| It doesn't stop|
at the water's edge
Libertarian paradise or Libertarian utopia is sometimes used as a form of loaded language when it is used to refer to a political entity that libertarians themselves have not embraced. At other times, it is used accurately to refer sarcastically to libertarian experiments in reality-gone-wrong.
- 1 Loaded language
- 2 Reality-gone-wrong
- 3 Other realities
- 4 Hypothetical
- 5 See also
- 6 External links
- 7 References
"annieli", writing for the Daily Kos, claimed that Somalia is a libertarian paradise. The evidence presented was that Somalia is a minimal state, citing the Cato Institute ("Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others."). The negative effects presented were: civil war and widespread violent conflict resolution.
Somalia is basically a failed state, not a minimal state. J. Andrew Zalucky has written that Somalia as libertarian paradise is "not even a straw man argument". Zalucky notes the rather un-libertarian aspects of Somalia: enforcement of a state religion and the centralized authoritarianism that preceded the civil war.
The Libertarian Party was founded in Colorado Springs, Colorado; it is also the home of Focus on the Family, and is notoriously anti-tax. Though not explicitly libertarian in nature, Colorado Springs' response to an economic downturn of the Great Recession, and concomitant reduction in sales tax, was to vehemently oppose any increase in property taxes. In response, the city drastically reduced government expenditures. The city turned off ⅓ of street lights, locked public restrooms, and slashed public bus services. The city cut funding to police, the fire department, trash pick up, and to city parks, including closure of swimming pools. The city then began charging $125 to have a street light turned back on. The city privatized a lot of services, but it was never determined whether privatization saved any money.
“”[A lot of the people in Colorado Springs] don't care if privatizing actually saves the government money, so long as the government is doing less. City councilwoman Jan Martin says she hears this all the time. That it's become a matter of faith in the city that private is better.
According to a city council member at the time, a lot of citizens didn't care what privatization cost, they just wanted less government. This was to the point that people would rather pay $300 to turn on street lights in their own neighborhood rather than collectively restore all government services for everyone for $200. This is hatred of government bordering on class war.
Eventually the recession ended, sales tax revenue increased, and city services resumed.
- There's a cost to saving money. Turning off street lights saved $1.25 million but copper thieves stole $5 million worth of wire (no electrocution worries, fewer police).
- Perpetual chaos is exhausting; most people involved with the privatization experiment are glad that it's over. During the experiment, a dysfunctional city government was voted in and led by Steve Bach, a self-described Trump-like businessman.
- Open bidding is a good thing; one of the benefits to come out of the experiment was an open-bidding for the city's hospital, which netted the city a lot of money.
- Roads were not privatized, while public transport was slashed, showing just how hypocritical people can be.
Galt's Gulch, Chile was created on 11,000 acres of arid land in Chile by three libertarians. It was named after the fictional locale in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Subdivisions were marketed and sold to fellow-libertarians in 2013-2014. It was later found that the subdivisions did not include water rights, which is a enormous problem for arid lands. Compounding the water problem, houses had not been finished and contractor's bills had not been paid and they refused to perform further work. And in a final stroke of genius, the ownership of the gulch was accidentally transferred to someone who was not a founder. The mess has resulted in multiple lawsuits, which is particularly ironic because libertarians are usually loathe to use governmental court systems.
Edwin Lyngar, a former libertarian, and Mike LaSusa have claimed that post-2009 Honduras (and specifically the city of San Pedro Sula) is a libertarian paradise. The evidence presented was: no speed limit signs on cross-country trip, unnecessary vehicle license plates, traffic stops replaced by military check points, privatization of road repair by ad hoc work crews, and "charter cities" (Zonas de Empleo y Desarrollo Económico, a.k.a. ZEDE or tax-free zones). San Pedro Sula is one of these tax-free zones. The negative effects presented were: heavy militarization both government and private, protected enclaves for the middle class and rich, extreme income inequality, and very high levels of violence.
Robert P. Murphy of the Fraser Institute, writing for the Ludwig von Mises Institute, wrote that he had never heard of a "libertarian claiming that Honduras [was] a paradise, or an experiment in the philosophy."
Murphy is essentially claiming loaded language on the part of Lyngar and LaSusa, however, Murphy is being duplicitous because libertarians were involved in the 2009 coup d'état against Honduran pro-socialist president Manuel Zelaya.:44-47 Porfirio Lobo, who succeeded Zelaya, was responsible for implementing ZEDEs in Honduras. The ZEDEs were designed after the libertarian concept of "free cities", which are tax-free zones and have special legal systems that are largely independent from the rest of the country.:48-50 For example, Jeff Berwick, a libertarian and one of the three Galt's Gulch founders, tried and failed to set up a free trade zone in Honduras in 2014,
The Phoenix Foundation is the serial offender of libertarian paradises. The Phoenix Foundation was so named in 1975, but variously named incarnations have existed since 1968. The Phoenix Foundation was formed by three gold bug libertarians: Nevada-based real estate millionaire Michael J. Oliver (née Moses Olitsky),:108 his friend James Murt KcKeever, and investment advisor Harry D. Schultz. Oliver is a Jewish Holocaust survivor from Lithuania who wrote a nation-building manifesto in 1968.:108-109 With the publication of his book, Oliver launched the New Country Project in 1968, and began searching for places to create a libertarian utopia.:109 By 1970, Oliver had investigated Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas, Curaçao, Surinam, French Guyana, Honduras, Costa Rica, and New Caledonia.:110 In the case the Bahamas and Vanuatu (below), the Foundation's actions had a distinct air of colonialism, since the actions took place at around the time of independence and since anti-independence colonists were involved.
In September 1971, Oliver invested with his supporters (called the Ocean Life Research Foundation or Caribbean-Pacific Enterprises) invested in a joint venture to purchase land for subdivision on Santa Maria and Gaua Islands in the New Hebrides, but by November, the British-French Condominium which was the colonial overseer of New Hebrides virtually prohibited subdivision, and made residency by foreigners more difficult.:110-111
Republic of Minerva
Also in 1971, a representative of Oliver's attempted to have an audience with the King of Tonga regarding Oliver's intention to appropriate submerged reefs, known as the Minerva reefs that were  After this setback in the New Hebrides, Oliver and his supporters proclaimed the "Republic of Minerva" over the submerged Minerva reefs (located south of Tonga and Fiji) on January 19, 1972.:111 It was also claimed that Oliver's group had dumped a barge or or barges of sand from Australia on the reef, so as to create an island from the sea. The declaration drew the attention of Tonga, and later Fiji. On June 15, 1972, the King of Tonga declared sovereignty over the Minerva reefs. A delegation from Tonga shortly thereafter visited Minerva to enforce the Tonga sovereignty. Tonga's sovereignty was recognized in September 1972 by the South Pacific Forum, which includes all Pacific Island nations as either members or observers. In 2005, Fiji had declared that they did not recognize Tonga's claim to Minerva, but by that time Oliver's group had long since given up on claiming it.
In June 1971, the Prime Minister of the Bahamas announced an agenda for independence from Britain. Many people from the Abaco islands objected to independence and formed a committee to oppose it. In 1972, the pro-independence party won a decisive 60% of the vote overall, but in North Abaco the vote was razor thin and in South Abaco the anti-independence part won by a wide margin. The British government however had indicated that independence for the Bahamas was an all-or-nothing deal. The Bahamas declared independence on July 10, 1973. In August 1973, two residents of Abaco, Chuck Hall and Bert Williams, formed the Abaco Independence Movement (AIM); shortly before independence they had contacted Oliver who had agreed to finance AIM. Besides independence, the goals of AIM included elimination of Crown (government) lands, creating an "Abaco World Trade Zone", and basically setting up an independent libertarian nation. Though AIM's campaign was stated to be "self-determination through legal and peaceful political action", there were some sinister non-Bahamian characters who were associated with AIM, including the arms merchant/mercenary Mitchell WerBell. By 1975, AIM had changed its name to the Abaco Home Rule Movement (AHRM). The 1977 elections were a disappointment for AHRM, the movement eventually died.
The Phoenix Foundation refocused on the New Hebrides archipelago in March 1979 since independence from the UK-France colonial condominium was imminent. The Foundation invited Jimmy Stevens (a.k.a., Jimmy Steven), the leader of the Nagriamel Movement, who was from Espiritu Santo Island (a.k.a. Santo). The Foundation had the aim of having Santo become separate from New Hebrides as a libertarian paradise with Stevens as its leader. The Nagriamel Movement badly lost the 1979 elections to the national unity Vanua'aku Pati. Stevens declared the Republic of Vemerana in June 1980, and New Hebrides became the independent nation of Vanuatu on July 30, 1980. The Foundation had spent more that US$250,000 in weapons, transport and radio equipment to Steven's secessionist Nagriamel movement. Nagriamel supporters kidnapped the district commissioner of Santo, forced 2000 government supporters to leave the island, and ransacked businesses and houses. The colonial troops that were stationed there did not act to quell the violence, and eventually Walter Lini, the first prime minister, requested troops from Papua New Guinea to suppress the rebellion. The rebellion was dubbed "The Coconut War" and resulted in a few casualties and the death of one of Stevens' sons.
“”I have been scammed more than twice now by assholes who say they’re legit when I say I want to purchase stolen credit cards. I want to do tons of business but I DO NOT want to be scammed. I wish there were people who were honest crooks. If anyone could help me out that would be awesome! I just want to buy one at first so I know the seller is legit and honest.
|—An anonymous darknet user|
Silk Road was an online darknet black market that was best known for illegal drug commerce, but also other legal and illegal goods and activities. Silk Road was launched in 2011 by "Dread Pirate Roberts", who was later revealed by the FBI to be the libertarian Ross William Ulbricht when he was arrested in 2013, and later sentenced to life in prison in 2015 on charges of drug trafficking, money laundering and conspiracy. Silk Road was based on Bitcoin currency and Tor to anonymize both currency transactions and communications. The anonymity brought a problem, in so far as it became difficult to tell whom to trust, and that's where Ulbricht came in as an intermediary who could generally establish trust between seller and buyer. The rules of Silk Road required that sellers immediately erase the mailing address of the buyer after a sale was completed, however there was not and could not be any mechanism to enforce this. This was a key structural flaw in Silk Road, which forced to Ulbricht to betray his own ideals:
“”Now, my goals have shifted. I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and aggression amongst mankind. Just as slavery has been abolished most everywhere, I believe violence, coercion and all forms of force by one person over another can come to an end.
Since sellers could, and did in fact, keep the addresses of their buyers, they could and did use this information to blackmail Ulbricht. Ulbricht paid two blackmailers to murder two people who tried to blackmail him, though it is not known if this resulted in murders and he was not convicted on charges of murder. Ulbricht also had to pay bribes to halt denial-of-service attacks. The fate of Silk Road seemed to answer in the negative a fundamental libertarian question of whether free markets can exist without the threat of force.
In 2006, residents of Von Ormy, Texas (population of about 1000) feared that they would be annexed by nearby and rapidly expanding city of San Antonio. There was opposition to incorporating as a town because a lot of people in rural Texas hate government. As a compromise, Martinez de Vara, a libertarian and a local law student proposed instead incorporation as a "liberty city", a low-tax, minimal government form of incorporation in Texas that is popular among the Tea Party. The town incorporated in 2008 with the motto "The Freest Little City in Texas".
de Vara became mayor in 2008, promising to bring in new businesses, and progressively lower property taxes every year. A major problem was that Von Ormy lacked a sewage system and businesses were reluctant to come there without one. The San Antonio Water System told them a sewer connection would cost between $4-5 million, but the town only had $500,000 it could spare. The city administrator recommended floating a bond, but liberty cities are not supposed to take on debt. An oil boom in Texas increased sales tax revenue from existing businesses, and the property tax revenue was decreased from 2009 through 2014. In 2014 the oil boom began to end and sales taxes began to dry up. At that point 3 of the 5 city council members decided that decreasing the property tax every year was foolish, and they formed a shadow city government, but were eventually arrested for allegedly violating the Texas Open Meetings Act. Von Ormy was descending into chaos and de Vara stepped down as mayor. In 2015, Von Ormy was spending $20,000-$30,000/month on legal fees due to the arrests.
de Vara suggested that Von Ormy change from a Type A to a Type C municipality in order to eliminate the chaos. Voters narrowly supported the change, but it didn't eliminate the chaos. By 2016, the police department was forced to shut down due to its inability to meet basic standards from lack of funds. The volunteer fire department also collapsed due to lack of funds.
Lessons that could be learned:
- There's a cost to saving money.
- Constant chaos is exhausting.
“”Why are there no libertarian countries? If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century is organized along libertarian lines?
There have been countries based around many different systems of social and economic organization: capitalism, communism, socialism, autocracy, theocracy, autarky and monarchy, but not on libertarianism. Libertarianism as a concept has been around as a concept since the early 20th century, but its roots date back much earlier going back to at least John Locke in the 1600s. Libertarians like some aspects of some governments, but they seem to be hard-pressed to point to a country that has both a high level of economic liberty and social liberty that they could even call an approximation. The best that has been done are rankings on economic freedom only by The Fraser Institute and the Heritage Foundation.
- The Fraser Institute ranked countries on economic freedom-only scale of 10. The top 5 countries in 2016 were: Hong Kong (9.03), Singapore (8.71), New Zealand (8.35), Switzerland (8.25), Canada (7.98). The median score is about 7.0, and most economically-developed countries are ranked not that different from Canada.:8-9
- The Heritage Foundation, though not libertarian, ranked the top countries similarly on an economic freedom-only scale. The top 5 countries in 2017 were: Hong Kong (89.8%), Singapore (88.6%), New Zealand (83.7%), Switzerland (81.5%), Australia (81.0%), a near match.
Some of the problems with these rankings is that the countries that appear on the top tend to be exceptional because of geopolitics more than because of policy. Some of the countries are able to maintain small governments because of special circumstances: Hong Kong (no military because it's part of China), Singapore as a regional entrepôt, Switzerland's historical neutrality, and mostly small populations. Notably, the rankings did not consider some anti-libertarian aspects:
- Hong Kong is ultimately controlled by a one-party state with poor scores on democracy and corruption. Hong Kong was ranked number 1 for "crony capitalism" in 2014.
- Singapore is a "benevolent" dictatorship. Singapore was ranked number 5 in the work for crony capitalism. Singapore does not have press freedom (ranked 151 of 180 countries in 2017). Singapore enforces a death penalty for drug traffickers.
- Canada has publicly-funded near-universal healthcare.
- Australia and Switzerland have publicly-funded universal healthcare.
“”If Bitcoin was a country — Bitcoinistan? — it would be like Somalia.
About 44% of crypto-currency's users self-identify as Libertarian or anarcho-capitalist. Jim Edwards pondered what a libertarian paradise would be like based on the realities of bitcoin, it would be "characterized by radical instability, chaos, the rise of a boss-class of criminals who assassinate people they don't like, and a mass handover of wealth to a minority even smaller than the 1% that currently lauds it in the United States." Specifically:
- There is little if any reason for ordinary people to use the currency, but very compelling reasons for criminals to use it.
- Despite one of Bitcoin's main claims to intrinsic value being security, there is quite a lot of theft of Bitcoins, including a $100+ million theft of Bitcoins from "Sheep Marketplace", an illegal online drug sales web site. There have also been some notable accidental losses of Bitcoins, including one man who lost $6.5 million in a landfill.
- The owner of Silk Road was accused of trying to hire hitmen with Bitcoins to kill people who stole from him.
- Bitcoin is a notoriously unstable currency.
- As of 2013, 47 individuals owned one-third of all Bitcoins, and 927 people owned one-half of all Bitcoins.
Liberland is a micronation along the disputed border region between Croatia and Serbia. Curiously a sub-region of about 7 km2 named Gornja Siga was claimed by neither Croatia nor Serbia. A Czech Rothbardian libertarian named Vít Jedlička decided to try to claim the land and create a micronation in 2015. There are currently no residents of Liberland and no international recognition. Croatia has a policy of preventing anyone from entering Gornja Siga, and both Croatia and Serbia are staunchly against Liberland's existence. Legal experts in both Serbia and Croatia reject Jedlička's claim. Egypt has reported scams relating to emigration into Liberland. Since Gornja Siga is low-lying land adjacent to the Danube River, it is on the floodplain and Liberland could get wiped out without proper planning.
Several attempts have been made by libertarians to create micronations on artificial islands: Sealand (a former WWII anti-aircraft platform in the North Sea), Republic of Minerva (an artificial island constructed on top of a submerged reef in the South Pacific), Rose Island (a platform in the Mediterranean), and Operation Atlantis (a ship anchored off of the Bahamas). None of them were successful, but libertarians are still pushing the idea.
- The Citadel — another hypothetical paradise
- Free State Project — a move-to-New Hampshire movement for libertarians
- Somalia may continue to embrace libertarian principles by anneli (2015/02/21 · 13:05) Daily Kos.
- No, Somalia is not a "Libertarian Paradise" by J. Andrew Zalucky (February 17, 2014) For the Sake of Argument.
- 459: What Kind of Country. Act Three. Do You Want a Wake Up Call? by Robert Smith (2012) This American Life (NPR).
- The Short, Unhappy Life of a Libertarian Paradise: The residents of Colorado Springs undertook a radical experiment in government. Here’s what they got. by Caleb Hannan (July/August 2017) Politico Magazine.
- My libertarian vacation nightmare: How Ayn Rand, Ron Paul & their groupies were all debunked: My family and I traveled last month to a Honduras city known for its libertarian ideals. Here's what happened next by Edwin Lyngar (Mar 2, 2015 05:30 PM PST) Salon.
- The Nightmare Libertarian Project to Turn This Central American Country Into Ayn Rand's Paradise: And naturally, the US is pushing the efforts along by Mike LaSusa (January 27, 2015, 12:52 PM GMT) Alternet.
- Since When Is Honduras a Libertarian Paradise?! by Robert P. Murphy (March 6, 2015) Ludwig von Mises Institute Canada.
- The Making of a Free City: The Foundation of Laissez-faire Capitalist Free Cities in Honduras in The Juncture of Globalisation by Luis Guillermo Pineda Rodas (2013) Roskilde Universitet, Magister Scientiae.
- The Truth Comes Out in Honduras: A commission established by the Organization of American States shows that Manuel Zelaya precipitated the crisis that led to his ouster. by Mary Anastasia O'Grady (July 25, 2011) Wall Street Journal.
- A New Place to Think About "Free Cities": Can special economic zones and private cities morph to arenas for widespread, unprecedented market and regulatory liberty? by Brian Doherty (Jun. 9, 2016 8:15 pm) reason.com
- The Fierce Battle for the Soul of Bitcoin by Robert McMillan (03.26.14 06:30 am) Wired.
- Ashes To Ashes by Mike Parsons (Jul 01, 1981) New Internationalist.
- Tax Havens and Sovereignty in the Pacific Islands by Anthony Van Fossen (2013) University of Queensland Press. ISBN 1921902213.
- A New Constitution for a New Country by Michael Oliver (1968) Fine Arts Press.
- A true record of the Minerva Reef saga of 1972 and the part played by the Tongan Shipping Company Vessel Olovaha by Doug Jenkins]
- Forgotten Dreams: A People's desire to chart their own course in Abaco, Bahamas. Part One by Rick Lowe, edited by Larry Smith (2010) The Nassau Institute.
- Forgotten Dreams: A People's desire to chart their own course in Abaco, Bahamas. Part Two by Rick Lowe, edited by Larry Smith (2010) The Nassau Institute.
- The Coconut War: The Crisis fo Espiritu Santo by Richard Shears (1980) Cassells Australia. ISBN 0726978663.
- Dark Leviathan: The Silk Road might have started as a libertarian experiment, but it was doomed to end as a fiefdom run by pirate kings by Henry Farrell (20 February, 2015) Aeon.
- Ross Ulbricht NNDB
- Drugs bought with virtual cash by Justin Norrie & Asher Moses (June 12 2011) The Sydney Morning Herald.
- The Rise and Fall of the "Freest Little City in Texas": How a libertarian experiment in city government fell apart over taxes, debt and some very angry people. by James McCandless (Jul 31, 2017 at 9:46 am CST) Texas Observer.
- The question libertarians just can’t answer: If your approach is so great, why hasn’t any country anywhere in the world ever tried it? by Michael Lind (Jun 4, 2013 01:17 PM PDT) Salon.
- :8Economic Freedom of the World: 2016 Annual Report by James Gwartney et al. (2016) Fraser Institute
- 2017 Index of Economic Freedom: Country Rankings Heritage Foundation
- Planet Plutocrat: The countries where politically connected businessmen are most likely to prosper (Mar 15th 2014) The Economist.
- 2017 World Press Freedom Index Reporters Without Borders.
- Singapore Cornell Center on Death Penalty Worldwide
- Bitcoin Proves The Libertarian Idea Of Paradise Would Be Hell On Earth by Jim Edwards (Dec. 10, 2013, 9:28 PM) Business Insider.
- The Demographics of Bitcoin (Part 1 updated) by Lui (2013-03-04) Simulacrum.
- CLAIM: Bitcoin Is Basically For Criminals by Jim Edwards (Nov. 27, 2013, 12:30 PM) Business Insider.
- Two Guys On Reddit Are Chasing A Thief Who Has $220 Million In Bitcoins by Jim Edwards (Dec. 4, 2013, 3:22 PM) Business Insider.
- The Unluckiest Man In The World Has $6.5 Million In Bitcoin Buried In A Landfill by Joe Weisenthal (Nov. 27, 2013, 12:14 PM) Business Insider.
- Everything we know about Ross Ulbricht, the outdoorsy libertarian behind Silk Road by Caitlin Dewey (October 3, 2013) The Washington Post.
- 927 People Own Half Of All Bitcoins by Rob Wile (Dec. 10, 2013, 12:19 PM) Business Insider.
- Welcome to Liberland: Europe's Newest State by Daniel Nolan (April 23, 2015 | 11:45 am) Vice.
- Liberland: How one man plans to build a new libertarian paradise in Europe. Exclusive: Vit Jedlicka is the self-proclaimed president of 'the youngest country in the world', a land free from regulation on disputed territory between Croatia and Serbia. He tells The Independent he now has too many backers to be stopped by Adam Withnall (17 April 2016 18:30 BST) The Independent.
- Liberland’s leader detained while trying to enter the country he just invented by Michael E. Miller (May 11, 2015) The Washington Post.
- Police in the Balkans block inauguration of Europe's new "mini-state" by Dusan Stojanovic (May 9, 2015, at 6:21 a.m.) AP.
- Foreign Min. warns Egyptians against emigrating to Liberland (Apr. 19, 2015 17:39) Cairo Post.
- Seasteading in Paradise: New promise for floating free communities in a Polynesian lagoon—but is the movement leaving libertarianism behind? by Brian Doherty (June 2017) Reason.