First, on this week’s econtalk, Russ Roberts and Alex Tabarrok discuss private cities. Many interesting issues come up. Among them:
1. Alex endorses the idea of a region in which several governments compete to offer public services.
2. Whether you have a private city or a government-run city, it is possible to become imprisoned by legacy factors. Decisions that were undertaken years ago create rents that people want to protect, even if that means that decisions made today are very far from optimal. Alex says that some of New York’s features were planned nearly two centuries ago, when it was largely uninhabited. Today, it is one of the most difficult cities in which to build new housing, because of all the existing interests that have created hurdles for developers to cross.
3. They talk about the phenomenon of private government via neighborhood associations. This is a way in which small groups of homeowners partially secede from larger governmental units. I expect to see this phenomenon become increasingly important.
Next, we have a WaPo article focused on a conference of the Ludwig von Mises Institute at which Ron Paul and at least one of his aides promoted the idea of secession. I feel compelled to use this excerpt:
“If I were Ron, and my son were running for president, and we were in the same situation, I would shut up,” said Walter Block, an economics professor at Loyola University in New Orleans. He rated Ron Paul a 98 on his personal scale of libertarianism and Rand Paul a 70, and said he supported them both.
Here is another:
the speakers said that there were other ways to “secede,” beyond convincing your state to go it alone. Individual people could “secede” by doing such things as home-schooling their children, not going to mainstream colleges, owning gold and foreign currencies, and stockpiling food, fuel, firearms and cash (“seceding from dependency,” that was called).
Back in 1968, there was a schism on the left. Some wanted to “work within the system,” e.g., by supporting the campaigns of Gene McCarthy or Robert Kennedy for the Democratic Party nomination. Others wanted to aim for revolution or escape. For example, there were the Students for a Democratic Society and various offshoots. For those of you too young to remember, think of them as Occupy Wall Street. I think that SDS appeared less pathetic than OWS, but perhaps that reflects my own evolution.
Anyway, I think that there is a similar schism among libertarians. On the one hand, you have the bleeding hearts, who just want to smoke a little weed and redistribute income more efficiently. On the other hand, you have the folks who dream of secession.
I am in favor of increasing opportunities for secession. But meanwhile, I would rather see the established system reformed in a libertarian direction, rather than root for its collapse. If it collapses, I don’t think you get a libertarian utopia. I think you get Venezuela or Greece.