9 votes

A libertarian walks into a bear: The utopian plot to liberate an American town (and some bears)

23 comments

  1. mat
    Link
    The "libertarian town" project goes the way these things always do, but this time there are bears!

    The "libertarian town" project goes the way these things always do, but this time there are bears!

    2 votes
  2. [13]
    ohyran
    (edited )
    Link
    Ooooooh ok I am halfway through the text and is it wrong that I want to move to that town? (wanted to comment before coming to the end bits). Also will have to ask my library to order the book...

    Ooooooh ok I am halfway through the text and is it wrong that I want to move to that town? (wanted to comment before coming to the end bits).
    Also will have to ask my library to order the book because it seems brilliant fun.

    EDIT: May need to bring bear repellant...

    1. [12]
      mat
      Link Parent
      You want to move there in a sort of car crash way, to watch them tear themselves apart (metaphorically, and literally by bears), or you genuinely think that libertarianism can work? The way these...

      You want to move there in a sort of car crash way, to watch them tear themselves apart (metaphorically, and literally by bears), or you genuinely think that libertarianism can work?

      The way these projects consistently fail every time does suggest the latter is not the case.

      4 votes
      1. [11]
        ohyran
        Link Parent
        Well... so I guess part car crash, part interest in how these things play out and the interplay between ideals and reality and what happens when utopian needs meet needs created by, in this case...

        Well... so I guess part car crash, part interest in how these things play out and the interplay between ideals and reality and what happens when utopian needs meet needs created by, in this case animals.

        As for libertarianism, I think it works - depending on what "works" mean. Feudalism works, its just that "works" might be slightly different from the vantage point of say a lord and a serf. Capitalism and representative democracy is awesome and works great... depending on if your born in to homelessness or the upper class. If you're represented or rejected.
        I think any utopia is a moonshot, but its a relevant moonshot. Its also the rejection of the notion that we are powerless and need to either die or accept whatever is currently allowed us. Sure it sounds ridiculous (most if not all), the people drawn to things like this tend to be not fully functioning otherwise and sometimes you can see the end easily and its not pretty. But its existence is a flag. It's basically a statement that there is constant change, that there is nothing thats sacred in terms of societies and just because option A is the only accepted one, it doesn't mean option B is gone.

        Aaaaand I have an intense love for other Freaks and Castaways - and a group of libertarians realizing that their actions impact everyone else even if that was not their explicit intent and no matter what their ideological motivations where is just (like handing out high fructuse snacks to bears)... ooof. Chef kiss.

        EDIT: also "libertarianism" depending on how you see it, we kinda live it now. Or rather Jeff Bezos is, we're just surviving it. Or perhaps that is the equivalent of someone calling liberalism "socialism"?

        1. [10]
          mat
          Link Parent
          I would define "works" as "allows for a modern, civilised society where the roads are well maintained, crime is controlled, unfortunate citizens are helped back on their feet and people aren't...

          I would define "works" as "allows for a modern, civilised society where the roads are well maintained, crime is controlled, unfortunate citizens are helped back on their feet and people aren't being constantly attacked by bears"

          And by that definition, libertarianism never works. With the occasional exception of the bear part.

          I don't disagree that there are other ways to run societies than however things are being done where you live or where I am, and I do think it's important to try new ideas: there are plenty of examples of different approaches around the world, all working to various degrees and for various definitions of working. It's just the libertarianism has been repeatedly shown to not be one of the workable methods. Every single time someone does a project like this it ends this way. Although usually with fewer bears.

          3 votes
          1. [9]
            ohyran
            Link Parent
            But then... which societies do not have potholed streets (also "roads" btw?), people living in eternal misery, crime is ever lasting and some even have bears (I mean the last one is fairly...

            But then... which societies do not have potholed streets (also "roads" btw?), people living in eternal misery, crime is ever lasting and some even have bears (I mean the last one is fairly unique).

            Plus, "libertarianism", "socialism", "liberalism" all of these are filled with vagueness that never really pan out, or sometimes do because of unique set-up details.
            I think everything is a step. There are only utopias, but each utopia has to collapse - its just a matter of how long they have and what collapses first, the society or its original values.
            I mean take socialdemocracy, we had that for a long while and many might claim we still have it where I live... but really it collapsed decades ago and before that it wasn't all that for everyone either. That's not saying its "the worst" (tm) or "bad" or whatever - it just didn't pan out. It ended, it collapsed. But it didn't make it meaningless.

            3 votes
            1. [8]
              mat
              Link Parent
              Not all roads (why is that a "?" btw?) are perfect like not all societies are. I'm not saying there is a perfect system. But what I am saying is when you look at the evidence of trying various...

              Not all roads (why is that a "?" btw?) are perfect like not all societies are. I'm not saying there is a perfect system.

              But what I am saying is when you look at the evidence of trying various systems, libertarianism consistently fails. It's a nice idea, sort of. Let people just be nice and everyone will act responsibly and get things done. It's so naive, it's almost child-like. Works in very small, low-civ, low-external contact societies - after all, that's how humans used to live. "Ungoverned" is fine when your infrastructure consists of a handful mud huts and roughly cleared tracks, where everyone has to work together or will probably die - and the best anyone can hope for is a slightly bigger mud hut. There are still century-long stable societies like that around today and I'm not for a moment saying they're bad in and of themselves. It's not at all uncompelling to just fuck it all off and live with 50 other people, mostly family, in a forest clearing, and I think that's an entirely valid life to life. But every time modernity intrudes these societies fall apart. Which is likely because modern societies simply can't function that way. Complexity requires structure, like how I can't build a mud skyscraper.

              And yes, I agree everything is just steps towards being better. But when people take a step in a libertarian direction and immediately fall on their faces every single time, that would suggest maybe it's the wrong direction. It's OK for some ideas to just be wrong. Libertarianism is one of those ideas, that's all.

              3 votes
              1. [2]
                Icarus
                Link Parent
                You may be interested in Dunbar's number

                Works in very small, low-civ, low-external contact societies - after all, that's how humans used to live. "Ungoverned" is fine when your infrastructure consists of a handful mud huts and roughly cleared tracks, where everyone has to work together or will probably die - and the best anyone can hope for is a slightly bigger mud hut.

                You may be interested in Dunbar's number

                Dunbar's number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships—relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person.[1][2] This number was first proposed in the 1990s by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size.[3] By using the average human brain size and extrapolating from the results of primates, he proposed that humans can comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships.[4] Dunbar explained it informally as "the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar."[5]

                Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. It has been proposed to lie between 100 and 250, with a commonly used value of 150.[6][7] Dunbar's number states the number of people one knows and keeps social contact with, and it does not include the number of people known personally with a ceased social relationship, nor people just generally known with a lack of persistent social relationship, a number which might be much higher and likely depends on long-term memory size.

                1 vote
                1. mat
                  Link Parent
                  I am very interested in Dunbar's number although I tend to think it's a bit on the low side. My feeling is that Bernard–Killworth have it more right, they are in the 230-ish area. You may be...

                  I am very interested in Dunbar's number although I tend to think it's a bit on the low side. My feeling is that Bernard–Killworth have it more right, they are in the 230-ish area.

                  You may be interested in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men, in which he comes up with Dunbar's 150-ish number a few hundred years before Dunbar :)

                  2 votes
              2. [5]
                ohyran
                Link Parent
                No it was just an odd thing to put in there as examples of a working society that's all :) Well we have to agree to disagree a tad here and I think we're sort of talking around each other. (this...

                No it was just an odd thing to put in there as examples of a working society that's all :)

                Well we have to agree to disagree a tad here and I think we're sort of talking around each other. (this is why I want to force everyone to live close to me so we could sit down over a beer and talk instead of via text posts, sadly no one has moved here yet :/ )

                1. [4]
                  mat
                  Link Parent
                  The road example was intended to be representative of basic infrastructure - roads, drains, street lighting, etc. etc. etc. All the sort of things that people don't really want to pay for or...

                  The road example was intended to be representative of basic infrastructure - roads, drains, street lighting, etc. etc. etc. All the sort of things that people don't really want to pay for or organise, which is why we have taxes and governments ;)

                  But sure, fair point. Stuff like this is always easier in person. I don't drink the booze any more but I'm perfectly happy to not drink at the same table as people who do. I'll bring cake.

                  Just out of interest, where are you in the world?

                  1 vote
                  1. [3]
                    ohyran
                    Link Parent
                    Thats probably a good call, quitting the drink (I've cut down fairly heavily myself lately which is doing me a world of good) I'm in Sweden (cake + coffee is about as Swedish as quietly sidling...

                    Thats probably a good call, quitting the drink (I've cut down fairly heavily myself lately which is doing me a world of good)

                    I'm in Sweden (cake + coffee is about as Swedish as quietly sidling off a few meters to the left at the bus stop to make sure the person next to you is equadistant from the person in front of them as they are too). You?

                    1 vote
                    1. [2]
                      mat
                      Link Parent
                      I'm in the UK. So it'll be a cup of tea for me. I love Swedish pastries though. Last time I was in Stockholm I swear I put on a few kg just from cake!

                      I'm in the UK. So it'll be a cup of tea for me.

                      I love Swedish pastries though. Last time I was in Stockholm I swear I put on a few kg just from cake!

                      1 vote
                      1. ohyran
                        Link Parent
                        Well you'll have to swing by at Fat Tuesday (spring sometime) when we go hard in to these things called Semlor, basically a sweetish bun in half, filled with almond-marzipan and whipped cream...

                        Well you'll have to swing by at Fat Tuesday (spring sometime) when we go hard in to these things called Semlor, basically a sweetish bun in half, filled with almond-marzipan and whipped cream enough to choke a calf.

                        My brother lives in the UK currently (or he's lived there for 20 years now and has a kid so don't know how temporary it is) - very VERY fond of the English pub culture (not necessarily the drinking but the sort of locality that the Pub have in smaller towns) ooooh and Sunday Roasts. And the whole bangers thing (After German food recently did it I have a strong prediction that English food will go through the same revival - there is a lot of good things to take there) Oh oh full english - the joyous, brilliant death knell at the start of a day.

                        Talking to English people in pubs is something I could probably devote my life to as well. Wonderful.

                        Less good things: people griping a lot: the phrase "Ugh its rubbish" about anything slightly off is basically stuck in my brain, AND oh the Airports which are just a strange experience of inefficiency... oh and London (husband loves it since he's such an Anglophile (and Francophile and Russophile) so when we go visit my brother I am dragged through it against my wishes plus my sister/one of my best friends lived there too for a few years for some insane reason I never got). Aside from that, awesome.

                        When Pandemic passes - if you swing by Gothenburg (I'm from Stockholm but live here since 2001) I owe you a pastry and coffee

                        1 vote
  3. [9]
    KeinKunstler
    Link
    Article reads like propaganda.

    Article reads like propaganda.

    1 vote
    1. [8]
      mat
      Link Parent
      For whom?

      For whom?

      1 vote
      1. [7]
        grungegun
        Link Parent
        I think @KeinKunstler means that the article fails to properly distinguish libertarians and anarchists, which are separate political philosophies, by putting an emphasis on the belief in...

        Left alone, they believed, free individuals would thrive and self-regulate, thanks to the sheer force of “logic,” “reason,” and efficiency.

        I think @KeinKunstler means that the article fails to properly distinguish libertarians and anarchists, which are separate political philosophies, by putting an emphasis on the belief in enforcement of consensual contracts and efficiency of market forces. The town may have failed, but the author also should expound on the type of libertarians that these people were. There're a lot of interpretational differences regarding that. Since it fails to do that, it stereotypes the movement.

        Consensual contract is mentioned when covering consensual cannibalism, but it's as part of a quote, not explained, and with no mention of the belief many libertarians have that both parties must be sound-minded.

        1. [6]
          mat
          Link Parent
          To be fair - it's a review of a book, so I'd imagine the full text goes into some more detail than a few paragraphs of precis can. Also let's be honest, the details don't really matter. We know...

          To be fair - it's a review of a book, so I'd imagine the full text goes into some more detail than a few paragraphs of precis can.

          Also let's be honest, the details don't really matter. We know libertarianism - in a strong form like the town or weak like the state it was in - doesn't work so is there much benefit in digging in to more obscure facets of a failed philosophy? Like how communists say "well it would work except for X" or capitalism's "yes but if we just let the market do Y everything will be fine". I only have one life, when I was younger these things seemed to matter but these days I'm far more interested in finding things that work than dissecting to the n-th degree things that don't.

          There are lessons to be learned from failure, of course, but I don't think the lesson here is "these were just the wrong sort of libertarians" because libertarian projects always fail. Sure, everything is probably worth a shot because who knows what might work - but time and time again this particular idea doesn't.

          I think the "movement" has long since stereotyped itself, frankly. There are two sorts of libertarian I see - the greedy, selfish ones who are of the "fuck you I've got mine", anti-social approach (they are the ones who ruin it for everyone else); and the ones who think that if only other people were better people then all the failures of libertarianism would vanish. To be fair, the latter group could be right - if humans would only stop acting like humans, maybe it would work. A society made up entirely of unselfish, rational, intelligent individuals might indeed run itself. Call me when you've got all those people in one place.

          In a broader sense, over the years I've found that people who say "I'm an X-ist/ian" tend to be.. well, wrong. Because absolutist political stances are almost always unworkable in the actual world. In theory all -isms work wonderfully. In practice none of them do. The most successful societies - for my personal definition of success, which is mentioned elsewhere in this thread - seem to be centre-left economically and fairly liberal socially.. But neither Marx nor Smith nor Thoreau would be happy with that.

          Finally, I might suggest that outside of student-level theorising and purity testing within "the movement" nobody cares about or notices a significant distinction between libertarianism and anarchism?

          1. [5]
            grungegun
            Link Parent
            Libertarianism is compatible with certain brands of socialism. I don't think enough people appreciate that. Left Libertarianism is strongly compatible with socialism. I imagine most people would...

            We know libertarianism - in a strong form like the town or weak like the state it was in - doesn't work so is there much benefit in digging in to more obscure facets of a failed philosophy?

            Libertarianism is compatible with certain brands of socialism. I don't think enough people appreciate that. Left Libertarianism is strongly compatible with socialism. I imagine most people would be surprised that that's true, and it is a crucial distinction between libertarianism and right anarchism. Libertarians are admittedly extreme ideologues, but the theory itself is very flexible.

            nobody cares about or notices a significant distinction between libertarianism and anarchism

            This suggests that the article is intended for people outside of libertarianism who already disagree with it, in which case it communicates nothing of significance, except that their belief that libertarianism is wrong is justified. It can be argued that the article was doing more than preaching to the choir since was useful in re-enforcing those beliefs further, but to confirm a theory, anecdotes should be used for flavor, but statistics are where the real argument lies.

            I guess my question is since you

            1. Already knew the result of the libertarian experiment in the article.

            and if the people you were sharing with

            1. Likely already disagree with the movement, and so like you gain nothing from the article, except the pleasure of reading about someone else failing.
            2. If they are libertarians, they do care about that distinction, and will not be convinced by the article's case.

            What new, persuasive fact or argument was in the article that caused you to share it? or was the article just meant to be taken as an entertaining story?

            1 vote
            1. [4]
              mat
              Link Parent
              Yeah I mostly just thought it was funny because of the bears. It's nothing new to me in terms of political science but it might be to someone else. Because I don't know what other people here -...

              Yeah I mostly just thought it was funny because of the bears. It's nothing new to me in terms of political science but it might be to someone else.

              Because I don't know what other people here - the people I'm sharing with - know. I don't really understand the premises you're using to set up your question. The question makes sense in and of itself, but you seem to require me to understand how other people will read something before deciding whether to share it?

              OK, well, maybe some libertarians or people leaning that way will read it and think "hey maybe this doesn't work?" which seems unlikely because they've never really seemed a group particularly enamoured with actual evidence, but who knows? So in that sense this article's existence might make the world a slightly more informed place. Or maybe it's just fun for some people to read and isn't that enough? Should I have to justify sharing something I thought was vaguely interesting and a bit funny to that degree?

              "nobody cares about or notices a significant distinction between libertarianism and anarchism"
              This suggests that the article is intended for people outside of libertarianism who already disagree with it,

              Just for clarification, that is my personal opinion and is a response to your comment. it's not mentioned at all in the article.

              1. [3]
                grungegun
                Link Parent
                Thanks for the clarification, I realized it was a response to my comment, I'm just emphasizing you intended in sharing the article. It's fine to share an article because it's funny. The form of a...

                Thanks for the clarification, I realized it was a response to my comment, I'm just emphasizing you intended in sharing the article. It's fine to share an article because it's funny.

                The form of a lot of propaganda is a caricaturization of the opponent in an anecdote, true or otherwise, in this case true. The effect of this type of propaganda is to entrench each type further. Take caricatures of Islam after 9/11, true anecdotes about evil muslims abounded in a roughly analogous case. Also, I think we can agree that pastors giving anecdotes in church about the evil relativists trying to get rid of truth qualify as propaganda too. We can list out some of their properties:

                Opposite side: libertarian muslim sermons on evil relativists
                True anecdote? yes yes yes
                Generalizes ideology? yes yes yes
                disaster in the end? yes yes yes
                shows other side wrong? yes yes yes
                Further entrenches? ? yes yes
                Informative of opp side? no no no

                From what we've discussed so far, 1-5 seem to match up pretty well. Additionally, you agreed that the article didn't delineate anarchists and libertarians well, which almost gives 7, there may be some weight associated with the failure being true, but since the article lacked statistical sourcing, which gives 7.

                However, the most important point is 6. If the article succeeds in helping to detrench one viewpoint, then it's working towards something, which wouldn't be propaganda.

                The reason I enumerated the groups of readers was to establish 6 matched, which in my mind would check al the boxes. I tried to outline some broad groups of readers and establish what the reactions of those groups (libertarians angry, others more dismissive of libertarians). You appear to agree with me on that.

                So, with 6 parallels between this article and instances of propaganda, I'm inclined to classify it as just that. This doesn't mean the article is bad, I go to church and have listened to litanies against relativism, so I would be hypocritical in uniformly denouncing propaganda. It doesn't mean it's wrong. It's also still funny, it just happens to also be propaganda.

                1. [2]
                  mat
                  Link Parent
                  oh you lot are hilarious. this is almost better than the bears.

                  oh you lot are hilarious. this is almost better than the bears.

                  1. grungegun
                    (edited )
                    Link Parent
                    mkay, I'm not a libertarian, but you didn't respond to the content of my post, or (since it is funny) to why it's not deserving of response. I guess this is a good place to stop.

                    mkay, I'm not a libertarian, but you didn't respond to the content of my post, or (since it is funny) to why it's not deserving of response. I guess this is a good place to stop.

                    1 vote