Exit, Not Arguments

I find many valuable insights in James Buchanan’s essay The Soul of Classical Liberalism, but I was particularly struck by a point that Buchanan only touches upon tangentially:

Much has been made of the American spirit or soul as influenced by the availability of the territorial frontier during the first century of the United States’ historical experience. Why was the frontier important? The proper economic interpretation of frontier lies in its guarantee of an exit option, the presence of which dramatically limits the potential for interpersonal exploitation. There has been a general failure to recognize that the effectively operating market order acts in precisely the same way as the frontier; it offers each participant exit options in each relationship.

The rational evangelists of libertarianism think we need to argue better, but it’s really exit that makes liberty possible, and exit is not an argument. Libertarians need better exits, not better arguments. They need to see markets as the solution rather than the goal.

3 thoughts on “Exit, Not Arguments”

  1. Exits are actively barred and it is one of libertarianism’s key goals to unblock these exits, namely to make secession right down to the individual legal and viewed moral once again

  2. I think it’s more important to make exits inexpensive, even profitable, than it is to worry about general views. The general view is that the income tax is justified, but a safe inexpensive exit from the income tax would be used by an overwhelming number of Americans, regardless of their previous views on the tax’s justification.

  3. > … a safe inexpensive exit from the income tax would be used by an overwhelming number of Americans …

    Likewise, most an-caps continue to pay taxes. We can assume that they’ve accepted the best arguments that exist, so what has that bought them in terms of freedom? Not a whole lot, at best they’ve gotten to the point where they have a slightly better chance to manufacture or find solutions to the freedom problem for themselves.

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