Libertaria: A Libertarian Paradise
April 10, 2014
[Also related: "Mom & Pop Capitalism"]
Most people have never heard of Libertaria (not to be confused with Liberia), so let me tell you a little bit about this most interesting nation. It is a veritable libertarian paradise. With a population of fifty million people and plentiful natural resources, Libertaria is truly blessed.
There is a government in Libertaria, but it is so minimal that the Libertarians hardly notice it. The government is barely more than just the administration of a modest military force to protect Libertaria from foreign invasion, and the military consists entirely of volunteers--no draft or forced conscription whatsoever. The government does not censor speech, press, the media or the internet in any way.
There are no laws of any sort in Libertaria regarding sex for consenting adults. Sure, there's a law against adults having sex with minors too young to give informed consent, but that's all.
There are no laws prohibiting adult possession or use of drugs. People are free to smoke, inject, snort or otherwise enjoy whatever substance they wish. If somebody harms him or herself, well, it's their right to do so as long as they don't harm somebody else in the process.
It probably goes without saying that there is no national ID card; privacy is honored in Libertaria. The only time you tell another who you are is when you want to, period!
There is no "corporate welfare" or government handouts to business in Libertaria. Corporations and businesses either thrive because they are better than their competition, or they fail otherwise. Likewise, there are no government barriers to international trade, no tariffs or sanctioned foreign nations one cannot trade with.
People in Libertaria don't rely on the "government teat" to support them in their old age. There is no government-run Social Security. There are private companies that people can invest in if, and to the extent, they want to, to provide income if and when they may choose to retire. People are free to invest for their future, or not, as they see fit. If they regret their youthful failure to invest for their old age, well, that's nobody's fault but their own. In Libertaria people are expected to take responsibility for their lives. There is no government welfare in Libertaria: if one is unemployed and desperately poor then one should find work; if one is a divorced single parent who can't afford to pay the bills, then one should rely on one's family and friends.
Although the government has nothing to do with it, people in Libertaria are perfectly free to give to charity, and to create charitable organizations to do that on a large scale. Those who wish to donate to the charity of their choice are free to do so; those who don't wish are free not to.
As one can imagine, taxes and government spending in Libertaria are as minimal as one could possibly imagine, given the need to operate a defensive military and enforce very minimal legislation.*
The Constitution of the government in Libertaria is just like the one in the United States. The difference is that the government of Libertaria understands the importance of not making stupid, counter-productive and unnecesssary laws--something that the government prides itself on very much.
What's Life Like in Libertaria?
Describing what life is like in Libertaria is not simple, because it is very different depending on how much money one has. A small number of people in Libertaria have an enormous amount of money--many billions of dollars for a single person, in fact. (Their currency is dollars, and one of their dollars happens to be worth one U.S. dollar at the time of this writing.) It didn't used to be this way.
Many generations ago, in a distant past period that has been pretty much lost to the memory of most living people in Libertaria, everybody in Libertaria owned essentially the same amount of wealth and had essentially the same income. But you know how things are: some were luckier than others, some were more clever than others, some had no siblings and inherited all their parents' wealth and others had to divide it up among lots of siblings, and so forth; after a while some ended up being a little bit wealthier than others.
And, no surprise here, people with a little bit more wealth than others had a little bit more influence than others. They were able to acquire more property. They bought land that other people owned. People who once were able to support themselves by working on their own land or working with their own tools or machines began to lose their property. Sometimes they were forced to sell it cheap because they farmed and bad weather destroyed their crop. Sometimes they had to sell their property cheap because they couldn't compete with a larger business selling the same commodity they did but at a lower price because economy of scale favored the larger business. Those who lost their property for one reason or another wondered if maybe something was unfair about what happened. But the transfer of their property to wealthier people didn't violate any of the laws of Libertaria, and it all seemed quite legitimate as far as the prevailing norms of the society went, so what could the poor losers do but resign themselves to their misfortune?
The wealthier, luckier, more clever people were free to acquire wealth without any government interference. They came to own little businesses that were larger than the others, and they were able to employ more employees than the others. They were the most successful of the self-employed. The less fortunate, the ones who had to sell the land or tools or machines they had once used to make a living as a self-employed person, had to work for an employer, as an employee.
And, things being the way they are, some little businesses won out in the competition with others and became big businesses, employing lots and lots of people and owning vast tracts of land or mines or huge factories and skyscraper office buildings. The owners of these big businesses became wealthier and wealthier. The big businesses had more power than the small businesses, and began to order the small businesses around, telling little suppliers, for example, that they would only pay them a low price: take it or leave it. And the little businesses "took it" because "leaving it" meant going out of business and having to work as an employee for some business.
To work as an employee in Libertaria was something people tried to avoid by being self-employed. But with the few extremely large corporations calling the shots, it just wasn't possible for very many people to succeed as a small business person; most ended up having to find work as an employee.
By the time we reach the present day in this brief history, there is extreme economic inequality in Libertaria. The vast majority of people are employees (or unemployed when, as often happens, they are laid off during economic downturns.) The few who own businesses are very well off; some are even billionaires. The economy works very well because there is no government interference messing it up with unintended consequences of well-intentioned legislation. Profits enrich the few. Businesses that make luxury items for the rich do very well.
At the same time, life is very hard now for the employees. The business owners pay their workers as little as possible, which is very little indeed because a worker has to take it or leave it, and leaving it means starving. People who can't find work receive, of course, no pay at all (although they might get some charity if they are lucky.) Wages might not be as low as they are if the workers had strong unions and could go on strike to win higher wages. But the culture in Libertaria is very much opposed to such collectivist solutions to problems. People are supposed to take responsibility for their own lives, and solve their own problems as individuals. Unions, it is felt, would take away from the freedom of the worker. If a union declared a strike, then a worker would be compelled to stay away from his or her job, against his or her own will: tyranny!
But even if the workers did have unions, what could they really accomplish? Unions don't object to capitalism, and in a free capitalist society if a business pays higher wages than its competition then it will eventually go out of business, and all of its workers will lose their jobs. If a union demanded substantially higher wages at one company, it would have to fight for higher wages in all of the other companies competing with it. But some of the competing companies are (or might become) located in nations other than Libertaria. The union would then have to organize workers all over the world.
Even then, however, the owners of the business could decide to just close shop, on the grounds that workers are demanding wages that make it impossible to make a profit. What could the union do then? The owners of the business own all of its productive wealth--its land and machines and buildings and intellectual property and so forth--and they are free (yes FREE, at least in Libertaria) to do with their property whatever they wish.
Alas, the workers in Libertaria live in abject poverty. They feel lucky to have any job at all, no matter how little it pays. The price and production of commodities is based on supply and demand. The impoverished workers have so little money that there is little demand (in terms of the number of purchasing dollars, that is) for the cheapest necessities of life, and therefore only the bare minimum required to keep the workers alive is produced. (No profit could be made producing any more than this.) The business owners with lots of money from their profits provide a large demand for luxuries. So workers are employed producing luxuries, from fancy watches to huge yachts and private jets (and some are employed, of course, as servants with fancy names like "personal trainer," etc.) The economy, as noted above, works fine; it's just geared to producing luxuries for the few and bare necessities for the many.
But Something's Not Quite Right
One of the troubling aspects of life in Libertaria is that now and then some workers get it into their heads that something isn't quite right. Yes, they are free, but something is missing. Yes, they are free to use any drugs they can afford to buy (not the pure high grade stuff of course, but the cheap stuff with sometimes poisonous adulterants), and they are free to have sex with their sibling or a same-sex person and even marry them if they both consent, and they don't have to serve in the military unless that's the only job available (which somehow seems to be the case for so many people), and they are free to buy whatever foreign product they want (if they can afford it, of course), and they are free to watch any TV show or internet site or listen to any radio station or read any newspaper they wish (funny how so many seem to be owned by a few of the richest people in Libertaria and promote ideas that legitimize the unequal status quo) and they are not taxed a lot by the government (not that they earn enough to pay taxes in the first place), and the government leaves them alone for the most part (although private security firms with armed police make sure that property rights are strictly enforced) and the government doesn't invade their privacy, and yet...something's missing.
To make sure that such workers don't rock the boat and introduce any kind of tyranny into Libertaria, the business owners shrewdly decided to ensure that workers are indoctrinated with ideas that will make them accept their unpleasant lot as natural and inevitable. Various ways of doing this have been experimented with. The method that is now being used is to teach the workers, especially when they are young school children, that society is a meritocracy in which the best people rise to the top and the other ones fall where they belong, to the bottom. The children are taught that economic inequality is a good thing, a necessary thing in fact, because it is what motivates people to try to be good and rise higher in society. Most of the children learn (it's set up to make this happen on purpose, of course) that they are meant to be at the bottom. They live lives of various forms of self-contempt and with feelings of inferiority. A bit sad, perhaps; but at least they are free from the tyranny of big government.
Teaching people about the wonders of Libertaria's meritocracy has been quite successful, but not quite successful enough to make the wealthy people of Libertaria feel sufficiently secure against the always-lurking threat of revolution. To deal with this problem, the leaders of Libertaria decided a while ago to use divide-and-rule against the poor people--the working class. The idea is simple. Pick some subset of the poor people, based on race or religion or ethnicity, and treat them much worse (or better) than the others. Make the ones treated worse blame the ones treated better as their enemy. And make the ones treated better fear the ones treated worse. Foment a little violence now and then; stir the pot; keep people divided against each other. It makes life brutally hellish for the workers, but it does the job of preserving the unequal status quo quite nicely.
Dear reader of this description of Libertaria, you might be thinking that Libertaria is not a great place to live for the majority of its population--the working class. But the leaders of Libertaria would caution you to avoid jumping to this rash conclusion. They would point out that things are not really that bad for the poor in Libertaria because people are free to give to charity, and many do. The leaders would also remind you that every single citizen of Libertaria is completely free to start a business and try to get rich. Doesn't that reassure you, dear reader, that Libertaria is actually a fine place to live, rich or poor?
Egalitarian Revolution in Libertaria
Just recently in Libertaria a revolution broke out. You might think that the revolutionaries wanted to set up a powerful central government that would a) make zillions of laws and b) take possession of people's property and c) tax people a whole lot and d) create a welfare state so that people could rely on the government teat instead of having to take responsibility for their livelihoods by relying on themselves and on strong family solidarity: in other words do all of the kind of things that the Libertarian government proudly does not do. Indeed, the leaders of Libertaria actually hoped that this is what the revolutionaries would say they wanted to do. Why? Because then it would have been very easy for the Libertarian leaders to turn the public against the revolutionaries, using well-known and persuasive arguments about the evils and stupidity of powerful and intrusive central governments. But no! The revolutionaries were opposed to having any central government with law-making powers at all.
Well then, what DID the revolutionaries want? They wanted the following two things:
#1. A government based on voluntary federation of local assemblies of egalitarians. What's an egalitarian? An egalitarian is a person who believes in equality and mutual aid and fairness. What does "equality" mean in this context? Equality means that people who contribute reasonably to the economy have an equal right to enjoy the fruits of the economy according to need and reasonable desire. And "mutual aid"? Mutual aid means that people should help each other, regardless of race or religion or ethnicity or nationality. Read about fairness here.
Voluntary federation (described here) means that the only bodies that can make laws are local assemblies, where all egalitarians, and only egalitarians, in the community have a right to participate as equals with all others in writing laws. It means that local assemblies can send delegates to meet with delegates from other assemblies to make proposals (not laws!) for the local assemblies to implement or not as they wish (typically doing so after back and forth negotiations to arrive at a proposal satisfactory to sufficient numbers of local assemblies to actually carry out the proposal.) These assemblies of delegates from local assemblies (or of delegates from assemblies of delegates, etc.) may encompass delegates from a large region, a nation or even the entire planet. There is no lack of large scale planning and coordination, but it is based on mutual agreement rather than commands (i.e., laws) handed down from above by a central government. For a local community to secede from anything is simple: it simply decides not to make any mutual agreements with other local communities.
#2. A sharing economy. What's a sharing economy? It's an economy in which people, by mutual agreement (using voluntary federation) share the fruits of their economic productivity with each other based on the principle of "From each according to reasonable ability, to each according to need and reasonable desire." Things that are not scarce are free for anybody in the sharing economy (i.e., people who are contributing to it according to reasonable ability); scarce things are rationed according to an equitable method determined by the voluntary federation government. People own all the personal property (houses, clothing, musical instruments, books, etc.) they reasonably should own; they just don't own what is properly owned by society: the means of social economic production such as vast tracts of land, mineral wealth in the earth, factories, etc. There is no buying and selling, and hence no money. Old people who have worked reasonably in the early years of their life, children too young to be expected to work, and people who are for some reason unable to work, can just take what they reasonably need and want for free. Those who don't contribute reasonably (lazy free loaders and people who think that useful work is "beneath" them) have no right to enjoy the fruits of the economy. Details of how this works and why it makes a lot of sense are discussed here and here and here.
The latest news from Libertaria is that the revolutionaries are gaining support from the poor people who, it turns out, support equality and mutual aid, making them egalitarians, not libertarians, it would seem. Apparently they think a sharing economy is better--morally and practically--than a capitalist one. They agree that big central governments are wrong, but they fail to see what's right, to take just one example, in telling old people who have worked all their lives, "Hope your privatized Social Security investments paid off because otherwise you'll have to work till you drop"--especially since workers are paid so little that they have practically nothing to invest.
If the egalitarians take over and make a revolution, the rich people in Libertaria will denounce it as "tyranny"--an attack on their freedom. And they will have a point! No longer will people in Libertaria be free to live in luxury at the expense of others. No longer will people with lots of money be free to enjoy the wealth and power and privilege that a billionaire has compared to an impoverished worker. No longer will a few be free to live in a society that praises them as a superior meritocracy while shaming the majority with lies about their "unworthiness." No longer will the few be free to use divide and rule against the many to create fear and mistrust amongst the many. Freedom is a concept that can be invoked by those who wish to oppress and dominate others, as discussed here.
In Libertaria, the wealthy few talk about "freedom." The rest are starting to talk about equality and mutual aid, and the freedom to live in an egalitarian society. If there is to be anything approaching paradise on earth for the many, it will be in an egalitarian, not a libertarian, world.
* Not surprisingly, the leaders of Libertaria score 100% libertarian on this little quiz