This article was published in the Summer 1999 issue of Formulations
by the Free Nation Foundation

an appeal

Let's Discuss the Amount of Coercion Needed in a Free Nation

by Roy Halliday

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In her books (Healing Our World and Short Answers to the Tough Questions) Dr. Ruwart is able to make progress in describing an ideal libertarian country because she boldly assumes that libertarians have already reached consensus on some fundamental issues. Specifically, she takes for granted that courts should be private and they should enforce the restitution paradigm rather than any of the other libertarian legal paradigms.

We in FNF have not been able to present a complete picture of the ideal free nation because, as a group, we have not reached a consensus on some fundamental issues such as whether to have a tiny government that monopolizes law or a system of competing private courts, and whether the legal system should enforce the restitution paradigm, the punishment paradigm, or the self-defense paradigm. Until we in FNF reach a consensus on these basic issues, we will not be able to give a unified answer to some of the other questions about how a free nation will operate.

The founders of FNF assumed that we could make progress in developing a plausible description of a free nation if we aim our arguments at fellow libertarians who already understand that freedom creates a spontaneous order. The assumption that we are addressing a select audience permits us to take for granted that we share a positive disposition toward liberty, free markets, private property, voluntary cooperation, and so on. But the FNF experience so far has demonstrated that we cannot take for granted that we share the same opinions about minarchism, anarchism, restitution, punishment, natural rights, and some other important issues.

It turns out that within the libertarian movement there are several different and mutually exclusive legal paradigms. I tried to define and categorize them in my article "Law and Violence" (Formulations, Vol. VI, No. 1).

As an example of the lack of agreement on fundamental legal paradigms within FNF, consider the FNF Board of Directors:

So on our eight-person board, the no-natural-rights paradigm and three of the six natural-rights paradigms are represented. We all agree that most things should be privatized, so there is a lot of common ground. But I don't think that more than two or three of us agree completely on how to decide what should be legal.

Libertarians who believe in different legal paradigms can hardly be expected to reach agreement on the constitution of a free nation.

The problem is further complicated by competing structural proposals within each paradigm. For example, Formulations has published proposals for a limited-government monarchy, a limited government designed to shrink, virtual cantons, a proprietary community, a doughnut-shaped nation with a hole of anarchy surrounded by a limited government, a paper-tiger pseudo-government with no special powers, and an electric democracy in cyberspace.

In order to stop spinning our wheels, maybe FNF should encourage its members to develop full and separate descriptions of each of the competing libertarian legal paradigms. This is an extension of Bobby Yates Emory's idea described in "A Time for Prototypes" (Formulations Vol. VI, No. 1).

Except when writing about a solution that is compatible with all the paradigms, I suggest that those who write articles for Formulations would be more effective in making progress toward a clear description of a free nation if they identify which libertarian legal paradigm they are advocating.

By following this course, the pages of Formulations will eventually contain full descriptions of a free nation as defined be each paradigm. Perhaps we could track, collect, edit, and publish anthologies of articles for each paradigm. Then, in traditional libertarian fashion, these fully developed products can compete for customers. D

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