[FoRK] Misunderestimating "The" Tea Party

Russell Turpin russell.turpin at gmail.com
Sat Mar 20 12:16:51 PDT 2010

On Sat, Mar 20, 2010 at 1:28 PM, Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> wrote:
> It *unquestionably* increases overall net liberty as the size of the social
> choice aggregation unit decreases. ...

Well, no, it's easy to question. That's the discussion we're having.
Very little is unquestionable.

It's easy to imagine that a move to smaller units could worsen
individual liberty or leave it unchanged. To give a neutral example,
assume a large state with libertarian policy on issue A, and
authoritarian policy on issue B. It splits into two, and new state 1
retains the large state's policies, while new state 2 reverses them.
There is no net benefit to the liberty of individuals, unless B is
weighed as more important than A. There is only a change of which
individuals are constrained in different ways.

If new state 2 were, instead, to adopt authoritarian positions on both
A and B, net individual liberty has decreased. If state 2 were to
adopt libertarian positions on both A and B, then there is a net
increase in individual liberty. The question that has to be addressed
for your claim, the question that shouldn't go unasked, is what are
the circumstances that lead to these different outcomes?

> The argument has to be made from general principles, as it is a hypothetical. ...

This may be where we disagree. I think history is one of the better
tools for answering the question above.

> Back to *your* specific example...

Of several. Let me repeat myself: "[Federal courts ruling from the
Bill of Rights and 14th amendment] is why South Carolina can no longer
ban speech it dislikes. That is why Virginia can no longer ban
miscegenation. That is why Texas can no longer ban homosexual
intercourse or abortion. And that is why Chicago soon will no longer
be able to ban possession of handguns."

> Either way, permissive or prohibitive, the social choice if made at
> a national level results in far more social dissatisfaction in absolute
> terms than if it were made at a *much* more local level. ...

Is that necessarily the case? The issue of slavery didn't result in
less social dissatisfaction by being kept at a state level for so
long, instead slowly simmering until the Civil War resulted. Now, that
doesn't mean that would be the case for all issues. Each one is its
own beast. But that claim needs argument, not just assertion.

> In the latter case, you do at least end up with a situation where
> "don't like it here, go somewhere else"...

Well, no, that's generally not the case. Just because a Swede might
like things better in America doesn't mean she can move here and work.
Or an American, who prefers Sweden. Jeff Bone likely could, by hiring
on with a high-tech Swedish company that works the immigration
process. A more typical American would find that a bit more difficult.

Generally, borders between sovereign states are impediments to free
travel, trade, and work. That's an empirical claim, not a theoretical
one. Sometimes those barriers are low and sometimes they are high. But
increasing borders always hurts this particular kind of liberty.

Of course, the US government guarantees the freedom to travel among
our states. This is yet another example of a civil liberty that
resulted from federal courts ruling on the basis of the Bill of
Rights. Kansas, if I recall the case correctly, had banned certain
kinds of immigration from other states. So add "right to travel" to
the other examples in my list.

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