The preface to this is an article in Salon:
Why are there no libertarian countries? 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?
Short short answer is tyrants, and enabling of tyrants.
It’s the reason why there are still monarchies ruled by hereditary kings, dictatorships, and countries ruled by warlords in the 21st Century. If we were to look at other countries as examples, then one rapidly finds there are plenty of regimes across the world that, by their existence, then must be “better” by this standard.
It’s not as though there were a shortage of countries to experiment with libertarianism. There are 193 sovereign state members of the United Nations—195, if you count the Vatican and Palestine, which have been granted observer status by the world organization. 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, decriminalized drugs, no welfare state and no public education system?
Here’s the problem – a peaceful libertarian state would have to overthrow its old government or have it dissolve. Or it would have to be left alone. Or throw off its old government and be left alone on the other side of an ocean.
The United States for roughly the first hundred or so years of the nation was a libertarian nation. It was a Constitutional republic formed on classic liberal ideas from the enlightenment – the value of the individual and the rights of the individual. One country did try it, and it succeeded wildly.
Kowloon is one more modern, (if bizarre) example, and it worked, despite being in an area not known for libertarian ideas. Until China destroyed it.
The welfare state and public education are both schemes cooked up by those who wish to be masters of men – types like Bismarck in Germany who decided that he would bring people closer to the state. The state that he ruled.
Criminalization of drugs is a decision by rulers to tell people how to live, and impositions on trade are attempts by government to steer economies.
As far as open borders go, no libertarian nation can survive truly open borders, and few libertarians actually want open borders. A nation without borders is not a nation. A nation without borders is subject to the political whims of migration as new arrivals bring old ideas and change the political landscape. You can’t invite in tyrants as full partners into a libertarian world any more than a monarchist could invite a follower of Robespierre.
When you ask libertarians if they can point to a libertarian country, you are likely to get a baffled look, followed, in a few moments, by something like this reply: While there is no purely libertarian country, there are countries which have pursued policies of which libertarians would approve…
He didn’t ask someone who understands what they believe and why. (As a fun contrast, if you ask someone why they voted for Obama, you’ll get some much more interesting answers.)
And from here the pro-collectivist anti-liberty hit piece descends mostly into drivel. Why? Because leftists don’t understand other points of view. Those who wish to conserve American liberty (Constitutional conservatives, classic liberals/libertarians, and more open-minded traditionalists, even) understand the left, the left does not understand the right.
Lacking any really-existing libertarian countries to which they can point, the free-market right is reduced to ranking countries according to “economic freedom.”
Wholly, totally, completely wrong. The US up until the advent of socialism’s import around the 1900-1910s is the libertarian country.
And to the “Achilles’ Heel” by EJ Dionne at WaPo:
The ideas of the center-left — based on welfare states conjoined with market economies — have been deployed all over the democratic world, most extensively in the social democratic Scandinavian countries. We also have had deadly experiments with communism, a.k.a Marxism-Leninism.
The Scandinavian countries have been having some major problems with their welfare state as of late. They also prospered, like all of Europe’s socialist paradises, under the protection of the US’s guidance of NATO. Otherwise, they’d have all been Soviet satellites, or starved from defense spending to prevent the Soviets from invading.
Libertarians can keep holding up their dream of perfection because, as a practical matter, it will never be tried in full. Even many who say they are libertarians reject the idea when it gets too close to home.
Wrong. It already has been tried, and it succeeded wildly.
The problem is that a truly libertarian state has to acknowledge that it is a libertarian state, and it does have to make sure its people understand that the benefits of their society come from their freedom. Politicians who serve decades in power are not eager to tell people that they need to live without the politician.
There used to be politicians who were leaders and who would stand up for the fact that the nation is one created in liberty. For example – Democrat Grover Cleveland, discussing giving federal disaster aid:
Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character. . . .
- President Grover Cleveland
Such men existed, and such do exist, but it requires breaking the collectivist nonsense that has been spouted for decades and decades by both tyrants who spout it as a means to power, and individuals who bleat it as a means to security at the expense of their own liberty and dignity.
Those who desire to encourage paternal care, or even coercive paternalism and government force against the citizen, actively desire to weaken the sturdiness of national character, because it makes it easier for them to put themselves in power.
But Dionne lines up another swing that misses the point.
…tea party members, as the polls show, are older than the country as a whole. They say they want to shrink government in a big way but are uneasy about embracing this concept when reducing Social Security and Medicare comes up.
They payed in to a system they were forced to pay into. Government took from them for decades “on their behalf”. There’s a reason they aren’t keen on shedding programs they paid into. But younger Tea Partiers would be willing to forgo so-called “Social Security” and live free with the extra money they have – investing it as they wish.
But this inconsistency (or hypocrisy) contains a truth: We had something close to a small-government libertarian utopia in the late 19th century and we decided it didn’t work. We realized that many Americans would never be able to save enough for retirement and, later, that most of them would be unable to afford health insurance when they were old.
Wrong. “We” didn’t decide that. Politicians decided that. Politicians acting outside the scope of the Constitution – in violation of the Constitution – went out and created a program out of whole cloth. Politicians who promised security told people to trade their liberty, and it worked because the politicians created crises they knew they could exploit. Politicians worked to weaken the national character for their own ends.
And when the Great Depression engulfed us, government was helpless, largely handcuffed by this anti-government ideology until Franklin D. Roosevelt came along.
And here is the great fiction again. The Great Depression was caused by the New Deal and FDR. FDR exacerbated what would have been a jarring market correction, but a market correction nonetheless. He and his retreads from the Woodrow Wilson administration decided to “mold the world nearer to their heart’s desire” by exploiting a crisis they helped to manufacture.
The weakness with libertarianism and the end of the libertarian United States was through the expansion of politicians willing to give people things “for free”. It was a cultural weakening of national character. Things like the Curley Effect may be effective, but it’s also destructive.
It just means that a formerly successful nation can be destroyed through manipulation and political dealing. Just like an athlete can be laid low by a disease, it’s not necessarily the athlete’s fault.
The reason the United States succeeded was because people understood why it succeeded in large part. The yeoman farmer took pride in his nation, and did his best for that nation, and understood the makeup of that nation. The welfare recipient who’s been told for generations that their nation is the worst in the world and that it owes them doesn’t care to defend it.
Individual character matters, and individual character creates an free nation. Individual character that succumbs to collectivism and the misery it produces will create a collectivist nation.
Much of this nation is still libertarian, and succeeding wildly. Part of this nation is collectivist, and seeking to destroy the rest and control it.