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Michael Strong on Innovation in Government, Part II

May 8, 2009

Strong’s earlier post on the subject can be found here–Editor

Some libertarians seem to believe that once they have the right to smoke pot and not pay taxes, they’ll have all the happiness they need.  And for some individuals, that may be true.  But the most profound benefits of a Cambrian explosion in government will be that not only their preferences, but also the preferences of Mormons, fundamentalist Christians, fundamentalist Muslims, and others will be allowed their most complete fulfillment.

Of course, mentioning fundamentalist Muslims is apt to trigger the deepest fears of many.  As we develop a Cambrian explosion in government we will need to work within a framework in which the initiation of violence is not allowed by other entities in the global system.  In theory, this rule applies to the existing anarcho-nationalism that we see in today’s world.  But there is reason to believe that there may well be less of a propensity to initiate violence in an anarcho-entrepreneurial world than in the present anarcho-nationalist world.

To begin with, the entrepreneurial creation of governments, with free entry and exit, would allow for a rapid increase in opportunity and a rapid decrease in poverty around the world.  Insofar as hatred and violence feeds on a poverty and a lack of opportunity, thousands of new entrepreneurial legal systems will allow millions, and if needed billions, of human beings to migrate to places where they can get a life. Gracia Burnham, an American missionary who spent 377 days in captivity with Abu Sayyaf, an Al-Queda-related terrorist group in the Phillippines, said of the terrorists she knew so intimately:

So many of the kids weren’t bent on jihad . . . [in a world of extreme poverty, Abu Sayyaf was] . . . a career move. . . . whether they were bent on jihad or not, all those guys wanted was to die in a gun battle so they could bypass the judgment of God and go straight to paradise.  If they couldn’t die in jihad, their next choice was to go to America and get a good job. (As quoted in Eliza Griswold, “The Believers,” The New Republic, June 4,2007)

Wealth and opportunity for all won’t instantly eliminate all terrorism, but there is reason to believe that it will dramatically reduce terrorism.  Richard Barnett’s The Pentagon’s New Map:

Pentagon's New Map

Pentagon's New Map

Pretty much identifies present and future terrorism hotspots, from the U.S. Pentagon’s perspective, as those nations that are disconnected from global economic progress. Moroever, as Fred Turner’s clever article argues, really the solution to pretty much all problems is to Make Everybody Rich. A market in legal systems would allow us to do so relatively easily.

In addition, a market in legal systems will result in, among other things, educational systems that are optimized for diverse cultural backgrounds. Legal system entrepreneurs will want to attract the best human capital, but quickly they will want to develop optimal systems for the development of human capital. Entrepreneurial legal system creation will thus lead to the development of a global “Silicon Valley of Education.”

Education has been pretty much a government monopoly around the world since the beginning of the 20th century. Yes, one can start a private school, in some states with minimal regulations, but one is competing with a coercively financed system that is connected with various coercive barriers to entry. Some public schools have refused to accept transcripts from private schools that do not adhere to the system of curriculum and credits that is the norm in government schools, thus enforcing a de facto educational “operating system” standard with a much larger market share than Microsoft ever had. Over the last thirty years homeschoolers have had to fight for the right for their children to attend universities without receiving a conventional high school diploma, and numerous careers require legal certifications that are only available to those who have taken university courses. If Microsoft were government financed and, in some cases, the only legally acceptable operating system, and if “competing” operating systems were required to adhere to certain Microsoft-defined standards, in a legal environment in which at any time the government might increase the scope of legally-required adherence to Microsoft-defined standards, we would expect almost all “competing” operating systems to look more or less like the current Microsoft OS, with a small tweak here or there. There might be the small Linux hobbyist here or there doing weird stuff in isolation, with no expectation or hope of obtaining significant market share. This is pretty much the extent to which we have a “free market” in education, either K-12 or university.

But in a world in which each group or culture has an opportunity to develop its own educational approach, and it becomes obvious that some approaches are dramatically more effective than others, people will focus less on centuries-old resentments based on inequalities, and more on opportunities.

I’ll expand later on diverse ways in which an innovative global market in legal systems is likely to increase human happiness and well-being, in addition to eliminating poverty and creating a more peaceful world.

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