Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Reservation.

I propose a reservation of sorts. An area of land, in which are plenty of natural resources for the support of its inhabitants, in which anyone who wishes may go and live without any of the obligations or benefits of citizenship. Of course, it is not quite as simple as that. The State may not interfere with this reservation in any way. The only liberties of which the inhabitants of the reservation are deprived are those which proceed from citizenship itself, because of this requirement of non-interference.
  • Whereas the State may not interfere with the conduct of the inhabitants of the reservation, it may not enforce its own laws there in any way, nor may it enter into any arrangements with an inhabitant of the reservation.
  • Whereas the State has the right to public property, it may and should prohibit its own currency from being taken into the reservation, and it may and should prohibit inhabitants of the reservation from using public lands or infrastructure (including transport networks, water, power or communications infrastructure). (May here descends from the right to property; Should from the responsibility of the State to its citizens only and from the libertarians’ own opposition to free lunches.)
  • Whereas the State may not interfere with the liberty of the inhabitants of the reservation, it may not offer any form of legal guarantee on any contract involving an inhabitant of the reservation.
  • Whereas entry into the reservation must be a result of a conscious, informed, deliberate and free choice, it must be preceded by a cooling-off period of, say, thirty days.
  • Whereas entry into the reservation must be a result of a conscious, informed, deliberate and free choice, it must be restricted to citizens over the age of independence.
  • Whereas entry into the reservation must be a result of a conscious, informed, deliberate and free choice, the inhabitants of the reservation must waive any right to parenthood. This entails a requirement either for mandatory sterilisation of anyone entering the reservation, or the raising of children of inhabitants of the reservation as orphans. Whereas the State may not interfere with the conduct of the inhabitants of the reservation; whereas many libertarian systems view giving birth as an act of force (and therefore wrong) in itself; and whereas all other things being equal, an orphan’s lot is not as good as that of a child raised by parents (biological or otherwise); the former option is likely the better one. Ideally, such sterilisation ought be permanent but reversible, in case an inhabitant of the reservation should decide to rejoin society; but it is more important that the procedure be as effective as possible, as unlike normal irresponsible parenthood, there is no easy fix if a child is accidentally born in the reservation, because the State may not interfere with the conduct of the inhabitants of the reservation.
  • Whereas entry into the reservation entails the forfeiture to the State of currency and any property whose ownership depends upon the state; and whereas no form of State-recognised currency may enter or leave the reservation; one may not enter the reservation if one has any dependants (whether they be spouses, descendants, other family or nonrelated persons) unless one ensures and can prove that their care is provided for prior to such forfeiture. Even if one does not have any moral responsibility to any dependants, one may and should choose to distribute that property which one will not or cannot take into the reservation, much in the manner of a will, rather than merely forfeit it.
This reservation need not actually be a separate, fenced-off area of land; it's more a political idea, and could be adopted as a form of legal fiction. One could choose to renounce one's citizenship of the State and "enter the reservation" by severing all ties between himself and the State. Of course, this would make him practically unemployable (or at least unemployable by any business that would pay him in legal tender), and severely restrict his movements (since he would be unable to access public roads); a separate, delineated area would probably be preferable to those who would renounce their citizenship.

It would be theoretically possible for the inhabitants of the reservation to set up their own independent system, with its own regulatory bodies and so on — but, even ignoring the fact that it's against the libertarian's ideals to do so, why would they go to the effort of doing so when it would take a much lesser effort to reform the State in the first place? (For this reason, the reservation would also serve as a form of insurance — if the State did become too far gone, and it became easier to start afresh than implement reform, the State would lose its citizens at a faster and faster rate and the reservation could supplant it. This sense of competition would serve to keep the less appropriate motives of the State in check.)


    1. I think a separate, fenced-off area or an island or something would be far easier to maintain than having them in regular society, partly because there would have to be a way of telling them apart and this is where we could potentially get into the whole "Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes" situation of discrimination. Having them go to a separate area would prevent this.

      Also to clarify for anyone that reads this and is confused: A permanent but reversible method of sterilisation is something like Implanon or an IUD. It does need to be changed over every few years, which would require medical care of some description and this complicates matters; You either trust that the Libertarians would develop those services in 3-5 years (risking accidental conception and the dilemma of whether to have the state "interfere" and take the child out for adoption), or you have the state come in regularly to replace and check on these devices which means state interference once again.

      It's an interesting idea.

    2. I don't think I'd trust them with that. They might be able to develop that service but there'd probably be at least some who'd reject it. If there is no permanent but reversible solution, I'd go for one that's simply permanent. Harsh for the person concerned, maybe, but not nearly as harsh as growing up in the reservation would be for their kids.

    3. It would be difficult to isolate all the public services...

      Firstly, some are geographical, and will necessarily benefit the reservation as much as the rest of the country: defence comes to mind, or foreign relations generally.

      Some public services require the participation of substantially all citizens; the eradication of infectious disease, for instance.

      Thirdly, some have a temporal aspect, such as pensions. If someone enters the reservation at 18 and leaves at 65, they only contribute to one side of the dependency ratio. This is especially interesting as you propose to forbid the traditional form of support in old age (children).

      There doesn't seem to be much reason to forbid people taking money in, especially fiat money, but I guess it would make sense to regulate it. In any case, that's a detail.

      The biggest reason against starting such a reservation, though, is that it would not remain "without system" for longer than maybe a week. Whoever's strongest (or, at best, most charismatic) will beat up anyone in sight who opposes them and set themselves up as the local warlord / chief / gang leader. All the downsides of a state without any of the moderating influences that more mature systems have.

      The lack of any family structures would make the situation different to traditional anarchy, but probably not for the better. After all, there's not much family structure in the typical street gang.

    4. I agree. If we're going to set up a geographical reservation, it should be external to the State so as not to waste resources. Infectious disease is another reason — we don't want people ruining the herd immunity of the population. I can distill the reason I'm against a libertarian system (such as it would be) but for a reservation in one sentence: "Do what you like, but don't ruin things for the rest of us."

      As for pensions, we can take a leaf or two out of existing systems to prevent that sort of abuse. Social Security payments in the US are related to the amount you've put into the system over your working life — if you went into the reservation for the term of that life, you'd get zip in a pension.

      Yeah, it wouldn't remain without system for long. But that's the whole point of demonstrating how untenable and downright irresponsible libertarianism actually is — systems arise naturally, and are more powerful than the individual. The solution isn't to eliminate them but to make them the best that they can be. As I said on Saturday, taking power away from the State just leaves it available for others to snap up.

    5. If all you want is a demonstration, what's wrong with existing events from history? Jonestown, or 1997 Albania; or, more generally, pretty much any ethnographic report on primitive tribes or street gangs...

    6. I'm confused. What sort of people are you imagining here? In concrete terms, not political ones... I fail at political ideology.

    7. It's not just a demonstration, although even if it were, the shortness of our cultural memory (and especially that of libertarians and an-caps — read Rosenfelder's article I linked on Saturday if you haven't already) would make it beneficial to keep it around. But I also think it serves other purposes; it's insurance, it lends legitimacy to the State if it's not the only option, and it gives the libertarians somewhere to live beyond the State they so despise.

    8. Miriam: The article I linked in Saturday's post details it.

    9. Well, it's not much good for insurance and lending legitimacy if it only lasts a week... then you're back to the current situation, just with one extra nation-state on the roster (and your own nation having ceded territory to it).

    10. I don't think it would ever be stable enough to be that much of a threat. The sort of people who would prefer the initial reservation to the State are fiercely individualistic and wouldn't be particularly inclined to band together — or if they did, they'd band into multiple squabbling factions rather than one whole one. It might be wise to reserve the right to the State to ensure a single system didn't emerge, just in case, but I don't expect it would be necessary.

    11. I still like my idea: High Explosives.