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Should we have the right to walk away from our governments?
February 2, 2009 12:49 AM   Subscribe

The Right to Walk Away Has panarchist thinking finally come of age in 2009? With world leaders of big governments failing to find any new solutions to old problems, should we have the right to walk away from those governments?
posted by stuffedspacedog (35 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Does any government really recognize the right to walk away? It sure seems like rights, in the end, come from governments and under any of them you're either a resource or official raison d'etre. Why would they let you walk away? It'd be either a waste of resources or an admission of failure. Governments never do either openly.

I used to believe in inalienable rights but they've all be alienated at some point or another by pretty much every government, haven't they? And would again tomorrow if it behooves an official who sees an excuse and thinks he can get away with it.
posted by codswallop at 1:08 AM on February 2, 2009


Looks like this boy is just whistlin' Dixie.

In all seriousness, this appears to be yet one more of a seemingly limitless supply of amateur Libertarian philosophy, in which someone who has never made the effort to study 2500 years of political philosophy, and certainly nothing after the Social Contract theorist (i.e, no Hume or later), reasons from his own first principles a theory that probably wouldn't work even in his own though-experiment world of islands and coconuts, but certainly won't scale to a world of six billion people, energy scarcity, and the mounting environmental consequences of capitalism gone wild.

Again, you can find these tracts by the hundred anywhere that Libertarians gather. They're about as useful a guide to real-world politics as the advice given by a 20th Level Dungeon Master who learned it running a D&D "campaign" in his made-up world of GreytCawk, as applicable as sexual advice from a group of Furries.
posted by orthogonality at 1:27 AM on February 2, 2009 [32 favorites]


I was going to write, word for word, what orthogonality wrote. But since he did it, I'll just offer my grateful thanks and go to bed early.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:38 AM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Interesting comments, but my post was a question, not a statement. I believe we need to think more creatively than we are right now about how to solve the world's problems. Big solutions start as small ideas and they're easy to shoot down when they're small, but it doesn't necessarily mean that they're wrong.

Radical change in thinking will always be viewed as impractical by most, and yet the Earth is not flat as we now know.

Any alternatives people?
posted by stuffedspacedog at 1:40 AM on February 2, 2009


If you posted it as a question, then you want AskMe.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:50 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Any alternatives people?"

You want special rights that most people in your polity don't get? Form a business or a religion.

Seriously: I get nowhere when I tell a business or a government official I don't want to do something; but if I explain it's my company's policy or a requirement of my religion.... Hell, do both, like the Co$.
posted by orthogonality at 1:57 AM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


From skimming the article, this concept sounds very similar to the virtual nation-states in Stephenson's Diamond Age. In the book, societies form where people share common purpose, regardless of geography. Each virtual nation has it's own set of laws, traditions, and customs, with branches in land they've bought from various governments around the world.

To me, it's similar to Gibson's multi-national corportation-states. A cartoonish and not literally feasible idea, yet communicating an underlying social current that we'll see more manifest in the future. I think we'll see something similar to virtual nation-states in the future.

That said, I'm all for the "right to walk away". People should be able to secede, then we'll erect a giant-ass fence around their property to keep them from sneaking into our country and using all the socialized roads, police, and fire departments. There should be a well-armed border checkpoint at their property, huge tariffs for importing goods, and a substantial visa fee to visit the US.

We should not give these people diplomatic immunity.

Honestly though, if you want to go some place where the government doesn't bother you, you're welcome to do that. Plenty of people move to Montana and New Mexico for just that reason.
posted by heathkit at 2:17 AM on February 2, 2009


I didn't read the article but this sounds to me like the solution is a grassroots thing. Bottom-Up versus "Top-Down." If your government is letting you down then you can encourage other like minded people to join together, and using the democratic system, enact change. Because your message is the "right" one right?

Of course this is only possible in a democratic government type setup. If you try it under a tyrannical despot then you may get shot or imprisoned. YMMV. In that case it may be better to run than walk way...
posted by dinoworx at 2:18 AM on February 2, 2009


Radical change in thinking will always be viewed as impractical by most, and yet the Earth is not flat as we now know.

That the world is not flat was simply a fact waiting to be discovered. Radical social change, however, requires several billion vastly different people in vastly different circumstances to act as one, in the face of massive inertia.

Despite the fact that the best science tells us that we are pretty much fucked within 50 to 100 years as a result of anthropocentric climate change, we can't even act to do anymore more substantial to promise to try and maybe reduce carbon dioxide output in a decade or so.

Socialism/Communism? Great in theory, impossible to achieve in practice.
Anarcho-libertarianism? Easy to achieve in practice, but completely ugly in reality. Actually, it can work within the context of self-identifying anarchist organizational units, where all actors agree on the principals, but it's impossible to apply in any workable way on a whole society without coercion. Which wouldn't be anarchism, now, would it?

However, I do appreciate the fact that the author of the article has grappled with the stupidity of nation-states and the hypocrisy of encouraging the free movement of capital but denying the free movement of people. It's a point so many baby-libertarians; if their free market dreams were achieved, a pack of much tougher, much harder working chaps from the third world would quickly show up to kick them out of their parent's basement.

My alternative? A period of massive depopulation. But that, like the world not being flat, is simply an inevitable matter of science, not politics.
posted by Jimbob at 2:24 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


LOOK AT ME, I'M ON THA INTERWEBS!

what, there's an article I gott alike read?

But seriously, what orthogonality said. Especially the GreytCawk bit.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:35 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


This doofus seems to be operating under the assumption that governments exist altruistic benefit of the people that they govern.
posted by Optamystic at 2:52 AM on February 2, 2009


exist for the altruistic...
posted by Optamystic at 2:52 AM on February 2, 2009


I seem to recall reading something to the effect of:

mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed

somewhere... Which pretty much explains it all.
posted by mikelieman at 3:25 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


should we have the right to walk away from those governments?

No one is going to let their tax base go.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:04 AM on February 2, 2009


Just walk away Renee, you won't see me follow you back home."
posted by Xurando at 4:11 AM on February 2, 2009


The author also neglects to mention the utter griefing possibilities of voluntary secession. It would be so easy for some person or persons to join a community under false pretenses, and then secede toward a less permissive or loving philosophy, and physically rend a neighborhood in two. Just imagine a multicultural community that suddenly has a long line of Aryan Nation owned houses right down the middle. Imagine religious extremists buying property surrounding the local school and forcing your kids to obey their dress code in order to pass through, or even preventing girls from attending.

No, this would not work at all. We are allowed certain freedoms in the privacy of our own homes for a reason, but right of secession at the drop of a hat, and personal sovereignty would create more problems than it would ever solve.
posted by explosion at 4:15 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think Furries give good sex advice.
posted by orme at 4:47 AM on February 2, 2009


What is it with Libertarian writers that makes them so freaking verbose? They all seem to have the need to take the simplest concept and and write pages and pages of dense copy on it. Are they trying to bore us into supporting them? Following the links this guy seems to be just another gold standard nutball with bad taste in html. Oh and searching through metafilter finds that he's a creationist too.
posted by octothorpe at 5:05 AM on February 2, 2009


I don't have enough background in economics or political theory to know whether orthogonality's critique is accurate. What sounds very right to me, though, is the article's condemnation of the nation state and the pressure to conform coming from the US. Land of the free indeed... "Hey Canada, don't get too liberal with the drug laws, and hey Switzerland stop helping the terrorists hide their money. You guys with all your freedom are making us look bad over here."

Nation states can lick my sweaty balls, I want to be a free man. Passing through customs and immigration reminds me that I am in a big prison, with the only solution to exile myself to Somalia or similar. Sucks.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:20 AM on February 2, 2009


Fortunately or unfortunately, societies require a certain threshold of power, population, and persistence to abolish a government. One of the first things they do when this is complete is to create a new government because every civil society must function. The only way to make non-geographic government is to have multiple systems in place with different ways to handle what different people want. I guess you could have a state that makes taxes and government service option, but make them required when getting certain benefits like voting or medical care (kinda Starship Troopers-ish though). I'd like to think that a government would allow volluntary disassociation by members, but that has the potential to make different classes of people (citizens versus residents of the country). But then, maybe we have that already. What really doesn't citizenship of a country ultimately mean? I would almost like certain wingnuts sending themselves in self-imposed exile in Montanna where they wouldn't pay taxes, but couldn't vote or get but the lowest level of assistance. It would be interesting to see how many people would sacrifice the right to vote so they wouldn't pay. Isn't that the ultimate freedom, the freedom to leave?

But then, 1) making a system plausible that 2) a state would accept would probably prove impossible.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:49 AM on February 2, 2009


if tract.author.crackpot > 0.7
&nbsp if tract.author.class.to_s == "InternetLibertarian"
&nbsp &nbsp snark "heh heh polyhedral dice heh heh platonic solids
&nbsp &nbsp heh heh Adam Smith's invisible Hand of Vecna!"
&nbsp elsif tract.author.to_s == "Peggy McIntosh"
&nbsp &nbsp don "Robe"
&nbsp &nbsp don "Hat"
&nbsp &nbsp christopher_lee "Hail tri-partite Badb! Hive-mistress! Mead-maker!
&nbsp &nbsp We burn these effigies of Robert Graves in your honor."
&nbsp &nbsp burn "Nick Cage" // take that
&nbsp elsif tract.author.to_s == "Jack Chick"
&nbsp &nbsp if post.first?
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp puts "It's all my fault Black Leaf died!"
&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp favorite 6.02*10^23.times
&nbsp &nbsp end
&nbsp end
end

posted by kid ichorous at 7:32 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, so much for unescaped HTML, code tags, and all the nice things.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:34 AM on February 2, 2009


They're about as useful a guide to real-world politics as the advice given by a 20th Level Dungeon Master who learned it running a D&D "campaign" in his made-up world of GreytCawk, as applicable as sexual advice from a group of Furries.

This is classic contractive thinking. They're different, so we can't learn anything from them! You seem to be implying there are no appropriate metaphors linking libertarian politics to "real politics", nor any linking D&D politics to "real politics", and apparently the same goes for furry sexuality and "real sexuality". After all, "real politics" in this context is merely the pool of (pseudo-)political theory that the state picks and chooses from in order to justify it's actions, usually illogically. Does libertarianism unfairly frame our problems in terms of freedom? How about liberalism? or conservatism? Are those frames somehow more "real"? What is a real frame? Do we have to choose one? Does it make sense to choose one if we don't have to?

I think very few libertarians are fooling themselves into thinking that the societies they dream about are ever going to exist. But that's not really the point. The point, just like sci-fi (hence the libertarian streak among sci-fi authors), is to explore the realm of the possible. To push the limits. To envision something beyond where we are now. This isn't some blueprint for a better society, not some ideological stance about the steps we have to take to make the world a better place (I'm having problems seeing how any ideological stance can be reconciled with freedom), and anyone fooling themselves into thinking otherwise is misreading the article.

Radical social change, however, requires several billion vastly different people in vastly different circumstances to act as one, in the face of massive inertia.

Or maybe several billion vastly different people in vastly different circumstances acting in a billion different ways. Maybe the problem is that we're all trying to do the exact same thing. Maybe we need dissensus, instead of consensus.

Honestly though, if you want to go some place where the government doesn't bother you, you're welcome to do that. Plenty of people move to Montana and New Mexico for just that reason.

But unless the world is free from being governed I am not. My favorite Alinsky quote applies here:

"A major revolution to be won in the immediate future is the dissipation of man’s illusion that his own welfare can be separate from that of all others. … Concern for our private, material well-being with disregard for the well-being of others is immoral according to the precepts of our Judeo-Christian civilization, but worse, it is stupidity worthy of the lower animals. … [T]he record of the past centuries has been a disaster, for it was wrong to assume that man would pursue morality on a level higher than his day-to-day living demanded; it was a disservice to the future to separate morality from man’s daily desires and elevate it to a plane of altruism and self-sacrifice. The fact is that it is not man’s “better nature” but his self-interest that demands that he be his brother’s keeper. We now live in a world where no man can have a loaf of bread while his neighbor has none. If he does not share his bread, he dare not sleep, for his neighbor will kill him."
posted by symbollocks at 8:04 AM on February 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


What is it with Libertarian writers that makes them so freaking verbose? They all seem to have the need to take the simplest concept and and write pages and pages of dense copy on it.

Most of the serious Libertarians I know (or have known) in real life seem to:

1) Love the sound of their own voice.
2) Have a lot of free time.

You do the math.
posted by jal0021 at 8:26 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought there'd be cool stuff in the article for my GreytCawk campaign, but it was just some fucker obsessed with stealing my mangos and jabbering about his fundamental misunderstandings of society. Hrmph.
posted by fleacircus at 9:06 AM on February 2, 2009


symbollocks: What is a real frame?

This is worth taking a stab at. How about a scientific frame, a model subject to the test of historical example and of future prediction? The point is good, but I read orthagonality's jab as aimed at the confidence of political beliefs mined from imaginative fiction, rather than distilled by historical example. Even Machiavelli constrained his theories (mostly) to where an unfortunate example could be found.

The point, just like sci-fi (hence the libertarian streak among sci-fi authors), is to explore the realm of the possible.

Absolutely, and I'd say that science is nothing if not pared imagination, and that we will continually pull back the dark only to meet again the phantoms of Verne, or the machines of Clarke, in strange recognition. But even if so, even if the next decade turns into Neuromancer, and reality starts to move at the speed of fiction, it's reasonable in the present tense to draw some line between (political) imagination and science, the latter being just the former with some track record.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:28 AM on February 2, 2009


A few things come to mind... I was particularly concerned about the comment that libertarian writers "are so freakin' verbose". Words have power, and are easily twisted by culture. The word "atheist" in American culture is a case in point, in Europe it has no satan worshipping connotations, it's just a statement of conviction. If you're trying to articulate something that you know a lot of people won't accept, you have to use a lot of words in order to cater to most angles of perception. The world can't be reduced to bite-sized slogans, except to talk down to people and and manipulate them. If you want to be manipulated by easy reads, there are many political parties and cults you could choose.

I used the flat earth analogy to illustrate a change in consciousness in western people, and the roots of western agnosticism and atheism (catching up late from the Greeks and Epicurus). It's not not just that the earth isn't flat, it's also that we are not the centre of the universe, that's a profound change. But it took root and fundamentally changed the landscape of how we think.

In retrospect I should probably have used an analogy not based on scientific fact, although scientific fact is also subject to politics and therefore not absolute, as we know.

To answer the last non-contributing haters, I work full time, and have done for the last 24 years. This is my first post after registering here for a year, I saw something that wasn't being discussed and thought I would raise it.

I'm guessing that a lot of the hatred is coming down from the post-war definition of personal freedom, which was deliberately limited by western powers as a foil to the soviet block, not that they got many things right either. The right to consume is not the same as freedom, the word "freedom" has been corrupted by governments. The gap between our actual happiness and living "free" is the ommission of the lie, but we all went along for the ride.

In my view, we are a village people operating in a vast mechanised global society that we
find difficult to understand our role in.

I ask a question, but continue to enjoy the debate.
posted by stuffedspacedog at 9:54 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Orthogonality's ad hominem attack FTW!
posted by oncogenesis at 10:02 AM on February 2, 2009


The point, just like sci-fi (hence the libertarian streak among sci-fi authors), is to explore the realm of the possible. To push the limits. To envision something beyond where we are now.

Even in Sci-fi, if you break away from the evil empire, you will have to pay. This essay is more poetry than sci-fi, I'd say.
posted by romanb at 10:06 AM on February 2, 2009


I read orthagonality's jab as aimed at the confidence of political beliefs mined from imaginative fiction, rather than distilled by historical example.

Hmm, I think I see what you're getting at, but I'm not sure if tested vs. untested is the best way of framing the problem of radical social change. It's certainly not the only way. I usually frame attempts at radical social change as "ideological" (a strict plan with no room for deviation) or "pragmatic" (no strict plan, solve each problem as it comes).

The problem with pitting tested vs. untested is that you kind of have to take each individual attempt at social change within the context of history. What worked yesterday might not work today for a million reasons. Which makes being empirical extremely tedious, and very easy to fuck up. I feel like I'm blathering now, so I'll shut up. But yes, definitely something to think about.

This essay is more poetry than sci-fi, I'd say.

Yeah, I'm not sure where I'd place this. It's pretty weak/conservative for a Mises.org piece. They have some great stuff on copyright though, if you'll allow me to plug away. Definitely worth checking out: Against Intellectual Property (pdf), and Against Intellectual Monopoly.
posted by symbollocks at 10:59 AM on February 2, 2009


The Right to Walk Swim Away: Live Free or Drown!
posted by homunculus at 11:07 AM on February 2, 2009


God, regression to theoretical states of nature is not something this guy should try his hand at—Practical objections to Locke apply to his property theories, as do Rousseau's from Inequality; his conception of Rights is poorly-defined and not at all in line with modern thinking on them; prosperity isn't de facto linked to freedom, especially unequally distributed prosperity; on the whole this essay simply fails to be persuasive given a reasonable appreciation for political theory. There are too many hand-waving moments, too many false assumptions regarding incentives, and absolutely no grounding in politics as they are practiced.

In all, it has the impact of wishing that the national sport of Argentina was 53-man Squamish—it ain't, and it ain't likely to become so.
posted by klangklangston at 11:11 AM on February 2, 2009


"If you're trying to articulate something that you know a lot of people won't accept, you have to use a lot of words in order to cater to most angles of perception. The world can't be reduced to bite-sized slogans, except to talk down to people and and manipulate them. If you want to be manipulated by easy reads, there are many political parties and cults you could choose."

I read enough political theory in my undergrad to know when someone is taking a lot of words to say something because it's complex, and when someone is yammering on because they have more words than supportable argument. Contrary to your uncritical contrarianism, this isn't something that's opposed to "bite-sized slogans" so much as giving endless pap. Sometimes, there's more food in an amuse bouche than a whole tub of Cheetos.
posted by klangklangston at 11:18 AM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not opposed to thinking about alternate organizational systems, but the more I read this Modest-Proposal-as-real-policy business, the more I want to agitate against it. I think the backlash will come around the time we see Necrophiles and You: a Libertarian Approach to Rising Funeral Costs.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 2:33 PM on February 2, 2009


Continuing mikelieman's recollection, "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government..."
posted by Yimji at 3:11 PM on February 3, 2009


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