Thursday, March 19, 2015

libertarian countries?

A few days ago MR addressed an interesting question that I have a great deal of personal interest in: for which country should you vote with your feet if you're libertarian (or social conservative or progressive, but I have less interest in those.) My guess is the United States but with the desperate hope that I'm wrong. Unfortunately, Tyler answers the same.

I could rant in depth about the sadness of this truth, but what really intrigued me about this post was the plethora of comments suggesting alternative answers like Singapore where government spending is only around 15% of GDP*. I don't understand use of government spending as a percentage of GDP as a proxy for libertarianism, at all.

Yes, taxation is the government exercising its monopoly on theft, yadda yadda yadda, but I see that as a necessary evil. I don't feel like my freedoms are being fundamentally violated when the price of doing something is manipulated a bit. I do feel like my freedoms are being fundamentally violated when every 5 minutes I run into another government regulation. Clearly Singapore is very very bad on this dimension, so even if taxes are low, I would rank it very low as a libertarian paradise.

There are two types of laws that I think should be avoided as much as is practically feasible. 1) Nanny laws and 2) preventative laws. Nanny laws are those that try to prevent people from hurting themselves. Preventative laws are laws that make things illegal that might lead to negative externalities if done carelessly or wrong, rather than only making the externality itself illegal. Like, banning dogs in a national park because some people might let their pets attack koalas. I realize that it's often not feasible to rely on only the harm itself being illegal, but regulation in Australia (and the U.S., but less so) is so far from that grey area it's flat out ridiculous.**

So, if my criterion for libertarianism is a commitment to avoid these sorts of regulations, is the US still the answer to the question? Please tell me it's not!

To be clear, snarky answers like "move to Somalia" are not wise enough to be wise-ass. Obviously what I'm looking for is a government of a stable, developed country that chooses to make respect for these freedoms a priority. So underdeveloped countries where the government is entirely preoccupied with more urgent material issues don't count if there's no way of knowing whether they'll adopt a more Norwegian or Texan*** approach as soon as everything else is under control.

~~~

*For comparison, the US is over 40% and France is over 55%. Insanity...

**In a cafe a few days ago, I saw a sign on an outlet stating that due to workplace safety regulations, the outlet was not available to customers. My hope when I moved here is that a country this large with so few people must not have too many reasons to regulate every step you take, but based on the nanny state's extent they seem to be expecting half of China to immigrate here soon.

***And yes I'd love to move to a state similar to Texas in this regard, but that set doesn't overlap Matt's acceptable set.

4 comments:

John Gleason said...

I spend the better part of 1988 in Somalia. Of course, it was the model of a post apocalyptic mess; but on any number of occasions I was so struck by the beauty of the place and the potential. I mean, at the very least, look at all of that beach front!!!! Somalia could definitely benefit from an infusion of Libertarianism. I don't know how you ever unravel the big government mess that's been created in the US and is perpetuated by every politician elected on the promise of reducing size and scope of government. The US had the wrong mission in mind when it established the Axis of Evil (I am referring to "spreading democracy"). Oh, if they'd have only set out to establish Freedom.

Anonymous said...

I read the article as it somehow popped up on my Fuckbook page. I am not blessed with intelligence, knowledge, or the writing skills of this author. The philosophy expressed as to what governments role in our daily life should be, is mine to a tee. When this author finds nirvana, I want to receive notification in the hope that there might actually be room for me and any part of family that is courageous enough to escape the USA to move to nirvana with me.

Who would have believed that after gods term ran out and mayor bloomy could no longer “serve” the city by telling us what not to drink, how many stairs to climb daily, and what size my penis should be, that I would actually miss him. Upon gods retirements we elected in his place the dumb, ugly, crackpot younger brother of John Lennon. He gets to tell me "I am an unsafe driver at anything more than 25MPH," that working too many hours is bad for me, and that I should have a garbage barge sitting off the coast of Manhattan. (I thought the East River was a garbage barge but whatever) (All while bankrupting the city so we should soon all be homeless)

On a federal level we have Adolf Obama telling us it is a crime not to purchase Obamacare and that voting should be mandatory. For “NSA reasons” the USA government records every piss we take and how good we are at it, and how often we do the dance with no pants. (have coitus…)

Land of the free??? Seriously??? home of the brave???

Every day I wake in shock that we in NYC by a landslide elected pee wee Herman as Mayor, and that we in the USA elected this traitor dick-tator as president!

Twice!

Yikes!

Muppet said...

This isn't just theoretical for me... I've been spending a few months/year in Cambodia for the last seven years and recently I've been spending more time there. Six months last year and another six months planned later this year. It's not the only viable destination, but it's a good one because they like foreigners.

I call this strategy "tin pot freedom". Places like Cambodia do have plenty of rules, but they're just not relevant most of the time. If you get too rich then you'll need to pay bigger bribes, follow the rules, or be careful... but for most people doing most things you can just live.

Just. Live. It's beautiful.

Also, while it's just a piece of paper with no more importance than the rest of their ignored laws, Cambodia actually does have a constitution that says the country must have a free market. It's a nice touch.

While Cambodian (and other tin-pot options like Tajikistan, Nepal, Egypt, etc) have all the luxuries I want, and at a much lower price, if you insist on a developed country then my pick is Switzerland. The diversity allowable under their canton system is worth a lot in my books. It's pretty too.

Vera L. te Velde said...

Sounds amazing; I hope I get to visit there soon. I'll be really curious to see how this facet evolves as the country develops further; it's a great sign that the constitution has that bit :) My requirement that the country is developed actually has nothing to do with access to luxuries but purely about uncertainty; I expect that all those rules will be more strictly enforced over time. I use "developed" as a proxy term for "well-established and enforced laws".

Yeah Switzerland definitely has the right idea about most things it seems like. But in practice it's so culturally homogeneous I don't think I'd like it. But I've never actually been there... visiting in May, we'll see :)