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Our Declining America Needs Less Libertarianism, More Moderation, Federalism and Seasteading

September 29, 2017

As a political observer and commentator, my mind can’t help being occupied over the last year with America’s decay into soft civil war and mutual extremism from Republicans and Democrats. Generally my thoughts align with the few moderate voices saying this growing tribalism is an existential threat to our country, such as Scott Alexander (“Against Murderism”), Andrew Sullivan (“Can Our Democracy Survive Tribalism?”, and Russ Roberts (“The World Turned Upside Down (and what to do about it”). But as someone with a strong identity around libertarianism, competitive governance, and seasteading, I have thoughts to add to the discussion.

First, I’m feeling much less comfortable strongly promoting libertarianism and my libertarian identity in today’s America, because it just feels like we have bigger problems. Whatever the equivalent of Maslow’s Hierarchy is for your country of residence, we have, sadly, moved down it. I no longer see my country as a safe, stable place with decent but not great rules that I should try to change into an amazing free society. Or one with a vibrant tradition of individualism that can be tapped into and the strength to handle deep criticism.

Instead, I see a country with increasing bipartisan extremism, including political street violence. One which is not merely a post-peak empire (that’s fine with me), but which, as it declines, is fractionating along geographic, ethnic, religious and class lines and dissolving into internecine sectarian conflict, zero-sum battles, and soft civil war.

And so it feels more urgent and important to promote moderation and anti-tribalism than a specific platform like libertarianism. On the other hand, I feel more energized than ever to speak about the critical importance of federalism and seasteading. Federalism feels like not just a libertarian minority idea, but a key part of the liberal technology that allowed different groups to live peacefully together in the United States. So I believe that promoting federalism should be a key part of the moderate platform that develops in response to current political ills.

However, it remains to be seen whether such a moderate platform can win mindshare in the memetic arena when competing with today’s virulent clickbait memes and their toxic winning weapons of outrage, dishonesty, superficiality, and exaggeration. Seizing enough support to change the momentum of our growingly narcissistic democracy will be a huge challenge. And so, the worse things get on land, the more critical it becomes to have the escape valve, innovation laboratory, and startup sector of seasteading.

Which is why it’s so exciting to see The Seasteading Institute signing an MOU with French Polynesia for our Floating City Project and forming a broad movement as shown in the Tahitian First 100 conference with seasteaders, Polynesian leaders, and entrepreneurs. While at the same time, our new book from Simon & Schuster is spreading an exciting, detailed, big tent vision of seasteading to the world. One city on a hill is never enough – we must Let A Thousand Nations Bloom.

And all of this is why I’ve started writing again this past year, mainly on Facebook and Twitter, and will relaunch my blog by the end of the year. Because a world gone mad, an empire in decline, and a populace losing touch with the virtues of civilization needs philosophy, federalism, and floating cities. And that means it needs Friedmans continuing to spread our Friedmaniacal ideas.

Ephemerisle, 2016

One Comment
  1. October 1, 2017 8:04 am

    Well, a major part of what is tearing this nation apart is a matter that libertarians have focused on for many years: the Drug War. But what we need is palatable libertarian lite solutions that actually get implemented vs. legalization of crack vending machines.

    As for federalism, you cannot have it and completely open borders at the same time. This doesn’t mean implementing full on Trumpism, but Bernietopia cannot exist side by side with Galt’s Gulch without charging admission. Otherwise, tax money goes one way and tax burden goes the other. Replacing the progressive components of our tax code with a citizen dividend would be an easy implementation. (It would also effectively be reparations for those groups that are poor due to previous oppression. The annuity value of a kilobuck/month dividend ain’t chump change.)

    More on federalism here: http://www.nationaldebtsolutions.org/waste/why-federalism-fails/

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