Opinionated @ CFE

Libertarianism and Localism


As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of libertarianism. I generally like government to take as light as hand as is necessary to get things done. I’m also a fan of government decisions being made as close as possible to those being affected. This ensures that bad decisions are contained and many potential good solutions can be tried and tweaked. I think these two ideologies go hand-in-hand, but it seems that all too many, at least in practice, disagree.

The essence of libertarianism is minimalism in government to necessarily constrain it from doing too many things lest it become an unmanageable beast. When representatives are too far removed from constituents, this dysfunction only grows. Members of the US House of Representatives currently have over 700,000 constituents each, and effectively listening to them and representing them is an almost impossible task. Combine this tone deafness with de facto unlimited authority to make law and a low likelihood of being chased out of office and what do you get? An unfortunately uncontrollable monster.

Localism attempts to address these same problems by devolving power back to cities and counties. The theory here is that by having a relatively small number of constituents per representative, they can be held more accountable for their choices and individual voices do not get drowned out. Even though local government can fall for the same abuses as any other level of government, citizens can more easily react either through the voting box or the moving box.

Unfortunately, many libertarians believe both in sending power back to local government and constraining them from doing much of anything. This may sound like promoting liberty, but it is another form of tyranny that denies people the right to assembly. Why should the end goal of libertarianism be to actually prevent people from exercising a critical constitutional right?

I think it no small coincidence that a city is a corporation. As a resident, you are a stockholder with voting rights. Your city council members are members of the board and the mayor is the chairman. In all respects, a city functions just like a small-to-medium company and you function as an investor. If the board or chairman don’t vote the way you want, you can ask other shareholders to replace them. If that doesn’t work, you can sell your stake in the company and purchase a stake in another one. After all, nobody forced you to live in a particular community. You are free to select whichever community you would like to live in and attempt to convince like-minded people to join together to realize your own vision of good.

And really, that is what libertarianism should be striving for, to see that as many people as possible are able to live with the kind of government they want. It may be appealing to try and get everyone to do what you think is right, but that’s just another form of oppressive government.

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