly liddle

    JC
    How is it incoherent to say it is impossible to have a libertarian country if democracy is a part of libertarianism. I consider it to be a part. Are we going to have a libertarian dictatorship?

  101. Tel

    Banks already create their own money Tel. What advantage is there in introducing credit risk into the currency?

    If the banks create their own currency, without physical backing, then as an immutable consequence they also create a credit risk at exactly the same time. Government cannot prevent this, although it can offload that risk onto arbitrary third parties who are otherwise unable to defend themselves. Over time, all such available third parties already take their maximum load of credit risk and government either admits that it can do no more, or this becomes evident when the system falls apart. At any rate the credit risk never goes away.

    What I am attempting to introduce (although since really such freedom always did exist, the correct word is “reintroduce”) is competition between credit risks.

  102. Tel

    If democracy is a principle then there is no possible way a libertarian country could exist.

    Agreed… but democracy has never been a principle. What democracy does is offer something preferable to open warfare. Suppose 60% of the population want it one way, and 40% want it another way, so the 40% could decide to fight to the death to get their way. In a battle of rifle against rifle (or even in a battle of tank against tank) the side with the most number of people tends to win, so the 40% might reasonably concede that fighting to the death is not in their interests. Thus, we work on a simple presumption that since the majority could successfully defeat any minority by resort to violence, might as well give them what they want peacefully which is a benefit for all concerned.

    I feel it is important to point out that this presumption does not hold in a ht-tech war or a Feudal-style gear sport where contributions are not equal per person. Libertarians on the whole have not (openly) thrived in such environments, so there is a pretty solid link between democracy, liberty, and personal projectile weapons (archers in ancient Athens, and Medieval England, musketeers in revolutionary France, and rifles in the early days of the USA). At the same time, individual responsibility and collective responsibility are somewhat at odds with one another (both apply in a traditional Liberal-Democratic society) so a balance exists there.

  103. sdfc

    Tel

    Money is not necessarily currency. Deposits are liabilities of banks while the currency is a liability of the RBA.

    As a vendor I can accept a Aussie bank note at face value but with a commercial banknote I would have to familiarise myself with the bank balance sheet to set the appropriate discount. How is this advantageous?

  104. John Mc

    How is it incoherent to say it is impossible to have a libertarian country if democracy is a part of libertarianism. I consider it to be a part. Are we going to have a libertarian dictatorship?

    What is this drivel? Kelly, even you don’t believe society should be able to vote on everything. Otherwise minority groups would have no rights at all.

  105. brc

    You didn’t click the link? What do you think they’re for? If you were worried it was a lengthy essay, try just hovering over it.

    ’cause I’m browsing on a mobile device between doing other things and frankly, experience has taught me tht clicking on links provided in that manner are a complete waste of time.

  106. wreckage

    As far as I can recall the research shows there is no correlation between wealth and happiness once basic needs are taken care of . I think most people know this intuitively .

    Yeah, nah. It’s considerably more than “basic needs”. Of course there are diminishing marginal returns.

  107. 2dogs

    The Friesian republic (993 – 1498) could have been classified as a Libertarian country.

  108. wreckage

    Specifically I’m looking for evidence that supports the notion that libertarianism and the support of absolute freedoms is more successful than a general liberal approach that considers freedom an important (but not only) factor in government policy.

    Libertarianism doesn’t consider freedom the only factor. It considers freedom consistent with the same freedoms in others and in the framework of total non-violence as the “only consideration”. This includes the freedom to voluntarily enter binding agreements. To the extent that this has ever been tried, it has been successful. I would like to know what “considerations” you have in mind that are not covered by actual, rather than straw-man, Libertarianism.

    PS: I am not, personally, a Libertarian.

  109. struth

    “As far as I can recall the research shows there is no correlation between wealth and happiness once basic needs are taken care of . I think most people know this intuitively”

    East germans had there basic needs taken care of. Prisoners have their basic needs taken care of.
    Didn’t and doesn’t stop them running head first into the barbed wire under a hail of bullets to try to get to a thing we call freedom.

    .

  110. Tel

    As a vendor I can accept a Aussie bank note at face value but with a commercial banknote I would have to familiarise myself with the bank balance sheet to set the appropriate discount. How is this advantageous?

    The same reason competition in any industry is advantageous. When you go to the supermarket, egat you have to evaluate more than one brand of breakfast cereal. That must hurt.

  111. kelly liddle

    What is this drivel? Kelly, even you don’t believe society should be able to vote on everything. Otherwise minority groups would have no rights at all.

    John
    I will spell it out to you. Voters will vote for socialist policies both on the left and right, specifically big government. I am curious to know if it is reversable and if so how and if anyone has any ideas how it might happen. The only way I can see it happening is Greek style meaning you need absolute collapse. If you take Australia for example taxes have gone up around 50% as a proportion of GDP since the seventies. If you look at other countries it is much worse.

  112. .

    So much nonsense and lies posted by lefties here, and Lind, who is simply an ignorant schmuck.

    A few more to add to the list.

    Quaker Pennsylvania and Anarchic Iceland were libertarian countries.

    Australia from the late 1800s to WWI was libertarian. You can nitpick but the vice etc that is tolerated now existed under a veil that polite society was ignorant of. On the other hand, drug laws for example didn’t exist.

    Iceland lasted longer than democratic Britain or the US have existed for.

Comments are closed.