Signal Intelligence About The LP

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Restrict LPUS Platform to Federal Issues?

While I'm a proponent of radical decentralism in government, I think the LPUS should present libertarianism as a comprehensive set of principles that apply to all levels of government.  The rights of the individual are the foundation of libertarianism, and those rights are the same no matter what level of government we consider.  We should not render disjoint our advocacy of individual rights just because the government compartmentalizes its schemes for violating them -- nor even because we favor such compartmentalization for tactical reasons.

This is not to say that the LPUS should oppose all policy differences among state and local jurisdictions.  On the contrary, the LPUS should advocate federalism and constitutionalism as the most effective means to the end of protecting individual rights.  Decentralism undermines the economies of scale of rent-seeking, allows for Tiebout sorting (voting with your feet), and offers a unified divide-and-conquer strategy both to minarchist opponents of the nanny state and to anarchist opponents of all states.  We should promote local autonomy for the same reasons that we defend the right of secession and oppose world government: namely, we believe that when jurisdictions compete, the freest ones will win.  This does not require us to say that state or local governments have "rights"; it just requires us to say that individual rights are usually easier to protect from local governments than from distant ones.  (To the extent that we can get non-libertarians to recognize the distinction between negative and positive rights, we might favor existing central/federal safeguards for negative rights even as we advocate decentralized handling of alleged positive rights.  However, this is a tricky game, and no strategy is a priori optimal.)

So we can advocate that all jurisdictions respect individual rights even as for tactical reasons we promote the institutional autonomy of jurisdictions. Indeed, there are some issues on which Libertarians don't agree on on how to define individual rights, such as when personhood begins, when minority ends, preconditions for immigration, patents, copyright, and blackmail.  Rather than remaining effectively dumbstruck on such topics, perhaps the LPUS Platform should demarcate the wiggle room on these issues that libertarian principles allow jurisdictions to explore.  Some recommended demarcations are here.

Thus the LPUS Platform should present a clear and holistic view of individual rights while not attempting to dictate to sub-federal jurisdictions the precise path they should take toward freedom. However, if some jurisdictions are being especially egregious in their violations of rights, the LPUS Platform should be free to specifically oppose those violations.  Similarly, state LP platforms should focus on applying our principles to state and local issues, but they should not necessarily be mute on national issues that can be framed in terms of the state's relationship to the federal government -- congressional representation, federal use of state militia, 10th-amendment autonomy, etc.

In summary, I don't have any major scope complaints about the LPUS Platform encroaching on sub-federal issues or the LPCA Platform encroaching on national issues.

1 comment:

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