Not so independent

Check out this post by John Quiggin over at Crooked Timber on the economic realities of “going Galt.” Some snippets:

The state may not do a great job providing services of all kinds, but those services have to be replaced. Libertopia doesn’t sound like a very appealing place for schoolteachers, nurses, and so on, so most public services would probably have to be supplied by external contractor. The cost of that would wipe out any savings from eliminating government inefficiency …

… As everyone who has spent time on an island (even one close to the mainland), or a small remote community, knows, that means everything costs more (often double) and most things aren’t available at all. Even if all the registered Libertarians in the US (about 250 000) moved en masse they would still be heavily dependent on high-cost imports. Almost certainly, that would more than wipe out the gain from tax freedom …

… Of course, the ideal would be a nearby government jurisdiction that would provide the large-scale industry needed for a ready source of consumer goods, a home for contracted-in service providers, support for losers and so on, but would not be able to tax the Libertopians.

But once you think that you realise that a partial approach to this outcome already exists, and has millions of inhabitants across the US. They’re called suburban Republicans. The suburbs benefit from urban centers, but resist paying for them, mostly successfully. It’s not exactly Libertopia, but it’s obviously close enough to be more appealing than going Galt.

So what’s the point? None of us live in a bubble. There is no “me” without “we.”

The belief that “the government which governs best is that which governs least” ignores reality – that it is the actions of government over the last 200+ years which have allowed for the standard of living most (white) libertarians enjoy today. From a purely commercial perspective, the creation of a national highway system and the prevention of tariffs and other trade barriers are only the tip of the iceberg, but these are the very things that have allowed libertarians (and indeed, most everyone) to interact with whom they wanted on terms that were more-or-less acceptable to all involved.

I’m all for self-actualization and doing what you can to provide for yourself, but I’m always brought back to that Habermasian idea that citizens can only be truly free when they regard themselves as both the authors and addressees of the law at the same time.

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