Not going Galt

by John Quiggin on August 12, 2010

Henry’s post linking to Charlie Stross reminded me of one I was planning to do on the question – why has there never been a serious attempt at a real libertarian utopia? Most other utopian ideologies have inspired at least someone to attempt a practical implementation. On the face of it, libertarianism seems ideally suited to the belief in a fresh start, with no messy pre-existing claims. All sorts of ideas have been floated – island buyouts, sea-steading, co-ordinated moves to New Hampshire and so on, but none has gone anywhere. The only explanation I’ve seen, that libertarians are too independent and ornery to organise a utopia doesn’t convince me.

Thinking about the discussion we had though, it strikes me that there is a simple explanation: Actually Existing Libertarianism (see below) offers a better economic deal for nearly all libertarians than any feasible version of Galt’s Gulch. Once you do the math on going Galt, it’s not hard to see why no self-respecting libertarian would actually do it.

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From Vincent Scully’s introduction to Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture: “This is not an easy book. It requires professional commitment and close visual attention, and is not for those architects who, lest they offend them, pluck out their eyes.” Two pronouns clash in too slight a clause, like two travelers crashing in too tight a doorway, who, lest they perchance have been switched by them, check whose piece of luggage is whose. Ahem. The Fascist octopus, lest it … aw, this is too hard.