Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police.

3/08/2005

A question for my libertarian friends

Libertarians are odd ducks. They believe that all but the most minimal authority on the part of the government is illicit. However, at the same time they believe that companies/employers should be able to more or less place whatever restrictions they like on those who work for them. This is because they believe in property rights, which leads them to believe lots of wacky things: that restaurants should be able to discriminate against minorities, for example.

(This reverence for property rights also leads them to believe some not-so-entirely-wacky things, such as: ordinances that ban smoking in restaurants are overstepping the bounds of the government.)

In general, libertarians hold that any private, non-governmental entity or organization can pretty much do as it sees fit, so long as it is not actively infringing upon the rights of others. The government, however, cannot simply do as it likes, because it uses coercion to force everyone to obey, thus violating their right to freedom and self-determination. So the government, as it is now, is at least to a large extent illegitimate.

So far so good?

I want to create a little thought experiment.

Let's suppose that the Libertarian Party wins a string of elections in the U.S., and the libertarian idea of utopia becomes a reality--that is, the U.S. operates by libertarian principles: a bare-bones government; no drug laws; no workplace or environmental regulations; no taxes that aren't absolutely necessary; no safety nets; no redistributive schemes; no paternalistic laws; minimal regulation of corporate behavior; and so on.

Now: let's say my blog continues to chug along throughout all of this, and let's say I have a core of about a thousand people who read this blog regularly, several times a day, even. Really, they are quite enamored of me; they view me as their ideological leader, and would do just about anything I asked them to, because they love me so much.

(Remember, this is a hypothetical.)

One day, I post a blog entry announcing that I have bought a considerable amount of land in Wyoming (made possible by the generous donations of my followers), and that I am moving there in order to start my own mini-society, or commune. So I won't be able to blog anymore. But the good news is: all of you can come with me! That's right--anyone who wants to can come and be part of my community. We will call it: Dadaland.

Now, once we get there, I will make some requests of you. I will ask that you do your fair share of work, that you provide assistance to the other Dadalanders, etc. These requests will be reasonable, but I expect them to be followed. If you do not think you can do this, or do not want to, no hard feelings, but Dadaland is not for you.

*****

Several hundred of my followers take me up on the offer, and we all move out to Wyoming. Our little society evolves; over time, I allow the other Dadalanders some say in what goes on there, and we manage to reach a consensus on most issues, sometimes finding it necessary to regulate behavior in certain ways, sometimes finding it prudent to impose certain responsibilities on certain individuals.

After a bit of time, we develop a system in which no one is allowed to hoard more than he needs; individuals are not allowed to conspire to manipulate other Dadalanders into parting with their belongings; a general tax is levied so that no Dadalander has to go without the essentials, etc. etc.

A few people have been unhappy with the way we run the community, and so have left it, but for the most part, we are content.

*****

I suppose it's obvious enough where I'm going with this. My question to my libertarian friends--and I'm genuinely asking, not snarking--is twofold:

1. Would you have any objection to I, and the other Dadalanders, conducting ourselves in the manner described above? That is, in establishing our small community, have we violated anyone's rights or in any way trespassed such that even a libertarian would say we have acted unlawfully? Keep in mind that we forced no one to join us, and we force no one to stay with us.

2. If not, then how is Dadaland relevantly different than the U.S.? That is, why is it okay for Dadalanders to dictate that everyone must share, and look out for one another, etc., but not for the U.S. government to create programs like welfare, or Social Security, or to regulate business?


It seems like if this puzzle is not properly addressed, libertarianism will end up being a self-defeating theory, facilitating exactly the circumstances it seeks to do away with.

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