Debate: For Political Change, Choose Exit Not Voice

Should we try to make the existing system better-or should we try to launch a new one?


Liberating Ourselves by Starting Something New

Max Borders

Joanna Andreasson

On October 13, 2008, the heads of America's largest banks sat around a table with then–Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. The bankers were there to accept what would become the largest financial bailout in history. Take it or else, Paulson said of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The bankers complied.

The bailouts prompted a handful of cypherpunks to speed up work on a great technological experiment. Innovators like Nick Szabo, Wei Dai, and Hal Finney had already been playing around with ideas to challenge the existing monetary system. But on October 31, 2008, the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto published "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System."

That white paper was like universal acid poured over the gears of a great machine. The advent of the distributed ledger jolted many of us from our dogmas: If something as apparently core to state sovereignty as a working monetary system might be provided through a decentralized technological means, the world suddenly looked like a different place.

Up to that point, advocates of human freedom had pursued change largely through persuasion and advocacy. If you wanted to liberate people, you had to cry your teardrop in the swirling ocean of public opinion every election cycle and pray the tide would turn. If you wanted to change the law, you had to get your brilliant white paper into the hands of a congressman (who had probably just used those same hands to take a dirty campaign contribution).

Politics. Policy. Punditry. That's more or less the sum of "voice" as a strategy.

Both progressives and conservative populists are currently engaged in political trench warfare, which risks becoming less metaphorical as the tribes become more hostile. Such hostility is an inevitable byproduct of the voice theory of political change, but something better is coming: the end of politics as we know it.

Economist Albert O. Hirschman in his 1970 treatise Voice, Exit, and Loyalty explained that there are three ways to respond to any human system, be it a product, an organization, or a political regime. Voice—express yourself to persuade others to change the system. Exit—leave the system, joining another system or starting something new. Loyalty—stick by the system, even if it's less than ideal.

The 19th century was in many respects the era of loyalty (God and country). The 20th century was the era of voice (ballots over bullets). But the 21st century will be the age of exit (governance by choice).

One of the basic tests of "good" law is whether people actually want to follow it. In fact, the better the laws, the more likely people are to try to migrate to that legal system. And vice versajust ask Venezuelans. The easier exit becomes, the less it matters what any theorist thinks is justice, much less "social justice." We're entering an era of radical social experimentation carried out on far smaller scales than the revolutions of the past. And yet successes will be scalable to the level of humanity.

Right now a million software developers are creating new social operating systems using distributed ledgers, smart contracts, and cryptocurrencies. Users will either adopt these systems or not. And if they do, they're as good as law. Coders will thus generate whole new regimes, which users can simply opt out of if they aren't satisfied. Can you say that about politics?

When it comes to the voice strategy, most people still labor under a men-as-angels theory of government: If we could just get the right people in power…

But when it comes to exit, "Lawmakers could be saints, devils or monkeys on typewritersdoesn't matter," writes philosopher and venture capitalist Michael Gibson. "The opt out-opt in system lets only good laws survive. Bad laws are driven out of production. Bad laws can only inflict harm and destroy wealth up to the cost to opt out of them. We can underthrow the state one contract at a time."

The case for exit, then, is based not on a Pollyanna fantasy of how governors might behave, but on a recognition of the burgeoning technosphere we now inhabit. In my new book The Social Singularity (Social Evolution), I argue the age of exit isn't so much a choice but an inevitability given our current technological climate. The world is becoming too complex to be organized by hierarchies of power. Nimble nodes within flexible networks will replace more and more of humanity's outmoded top-down mediating -structures. Superior collective intelligence is on the way.

Cypherpunks have already created systems of monetary self-government. Digital nomads are quietly migrating to special economic zones (SEZs) that offer healthier legal institutions. Seasteaders are tokenizing the first floating platforms off the coast of French Polynesia. Innumerable options are appearing on the horizon that promise to drive the cost of exit down. Once enough of us adopt this innovation frame, there's no turning back.

The Belgian liberal Paul Emile de Puydt foresaw this coming way back in 1860. It would be simple enough, he wrote in Panarchy, "to move from republic to monarchy, from representative government to autocracy, from oligarchy to democracy, or even to Mr. Proudhon's anarchywithout even the necessity of removing one's dressing gown or slippers." Thanks to subversive innovation, de Puydt's system is upon us.

As technology grows in power, political theory is dying. The age of exit will be a post-ideological age, as people test their ideas in the petri dishes of programmable incentive systems and porous communities.

Voice cannot be dispensed with altogether. Some variant of it will be required to draw people into the newly created systems. But for those wanting a freer, richer, more varied world, there's still too much investment in voice as a strategy, and far too little investment in exit.

Voice Leads to Real Political Change in the Here and Now

Robert W. Poole Jr.

Long before I'd heard of Hirschman's famous essay, I was enthusiastic about "exit": creating freedom-respecting enclaves outside the United States. Like many young libertarians in the early 1970s, I subscribed to Mike Oliver's New Country Project newsletter. I also oversaw Reason's December 1972 special issue on the subject. From 1974 to 1976 I even served part-time as a consultant on two of Oliver's projects: Abaco in the Bahamas and Na-Griamel in the New Hebrides islands in the South Pacific.

Joanna Andreasson

Both were attempts to assist local movements attempting to secede from impending post-colonial regimes that seemed likely to go socialist. Unfortunately, both well-meaning efforts failed, and by the late 1970s I had become disenchanted with the idea of creating a freer country outside the United States.

What remained was an exit option within the United States: My 1980 book, Cutting Back City Hall, helped inspire many unincorporated suburbs to "secede" from county governments, incorporating as new cities with mostly privately contracted public services. And in 2000–01, Reason Foundation provided much of the policy ideas to support the proposed secession of the San Fernando Valley from the City of Los Angeles. (Valley voters supported the measure, but it failed to pass citywide.)

I continue to see great value in competition among the 50 states, in terms of taxation, regulation, and personal freedom, which is driving significant exoduses from high-tax/high-regulation states such as New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and California. My wife and I joined this trend in 2003, relocating from Los Angeles to South Florida, and never looked back. We've subsequently been joined by several Reason colleagues.

But despite all this, for decades now I have primarily been concerned with making good use of the "voice" option to advance liberty. Charles Murray's landmark 1984 book, Losing Ground, provided the intellectual underpinnings of federal welfare reform legislation during the Clinton administration. Decades of work by the Cato Institute and Reason Foundation, along with activist groups like the Marijuana Policy Project, laid a basis for the growing wave of decriminalization and legalization, first of medical and then of recreational marijuana.

During the 1990s, Reason Foundation's Privatization Center greatly expanded support for competitive contracting of state and local public services. We sought and found "customers" in the public sectorelected officials who embraced these ideas and were happy to have free hands-on advice and assistance from our expert staffers. These customers included political leaders from both major parties, such as Democratic mayors Rich Daley (Chicago) and Ed Rendell (Philadelphia) and Republican mayors Steve Goldsmith (Indianapolis) and Richard Riordan (Los Angeles). The Reason Foundation team also played a leading role in advising Orange County, California, on how to emerge from bankruptcy.

My own work in transportation policy over nearly three decades has resulted in real policy changes as well. Pioneering studies introduced the idea of airport privatization to the United States, following Margaret Thatcher's privatization of the British Airports Authority. Besides encouraging a number of cities to consider leasing or selling their airports in the 1990s, this work led to Congress enacting an Airport Privatization Pilot Program, under which the shabby San Juan Puerto Rico airport has been transformed, and other privatizations are in the works.

A 1988 Reason policy paper on privately financed solutions for congested freeways led directly to California legislation that authorized pilot projects, including the world's first express toll lanes, opened in Orange County in 1995. Today there are 41 such projects in operation around the country, and plans have been adopted for entire networks of priced express lanes in most of the largest and most congested metro areas. We often worked with state transportation departments, treating them as customers that needed some initial guidance as to what, why, and how.

Reason Foundation's voice-based approach operates on two levels, through journalism and research. The former's mission is to introduce new ideas and counter bad ideas. In the early days, there was just the print magazine, but even then we were challenging the status quothe public school monopoly, second-class citizen status for gay people, the bankruptcy of the war on drugs, etc. Changing minds is not easy, but over the decades Reason has contributed meaningfully to pro-liberty changes in the way people think about many subjects.

The research division's goal is also to change the conventional wisdom about a wide variety of public policies. But unlike most other think tanks, our M.O. focuses considerable effort on getting policy changes implemented. Doing that requires more than just producing solid policy studies. It requires seeking out and working with customers, mostly in the public sector, as discussed above.

In attempting to shift America's troubled air traffic control system out of the hands of the federal government (as 60 other countries have already done), we helped former Michigan Gov. John Engler, then the CEO of the Business Roundtable, create an expert working group able to present a respectable reform proposal to key aviation stakeholder groups. That led to finding an enthusiastic government customer: the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster (R–Pa.). Although we ended up with a large and credible coalition, we were defeated (this time) by the politicking of status-quo aviation groups.

Promising technologies might make certain aspects of modern government irrelevant or easily evadable, but in our world of enduringly powerful nation-states, voice is essential and has proven effective. Nobody ever said this would be easy. But the fact that Reason's work has led to meaningful changes in a host of areas at all levels of government convinces me that the voice approach is well worth pursuing.

NEXT: Jeff Flake and the Hated—Yet Vital—Libertarian Center

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  1. It’s time for a new perspective that incorporates current technology and the increased awareness that results from social media.

    We don’t need cardboard politicians with cable bundle platforms. We have the technology to vote online on most if not all issues. A true democracy.

    Our economy is a fiction. One with recessions and depressions based on market whims driven by the minority elites. People at work, doing what society needs, represent the true economy.

    1. > A true democracy

      Always leads to dictatorship. Three wolves and a sheep deciding on dinner. Fuck that noise.

      1. There has never been a true democracy.

      2. Democracy is Communism Light.

        1. Simple minds are easily distracted.

          Neither socialism nor capitalism work on their own.

          They are like two parts of a whole separated to create divisiveness. To divide and conquer.

          Your unseen masters don’t care which half wins because either is vulnerable to corruption and will always be under attack from the other.

          I read these comments and I think of pawns.

          1. I think of politicians which are more like bishops and rooks, slightly more powerful than pawns but not that much different.

      3. Isn’t the free market basically a democracy? Only those products and service succeed that are voted for by consumers through their purchases. The difference being, of course, that on the free market, it is not a winner-take-all type of game and there is room for less popular choices. Nevertheless, even the less popular choices need a certain number of customers to continue supporting production.

        1. Are you saying that sheeple act more like a monopsony in the presence of a duopoly or am I reading too much of an Apple vs Android thing into it?

        2. The free market is like a democracy where the rich have 1000 votes for every 1 of yours.

  2. This topic itself is not very clear, and the debating points muddled.

    People today already do a lot of things that don’t require physical movement or goods — movies, eBooks, music. Virtual travel offers many advantages over physical travel (and disadvantages too). Games are their own virtual world.

    How many people nowadays make a living from these activities? As these areas expand, fewer and fewer people will need the physical world to make a living. Throw in the dark web, mesh networks, and cryptocurrency, and governments will be increasingly disassociated from virtual society and economy. More and more of life will be in whatever virtual societies we hang out with. The only governments there will be Terms of Service, contracts, and whatever truly voluntary associations we want. Physical crimes will be impossible.

    I think it entirely possible that 50 or 100 years from now, today’s governments will be as abusive as ever, but insignificant relative to the virtual world. More and more people will have no visible means of support. Food and housing will be provided by people with a foot in both worlds — farms and factories will be mostly robotic, and will trade physical goods for virtual goods. Governments will try to infiltrate such networks ,but with little luck. They will tax physical goods, but that will be such a small portion of our lives that it will be like worrying about the price of socks.

    1. I suppose I am closer to the exit position taken here, but I think”exit” is the wrong word. We won’t exit the world of governments so much as just hide from it in virtual worlds. One of the biggest differences will be having as many virtual personas as we want. Just as we now have virtual personas in different comment systems and different games, so we will have different personas in every place we deal with, in hierarchies and networks of our own. Brokers will exchange goods and currencies among virtual and physical worlds.

      Government today is too physical to easily adapt to virtuality. Building codes when you only need enough physical space for a bed and exercise bike and food prep, and almost all the rest of your life is virtual? Car? Commute? Physical hobbies? Just not important like now. Occupational licensing doesn’t apply to robots.

      What will physical government do when the physical, controllable, taxable world is only half the economy? 10%? 1%? It could be socialist, anarchist, or some muddled remnants of today; it won’t matter. Title IX? Baking cakes? Insignificant. Virtual discrimination won’t matter when you can present different manifestations simultaneously, and as many as you want.

      There will always be physical attractions and things to do in the physical world, and ways for government to fuck up the physical world, but when people have virtual alternatives, governments will have much more trouble enforcing those restrictions.

      1. One of my favorite fantasies used to be to have a Ted-Kaczynski-style tiny little hut (see , AKA the “Unibomber”) up at the surface of the Earth. Pay maybe $10 per year in real estate taxes. But a tiny little trap door hides an elevator to underground, where I have my hidden multi-million dollar mansion, untaxed!

        Will Bitcoin and such crypto-currencies allow us to buy and sell such properties, while keeping our underground mansions hidden from the taxmen of Government Almighty?

        1. My answer is no; rent the equipment, bring in the materials. Those will be taxed, of course. County inspectors (or their drones or satellites) will notice the activity. You won’t be able to keep the inspectors out when they show up, and they will ding you for building code and land use violations.

          You might be able to bring in the equipment and materials at night, little by little. Good luck with that, once the first tiny slipup shows up on their drone or satellite images.

          Why would you need a physical underground mansion anyway? Virtual ones will be much bigger, fancier, and malleable. Move rooms around like Hogwartz; can’t do that with a physical mansion.

        2. Disaffected, faux libertarian losers appear to find tax cheats and freeloaders appealing. They also seem to be attracted to a government-free fantasy land.

          They tend to lack influence or success in the real world, though.

          1. “They tend to lack influence or success in the real world, though”

            No one cares about your admissions.

            1. He’s a proggy, it’s all about projecting their feelings and fantasies at reality and being in a constant state of pissed off because they never match.

          2. “Disaffected, faux libertarian losers appear to find tax cheats and freeloaders appealing.”

            Giving a single dollar to Government Almighty, that one can avoid giving, is like giving another bottle of whiskey to an alcoholic! Government Almighty will spend that extra dollar doing stupid, counterproductive, anti-freedom, and even EVIL things!

            “The Flute Police”, sung to the tune of “Dream Police”, by Cheap Trick

            The flute police
            They live inside of my head
            The flute police
            They come to me in my bed
            The flute police
            They’re coming to arrest me
            Oh no
            You know that talk is cheap
            And rumors ain’t nice
            With my cheap plastic flute
            I don’t think I’ll survive
            The night the night
            ‘Cause they’re waiting for me
            Looking for me
            Every single night
            (They’re) driving me insane
            Those men inside my brain
            The flute police
            They live inside of my head
            The flute police
            They come to me in my bed
            The flute police
            They’re coming to arrest me
            Oh no

            1. Well I can’t tell lies
              ‘Cause they’re listening to me
              And when I fall asleep
              Bet they’re spying on me tonight,
              ‘Cause they’re waiting for me
              Looking for me
              Every single night
              (They’re) driving me insane
              Those men inside my brain
              I try to sleep
              They’re wide awake
              They won’t let me alone
              They don’t get paid to take vacations
              Or let me alone
              They spy on me
              I try to hide
              They won’t let me alone
              They persecute me
              They’re the judge and jury all in one
              ‘Cause they’re waiting for me
              Looking for me
              Every single night
              (They’re) driving me insane
              Those men inside my brain
              The flute police
              They live inside of my head
              The flute police they come
              To me in my bed
              The flute police
              They’re coming to arrest me
              The flute police (police, police)
              The flute police (police, police)

              (To find precise details on what NOT to do, to avoid the flute police, please see ? This has been a pubic service, courtesy of the Church of SQRLS!

      2. To me there is not a line between virtual or physical work.

        I work from home. The people I work with most I have never met personally, are very real. Just as I am.

        We have our jobs to do and when it hits the fan. I need an IT specialist to get the workstation up running, a supervisor to cut through a situation with the client, an operations person to make the connection. Contracts from sales people. They need me as well because I can produce the product. Works out.

        Technology is not disconnected from humanity.

      3. Governments will try to infiltrate such networks ,but with little luck. They will tax physical goods, but that will be such a small portion of our lives that it will be like worrying about the price of socks.

        What makes you think government can’t/won’t tax your virtual world too?

        1. The dark web, mesh networks. The more decentralized anything is, the harder it is for centralized bureaucracies to even know what and where it is, let alone tax and control it.

          I have personal experience with the shadow economy (and I don’t mean drugs; mostly construction, car repairs, handyman, landscaping). The people who get away with it know how to keep a low profile.

          I can’t imagine how the dark web could be easier to infiltrate. Throw in mesh networks, and there won’t even be ISPs to snoop on.

          1. I think you’re dreaming.

            They have unlimited funding and guns. Recruiting storm troopers to infiltrate those not paying homage is what government does best. It’s not that they can’t…it’s that they simply haven’t got round to it yet.

          2. It didn’t work out so well for Ross Ulrich and Silk Road.

    2. Too many people receive compensation for little or no useful work.

      6% of the top 1% don’t even have any job.

      Take a lesson from evolution. In nature, the evolution of all life on earth, progresses through lean efficiency and becomes extinct through poor choices and waste. It is a pure formula.

      The corrupt establishment schemes to maintain an uneven balance of waste and excess (for them) and excessive leanness (for the poor) using the brainwashed middle class as muscle.

      Are you going to be part of the solution or the problem?

      1. HA! HA! “poor”…

        Where exactly are those goal posts now a days?

      2. “Take a lesson from evolution. In nature, the evolution of all life on earth, progresses through lean efficiency and becomes extinct through poor choices and waste. It is a pure formula.”

        Paul Ehrlich’s got your number.
        Sorry, humans are sentient. We adapt and/or change the environment.

        1. We can choose right or wrong.

          While lower forms of life may not recognize a choice or value choosing right, rational beings choose right by discerning the truth with evidence of logic and science. We evolve, they don’t.

          You can deny it until you’re blue in the face, and rational people will dismiss you, but the criteria for rational behaviour applies to everyone.

          1. “rational beings choose right by discerning the truth with evidence of logic and science. ”

            That got us leftists engaging in eugenics.

            1. Maybe being irrational is your natural state. You have a less than 50% chance at evolution.

              Rational people choose right over wrong and dismiss or punish those who don’t.

              It’s called being civilized.

          2. “We can choose right or wrong.
            While lower forms of life may not recognize a choice or value choosing right, rational beings choose right by discerning the truth with evidence of logic and science. We evolve, they don’t.
            You can deny it until you’re blue in the face, and rational people will dismiss you, but the criteria for rational behaviour applies to everyone.”

            And that has to do with my comment how?

            1. You were rambling. I had to fill in the blanks.

              Next time make a point.

    3. By “virtual life”, I don’t mean 24 hours a day with VR goggles and bodysuit treadmill. Broadcast football games and car races show far more than in person. What if the choice is a several day trip for a couple of hours at the Grand Canyon, or a drone zooming up and down the canyon both horizontally and vertically? No cheap motels, no Denny’s food, no kids yelling in the back seat, no car rental or flights to book. The expense alone would be tremendous. You could tour far more European cathedrals and museums in VR than in person, without having to put up with snobs who don’t speak your language.

      If you could do your job remotely, by way of controlling robots, and not have a commute or crappy cafeteria food, wouldn’t that have advantages? The company needn’t care where you live or what your real name is, as long as your have references, show enough skill in a test, do the job, and take their pay.

  3. Because we’re “on top” on the world stage, there is no good way to hit the reset button, let alone will.

    I think Democracy’s are a proven failure. I definitely think they should be apart of a “perfect government.” Is there a Democracy that isn’t heavily manipulated by the wealthy? Is there a Democracy where the people haven’t voted themselves public funds?

    I think the most important part of a successful government is it’s ability to maintain individual citizen’s freedom.

    The 80/20 rule is exactly why democracy is so abhorrent. Could we establish a government that took over 80% of the vote to pass something? Would it even function?

    1. You don’t know anything about democracy.

      You get one vote every 4 years for a cardboard corrupt politician proposing an unsustainable and divisive cable bundle.

      You’re eating shit and calling it steak because you don’t know any better.

      1. I guess I’ll say it again:

        “Is there a Democracy that isn’t heavily manipulated by the wealthy? Is there a Democracy where the people haven’t voted themselves public funds?”

        What makes you think your version of online voting wouldn’t be corrupted or that the voters themselves wouldn’t be? Whats your threshold for the many forcing their will on the few? What protection would you propose?

        1. A constitution of inalienable human rights will always be our only protection.

          Ours are being violated currently..

          1. So which one do you want, a “true democracy” or a “constitution of inalienable human rights?”

            You don’t get both.

            That was the point I was trying to communicate earlier. So, where or how would you limit the “Democracy’s” power over individuals? The US is a great example of the democracy walking all over human rights. Mission creep is a thing.

            1. Everything is rationally defined by rules.

              A true democracy is one based on the principles of truth, not lies, even if a majority of people want it to.

              Just like a “true” anything is.

              Of course we can have both.

              1. “A true democracy is one based on the principles of truth, not lies, even if a majority of people want it to.”

                So… you’re dodge is even full of shit too.

                1. your*

                  God damn it!

                  1. Logic isn’t a “dodge”.

          2. > A constitution of inalienable human rights will always be our only protection.

            “The constitution either permits such a government as we have had, or is powerless to defend against it. Either way, it is not fit to exist.” – Lysander Spooner

            I’d rather have some competition in my government – some that I can fire at any time and for any reason.

            1. I think you’re suffering from delusions of grandeur.

              Seriously, why would anyone listen to you?

    2. Could we establish a government that took over 80% of the vote to pass something? Would it even function?

      I think a government, rooted in libertarian principle, with extensive limitations and credible penalties for violating said limitations would be far better than what we have.

      Bottom line…the only legitimate function of government is to protect the rights (negative rights) of the individual. ANYTHING beyond that and liberty is diminished.

      But, of course, that would require agreement upon the proper role of government and liberty being the desired effect.

  4. Time to admit the American experiment has failed and we’re all socialists now. Individualism is a dirty word and your only value lies in your identity group membership. Tell me who you follow on Twitter so that I may know you.

    1. Just make sure to wear some Nikes or Levi’s to let the world know your political beliefs.

  5. It’s funny to read this when what I’m hearing in the social medias is a determination to vote straight ticket in November.

    Not just ‘voice’, but the ‘voice’ most hated by so many.


    Because it’s becoming crystal clear exactly what the problem is–and even that the problem on the other side of the aisle is pretty much bleed over.

    The left must be crushed. All of it. And rendered impotent in perpetuity.

    1. Your betters have won the culture war. You have lost. You have been losing for more than a half-century, with no change in sight. Progress has been effected, and will continue to develop, against the wishes and efforts of right-wing losers.

      In a free country, half-educated, superstitious goobers are free to pine for good old days that never existed. Progress based on reason, science, education, liberty, and tolerance will continue while the Republicans, conservatives, and faux libertarians mutter bitterly and inconsequentially at the sidelines.

      Carry on, clingers. With more impotent dreams about the anti-social revenge of the disaffected and backward, perhaps.

      1. B- better than your usual troll. I can tell you put some effort into this one too.

        1. Maybe by cutting and pasting selections of his previous posts. Sort of a “best of” compilation.

          I’d give it a D for originality but a B for meaningless but eloquent rhetoric.

      2. Not so fast! The Bring Back Coathanger Abortions Amendment has only been in the Prohi and Go-Pee platforms since 1976–the first election after the Supreme Court made law of the LP platform plank. That’s only 46 years, for the Love of Allah! Give coercive superstition a chance! Women will learn to obey just as Rudolph Valentino predicted.

      3. > Progress based on reason, science, education, liberty, and tolerance [as we and only we define it] will continue

        Or we’ll fucking kill you and your kids!!

        Stop resisting!!

        1. I couldn’t care less whether conservatives resist progress. Hasn’t done them much good during a half-century and more of American progress; I see little reason to believe right-wingers will begin to be effective any time soon.

    2. Because it’s becoming crystal clear exactly what the problem is

      Yes, the problem is collectivism.

      1. Right, the collectivism of everyone on the left. Geez it’s like you’re not even paying attention.

        1. Okay, you see that you’re the problem.

          Now do something about it.

          May I suggest a Drano cocktail?

        2. Haven’t you heard?
          Conservatives aren’t collectivists. They’re rugged individualists. We know this because Rush Limbaugh said so!
          Meanwhile, liberals are collectivists, even when they are defending individual rights. That’s the worst type of collectivism – the insidious sneaky kind!

          1. Leftists–who are not and have never been ‘liberal’–though they have, lo these many years, stolen the name, do not defend individual rights.

            They may couch their horrors in language that does not make the rational vomit uncontrollably, but they have nothing good to bring to the table.

            Conservatives can most certainly be collectivists.

            Collectivism is simply not a virtue of the ‘right’. It is not part of the base tenets of right-wing thought. Individual liberty. Personal responsibility. Right from the start collectivism is pushed away.

            And you are confused, as I’ve noted previously. I am speaking of leftISM. Not leftISTS.

  6. I suspect most people who talk exit really want voice – and would be far better off even at exit if they first actually tried voice. If only to find others who can agree specifically on how voice isn’t working and how exit can be made to work.

    America has a long historical tradition of being able to have the exit option and it is built into our cultural DNA as the frontier mentality. But the actual frontier experience was far different than the version we now imagine it was now that we no longer have a clear line of what is frontier and what is not. Where the only real option is more of an internal frontier or a carve-out. Where even an exit community is going to have to learn how to deal with non-exit neighbors.

    There were a lot of Utopian and escapist communities then. Most failed fast because they were built on escapist dreams of the ideal rather than construction of the real. Truly individualist exit failed even faster.

    Libertarian talk of exit is mostly idle escapism – hobby talk – bullshitting over beers. Until they can actually share real ideas – like eg the more hippie/communitarian intentional communities can – it will amount to nothing. And those real ideas almost always originate with trying voice first so one can know where that fails.

    1. I dunno. I fully expect up and coming countries to look upon the errors of the past few centuries and try something new (see China). As it is, the arc of humanity has been generally towards more freedom (how ever you define it) and better quality of life. I don’t expect that to change no matter how you get there.

      That makes every area with an untried idea a new frontier and laboratories of democracy writ large. The human tendency is towards innovation as people see a better way and adopt it either by voting with their feet or voting with their minds.

      That also means embracing the possibility that libertarianism will eventually outlive its usefulness as its forms become ossified and replaced with something more workable.

  7. Many libertarians, such as Max Boot and Ilya Somin, like to see exit and voice as substitutes for each other. The correct way to see them is, rather, as complements. Neither is sufficient by itself. I am pleasantly surprised to see Robert Poole recognizing this.

    1. Yeah, you can wield your voice while still threatening to exit, as Poole apparently did when he moved from CA to FL.

      At the same time, there are some dangers exit won’t address, like a foreign invasion. I mean, you could run away, but honor would tend to frown at that, and we’ve seen how hostile the world getting to refugees anyway.

  8. AP’s over the edge:

    “Kavanaugh case unfolds as DeVos readies sexual assault rule”
    “The dramatic Senate testimony last week by Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh came as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos considers new guidelines that could drastically change the way allegations of sexual violence are investigated on college campuses.”

    I think they just admitted it was a kangaroo-court.

    1. The poor kangaroos – what have *they* done?

      1. Molested that poor woman 35 years ago?

        1. “Ewwww!”

          /Teenage sheila

  9. “Systems aren’t just made of bricks
    They’re mostly made of people
    You can send them into hiding, but they’ll be back again”


    If I could get my fellow libertarians to embrace just a few basic principles, one of them would be that no change is possible without changing people’s minds.

    There simply is no libertarian substitute for persuading your fellow Americans to want more freedom. Changing a system doesn’t mean anything if not changing what people think. Embrace that mission. Go ye unto the world and preach the libertarian gospel. That’s how things change.

    That’s how Jim Crow changed. That’s how marijuana legalization changed.

    Encourage your friends and family to think for themselves. Encourage them to take responsibility for their own lives–rather than sell their freedom short to some politician making their choices for them. Convince them that their own qualitative preferences are unique and can only be asserted by being free to make their own choices.

    Changing the system is ultimately about changing people’s minds. Authoritarian or libertarian, either system requires a people who will tolerate it.

    1. If there is ever a real libertarian movement in this country, it certainly won’t come from top down. Politicians are too invested in the status quo.

      Like it or not, the only peaceful way to libertopia is convincing a majority of people that liberty is in their (and everyone’s) best interests. Once the majority (vast majority?) clamors for liberty, the politicians will follow. Not until.

      1. Politicians will always corrupt “principles” in favour of populism.

        If you have any principles, you don’t want politicians anywhere near them.

        1. The point is, that politicians generally give people EXACTLY what they are asking for. Until people demand liberty, there will be no liberty.

          1. My experience is that politicians lie to get elected and then sell out to stay there.

            I don’t remember ever asking for that.

      2. It may not even require a majority. It may be just a critical mass of the people.

        Think of all the minority interest groups out there from environmentalists on down the list. They can have a huge impact on policy without being anything like a majority. And the influence of the environmentalist isn’t because the Green Party keeps winning a majority of the vote. It’s because they’ve managed to persuade an awful lot of people.

        Their failures are largely due to the failure to persuade more people. To whatever extent our politicians don’t implement their polices–more than they do to fight climate change, etc.–it’s because the environmentalists have failed to persuade more people to sacrifice their livelihoods for polar bears, future generations, etc.

        Our cause should be easier to get across. I’m not asking people to make sacrifices for others. I’m asking them to care about themselves.

        1. This is a great comment. Most libertarians are too busy arguing about legal age and other nonsense to realize that the time is truly ripe to change minds and grow the message of liberty and a true third party option.

          Many people are fed up with both parties, but haven’t gotten out of the false dichotomy mindset, so they will keep defending their party that seems not quite as bad as the repulsive other party. They don’t realize that both parties are garbage and are playing them like a fiddle. All of the click bait headlines have been carefully orchestrated to play on emotions. Until we realize that no matter how logical and rational we like to think we are, all humans are emotional and are susceptible to tribalism, coercion and manipulation, we can’t truly make any progress.

          People have been led to believe that authoritarianism (whether R or D – makes no difference) is what will save them and keep them safe and in control of their lives. They cannot imagine a life with less rules, regulations, and more power by their own choices and education.

  10. My initial thought:


    If I rely on voice, I’ll be dead long before I’m free.

    But, as Max points out, voice will still be required to convince people to exit.

    1. Some of the best voice is simple behavior. After all, it’s a nice costly signal that’s hard to counterfeit.

  11. The dichotomy is false. By running candidates on a good platform Libertarian spoiler votes repeal bad laws just as inexorably as socialist spoiler votes enacted them before Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Ceausescu and Honecker made it all too clear where the initiation of force HAS to lead. So working within the system–with emphasis on repealing the Nixon looter campaign subsidies–works. And if anarchist madmen, mystical zealots or objectivist strikers set up some parallel alternative that does not reflect poorly on the LP, that’s fine too. Competition in the offering of advantages is good.

  12. “Max Borders” sounds like the name of a sockpuppet H&R commenter.

    1. LOL, it kind of does!

      Of course we real libertarians want MINIMUM Borders ? or even better, no borders at all.

      1. No, no, no, no, no.

        We want PRIVATE borders to PRIVATE property.

        1. Get Off My Lawn!!

  13. The image of a stick figure heading for the door is iconic of a Brazilian libertarian comedy troupe: Porta dos Fundos.
    Their skits are a lot like early SNL–except that you see them on Youtube rather than corporate teevee. To see one with English included search “Porta dos Fundos, Imigra??o”

  14. Great topic of discussion that is long overdue, but agree that the arguments for and against are a bit muddied. Both writers have touched on some important points. Certainly, there are some great things ahead for us in terms of new technological innovations that can give many of us a healthy dose of optimism about how much better our lives could become. Just on the issue of Blockchain alone, we could see some dramatic shifts in the way that we manage things at all levels of society, starting within just a few years. But while things like this are intriguing to say the least, there is an important component to these changes that must be considered if we’re really headed to a new place of peace and prosperity, and that is 1) How well the public understands and can make use of it without a great learning curve, and 2) How willing is the status quo ready to change? And this is where things may start to become problematic for us as we start to see a glimpse of how the status quo will respond: insert the successful (or bogus) prosecution of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht, and the more recent charges against Cody Wilson, the self-identified “crypto-anarchist” who has published instructions on how to make your own 3-D printed handgun.

  15. the harsh reality is that the status quo isn’t about to go quietly into the night–and if anything, is willing to target those who are pursuing radical ideas in a grey area of law to ensure compliance from the rest of us. If one particular innovation such as Blockchain could provide radical transparency into the way that government really functions, (and for that matter the entire banking system), you could almost bet that they will be looking for ways to co-opt such innovations in order to ensure that, at the very least, there will be no dramatic shifts in power. And for that, we’ll likely see exponential changes in our society, but not enough to bring us to that dreamy, “libertarian moment” that everyone is hoping for, because exponential change will usher in a different set of problems that gov’t will want to reign-in rather than let free. And, to the extent that the rest of the world tends to be fairly second rate (or worse) compared to the US, it then brings us to the arguments that Max has made, which is not without it’s own problems.

  16. The sticking point isn’t what, so much as it is how–which is a nearly identical problem that patriotic libertarians have for not being able to change very much in Washington, or at the state or local level. With exit offering a different kind of complexity that may not include the current problems of a well-entrenched status quo, there are at least a few points worth considering if it is to be considered a real strategy for adoption.

    First, can Westerners who are born and raised in a highly visual, information rich culture with lots of lifestyle choices be persuaded to depart their known (cushy) universe to go strike-out on their own, in some new type of surroundings that takes them away from it?

    Secondly, how ‘exiters’ will achieve the true freedom that they are seeking, without worry about looking over their shoulder for you-know-who, AND maintain some sense of stability and place in a new host country or jurisdiction that won’t be planning a quick return to the status quo once that region has achieved critical mass, and/or there are no legal or foreign policy issues to worry about with reneged agreements (reads: Hong Kong).

    To me, true exit means renouncing, which is a huge, permanent decision that is hugely political and ideological, and would likely require a very big justification for doing so.

    1. There’s strength in numbers.

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