Based on the second paragraph in this article, I believe the timing of this article directly relates to the 1984 presidential election. The Libertarian Party’s presidential vote totals plummeted from the previous election, so I’m sure the Voluntaryists hoped that this experience would lead libertarians to learn from this and take a closer look at non-political action.
So, Smith takes this opportunity to try and reach political libertarians by applying the theories and insights of free market economics to political action.
If you recall, Smith previously went into painstaking detail to give us an institutional analysis of the state in order to explain Voluntaryist principles. He believes this institutional analysis is vital to understanding why it makes no sense to use political action, because the state is “invasive per se.”
Smith shows us that political libertarians already clearly understand and use institutional analysis when it comes to economics and then makes this point:
"From our theory of the market there emerges a "strategy" of what to do. We respect justice in property titles and leave the market alone. Our theory "predicts" that this strategy will produce optimal results, but it cannot tell us precisely what these results will be. "Optimal," in this context, is a relative term. It means that the results of nonintervention will be better than any other alternative."
George wants us to see that this is the same thought process Voluntaryists use when analyzing the state itself. As a matter of fact, I could change a few words in the above paragraph to demonstrate this:
From our theory of the non-aggression principle there emerges a "strategy" of what to do. We respect peaceful voluntary interactions and leave individuals alone. Our theory "predicts" that this strategy will produce optimal results, but it cannot tell us precisely what these results will be. "Optimal," in this context, is a relative term. It means that the results of nonintervention will be better than any other alternative.
Although George warns that economic theory and strategic theory differ in some ways, there is an important lesson:
When developing "strategy" which involves complex institutions (the market in one case, the State in the other case), libertarians should ground their policy recommendations in theoretical insights concerning the relevant characteristics of the institution(s) involved.
This proposition seems uncontroversial in economics. Why it is ignored by political anarchists when it comes to strategy remains a mystery, at least to me.
It does seem like a mystery to me, but as I wrote this I started to wonder how much it has to do with how political anarchists apply the specific theory of unintended consequences.
See, at some point, all political libertarians came to understand how intervention in the free market creates negative unintended consequences.
Then some go on to consistently apply this same theory across the board and come to understand how government intervention in all aspects of our lives creates negative unintended consequences. They become political anarchists.
But there is one more application of the unintended consequence theory that they seem to ignore at this point, which is to apply this theory directly to their own behavior and actions.
I know that once I did, I reached the same conclusions as when I applied it in the first two instances. I came to understand how my political involvement was only helping to create the unintended consequence of adding legitimacy to the state.
So if political anarchists could just take one more step in the consistent application of the unintended consequence theory and analyze the consequences of their own actions, will they then begin to see the futility and danger in participating in politics?