Demographics, Democracy and the future of Liberty

Ron Paul always likes to say that liberty is popular.  Well, perhaps it is in theory.  Then again, so is peace, equality and generosity.  The devil, as always, is in the details.  And, when it comes to the details, most people part ways with those of us in the liberty movement.  They may love liberty but they also want “free” stuff from the government.  The two do not go hand in hand.  And this is among a population of largely European descent who have been raised up in a country which continues to at least pay lip service to the idea of limited government.  It is unlikely that there is any other demographic on our planet more amenable to these ideas.  And some folks have noticed.

Democracy is hardly a universal characteristic among the couple of hundred national governments throughout the world. And it never has been.  But, over the course of time, democracy or not, governments tend to broadly reflect some form of popular sovereignty.  Those who don’t are eventually replaced, often violently.  And, though there are a great many libertarians who are suspicious of or even downright hostile towards majority rule, there isn’t much anyone can do about it.  Governments will tend to represent views popular among the general population and those ideas are often the polar opposite of what many of us would prefer.  Making other people do what you want them to is also very popular most everywhere you turn.

So some libertarians have turned to various forms of what I will call “enclave theory” to try and best achieve the greatest freedom for the greatest number.  Some of these take a positive form, the best example of which is the Free State Project. The idea that liberty minded people should all move to an area already hospitable to our ideas and attempt to move the needle even further in the right direction is kind of clever.  New Hampshire was chosen as the ideal state and there is some evidence that the few thousand people who have already moved there have begun to make a difference.  Of course, not all the “locals” are thrilled with their “invasion.”

And it is the idea of “invasion” that troubles some libertarians so much that they are inclined to limit the free movement of people, not a very libertarian idea at all.  And that is the negative side of “enclave theory.”  Some people may be genuinely troubled and concerned about how massive immigration from around the world into the Western democracies will alter the composition of society and change it radically.  But there is a darker side, a side that sees the rest of the world as a threat, not just to freedom, but to our ethnic makeup.  There has always been a fear of brown people, however we define them, in this country.  They will take our jobs, marry (or worse) our daughters and spread their ruinous ideas and radical religion.  You hear it today but you could have heard the same thing 100 or 200 years ago.  

The fundamental idea is that the only way to protect freedom is to protect our particular way of life by whatever means is necessary.  Stop the free movement of people, products and ideas.  They will destroy us.  Or so they say.  It is a seductive argument and one it is easy to sell.  People respond far more to fear than they do to hope.  The problem with it isn’t simply that it suggests that we can only create a libertarian society through very non-libertarian means.  No, the even bigger problem is that the battle they propose to fight can never be won.  We will never have the numbers.

No, my friends, like it or not, the world is getting more colorful.  There will be fewer and fewer of we pale faced types going forward.  Heck, at some point the whole planet is likely to be a glorious mash up of every race and color.  And they aren’t all going to speak our language, either linguistically or politically.  If we want a freer world, our only hope in the long run is to share our ideas with people of all different cultural traditions and convince them of the justice inherent in liberty.  And, in a world with so much diversity, individual autonomy and respect for the variety of human choices may be the best solution of all.  Building walls will only alienate people from our ideas.  Building bridges has the potential to bring people to those ideas.

Thanks again for taking a few minutes of your time to “listen” to what I have to say.  I do appreciate it greatly.  Have a great weekend and join us next time when we once again try to put the ecumenical into libertarianism.

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