The problems of ‘Exit’ and ‘Autonomy’ in (mostly American) libertarian thought

Over at EconLog, Italian political theorist Alberto Mingardi has a great post up on defining national socialism. Here is the money shot:

So, the nationalists are going to be more socialist, because they want to vindicate the power of the nation state in taking control of the national economy, and the socialists are going to be more nationalist, because strengthening regulation and advancing redistribution is all the more difficult in supranational arrangements, where a cooperative understanding is seldom reached.

My own mind was drawn to this insight, though:

I fear there is a symmetric problem for libertarians. If we take Applebaum’s points seriously, as we should, we are put in a very awkward position: which is defending the status quo, made of relatively free international trade plus relatively weak supranational institutions, as the least bad of all possible worlds. And yet libertarians are highly critical of the status quo and won’t feel well in the company of the current global elites.

This is largely correct. Libertarians are right, I think, to be critical of the status quo (even though it is the least bad of all possible worlds, and has been for the last three decades), but they veer off in the wrong direction when they start emphasizing exit and autonomy over entrance and interconnectedness.

This is not just a complaint about rhetoric, either. When libertarians constantly focus on exit and autonomy, a tendency begins to develop where these two concepts become harder and harder to critique and develop into more coherent ideas about liberty and freedom. Just look at all the support for Brexit by libertarians, or the support still given to the Confederate States of America (!). These libertarians have become so obsessed with exit and autonomy that they end up failing to even entertain the notion that you can’t have exit without entrance, or autonomy without interconnectedness.


One thought on “The problems of ‘Exit’ and ‘Autonomy’ in (mostly American) libertarian thought

  1. Fair point but what about the ‘competitive federalism’ / tax competition argument? I think as libertarians we should want to decentralise the power, and Brexit helps do that imo.

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