Free State Project, Part II

A commenter takes me to task over my previous remarks on the Free State Project:

I’m glad you have a better plan than those suckers, that is sit around and complain on a blog day after day.

In fact I do have a better plan that the FSP suckers: I plan to get on with my life. Just getting on with your life is a much better plan than marching forward in libertarian solidarity.

See, there are two outcomes: either a) the FSP is a stupid boondoggle and a waste of time at best (my judgement) or b) it will actually accomplish something positive. Let’s assume b) for argument.

Now what?

What rational proposition can the FSP offer anyone in particular? Will their chances of success be noticeably better with me on board, better enough that it’s worth my time to join them? Do they have anything to offer that I couldn’t get by, say, moving to NH and not joining them? Answers are none, no and no, respectively.

Fact is that political liberty is by and large a public good. You manufacture it, and everyone enjoys it. Thus everyone else has the incentive to get on with their lives while you slave away. Given that, it’s not surprising that libertarian movements (biased as they are towards individualists of various stripes) tend to quickly become self-parodies since the only people that stick around are the people who enjoy the movement for its own sake.

Now this isn’t all to say that voluntary collectivism and movements are all bad. For instance, you might say that a secretary for the local Catholic church is part of a collectivist organization (true) and that by stuffing envelopes with the church newsletter that she’s part of a movement (also true). But the difference is that the secretary has been offered a rational proposition: x$/hour for her services.

The FSP isn’t offering anyone anything I can see, except the ever-fading promise that they’ll somehow manufacture freedom. Except that me and everyone else that isn’t rushing to get on the bandwagon can just bide our time and wait for them to make liberty or not, and then move in next door to them. Or not.

How does the FSP intend to get around their public goods problem? Evidently by ignoring it.

23 thoughts on “Free State Project, Part II”

  1. It’s just stupid of you to bother posting about in the first place. So they are trying to do something to increse the liberty in their lives, and they just happen to be more active about it then you do. Why do you care either way? I say, good for them, because it’s definitely better than nothing.

    You just want to complain so you can hear yourself talk as far as I can tell.

  2. It’s just stupid of you to bother posting about in the first place.

    If it were really so stupid, then you’d refute me rather than bitch about what a meanie I am. So go ahead: see, now that I’ve challenged you, you could make me look foolish indeed with the airtight refutation you have prepared.

    Why do you care either way?

    I’d rather not see people joining political movements, so I give logical arguments against same.

    I say, good for them, because it’s definitely better than nothing.

    How so?

  3. If a political movement causes a net increase in liberty, why would that be bad exactly? Hate to break it to you but anarchy isn’t coming anytime soon. And it IS possible for a political movement to increase total liberty (say they vote down taxes).

  4. If a political movement causes a net increase in liberty, why would that be bad exactly?

    It wouldn’t. What does that have to do with the FSP’s public goods problem?

    And it IS possible for a political movement to increase total liberty (say they vote down taxes).

    Again, what does that have to do with the FSP’s public goods problem?

    Also, what makes you imply that the Free State Project is “better than nothing”? How much better?

  5. Also, what makes you imply that the Free State Project is “better than nothing”? How much better?

    One claim you could make is that 20,000 libertarians moving to NH will result in increases in liberty through less burdensome state regulations, like taxes. Then the benefit to you would come, presumably, through paying less in taxes. I infer from your remarks you don’t think this is a particularly likely outcome, and that’s fine, but your tone on these kinds of issues sometimes sound more like you think they will positively harm freedom, not merely waste people’s time. Is that what you think, or do you just enjoy posting about people wasting their time?

  6. One claim you could make is that 20,000 libertarians moving to NH will result in increases in liberty through less burdensome state regulations, like taxes.

    Maybe, if 20,000 really show up. Which they won’t. And if they aren’t met the next year by 40,000 new immigrants who want more social services. Which they might well be.

    Then the benefit to you would come, presumably, through paying less in taxes.

    A benefit I can aquire by jeering them on for now, and then moving to New Hampshire if they lower taxes for me. And there’s the public goods problem.

    …your tone on these kinds of issues sometimes sound more like you think they will positively harm freedom, not merely waste people’s time. Is that what you think, or do you just enjoy posting about people wasting their time?

    It’s pretty unlikely that they’ll do anything to harm my freedom. It’s plausible that they might create a backlash against themselves in NH, but even that probably wouldn’t accelerate socialism there to any degree. My question was directed at the implicit assumption that action, any action, is good. The guys running for office under the LP banner are “trying to do something”, too.

    Doesn’t mean that that’s the best course to take.

  7. >If a political movement causes a net increase
    >in liberty, why would that be bad exactly?

    If such were to ever actually occur, it would be the result of shear fluke during improbably circumstances — because it employs tools designed by, for and of evil.

    THAT is why you *will* fail.

  8. > Er, what do you mean by tools designed for evil?

    The political process — wherein your rights are up for the mob’s grabs. Whatever you think you could possibly ever win via such means can and are virtually guaranteed to be taken away again just as quickly.

    > Mike, you’re full of shit.

    Oh, no! I’ve been crushed by a pithy rejoinder….

    > The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

    *Laff*. Martin McPhillips, whom you may or may not know, once described the state of America as “It’s France here now.” Unfortunately, what constitutes an adequate definition of “France” is a construct accelerating toward totalitarianism.

    * * * *

    Everything I ever predicted is coming to pass; and it’s going to be very interesting to me to see which of you all are able to hack thick slices of reality in the days ahead.

  9. Lopez I didn’t say “any” action was good you goddamn idiot. You just want to bitch about anyone trying to make things a little bit better.

    Actually I believe you did:

    So they are trying to do something to increse the liberty in their lives, and they just happen to be more active about it then you do. Why do you care either way? I say, good for them, because it’s definitely better than nothing.

  10. > That post did nothing to defend your earlier comment.

    If you want to see a lot of defense, watch the Minnesota Vikings, or the French.

  11. Lopez I didn’t say “any” action was good you goddamn idiot.

    And I didn’t say you said that. I said that you implicitly assumed that. Like you do here:

    You just want to bitch about anyone trying to make things a little bit better.

    You’re implicitly assuming that anyone trying to make things a little bit better is doing a good thing.

    By the way, what does any of this have to do with the FSP’s public goods problem? See, that was the main point of the post that started this thread, and since you judge my pointing it out to be “stupid” (not “obvious” or “redundant”, note) you therefore must have some sort of refutation for me.

    Right?

    Except you don’t. Now insults and all are fine, I’m the last person to bitch about that. But after a couple of goes, you ought to produce some rational argumentation.

    So: why, specifically now, am I “stupid” to be pointing out the FSP’s public goods problem? Also, what makes you imply that the Free State Project is “better than nothing”? How much better?

  12. Mike,

    1. As for the efficacy of political activism: I recall you telling me that Meaghan had “built a little piece of freedom you can stand on”. Changed your mind about that?

    2. As for all your predictions coming true: Anyone can say their predictions are all *coming* true, meaning they haven’t all come true yet but that one still predicts they will. Are you still trading stocks? Infallible predictions are pretty valuable in markets.

    3. As for McPhillips on France: He was talking about the Clinton administration, not the team of Top Notch Talent(TM) that Bush has assembled. You’re citing the most effective advocate of statism that newsgroup produced.

  13. Lopez, obviously I can’t measure how much better it is, there aren’t any such units to do so. But at the very least I certainly don’t see how it can make things worse. All they’re doing is adding more libertarians to a state that is, relatively, the most libertarian there is.

    As for public goods, I wasn’t aware libertarians even believed in such things. Isn’t that statist jargon to excuse taxation? And even if they don’t exist, I think JTK has pointed out before that they aren’t a problem… who cares if you free ride? I don’t.

  14. > You’re citing the most effective advocate of statism that newsgroup produced.

    Kennedy attacks the messenger, but ignores the message.

    Interesting.

  15. I should have been more clear, the problem isn’t that Mike’s citing a statist, it’s that it’s a statist position. McPhillips didn’t really mean what Mike means.

    I did address the message by pointing out McP’s fondness for the current administration which is totally incompatible with what Mike is taking him to say.

  16. But at the very least I certainly don’t see how it can make things worse.

    Worse for whom? Because I think there’s a good case to be made that the FSP’ers are doing their own freedom a disservice.

    All they’re doing is adding more libertarians to a state that is, relatively, the most libertarian there is.

    You can measure the relative libertarian-ness of the states, but you can’t measure how good of a job the FSP is doing or is likely to do?

    As for public goods, I wasn’t aware libertarians even believed in such things. Isn’t that statist jargon to excuse taxation?

    No. Go read Tyler Cowen on the matter:

    Public goods have two distinct aspectsâ??”nonexcludability” and “nonrivalrous consumption.” Nonexcludability means that nonpayers cannot be excluded from the benefits of the good or service. If an entrepreneur stages a fireworks show, for example, people can watch the show from their windows or backyards. Because the entrepreneur cannot charge a fee for consumption, the fireworks show may go unproduced, even if demand for the show is strong.

    The second aspect of public goods is what economists call nonrivalrous consumption. Assume the entrepreneur manages to exclude noncontributors from watching the show (perhaps one can see the show only from a private field). A price will be charged for entrance to the field, and people who are unwilling to pay this price will be excluded. If the field is large enough, however, exclusion is inefficient because even nonpayers could watch the show without increasing the show’s cost or diminishing anyone else’s enjoyment. That is nonrivalrous competition to watch the show.

    And that pretty much describes political liberty in the US ca. 2005: nonexcludability and nonrivalrous consumption. The first of those is really the killer for the FSP. So now that you’re aware of the definition of a public good, why, specifically now, am I “stupid” to be pointing out the FSP’s public goods problem?

    And even if they don’t exist, I think JTK has pointed out before that they aren’t a problem… who cares if you free ride? I don’t.

    You mean if they do exist? The people who care (or at least ought to) are the people who are trying to entice others to join them in attempting to produce a public good, in this case the Free State Project. It’s a movement-killer scale of a problem, and the fact nobody in their movement has bothered to address it speaks volumes.

  17. Just because it’s nonexcludable doesn’t mean it can’t be good. Obviously the people running it don’t really care that it will benefit others for free, because they are benefitting themselves either way.

    If it kills the movement, so what? At least they tried something. Why is that better than not doing anything at all in this case? What are they doing to cause a disservice?

  18. Heretyk,

    Just because it’s nonexcludable doesn’t mean it can’t be good.

    Hence the term “public good”.

    Obviously the people running it don’t really care that it will benefit others for free, because they are benefitting themselves either way.

    And that’s my point: why should an individual join the FSP movement when they can sit by and wait for the FSP to produce liberty for them? What can the FSP offer someone that can’t be had without joining them?

    If it kills the movement, so what?

    That’s a pretty cavalier attitude for someone who supports this movement to take. I mean, you’re somewhat annoyed at me for pointing out problems with the FSP, but you shrug off a fatal flaw in their thinking with “So what?”.

    Isn’t a movement-destroying problem worth considering, rather than blowing off?

    At least they tried something. Why is that better than not doing anything at all in this case?

    That’s what I’m asking you.

    What are they doing to cause a disservice?

    Primary thing is that they’re placing a large amount of responsibility for their own freedom in the hands of people who have little-to-no incentive to manufacture it for them. That’s bad for a couple of reasons, one of course being that no freedom will be manufactured and two being that it isn’t good for individuals to surrender their course to a disinterested collective.

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