The Road (to Florida/Decentralization) Will Never Be Perfectly Smooth
more musings on libertarianism, Ron DeSantis, and decentralization
When the average person hears someone say that there should be little to no government whatsoever and that the market will provide for everything, including “muh roads” in many cases, they have a difficult time wrapping their head around such a concept. To an extent, understandably so; it’s happened before but it’s not too often that someone who refers to themselves as a libertarian was struck by theoretical lightening, of which guided them to immediately believe in complete free market provision.
Subsequently, it’s not helpful when libertarians, while engaging with the average person, decides that the best way to make the argument is to claim how much better read they are than the person who’s not embracing the concept. “If only you would read these books that I’ve read then you’d see what I see,” has never been an effective argument for anything, even if it’s true that reading such books would be beneficial for the person on the other side of the discussion.
It’s likely that pretty much everyone who calls themselves a libertarian has been in a discussion, argument, debate — whatever you want to call it — where they’ve either wanted to refer or have referred a specific book or specific books to the person they’re conversing with, and almost every single time the response will be one of the following: the person dismissively saying they’ll read it; the person implying with or without words that they won’t read it; or the person saying they’ll read it but with the caveat that you read their recommended book.
All of which typically results in libertarians walking away frustrated, believing that very little ground had been gained. And it’s this sort of frustration that contributes to the black-pilling of libertarians, because this hypothetical wall in the form of a conversation that I’ve just described is just one of many that seems to be standing there for the sake of libertarians merely running into and falling down, and getting back up and repeating the process.
However, what’s also frustrating is that these same sorts of walls exist even within libertarian spheres. And while you may be thinking “of course they do,” I’m not even referring to Libertarian Party infighting here. Instead, I’m looking directly at the sect of libertarians who have all paid homage to the idea of decentralization but who have opposing views on the governor of Florida.
“Yes, Ron DeSantis has been good on the lockdowns, BUT he’s bad on [add particular issue here],” has become a common trope uttered by libertarians, even those who pay lip service to the benefits of decentralization. They’ve decided that looking at Florida as a whole is less worthwhile than running an ideological purity test on the man who’s responsible for Floridians having enjoyed more freedom than the rest of the country.
Ron DeSantis essentially seceded from the rest of the country in his Covid-19 response and the best many people who’ve in the past been the greatest detractors of centralization could do was run the purity test, similar to what leftists do when a person accomplishes some great feat and their immediate instinct is to dig up an old “racist” tweet that the person once made.
If the goal is to hold out on Florida and wait for perfect decentralization to take place, of which I admit Florida is not, then the wait will be long, and perhaps forever. Consequently, that long wait — if it isn’t forever — is going to become even longer if libertarians keep insisting on nitpicking Ron DeSantis instead of embracing the good that he’s done, in regards to both the short term and the long term.
In the short term, what happened in Florida is that it became the freest state in the country, something that the Free State Project of New Hampshire, a decentralization project run by libertarians, couldn’t even accomplish in the year of Covid. And if it really is true that libertarians desire freedom, then they should at least pay some homage to what Florida accomplished, even if it came in the form of executive authority. The difference between the two states could also be an indicator of what works and what doesn’t.
And in the long term, Florida has become the greatest example we’ve maybe ever seen in modern times that can be put forward by libertarians as to why decentralization is best. The retort to that will of course be that there are far more examples of governors of individual states acting badly than ones acting in the vein of Florida’s governor. But this is why I’m speaking to long term, because I believe DeSantis will be rewarded for his actions while the others will not.
The nitpicking, then, is not only not helpful, it’s harmful. Because it’s again — as libertarians are wont to do — working against their own desired goals, all in the name of being ideologically pure. To be sure, being ideologically pure is all well and good, and you can certainly exercise that muscle by reading all the best books. But there’s also that the pesky and messy thing called reality. And the reality is that Florida and its “impure” governor did the thing that residents of other states, especially their libertarian residents, only wished for for the longest time.
So instead of finding the aspects of something that’s mostly good to nitpick, maybe we should dip our toes in the (Florida) water — in the form of embracing — an actualized secession from the system, one that brought about desired goals. And so in the future, when finding ourselves in those frustrating conversations, instead of saying, “you should really read this book” to a person who is not likely to read it, we can instead say, “Did you see what they did in Florida? That’s what liberty looks like.”
And just as your own conversion to libertarianism didn’t come in one clean flash of lightening, but was much more of a process, the same could be said of a potential path towards decentralization; the road isn’t going to be perfectly smooth. Quite the opposite actually. The road is bumpy, dirty, and oftentimes, like all government-built roads, full of potholes. Just don’t let these potholes stop you from proceeding forward, because that’s just adding another unnecessary wall. And what could actually be at the end of the road could be much better than the road itself.