Posts Tagged ‘Libertarianism’

In my collection of libertarian humor, my favorite item is probably the video mocking us for reflexive anti-statism. It presumably was put together by a statist, but I’ll be the first to admit that it’s very clever satire.

Though if you prefer favorable humor, I very much enjoy Libertarian Jesus (featured here and here) because he makes a very serious point about the absurdity of equating government coercion with compassion (a lesson Pope Francis needs to understand).

Today, I have an updated version of the collage I shared back in 2012. Here’s how the world see libertarians.

Since I’ve taken my kids shooting (and raised them to have sound views), the top-left item has a good bit of truth. And there are some libertine libertarians, so conservative and parents aren’t being totally unfair in their stereotypes.

I very much approve the lower-left frame because it mocks (I think) the totalitarians who want more government – even if they think of themselves as anarchists. Libertarian wonks understand what true anarchism is.

Let’s close with a generic political joke.

You start with a cage containing four monkeys, and inside the cage you hang a banana on a string, and then you place a set of stairs under the banana.

Before long a monkey will go to the stairs and climb toward the banana.

You then spray ALL the monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt. As soon as he touches the stairs, you spray ALL the monkeys with cold water.

Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new monkey. The new monkey sees the banana and attempts to climb the stairs. To his shock, ALL of the other monkeys beat the crap out of him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original four monkeys, replacing it with a new monkey. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment – with enthusiasm – because he is now part of the “team.”

Then, replace a third original monkey with a new monkey, followed by the fourth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.

Now, the monkeys that are beating him up have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs.

Neither do they know why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. Having replaced all of the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys will have ever been sprayed with cold water.

Nevertheless, not one of the monkeys will try to climb the stairway for the Banana.

Why, you ask? Because in their minds, that is the way it has always been!

This is how today’s House and Senate operates, and this Is why
from time to time, ALL of the monkeys need to be REPLACED AT THE SAME TIME!

DISCLAIMER: This is meant as no disrespect to monkeys.

P.S. If you enjoy generic political humor, I have several additional examples here.

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I’m in Las Vegas for FreedomFest, which is sort of like summer camp for libertarians, small-government conservatives, and others who don’t like a bloated and intrusive state.

I’ll be talking about tax reform, the sharing economy, and strategies to constrain big government.

One of the features of this 10th-anniversary meeting of FreedomFest is that the world’s top-100 libertarians will be feted. You can see the entire list at NewsMax, but here’s the top 10. A very impressive collection.

You’ll notice that Cato’s founder and former president is in the Top 10, but he’s not the only representative from the organization.

The Cato Institute is justly recognized for being a principled and effective organization.

So it’s no surprise that several of us are listed in the Top 100.

I’m honored to be on the list, though I wonder if I’m there because I’m noisy rather than competent. That being said, given the expansion of government under both Bush and Obama, I guess nobody would be on the list if it was based on achievements. We obviously need to do a better job as a movement.

Here’s a photo from a casual dinner last night that included David Boaz (#15), Richard Rahn (#61), Barbara Kolm (#64), Veronique de Rugy (#84), and Deirdre McCloskey (#87). And yours truly (#38), of course.

A rogue’s gallery of dissidents, for sure.

Let’s close with some libertarian humor, courtesy of a future Top-100 libertarian who also is in Vegas for FreedomFest.

I’ll have to add this to my collection of pro-and-con libertarian humor.

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I’ve shared several quizzes that people can take to see whether they are libertarian, some of which are very simple and some of which are very nuanced and complex.

I’ve also shared many examples of statist hypocrisy.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see that someone on the left wants to play this game by combing the concept of quizzes and hypocrisy. I don’t know R.J. Eskow, but he has a quiz on a left-wing website that’s designed to ostensibly measure libertarian hypocrisy.

Though it’s hard to treat the exercise seriously since it is prefaced by some rather silly rhetoric.

Libertarian…political philosophy all but died out in the mid- to late-20th century, but was revived by billionaires and corporations that found them politically useful. …They call themselves “realists” but rely on fanciful theories… They claim that selfishness makes things better for everybody, when history shows exactly the opposite is true. …libertarianism, the political philosophy whose avatar is the late writer Ayn Rand. It was once thought that this extreme brand of libertarianism, one that celebrates greed and even brutality, had died in the early 1980s… There was a good reason for that. Randian libertarianism is an illogical, impractical, inhumane, unpopular set of Utopian ravings. …It’s only a dream. At no time or place in human history has there been a working libertarian society which provided its people with the kinds of outcomes libertarians claim it will provide.

I’m not an ideological enforcer of libertarianism, but I can say with great confidence that Randians are only a minor strain of the libertarian movement. Many of us (including me) enjoyed one or more of her books, and some of us even became libertarians as a result of reading tomes such as Atlas Shrugged, but that’s the extent of her influence.

I also find it odd that Eskow didn’t do his homework when conspiracy-mongering about the Kochs or mentioning Cato. We get almost no funds from corporations. Indeed, I’m willing to bet that major left-wing think tanks get a much higher share of their budget from businesses.

…political libertarianism suddenly had pretensions of legitimacy. This revival is Koch-fueled, not coke-fueled… Exxon Mobil and other corporate and billionaire interests are behind the Cato Institute, the other public face of libertarianism.

Though Eskow gives us a bit of credit.

…the unconventionality of their thought has led libertarians to be among this nation’s most forthright and outspoken advocates for civil liberties and against military interventions.

Gee, thanks. What a magnanimous concession!

But I’ve spent enough time on preliminaries. Let’s get to the test.

Though I have to warn you that it’s just a rhetorical test. You can’t click on answers. There’s not even an answer key where you can calculate any results.

For all intents and purposes, the test is just a series of “gotcha” questions. Eskow probably hopes that libertarians will get flustered when confronted by this collection of queries.

But I’m always up for a challenge. So I decided to give my two cents in response to each question.

Are unions, political parties, elections, and social movements like Occupy examples of “spontaneous order”—and if not, why not?

The term “spontaneous order” refers to the natural tendency of markets to produce efficient and peaceful outcomes without any sort of centralized design or command. I’m not sure how this is connected to government and politics, however. Perhaps Eskow is asking whether political pressure groups can arise without centralized design and command. If so, then I’ll say yes. But if the question is designed to imply that market forces are akin to government actions and/or political activity, I’ll say no.

Is a libertarian willing to admit that production is the result of many forces, each of which should be recognized and rewarded?

Admit it? That’s an inherent part of our approach to economics. The famous “I, Pencil” essay celebrates this principle, and this video is a modern version that captures many of the same concepts. For what it’s worth, I’m guessing Eskow thinks that the market allocation of recognition and reward is somehow deficient, so he’s making some sort of weird argument that intervention is needed.

Is our libertarian willing to acknowledge that workers who bargain for their services, individually and collectively, are also employing market forces?

Yes, we think workers should be able to use any non-coercive tactic to get the maximum pay, including joining unions. And we also recognize the right of employers to use non-coercive tactics to keep costs down. But note that I include “non-coercive” in my analysis. That’s because no employee should be forced to remain at a company that doesn’t pay enough, and no employer should be forced to hire any particular worker or deal with any particular union. Market forces should determine those choices.

Is our libertarian willing to admit that a “free market” needs regulation?

Admit it? We view the private economy in part as a giant network of mutually reinforcing regulation. But Eskow probably doesn’t understand how private regulation operates. And besides, I’m sure his question is about command-and-control government regulation. And if that’s the focus of the question, am I a hypocrite for saying yes in some circumstances, but accompanied by rigorous cost-benefit analysis?

Does our libertarian believe in democracy?

Most libertarians will avoid the hypocrite label on this question because we are not fans of “democracy.” At least, we don’t believe in democracy if that means untrammeled majoritarianism. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution was created in part to protect some minority rights from “tyranny of the majority.” The bottom line is that we believe in a democratic form of government, but one where the powers of government are tightly constrained.

Does our libertarian use wealth that wouldn’t exist without government in order to preach against the role of government?

This question is based on the novel left-wing theory that wealth belongs to government because the economy would collapse without “public goods.” This might be an effective argument against an anarcho-capitalist, but I don’t think it has any salience when dealing with ordinary libertarians who simply want the federal government to stay within the boundaries envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Small-government libertarians are willing to give government 5-10 percent on their income to finance these legitimate activities. But, yes, we will preach when the burden of government expands beyond that point.

Does our libertarian reject any and all government protection for his intellectual property?

I’ll admit this is a tough question. I’ve never written on this issue, but libertarians are split on whether governments should grant and enforce patents and copyrights. Though I suspect both camps are probably intellectually consistent, so I doubt hypocrisy is an issue.

Does our libertarian recognize that democracy is a form of marketplace?

The “public choice” school of economics was created to apply economic analysis to political action, and most libertarians would agree with that approach. So the obvious answer is that, yes, we recognize that democracy is a type of marketplace. Once again, though, I think Eskow has an ulterior agenda. He probably wants to imply that if we accept market outcomes as desirable, then we must also accept political decisions as desirable. Yet he should know, based on one of the questions above, that we’re not huge fans of majoritarianism. The key distinction, from our perspective, is that market choices don’t involve coercion.

Does our libertarian recognize that large corporations are a threat to our freedoms?

Since libertarians are first in line to object when big companies lobby for bailouts, subsidies, and protectionism, the answer is obviously yes. Libertarians opposed Dodd-Frank, unlike the big companies on Wall Street. Libertarians opposed Obamacare, unlike the big insurance companies and big pharmaceutical companies. Libertarians oppose the Export-Import Bank, unlike the cronyists at the Chamber of Commerce. We are very cognizant of the fact that businesses are sometimes the biggest enemies of the free market.

Does he think…that historical figures like King and Gandhi were “parasites”?

This question is a red herring, based on Ayn Rand’s hostility to selflessness. As I noted above, very few libertarians are hard-core Randians. We have no objection to people dedicating their lives to others. And if that means fighting for justice and against oppression, we move from “no objection” to “enthusiastic support.”

If you believe in the free market, why weren’t you willing to accept as final the judgment against libertarianism rendered decades ago in the free and unfettered marketplace of ideas?

Since we don’t have any pure laissez-faire societies, we libertarians have to admit that we still have a long way to go. But our views aren’t right or wrong based on whether they are accepted by a majority. Heck, I would argue for libertarianism in France, where I’d have several thousand opponents for every possible ally.

I’ll close today’s column by briefly expanding on this final question, especially since Eskow also made similar claims in some of the text I excerpted above.

If you look around the world, you won’t find a Libertopia or Galt’s Gulch (egads, a Rand reference!). That being said, there is a cornucopia of evidence that nations with comparatively small and non-intrusive governments are much more prosperous than countries with lots of taxes, spending, and intervention.

Yes, voters do have an unfortunate tendency to elect more bad politicians (in place likes France and Greece) than sensible politicians (in places such as Switzerland and New Zealand), but that’s not the real test. What ultimately matters is that there’s a very strong relationship between liberty and prosperity. Libertarians pass that test with flying colors.

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In my collection of libertarian-related humor, I have some items that are very funny in large part because they take something that is (at least somewhat) true and stretch it to an absurd level.

Especially in my collection of anti-libertarian jokes.

But now I have the ultimate insult. This photo from the libertarian page on Reddit is a biting example of the “missionary” in the bottom row showing the 24 types of libertarians. Someone who is so driven to proselytize that they overlook….um…other normal human impulses.

For what it’s worth, I consider myself a multi-tasking libertarian.

I don’t think there are many people in the world who share my deep-seated hostility to the IRS and internal revenue code.

But I also try to live a balanced life, with time for other pursuits such as Georgia football, Yankees baseball, playing softball, and…um…something else, but I’m getting so old that I forget what that other thing is.

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As part of my collection of anti-libertarian jokes, I shared a mosaic back in 2012 purporting to show the 24 types of libertarians.

Well, turnabout is fair play. Here’s something similar, showing the 24 types of authoritarians, from the libertarian page on Reddit.

I actually think the matrix of 24 libertarians was more clever than the above array of authoritarians.

That being said, I’ve amused myself by imagining which category best fits various statists.

  • Barack Obama is the dreamer.
  • Hillary Clinton is the elitist snob.
  • Bernie Sanders is drunk on debt.
  • Jeremy Corbyn is the humanitarian.
  • Every leftist in Congress is the deluded.
  • Lois Lerner obviously is the petty tyrant.
  • And it goes without saying that the limousine lefties of Hollywood are masochists.

Since today’s topic is humor, let’s now target President Trump.

This arrived in my inbox, so I don’t know who deserves credit for its creation, but I think it’s clever.

Not as funny as the videos “welcoming” Trump from various European nations, but still amusing.

Last but not least, here’s something clever from Reddit‘s libertarian page.

Exactly! Having read and very much enjoyed Robin Hood in my youth, Robin Hood was a tea party activist before the tea party existed. He reclaimed the tax money of the peasants from the nobility and returned the funds to the people.

P.S. Not only was Robin Hood a potential libertarian, the same can be said about Shakespeare.

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I’ve shared a number of online tests that allow users to see where they fit on the political spectrum.

But if you don’t like taking quizzes, you can simply scan this list of issues and see where libertarians fit between conservatives and liberals.

Heck, even Playboy has something similar that allows readers (as opposed to lookers, if you know what I mean) to see where they belong.

But the quickest test is from the Advocates of Self Government. It involves 10 very simple questions and it can be finished in one minute.

And it turns out that I’m a libertarian (gee, what a surprise).

If you take this quiz and you’re also a libertarian, congratulations.

That means you’re a decent person.

It also makes your life very simple. Here’s a list that shows why it’s so easy to be a libertarian. You basically decide that you’re not going to tell other people what sort of decisions they’re allowed to make. I guess you could call it a “mind your own business” or a “live and let live” approach to life. I call it basic politeness.

By the way, none of this implies you have to like the decisions of other people. Libertarianism is about tolerance, not approval.

I’ve already admitted, for instance, that I don’t like drugs, gambling, and prostitution. But that doesn’t mean that I want to use government coercion to stop other people from those activities.

The bottom line is that libertarians want people to be free to make their own choices so long as they’re not infringing on the rights of others (which is why “Don’t like murder? Don’t commit one” doesn’t belong on the above list).

Now that I’ve explained why it’s easy to be libertarian, now let’s look at why it can make your life difficult.

Simply stated, if you value individual liberty, you can drive yourself crazy thinking about all the foolish and counterproductive policies imposed by governments.

To make matters worse, it’s very difficult to ignore the bad policies of government. It’s not like you can simply choose not to pay tax.

So until Liberland gets going and we have an option of a free society, this image is a good summary of why it’s difficult to be a libertarian.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a hardcore anarcho-capitalist, classical liberal, small-government conservative, or run-of-the-mill libertarian, you’ll be coerced into something you don’t like thanks to big government.

P.S. I found both these images on Reddit‘s Libertarian page. Always a fun place to visit.

P.P.S. While we’re waiting for Liberland, the three best options for libertarians are Hong Kong, Switzerland, and New Zealand.

P.P.P.S. Though I must warn you that there are risks if you publicly identify as libertarian. You may get stereotyped. Or you may even be subjected to vicious notes on your windshield.

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It’s not that much fun to be a libertarian, at least if you work in public policy.

You spend your days hoping that “Public Choice” can be overcome, which means you’re laboring to fulfill Sisyphean tasks.

  • Trying to convince politicians and bureaucrats to voluntary give up power and control over the economy. Good luck with that.
  • Trying to convince voters that it’s not right use government coercion to steal other people’s money. An increasingly hard task.

Needless to say, these are not easy tasks, which is why most of my time is spent playing defense. In other words, I’m trying to prevent government from getting even bigger.

But what if there was an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start all over? Imagine a libertarian fantasy world, where proponents of freedom decide the proper size and scope of government?

Well, that fantasy world exists, sort of. It’s called Liberland, an island in the Danube River that isn’t claimed by either Serbia or Croatia. So a group of libertarians, led by Vít Jedlička, claimed the island and announced the creation of the Free Republic of Liberland.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that neither Serbia nor Croatia recognize Vit’s claim. Indeed, Croatian police arrest people who set foot on the island, which is rather strange since Croatia says the island isn’t Croatian territory (Wikipedia has the details on Liberland’s status).

Notwithstanding these obstacles, the Liberland community is relentlessly hopeful of a good outcome. Indeed, they just held a conference to mark Liberland’s second anniversary.

And I was asked to speak about the ideal fiscal policy for this new country. Here’s my speech, which begins with a discussion of government as a “stationary bandit” and then explores some of the theoretical issues of setting up a freedom-oriented society.

Yes, I realize I’m talking about the theoretical nature of a theoretical state, but I very much enjoyed this opportunity to engage in a Walter Mitty-style dream about how Liberland might operate.

And I even had Liberland’s president as an assistant for my talk.

After spending the first part of my speech contemplating the theoretical nature of a Liberland government (or private governance), I spend the last part of the speech explaining that the public sector should be very small because there are very few genuine “public goods.”

I discussed the Rahn Curve and cited the data showing that the federal government was a very tiny burden for much of America’s history.

I also pointed out that the burden of government was similarly modest in other western nations during the 1800s and early 1900s, which was when those countries went from agricultural poverty to middle-class prosperity.

And I pointed out that taxation would be a trivial issue if Liberland came into existence and has a very small government.

For those interested in the idea of new libertarian societies, there’s “seasteading.”

Seasteading, the concept of building freer societies upon unincorporated parts of the world’s oceans, is one of those so-crazy-it-just-might-work ideas within liberty/stateless circles. Long discussed, presented, talked about, mulled over, most cranks like myself mentally pocketed the idea years ago. Compelling enough, definitely, but it seemed wishful, immediately impractical. …The concept of seasteading really begins in earnest with Patri Friedman, grandson of Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman. The third generation Friedman doesn’t shy away from his famous lineage, which also includes anarcho-capitalist philosopher father David Friedman. …Mr Friedman vowed to take theory into practice. Real world. Right now. He, along with gadfly investor Peter Thiel, founded The Seasteading Institute. …The Seasteading Institute has inked a deal with French Polynesia for a trial city off their shores. It’s happening.

And “special economic zones” are another example of libertarian-style governance.

…two kinds of special jurisdictions — private communities and “Special Economic Zones” — are quietly taking over functions and providing options that traditional polities cannot or will not. This gentle revolution has already brought comparative wealth and better living to millions of people… In a Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a government creates exceptions to its own rules — a select haven from the status quo that prevails elsewhere in the national territory. The goal, says the World Bank, is to create a “business environment that is intended to be more liberal from a policy perspective and more effective from an administrative perspective than that of the national territory.” …The antecedents of modern SEZs date from 166 BCE, when Roman authorities made the island of Delos a free port, exempting traders from the usual taxes in order to stimulate local commerce. …The astonishing growth in SEZs qualifies as a revolution of sorts, but not the usual, political kind. Instead of being imposed by domestic or foreign enemies, this revolution has come from within, allowed or even encouraged by existing authorities.

And here’s a video about Liberland for those interested.

Let’s close with some wonkiness by looking at some academic research about fiscal policy and the evolution of government.

We’ll start with some excerpts from Tanzi and Schuknecht’s analysis of Public Spending in the 20th Century.

Classical economists thought that the government’s role should be limited to national defense, police, and administration because government “cannot have any other rational function but the legitimate defense of individual rights” (Bastiat, 1944–5). …For classical economists, the government role should be small… The countries’ institutional frameworks, such as the U.S. Constitution, did not specify any other economic role for the state. Consequently, in the last century, public spending was minimal in a number of industrialized countries for which data for 1870 could be found… In the United States, government expenditure was about 7 percent of GDP, and, in most newly industrialized European countries of the period, such as Germany, the United Kingdom, or the Netherlands, expenditure did not exceed 10 percent of GDP. A leading French economist of the time, Paul Leroy-Beaulieu (1888), addressing the question of the proper share of taxes in the economy, suggested that a share of 5–6 percent was moderate while a share beyond 12 percent had to be considered “exorbitant” and would damage the growth prospects of an economy.

Hmmm, I though Bastiat was the only good French economist. But Monsieur Leroy-Beaulieu obviously is a very sensible person.

Now let’s look at historical estimates of tax revenue, as presented in a study from two academics published by the London School of Economics.

…it was states in Europe that were the first to permanently break cycles of gains and losses in centralized fiscal and coercive capacity and build towards the modern state system. …we divide the annual per capita central tax revenues in silver by the daily wages of unskilled workers in silver. …The daily wages of unskilled urban workers in grams of silver…are available annually for most polities and in the absence of reliable estimates for per capita income, are frequently used by economic historians as a proxy for per capita income for this period. …During the first half of the sixteenth century, annual tax revenues per capita did not exceed 5 days of unskilled urban wages in most European countries. The only exceptions were the small and highly urbanized entities such as Venice and Holland. By the end of the eighteenth century, however, …many others had reached the 10 to 15 daily wages range and annual per capita revenues of the central administration in the Dutch Republic exceeded 20 days of urban wages. It is worth noting that the middle group where annual per capita revenues reached 10 to 15 daily wages included not only the more urbanized western European countries such as England, France, Spain and Venice but also the more rural and agricultural countries in central and eastern Europe such as Austria

Here’s a chart from the study that gives an idea of the tax burden in various nations from 1500-1800.

Last but not least, we have a very detailed study about the evolution of the state from economists at George Mason University. I’ve culled some of the key passages.

Recent scholarship in both political economy and development economics has emphasized the importance of state capacity in explaining why some countries have succeeded in achieving economic development whereas others have not. This literature points to the role of state capacity in explaining the durability of institutions that are both conducive to markets and to economic growth. …This literature recognizes both that predatory behavior by states is frequently a cause of economic stagnation and that well-functioning states can provide the institutional framework necessary for sustained economic growth. … Economies governed by strong, cohesive, and constrained states are better able to overcome vested interests and avoid disastrous economic policies, while societies ruled by weak states are prone to rentseeking, corruption and civil war. State capacity, therefore, can complement market-supporting institutions in providing a conducive setting for economic development. This insight was understood by Adam Smith who noted the importance of the provision of peace, justice, and easy taxation (Smith, 1763). …Economic growth in the absence of sufficient state capacity was not self-sustaining precisely because economically successful societies attracted predators. …Greater state capacity enabled the states of western Europe to escape from this violence trap in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. …Well functioning markets are not only required for allocative economic efficiency, they also provide the necessary conditions for sustained economic growth over time. But markets cannot operate in an institutional vacuum. They require property rights that are well defined and enforced and rely on governance institutions that can arbitrate claims and disputes. Governance institutions do not have to be provided by a state—that is by an organization that claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of force within a circumscribed territory. Historically there are many instances of market actors developing their own governance mechanisms in the absence of state enforcement through private-order arrangements… The state is certainly not required for either impersonal trade or for the emergence of rules of behavior and the rule of law. What the historical record suggests, however, is that during the relevant centuries prior to the industrial revolution, commerce and trade came increasingly under the purview of the public-order institutions. …State capacity, as we have noted, need not promote economic growth. States with high capacity can pursue destructive economic policies. Rather the point is that state capacity can be beneficial for growth when the state is constrained by law. One of the reasons for this is that high capacity states have the ability to enforce general rules. This ability is closely linked to what social scientists typically mean by rule of law. …What enables some societies to build effective states—states that are able to provide basic public goods but which are constrained and limited in scope and scale? …The origins of modern economic growth are to be found in the expansion of market exchange and trade that gave rise to a more sophisticated and complex division of labor that rewarded innovation and to the cultural and potentially non-economic factors that helped spur innovation (Howes, 2016; McCloskey, 2016; Mokyr, 2016). The importance of the rise of high capacity states to this story is that these states helped to provide the institutional conditions that either enabled growth and innovation to take place or at least prevented their destruction through warfare or rent-seeking. The emergence of sustained economic growth in the nineteenth century was associated with strong but limited states. Twentieth century ambitions to use state power to remold societies either ended in failure or were at least partially reversed. We have focused on the recent literature linking the rise of the modern state to positive economic outcomes, but do not want to give the impression that we are neglecting how easy it is for governments to destroy economies (e.g., Shleifer and Vishny, 1998; Easterly, 2001).

The core message is that the key to prosperity is having a state strong enough and effective enough to provide rule of law, but to somehow constrain that state so that it doesn’t venture into destructive redistribution policies.

This is why competition between governments played a key role in the economic development of the western world. When governments have to worry about productive resources escaping, that forces them to focus on things that help an economy (i.e., rule of law) while minimizing the policies that hinder prosperity (i.e., high taxes and spending).

P.S. I got a nice surprise at the conference. I was made a citizens of Liberland.

P.P.S. America’s Founding Fathers dealt with the same issues that I discussed at the Liberland conference. Their solution was a constitution that explicitly limited the size and scope of the federal government. As I noted in my speech, that system worked reasonably well until the 1930s. Now we’ve gone so far in the other direction that the Supreme Court says Washington can compel us to buy things from cronyist companies.

Avoiding the same fate will be a major challenge for Liberland. Assuming, of course, it gets off the ground.

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