Friday, December 3, 2010

Creating and Developing Libertarian Communities

My mind is really swimming after reading the second article in Issue 10 which is on the topic of utopian communities. In this article, Wendy McElroy points out that there was quite a bit of experimentation with the creation and development of utopian communities in the nineteenth century, although very few were libertarian in nature. Wendy analyzes these communities from various standpoints and ponders the reasons for failure and success.

As I read this piece, I thought about the Free State Project (FSP). Like the people who formed communities in the nineteenth century, it certainly makes sense that people who ascribe to certain philosophies do not just want to do it in the abstract; they also want the chance to actually live in a place that values the philosophy.

I have always been fairly neutral about the project. I have not seriously considered moving there but that’s partly because I came to all of these realizations a bit later in life, after I was already very settled where I am. But I can certainly see it appealing to those who come to understand the ideas of liberty for those who are younger or less settled. I don’t know if such an idea can work but this project may be the best experiment we have going right now in order to find out.

One thing that’s always bothered me about these communities is that it seems to validate the “love it or leave it” argument and the whole idea of territorial sovereignty. Even if you set up a community that is based on individual private property, doesn’t the community at large still need to have some control over a certain bordered area in order to protect against those who don’t hold similar views?

Isn’t that what’s happening right now with the FSP, that the libertarians moving in do not necessarily hold the same philosophies as some who already live in New Hampshire? Isn’t it possible that some NH residents feel like they are being “invaded?” Wouldn’t the same thing happen if a libertarian community if people of a different mindset moved into their area?

Part of the reason communities like these are formed is because these people are in the minority of the population around them. So they need to isolate themselves if they want to live by different guidelines. That may be impossible to do today. As Wendy says,

Until it is possible to construct a society in space, perhaps it will be impossible to achieve what many Utopian planners considered a prerequisite for success — namely, isolation. Isolation is necessary because those who set up a radically different society are always in the minority. If they were in the majority, they could simply stay and change the society around them. We live in a society that worships the state as a creator (of money, of jobs, of education, of civilized man). Anarchists who deny its authority are in a position similar to atheists who deny God. This is dangerous, for society may laugh at eccentrics, but it executes heretics.

Sometimes it just feels like Zach Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman.

This may mean that even the FSP is doomed and yet, when I read Wendy’s comments about atheists, I can see that even in the span of the 26 years since she wrote this, that the ideas of atheism have grown tremendously. It’s a major part of today’s religious discussions and more and more people are becoming unafraid to speak up about it.

I don’t know exactly what I would pin that on, but it could be due to technology which has exposed more people to the ideas and has also connected people so that they don’t feel so isolated, which ironically is the opposite of what we’re saying about setting up these communities.

But then again, atheism can easily exist in a statist society.

I don’t know. Does the idea of setting up libertarian communities just fall into that category where one will be successful when the world is ready, which means that the community as an isolated entity won’t be necessary?

The idea of private property does seem to be the most important aspect of either developing one of the communities or having society as a whole naturally move to the ideas of these communities. But then that gets me thinking about all the sticky conundrums concerning property ownership as it relates specifically to land.

There is no perfect society because there is no perfect human so I guess the best most of us can do is try to live our values the best we can wherever we may be in the world.

Image Courtesy Wikimedia


MamaLiberty said...

“Any old curmudgeon who wanted to continue operating on his old time had the right to do so. He might miss his train or be late for the movies, but no one would throw him in jail for refusing to live by standard railroad time. The fact that the large number of people living around him operated on standard time would be the strongest inducement possible for him to change his habits. Public opinion has the power to change behavior and influence our activities in ways that legislation and government cannot touch. Peaceful, evolutionary change based on the voluntary principle is the voluntaryist way, not the resort to either bullets or ballots. Thus, this history of standard time proves that voluntary social movements can achieve important and long lasting improvements without resorting to governments or coercion.”

This is the secret to all free society. Voluntary association and participation. Only aggression toward others would be of any real importance, and that would most likely be dealt with by the intended victim or their guardians.

Utopia is not an option. The voluntary society will always have disagreements and many with different points of view. If all mind their own business and attack nobody, they can get along just fine.

When the FSP formed, many of us who had no intention of ever living in New Hampshire joined the Free State Wyoming project instead.

We are not trying to "take over" in any way. We are here to build a free society and be good neighbors to all of those peaceful and self reliant folks around us.

We're doing just fine.

Debbie H. said...

You know, mama, I've never really checked out the Wyoming FSP. I don't hear much about it, but I'm glad it's going well. Is Wyoming warmer than New Hampshire? :)

Also, you said this: "Only aggression toward others would be of any real importance, and that would most likely be dealt with by the intended victim or their guardians."

I completely agree with this, but what I'm wondering about is whether, over time, new generations or new people would have different views and start justifying aggression on certain problems, such as charity needed for those who truly can't care for themselves. (This is a point Wendy brings up in the article as something to be mindful of.)

Scott said...

I had never heard of the Wyoming Free State Project. Interesting.

I think these attempts to build libertarian communities can't hurt anything, but I am not optimistic that they will accomplish much, either, because for every libertarian who moves to Wyoming or New Hampshire there are more non-libertarians moving there. I wish them luck, though.

Even if one entire state could become more or less libertarian, I don't see how a libertarian state could survive under an extremely authoritarian federal government. And, unfortunately, we seem to be experiencing the birth of just that in this country. I hope I'm wrong.

Joe said...

Debbie, are you aware of the Big Head Press "Escape from Terra" comic strip? Although fictional, it's an interesting take on a voluntary society.

For a long excursion into a possibly more realistic future, see Roderick Long's Dismantling Leviathan From Within. It's dated, and the Czech "Miracle" didn't go too well, but I think it's well thought out.

And for yet another project, see The Seasteading Institute.

Debbie H. said...

Joe, I had not heard of that comic strip so thanks for the link.