Editorial Introduction: Time to Start Over?


In recent months REASON has given much coverage to the new Libertarian Party. This is consistent with REASON's general emphasis on an evolutionary approach to achieving a free society—namely by working to enhance the spread of libertarian ideas so as to promote radical reforms in American institutions. Now, however, with the 1972 elections behind us, the editors thought it appropriate to explore with you an alternative approach—the creation of completely new libertarian countries, starting from scratch, somewhere in the world other than the United States.

To some, such a strategy may smack of defeatism. To those readers, let us assure you that neither REASON, nor the new-country entrepreneurs discussed in this issue, have given up on the United States. Certainly we at REASON intend to continue to expand our efforts at reaching people and influencing the trend of ideas in this country. Nevertheless, we are only being realistic to admit that we have no guarantee that our efforts (or those of other libertarians) will succeed. Indeed, there is some basis for thinking that fundamentally changing the U.S.'s direction is no longer possible (short of revolution or total economic collapse). Thus, both as an effort parallel to REASON's, and as an ultimate alternative in case of domestic catastrophe, the new-country efforts represent a valuable addition to the ongoing battle for freedom.

Why does the outlook for the U.S. appear so potentially bleak? Aren't truth and reason bound to prevail eventually? Ultimately, libertarian ideas may indeed reach enough people so that a certain kind of moral revolution may occur. But consider the nature of our semi-fascist corporate state system. Even with a moral revolution, may we not still be virtually locked into a continuously-expanding, ultimately self-destructing bureaucratic monster?

The political-economic structure created over the past hundred years cannot be wiped out at the stroke of a pen, without immense hardship to millions of people. The Social Security and Railroad Retirement systems are virtual perpetual motion machines, dependent on continued taxation in order to fulfill obligations made to retired and still-working people (most of whom would have entered other retirement plans if these systems didn't exist). 25 and 30-year municipal bonds are held by millions who are depending on future tax revenues to make good their investment. The multibillion dollar national debt is owed to millions of federal bondholders—again—by the expectation of future tax revenues.

At a Libertarian Party dinner this fall I asked Dr. Hospers what he would do about the national debt and Social Security if (hypothetically) he were elected president. He replied apologetically that since people had bought government bonds and paid Social Security taxes in good-faith expectation of future returns, taxation for these programs would have to continue until all present obligations were met. This is what is meant by being locked in!

And what of the future? On the horizon are a guaranteed annual income (under whatever euphemistic label), a compulsory federal health program, possibly permanent wage and price controls, and the continued growth of bureaucracies with a vested interest in keeping social problems (crime, poverty, unemployment) in existence as an excuse for new programs and larger budgets. And in 1976—the spectre of Edward Kennedy in the White House looms large.

It is considerations such as these that motivate the proponents of libertarian new-country projects. Why, they ask, should we who opposed the growth of collectivism at every step continue to be taxed to support its growth, patch up its failures, and pay off its debts? Mike Oliver, in the Declaration of Purpose of his limited-government constitution, put it this way: "Let the establishment of 'social meddlers' reap its own harvest; let the innocent person, who tried in vain to stop the onslaught of totalitarianism, escape the horror."

It is in this spirit that we present this special issue on new-country projects. The issue leads off with an interview—the first ever to appear—with Mike Oliver, probably the most experienced of the new-country developers. Mr. Oliver has produced a well-conceived libertarian constitution, proclaimed the Republic of Minerva in the South Pacific, and is actively engaged in negotiations to acquire several other land areas around the world. Another perspective is provided by entrepreneur Will Barkley, who argues that the most feasible place to start a new freedom settlement is in the oceans. Mr. Barkley does more than just talk—he is actively involved in developing the technology to make such settlements possible. A third approach is illustrated by the Tortuga project described in Robert Meier's article. This project is a relatively conventional no-taxation freeport development which offers potentially significant advantages in personal and economic freedom over most of the rest of the globe. Finally, Prof. John Snare provides a critical review of these and the other libertarian new-country ventures and offers his prognosis for their success. Prof. Snare has been associated with Operation Atlantis, a proposed proprietary community, and thereby speaks from experience.

To repeat the initial caveat: REASON has not abandoned the fight for freedom in the United States. But in these days of Soviet emigration taxes on Jews, and of IRS surveillance of fund transfers out of the U.S., the prudent libertarian would do well to be aware of all the options available. One of these days, they just might be needed.