Full piece here.
More on the failures of Detroit, and the impending bankruptcy of other municipalities across the country.
That title is a nod to Kevin Williamson, at the National Review, and his new book: ‘The End Is Near, And It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave American Richer, Happier, and More Secure.’
The old Nozickian “night-watchman” State argument resurfaces, or so minimal a State that even law courts and law enforcement are handled privately:
‘The heroic Brown and TMC are a great example of how the market and civil society can and do provide services traditionally associated with the state far better, cheaper and more in tune to people’s wants and needs. I have always believed policing, protection and security are far too important to be run by the state — especially in age of militarized Stormtroopers — and Brown is helping show why.’
A kind of land-based seasteading experiment? Libertarian utopia, or a voluntarily-chosen, bottom-up type of cooperation in the wake of Detroit’s failure? A mini-New Hampshire?
As an economist, David Friedman has explored the idea of what transferring functions of the State to private agencies might look like. In the video he presents an outline of his thinking about what would happen if the legislature, the courts, and the police (drafting, legislating, passing and enforcing laws) would all be handled by private agencies instead of government. You would become a customer of a private enforcement agency amongst other agencies competing for your patronage in areas now covered by the criminal and civil law. There would be no more State, or perhaps just minimal State overseeing the National Defense.
Often times, this is too anarchic for most people. I’m not sure I’m on board, but there are some deep arguments made.
One typical liberal argument runs that, contra Hayek, not all State involvement is coercive, but has the consent of the governed. Libertarian principles aren’t first principles, and can be so contested (or why don’t you libertarians see that it’s not all coercion vs. liberty, and individuals vs. the State?). There are other traditions.
Some libertarians and Enlightenment-reason libertarians see themselves in a bitter fight with progressives, who from the libertarian perspective, commit the fatal sin of basing Enlightenment reason in virtue and are wittingly or unwittingly rounding up individuals into collectivist municipal Ponzi schemes and unsustainable deficit spending with the force of the law and power of the State behind them. Even if it is creative destruction that led to Detroit’s decline, it didn’t have to be this bad. Eventually you run out of other people’s money and you force people to vote with their feet, the last option available.
I’m assuming that not all liberals are progressives, nor are they Marxists, Socialists (ends with a gun and a wall to keep you in), or Communists (starts with a gun and a wall to keep you in, like the Soviets). Many liberals I’ve known are more consent rather than coercion types of people. ‘Be free,’ they might say, but maintain your duties and live as morally and honestly as possible. Responsible liberals argue ‘I,’ not ‘we,’ have a moral duty to help others. Not all moral thinking is religious. In this line of thought, broadened definitions of the public good are in all of our own moral and rational self-interest, and so thus are broadened roles for our institutions and increasing the size and scope of our government.
It’d be a little more convincing if liberal policy-makers could address the failures of places like Detroit with regard to how policies are going to work in practice, and how incentives work regarding human nature and our institutions. Clearly, this is part of the problem in Detroit.
*Thanks also to Kevin Williamson’s ‘Politically Incorrect Guide To Socialism‘
Any thoughts and comments are welcome.
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