Thursday, December 4, 2008

What if the Libertarian revolution already happened?

Readers of this blog will know that the two of us are followers of the philosophy of Objectivism, which translates in most jurisdictions to Libertarianism as a political philosophy or party. The Freedom Party is, to my knowledge, the only political party explicitly based on Objectivist philosophy.

While Objectivists and Libertarians may feel frustrated by the tiny amount of electoral support they receive at election time and the scant amount of coverage they get when trying to present their ideas to a larger audience, it may well be that the time and effort has paid off after all, only in ways we may not have been expecting.

Reason Online has an excellent article "The Libertarian Moment" by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch. They argue that although "Progressiveism" may still be exerting its iron grip on the political culture, in the larger context, we the people have started to slip away in ever increasing numbers. Economic choice, the ability to voice ideas and find people of similar opinions, freedom to choose your lifestyle and the mobility of your labour and capital far exceed anything that was imagined even in the 1970's. The world is generally more peaceful and prosperous than at any other time in human history, and the State takes up a smaller proportion of the overall GDP than at almost any time in the past.

All this is in an almost equal part due to government action in the 1980's (particularly the Thatcher and Reagan Revolutions, but Canada's contribution was the Free Trade Agreement and later NAFTA), and the introduction of computers and high bandwidth personal communications (the Internet Revolution). Rolling back taxes and regulations unleashed the creative energies of the people, while high bandwidth communications allowed collaberation and interactions to a degree that was never seen before. It seems to me that each part was complimentary: free people without the ability to communicate widely would be limited to the human and economic resources that were close at hand, while unfettered communications would be useless without something to say. One could imagine the State using such a communications channel to spread propaganda and indoctrination, but experience has shown that people would rather talk about the things that interest them. In the West, the number of "Facebook" and "Myspace" users vastly outnumber the readers of ordinary blogs, while repressive regimes like the former USSR or modern China try to severely restrict access to the Internet (either directly by limiting access to personal computers as in the USSR, or through technology and intervention, like the co-opting of Google and the establishment of the "Great Firewall of China" in today's Middle Kingdom).

Although the State can still attempt to intervene, free people have far more tools and options today than ever to fight back. Canada's "Human Rights" Star Chambers were able to operate with impunity for decades until they were overwhelmed by swarms of bloggers, even attempts to crush bloggers activity through SLAPP lawsuits is being countered through the ease which bloggers can raise funds through the Internet using Paypal to hire lawyers, and physical protection can be achieved by moving the server to foreign jurisdictions beyond the reach of State censors (Free Dominion may have pioneered this by moving to a host site in Panama).

I will let the authors finish with two paragraphs from the article:

We are in fact living at the cusp of what should be called the Libertarian Moment, the dawning not of some fabled, clich├ęd, and loosey-goosey Age of Aquarius but a time of increasingly hyper-individualized, hyper-expanded choice over every aspect of our lives, from 401(k)s to hot and cold running coffee drinks, from life-saving pharmaceuticals to online dating services. This is now a world where it’s more possible than ever to live your life on your own terms; it’s an early rough draft version of the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick’s glimmering “utopia of utopias.” Due to exponential advances in technology, broad-based increases in wealth, the ongoing networking of the world via trade and culture, and the decline of both state and private institutions of repression, never before has it been easier for more individuals to chart their own course and steer their lives by the stars as they see the sky. If you don’t believe it, ask your gay friends, or simply look who’s running for the White House in 2008.


The generation raised on the Internet has essentially been raised libertarian, even if they’ve never even heard of the word. Native netizens now entering college exhibit a kind of broad-based tolerance toward every manner of ethnic, religious, and sexual-orientation grouping in a way that would have seemed like science fiction just a generation ago. The products and activities they enjoy and co-opt most, from filesharing to flying discount airlines to facebooking, are excrescences of the free-market ideas of deregulation and decontrol. Generations X, Y, and those even younger swim in markets—that is, in choices among competing alternatives—the way those of us who grew up in the ’70s frolicked on Slip ’n Slides.

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