Liberty in the Long Run
By Bryan Caplan
The last topic in the last lecture of my Public Choice class is the “transition problem.” Suppose you accept that radical libertarianism would be a big improvement over the status quo, and stable once established. How do we get from here to there?
The main possibilities, plus critique:
1. Violent revolution. I dismiss this as sheer idiocy; to quote David Friedman, “Revolution is the hell of it.” Violence can be an effective way to create a new tyranny. But it always leads to massive abuse of freedom in the short-term, and the promised long-run increase in freedom rarely materializes. In fact, the long-run effect of revolution on freedom is normally negative.
2. Persuasion. It’s useful at the margin, but for radical change, it’s a long shot even in the long-run.
3. Infilitration. Critique: See persuasion.
4. Coordinated movement to change the median voter – e.g. the Free State Project. Might work, but the private cost of moving to New Hampshire is very high for most people. I’ll bet that most people who promise to come once the group reaches its threshold (20,000) don’t actually move within 3 years.
5. Create your own society. “Start your own country” projects almost always fail. Charter cities and seasteading have some logistical and diplomatic advantages over playing Crusoe, but most people don’t want to move to a new city in a weird country, and almost no one wants to take to the high seas.
During the lecture, one last strategy popped into my head. In the Battlestar Galactica pilot, President Roslin‘s plan to save mankind is simple: “We need to start having babies.” Suggesting:
6. Strategic fertility. Standard twin methods find that political philosophy and issue views (though not party labels) are at least moderately heritable. But wait, there’s more: Since there’s strong assortative mating for political agreement, standard methods seriously understate the heritability of politics. The upshot is that if libertarians can get and keep their birth rates well above average, liberty will actually be popular in a century or two. And even if this plan to free the world fails, it will still create a bunch of awesome people.
Strategic fertility might seem like a big burden, but as I keep arguing, being a great parent is a lot easier than it looks because nurture is so overrated. And even if I’m wrong about the power of nurture, having one extra child is probably easier than moving to New Hampshire, and certainly easier than moving to a seastead. Admittedly, if you want radical libertarian change in your lifetime, strategic fertility isn’t much help. But what is?
Other critiques? Other ideas?