L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 305, February 6, 2005
"An Unhealthy Obsession"
Multiple Choice Government
Exclusive to TLE
For years, minarchists and anarchists have united politically as Libertarians against their common enemy, an out-of-control national government. Those who believe a limited government is a necessary evil, and those who believe any monopoly government is inherently evil, have banded together in calling for the restoration of the American Republic described in the Constitution, an obvious improvement over the present regime in Washington. Yet with 99.6% of the electorate continuing to vote against us, even when our candidate is far more principled and articulate than their candidates, perhaps it's time for a new strategya strategy I'll call multarchy.
Libertarians face many electoral hurdles, including the so-called wasted vote syndrome, severely limited funds, and neglect by the national media, but our biggest electoral hurdle may be the simple fact that the great majority of voters don't want to be ruled by Libertariansthey think we're nuts. Any winning strategy would have to deal with this fact, at least until many more people accept the libertarian philosophy. In the meantime, how can we win more freedom for ourselves, without imposing freedom (the horror) on everyone else who doesn't want it?
The answer isn't a more moderate platform (it could never be moderate enough to win over Red and Blue voters, while remaining libertarian), or a more radical platform (it already scares them plenty). The answer might just be in playing the Red voters off against the Blue voters. The Reds and the Blues don't want to be ruled by Libertarians, but they don't want to be ruled by each other, either. Libertarians should continue to educate and persuade everyone about the benefits of smaller government and the morality of the Zero Aggression Principle, but what if we also began making concrete proposals to allow everyone to live under the government of their choice?
Some would-be tyrants in the Red and Blue parties might not want to relinquish the chance to rule over the losing side every four years, but I suspect that most Americans would prefer an end to the partisan bickering, and welcome the opportunity to live under the government of their choice. They might not want to give up the supposed security of a large government, but they might be willing to allow others to choose their own style of government, if they were given the same option. Imagine the voter turnout if every vote really did matter, and voters were choosing their own government, rather than casting one meaningless vote out of millions?
How could it ever work? A few simple rules would cover most situations. No government could assault the person or seize the property of anyone belonging to a different government, except in retaliation for a prior attack or theft by that individual. Crimes would be investigated in the jurisdiction of the victim. Activities now called victimless crimes would not be subject to prosecution, unless the individual performing such an activity belonged to a government stipulating its illegality. Civil disputes between individuals belonging to different governments could be resolved in a mutually acceptable neutral court. More complicated situations might be covered by inter-governmental treaties or agreements.
If Americans have the technology and the organizational systems to support dozens of large banks, credit card issuers, and insurance companies, each with millions of customers, how difficult would it really be to manage a system with four or five national governments? You might get to choose between Red (Republican), Blue (Democrat), Green (uh, Green), Gold (Libertarian), or Gray (somewhere in between).
You would even get the chance to change your mind every two years, if you realized you had made a mistake and inadvertently joined a government that did something stupid, like letting a simple majority set the maximum rate of taxation, for instance. (Large companies call this "open enrollment" when they offer choices in their employee benefit plans.) Such a system could allow for a choice of "None of the Above," and stipulate that unaffiliated individuals be left alone, if they respect the person and property of individuals belonging to any of the available governments.
The biggest problem with our current government isn't its size, it's the degree to which it has succeeded in persuading people that it has a monopoly on the use of force and the provision of government services. Any monopoly government with democratic elections, no matter how limited by a written constitution, will only stay as limited as the voters want it to. Most Americans still want big government, unfortunately, and will continue to resist calls for demolishing major portions of it. But they might welcome a creative alternative to the present winner-take-all power struggle between the Red and Blue factions. And that might be just what's needed for real liberty to be established in America, at least for those who choose it.
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