Sadly, Our Libertarian Overlords Will Not Be Going Galt

More’s the pity. A while ago, I noted the inherent problems with the libertarian dream of starting their own artificial island countries:

First, they live in apartment buildings. Like it or not, they’ll need housing codes. For instance, can you smoke in the building? Smoke in apartment buildings, even nice ones, tends to enter other apartments. What constitutes a disturbance? One person’s annoying racket is someone else’s late night beautiful tuba serenade. Keep in mind, this will be a self-selected community of people who hate being told what to do. Then look at the park in the front left corner. Will dogs be allowed in it? Will owners have to clean up after the dogs? Will dogs be kept on leashes? What if people damage the grass? And let’s think about the swimming pool. Will people be allowed to listen to radios while sitting next to it? Kinda annoying for the people who live surrounding the pool. Will late night cannonballs be allowed?

…The real question is what happens to rule breakers, or, even those who simply are on the ‘losing side’ of a decision. You will need some kind of enforcement mechanism to expel lawbreakers anti-Galtian personalities.

This all sounds kinda like gummint. AAAIIIEEE!!!

Well, it appears that some libertarians have grown up a little (boldface mine):

Building a government, it turns out, is a more complex challenge than much of Silicon Valley would have you believe. Now, Thiel and other high-profile Silicon Valley investors are carefully taking stock of the anti-government view they helped popularize. For all Thiel’s open criticism of elected officials, he sounded remarkably like a politician recanting false promises on the stage at George Mason. Toward the end of the talk, he reflected for a moment on his early essay on seasteading. “Writing is always such a dangerous thing,” he said. “It was late at night. I quickly typed it off.

This should probably serve as a warning to those who hang on every pronouncement by tech titans. Let’s continue:

Some investors see tech culture’s popular stance against regulation as counterproductive. Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, says, “I hope all of these people who want to live in an unregulated island paradise get their island, because then they’ll stop complaining so much.” To Altman, regulators are too quickly dismissed as an obstacle to innovation, which overlooks the role of government in helping startups succeed. This outlook contrasts sharply with the dominant narrative that defines billion-dollar-plus startups such as Uber and Airbnb. Their rise is understood as a function of their willingness to defy government. In this storyline, regulators are purely adversaries.

But such a view discounts the essential support that government provides, says Jim Dempsey, the executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology. Dempsey argues there should be greater recognition of the extent to which startups benefit from government infrastructure. “I can guarantee that if you don’t have a legal structure you will not have innovation,” he says. “Instead you will have chaos.” In every sector of technology, bodies of law allow entrepreneurs to thrive, Dempsey points out. “Why do people feel perfectly comfortable forming a startup when they know that 90 percent of them fail? Because they know that corporate laws and bankruptcy laws protect them from personal liability. They know that they won’t lose their house if the company goes bust.”

Some of the most explosive tech companies today benefit intensely from various pockets of regulation: Spotify and Netflix (without copyright law, for instance, no one would pay for those services); Lyft and Uber (ever been to a country without paved roads?); Stripe, Square, and even much of Mr. Thiel’s early success at PayPal (without SEC regulations to limit our financial losses on identity theft, who would so freely hand out their credit card information?). And don’t forget the Internet itself, which began as a scientific communications network started by the government.

Amazing what a little personal maturity will lead to.

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4 Responses to Sadly, Our Libertarian Overlords Will Not Be Going Galt

  1. Unmitigated hazin’ cannot be haz without hazin’ consequences. Q.E.D.

  2. Dbp says:

    But what everyone is overlooking here is the fact that if we get rid of regulation all companies will at least double the wages of their employees and make enough jobs to hire everyone! How come no one is addressing the fact that when there are no regulations, the wealthy will give all their money away out of the goodness of their hearts!?!?!? -Every right wing pundit ever.

  3. Jakob Thorhauge says:

    Internet development was funded by the government to enable robust and survivable communications in the aftermath of an all out nuclear war.

    Then the scientists began to use it, because it was there and it was cool. and the government let them.

    Then the parasites took over and we have the horror show of greed and corruption and self congratulatory delusions that will plague us for decades.

    So, yeah, the government is kind of important to innovation.

  4. sethkahn says:

    “Amazing what a little personal maturity will do.”

    Yes. Unfortunately though, it’s the smart ones of the quasi-libertarian goon squad who have managed to mature a little, leaving behind as the fiercest advocates not-very-smart people who are good only at footstomping and flagwaving.

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