Someone in charge 58

We are libertarian conservatives, “minarchists”, emphatically not anarchists.

Having a libertarian bent, we like much of what John Stossel writes in an article at Townhall:

Here’s my fantasy: Libertarians are elected to the presidency and to majorities in Congress. What would happen next? Well, if libertarians were “in charge,” you’d have more freedom and prosperity.

Freedom frightens some people. They say if no one is in charge there would be chaos. That is intuitive, but think about a skating rink. Before rinks were invented, if you proposed an amusement in which people strap blades to their feet and skate around on ice at whatever speeds they wish, you’d have been called crazy. There’s got to be speed limits, stoplights, turn signals. But we know that people navigate rinks safely on their own. They create their own order, with only minimal rules.

Society would work the same way — and does to a large extent even today. “Great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government,” Thomas Paine, the soul of the American Revolution, wrote. “It has its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. … Common interest (has) a greater influence than the laws of government.”

Yes. Common interest is the wellspring of morality.

If libertarians were “in charge,” there would be laws to protect us from foreign enemies and those who would steal from us or injure us. Today, by contrast, under the rule of Democans and Republicrats, we’re drowning in rules — 160,000 pages’ worth. Micromanagement kills opportunity and freedom.

Maybe if there were a way to have more competition among governments, things would be better. Competition forces people to become more efficient and to get rid of stupid rules. What if we let people take over some unused land in America to create areas with fewer rules, simpler legal systems, smaller government?

Stossel quotes Michael Strong , who with his wife Magatte Wade founded the Free Cities Project.

Strong said, “We want to encourage thousands of people to create new governments that have different rules, each competing for customers with the best education and best health care, the most peace and prosperity you could imagine.”

We expect that where government interfered least with the economic life of the people there would be the greatest prosperity. Where it had nothing at all to do with education or health, the people would stand the best chance of being well educated and effectively cured. Where it most strongly protected liberty, they would probably endure the least crime. Where it armed the people most formidably they might least expect to be invaded.

Are there any free cities along the lines Strong and Wade envision?

“Hong Kong and Singapore are the best examples,” Strong said. “Now they are among the wealthiest places on earth.”

True – and proof that small government, doing little more than enforcing the rule of law, works well.

And there is a free city in Dubai because the emirate wanted to create a financial sector …

And did, though the emir had to abandon sharia law in the free city to achieve what he wanted:

“Dubai was brilliant,” Strong said. “They looked around the world. They saw that Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, Chicago, Sydney, London all ran British common law. British common law is much better for commerce than is French common law or sharia law. So they took 110 acres of Dubai soil, put British common law with a British judge in charge, and they went from an empty piece of soil to the 16th most powerful financial center in world in eight years.”

It’s what libertarians have said: Freedom works, and government, when it grows beyond the barest minimum, keeps people poor.

As liberty is most likely to bring prosperity, why are libertarians a political minority?

Is it because many people fear it, and if so why?

Some want governments to be parental and care for them “from the cradle to the grave”. They think such welfare governments can guarantee that they’ll  be fed, housed, educated, medically treated all through their lives.

They could not be more wrong. The welfare states of Europe are rapidly going bankrupt.

And besides, what a government provides a government can withhold. To put yourself wholly in the power of a government is to put yourself not into safety but into danger. You are most safe when you control your own life, and the government does no more than guard your liberty. (And as everything governments do they do badly, it is wise to own a gun.)

Some need to feel that there is “someone in charge” – a king, a chief, a Secretary-General of the Communist Party, a powerful president, a Father in Heaven.

We don’t want someone in charge. Neither on earth nor “in heaven”. Throughout our earthly lives we want the rule of law, that wholly abstract authority, emotionless, fixed. (As Lord Denning, the British judge, said: “Be you ever so high, the law is above you”.)

And we delight in a universe that does not have and does not need “someone” to make, maintain, rule, watch over, manipulate, or give a damn about it.