August 2021

Non-naive Libertarianism Converges to Localism

The Gentleman Homestead

I sometimes say we are “homesteading lite”, but I think I like “gentleman homesteading” better. We don’t, strictly speaking, need to homestead. We could live a purely consumerist lifestyle if we wanted to. We do it for the love of it, and to be healthier and more directly connected to the land that sustains us. It’s also a rejection of the negative externalities that come along with modern consumption, and finally a bit of risk mitigation in learning some hard lessons when we have a safety net that might not always be there.

Right now, we are nearing harvest with our first-ever round of meat-chickens. We used Cornish cross, built a couple of small “chicken tractors” and have been dragging the tractors around and letting them forage inside electric netting. Aside from interrupting a stalking bobcat who apparently had designs on my bird, it has been a pleasantly uneventful experience. We plan to harvest next weekend — wish us luck!

Non-naive Libertarianism Converges to Localism

The spirit of The United States of America is Liberty. With the current political climate in the USA, it’s not clear how that spirit will endure. Not least of which because we can’t seem to agree on what kinds of behaviors should be deemed as interfering with the liberty of another. 

Personally, I am strongly in favor of doing what we can to sustain and revive the spirit of liberty in this country. This is what the founders grappled with — this is what we continue to grapple with.

And this gets to the key insufficiency of a form of libertarianism that perceives this issue as “obvious” and imagines a blanket set of policies (or lack thereof) that would amount to a true “libertarianism”.

The reason I’m interested in discussing libertarians and libertarianism is that when libertarian philosophy is properly considered, it leads one to (multiscale) localism. And in my view this is the path to liberty. Not only individual liberty, but collective forms of liberty as well.

This term, “collective”, is an allergen to most libertarians. But it’s something they must address if the rubber is to meet the road, if for no other reason than epistemological uncertainty. Let me explain.

I claim the following is the basic presupposition of libertarian philosophy: that liberty is a good in and of itself, and that liberty amounts to freedom of choice and action under the constraint that those actions are not reducing the liberty of others. The proverbial fist you are free to swing until it hits my nose.

Let us first note that this is a very significant constraint. We are constantly exposed to the actions of others and, typically, vice versa. There are MANY actions that would indeed interfere with the liberty of others and we simply can’t allows those under a libertarian ethic. The “do-what-I-want-when-I-want” libertarians are not really. These are typically the same as the “no border” libertarians, which is an absolutely untenable idea. More on that below.

Clearly then the task of libertarian policy is to determine what constitutes infringement of the rights of another. Enter uncertainty.

There is no final answer this question of what constitutes infringement of another. Take the COVID situation as an example — the argument that a potentially-infected person shouldn’t be able to, say, enter a store without mitigating with a mask, is one that doesn’t sit will with most self-labeled libertarians. Yet, it does seem to conform to the concept that our actions should not be infringing on others: should not others be free to enjoy the store without undue risk of falling ill if they are willing to respect the constraint of mask-wearing?

This uncertainty about what constitutes an actionable externality, that is what rises to the level of deserving coercive and forceful intervention in the interest of preserving others’ liberty, implies there is no “pure” libertarianism. We are always grappling with uncertainty.

And that is sufficient to take us to localism. The only political solution is to share a political structure with those who are willing to draw the lines approximately where we would like to, and to tolerate others doing the same in parallel, despite that they draw the line differently. This is the collective liberty I mentioned above, and it demands boundaries and borders. Communities have a character of their own that is more than the sum of individuals contained in them, and we should honor that.

The USA is set up to run this way: local governance representing the mot idiosyncratic of collective agreements, up through national governance representing only broad and few underlying agreements.

We’ve obviously strayed far from this, if not in structure then in behavior, and it is making peaceful life more and more difficult as we attempt to achieve a homogeneous political regime. But let’s use the structure we were given. Let’s sort ourselves into, first, states, and then even more locally. Let’s find our tribes and set roots with them. This is the way to harmony. Be the self-organization you wish to see in the world.

Let the coming period be the ERA OF BASED STATES. States who assert their sovereignty, push back against the rush of centralization, and truly REPRESENT their people.


The Fall section of Intro to Complexity and Applied Complexity is fast approaching! Kicking off next month. Already have a great group together, there are a small number of seats left. If you are interested but have financial barriers, please reach out for possible scholarship. No promises! [Info on the course:]

Thanks for reading my note, and I hope you are finding that these strange times are helping you sort your true priorities — I know they’re having that effect on me.

All my best,