or basically I believe with great care and good luck you might be able to convert Libertopia back into normality without contravening any of the axioms, thus restoring the status quo but with less bitching about Tyranny.

This, but seriously.

So, ninety-eight percent of the time, when I’m using libertarian ideas, I’m using them as a method for deciding plain old ordinary political issues of the day. Respecting human autonomy is usually a good idea, so let’s not have a drug war or tell people that they can’t make their own medical decisions. Markets are generally a good way for people to make mutually beneficial trades, so let’s not cripple them with rent control. Things like that. Maybe not positions that you agree with, but they’re just ordinary opinions on ordinary issues.

But the other two percent of the time, when I forget myself and start wasting my time by indulging in Theory, then yes, I’m more or less trying to re-create the status quo, but with less oppression. When I look around the city I live in, I see people living in houses, driving cars to work, visiting in the parks, sending their kids to school, and shopping in the stores. I figure that what I see people doing must be what they want to be doing, by and large.

So any significantly more libertarian society had better be able to deliver that, or people would never adopt it. People value freedom to travel, so there had better be a network of roads that won’t be shut down on some blacktop-baron’s whim. Maybe condominium ownership at the scale of an entire city, where all the property owners grant a mutual easement to a right of travel on the streets? And once you have a municipal corporation, where you have to agree to certain conditions to buy property there, a lot of coordination problems become a lot easier to solve. Or maybe people see their jobs as the most important economic relationships they have, rather than where they live, and unions would become the organizing principle of society and providers of services.

Or maybe something else. There are many, many ways to join people together into complex, voluntary social structures. Libertarianism doesn’t begin and end with atomized individualists saying “this here is my land and I have the right to shoot any trespassers.” 

And you’re right, this sort of thing would take great care and good luck and a lot of hard work besides. Building a civilization worth living in always requires that. But if you could build a world that’s more or less the same as the world we have today but but with fewer people being dragged off to jail for breaking unnecessary rules – wouldn’t that be worth it?

I mean the point is that most people aren’t being dragged off to jail for breaking unnecessary rules, so that’s not the relevant point of comparison.

A better comparison might be “a world with slightly more hairdressers and marginally cheaper haircuts, because currently my local jurisdiction imposes an unnecessarily high level of licensing overhead on the profession and thus far we have been unable to effectively coordinate to weaken it”.

Or a world with more tall buildings, or whatever. But then you get back to talking about what kind of world you want to live in, rather than exactly how you ended up structuring the ruleset in order to get there.

But I do think that consequentialist arguments are a lot easier to make progress with, because axiomatic arguments invariably devolve into discussing consequences anyway, and no one likes the idea of their favourite axioms leading to unpleasant results.

I mean the point is that most people aren’t being dragged off to jail for breaking unnecessary rules, so that’s not the relevant point of comparison.

Most people – I would go so far as to say all people, at some point in their lives – forgo simple pleasures and positive-sum exchanges because of the threat of being jailed or fined for breaking an unnecessary rule.

You don’t have to throw people in jail to be oppressive. You just have to hire some big dudes with sticks and say “…or else!

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