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Choosing the Non-Libertarian Good Life

May 11, 2009

Michael Strong notes below that a Cambrian explosion in governments might yield “non-libertarian” communities.  I’m reminded of a documentary I watched many years ago on the divisions in Israel between secular and Orthodox Jews.  There was a political power struggle being fought over what rules ought to apply in public places on the Sabbath.  The Orthodox Jews wanted no driving along certain roads whereas the secular Jews held the opposite view.  In the end, the secular Jews won.  The last statement made in the documentary was by an elderly Orthodox gentleman who asked, “Can there not be a single place in the world in which the Sabbath is rightly observed?”

(I might have gotten some of the details wrong since I’m going from memory.)

That question really resonated with me.  Sure, he was supporting a very restrictive policy, something I would probably oppose if I lived in Israel.  But in this wide world of ours, he had no place he could call home and truly live the good life, not in the way he defined it.  He was forced to accept the outcome of a political struggle, and this political struggle is venerated in this modern age as a progressive institution.  Doesn’t this seem, at least somewhat, less than ideal?  Shouldn’t there be a place somewhere on this giant rock of ours where the Sabbath is observed according to ancient customs no matter how superstitious they may appear to the rest of us?

Instead of voting in a majority-take-all decision, doesn’t it make more sense to simply draw a line in the sand and say, “You all who want it done this way, come on this side of the line; everyone who wants it done the other way, go to the other side of the line”?

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4 Comments
  1. May 12, 2009 5:57 am

    This is the part where he buys some land and establishes his own rules on his own land. Everyone’s happy.

  2. Kennon Ballou permalink
    May 12, 2009 8:20 am

    I’ve had this exact thought before as well. The question I have is what to do when personal preferences and beliefs impose externalities that cross the geographical boundaries, or when the beliefs/preferences require the holder to impose them on others.

    In effect, this is what many of the (usually religious) subcultures are trying to do by moving to the desert in (often) west Texas or Utah – they want to live in peace and practice their beliefs the way they see fit. Mostly this seems to be a great solution, but is there a point where those beliefs can be imposed on others (or even on those in the subculture who don’t want to be) to the point where an external force has a moral responsibility to step in?

    • May 18, 2009 5:39 pm

      If there were dozens of Jewish countries, as there are Christian, he would have a better point. I suppose the Israelis could adopt a cantonal system like Switzerland, so that one of the cantons could observe every jot of the Sabbath but Israel has other things to worry about.

      Within a few generations we will be able to mass produce O’Neill Cylinders which will allow almost every minority to have their own nation. But I think this community might have a problem – both because in a space colony you probably will need somebody on duty all the time & because the timing of the Sabbath in space will produce yet more schisms.

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