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It doesn't matter which direction you walk as long as you walk far enough [Dec. 6th, 2012|10:51 pm]

I have finished the second version of the Non-Libertarian FAQ; it just needs some final HTMLing before it goes up. It is sixty pages long, addresses over a hundred questions, and I am pretty proud of it. There's just one teensy little problem, which is that I'm no longer sure I'm a non-libertarian anymore.

I'll still post the FAQ, of course. It was never aimed at smart libertarians anyway, just as a way to knock down trolls who have read too much Lew Rockwell and too little anything else. Its points still mostly stand. And I'm not sure I would specifically self-identify as a libertarian either. I seem to have several political philosophies at several different levels - how to win political debates at dinner parties, how to vote in the average American election, how to shift the long-term course of the country, how to design a utopia ex nihilo. These all seem like very different questions and the answers to some might be diametrically opposite to others.

But one thing in the last comment thread on libertarianism impressed me and may have shifted me away from non-libertarianism irreversibly. And (as tends to happen with me) it was actually reading a comment against libertarianism that did it for me. This is from deiseach:
Also, the idea of the maverick coming in and tearing up the rule book and saving the day with his or her bold new thinking outside the box of the stuffy bureaucrats is great in the movies, but in real life - it doesn't work like that.

I don't know if it's the same in America, but here in Ireland I can tell you one reason why the principle of "cover your ass" is implemented: because politicians love to make campaign promises of cutting public spending, reducing waste and inefficiency in the public service, and saving taxpayers' money. And the public loves those promises, because who wants to pay more tax?

Which means that the civil service and local government gets entangled in rules and limitations about what they can spend, how they can spend it, when they can spend it, and on what they can spend it. Which means that if you can't account down to the last fifty cents on the invoices to the auditors who arrive in every year to examine the accounts, you are in genuine trouble. I did an evening course in computerised accounts to upskill last year, and most of those on the course were all in local government/town council work. One of the students told the course tutor that she had trouble reconciling her accounts - she was out something around €5,000.

The tutor, who came from private industry, told her not to worry, that this was within acceptable limits for business. The rest of the class laughed hollowly and explained to him that, if we were out €5 on accounts in the public service, the auditors would haul us over the coals. He was astonished that we had so little autonomy, but that's what happens when the decisions have to be kicked upstairs to the Minister because every penny has to be accounted for, because it's cheap and easy PR for a government representative to raise a question about public spending in parliament to make it sound to his constituents as if he's a watchdog on the spending of the taxes.

This resonated with me because it was part of the reason I find libertarians actively dangerous. I didn't view libertarianism as dangerous because it would create a small government and that would be bad - libertarians have never been remotely successful in creating a small government, and if they did maybe that would be good.

The problem with libertarians is that they don't make government smaller, they just make it more defensive.

Accuse government officials of bias and corruption, point to their lack of documentation as proof of their guilt, then accuse them of being paper-pushing bureaucrats who prefer forms to efficiency when they start obsessively documenting everything they do. Make the police fill out endless forms before going to catch a criminal because the criminal's rights might be violated; then when the police have to break the rules in order to keep order, say that their dishonest ways prove they need more limitations and surveillance. Take a research agency, cut the funding it needs to do good research because it's a parasitic leech and the government just wastes all its money anyway, and then when it can't do good research with the remainder, pat yourself on the back for predicting its inevitable failure. Criticize every single government decision for nepotism or racism or idiocy, then when the government switches to doing everything according to a single standard procedure in some manual, accuse them of being inhuman and unable to react to changes in the situation.

And these are serious problems. But what that comment threw into relief for me was that I'm objecting to regulation - in this case, regulation of the government. The more regulation you throw into anything, whether it's government or the private sector, the less well it works. For some reason I had correctly observed all the problems with forcing government to conform to horrible little rules in order to satisfy every single moralistic whiner with a soapbox, but failed to make that observation symmetrical with the problems of forcing everyone else to do so via the government.

This illuminated an issue I'd been wondering about for a long time, which is: why is Moldbug so popular among libertarians? It would seem that the two groups couldn't possibly be more different: Moldbug's neocameralism basically extolls the virtue of unchecked authoritarian dictatorship, and libertarian is, well, different than that. But they both share an important virtue, which is that actors are allowed to do their thing without interference. In neocameralism, the actor that doesn't get interfered with is the government; in libertarianism, it's the market. In democracy, people are interfering with both government and market and we end up with the worst of both worlds.

So I think I might just be an extremist. Either shut up about government and let it do its thing, or destroy it entirely. Either extreme is good as long as you don't choose the middle.

I'm working on a sort of political manifesto where I try to explain this in greater depth, and after which it might even make sense. But that's more of a "someday" project than a next week project. In the meantime, I'll try to have the new Non-Libertarian FAQ available soon.

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