Let my People Go – to our own CHAZ
Updated: Oct 28, 2020
In Seattle a six-block area under BLM control, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), has declared independence from the USA. This is not a libertarian secession and may well not endure.
In Seattle a six-block area under BLM control, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), has declared independence from the USA. This is not a libertarian secession and may well not endure. But then a free society could include many specialist jurisdictions of self-selected minorities communities of like-minded people.
In my post on 22nd April, ‘How might Free Societies come into Being in the Near Future?’, I suggested that political, moral and financial bankruptcy in core western states could lead to at least partial territorial break-ups, paving the way for free societies to emerge, at least in places. Recent events suggest matters may be speeding up.
The model was the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989-1991. Economic failure led to hyperinflation and secession of subject territories. Some seceding states have tended to be somewhat libertarian, like the Baltic states despite their unfortunate incorporation into the EU super state. Some mostly have not, like the despotisms of former Soviet Central Asia.
Peripheral states, I suggested, could promote more radical, free zones within their territories. These should tend towards a substantially libertarian, free city model. Otherwise why would productive people go there? Just such a would-be free city, Próspera, has been agreed with the government of Honduras, and is now being promoted, on a Caribbean island off the north coast. Whether it works well or not, there are likely to be other attempts. The more jurisdictions there are, the more competition between them for business activity, productive migrants and economic opportunity, there would be.
With enough jurisdictions, each one’s internal politics matter less. Hong Kong’s British administrators realized that Hong Kong’s internal market was simply too small to make credible threats of retaliatory protectionism against bigger states. Regardless of any pro-state preferences they might have had, they saw that only free trade and low taxes would work for so small and open an economy as Hong Kong.
A hypothetical example of how inter-state competition for business might trump a political culture might be Scotland. Let us imagine that the Scots had secured genuine independence, i.e. they had seceded from not just the United Kingdom but the EU too. Scottish politics appear to be more progressive, socialist or collectivist than English politics. Nevertheless, I suspect it would not be long before the Scottish government acted to attract investment. Banking secrecy and freedom, sound money and an absence of taxation on capital, if not income, would probably be seen as basic pre-requisites for achieving renewed prosperity.
One point made in my 22nd April post is that the trend towards increasing numbers of competing jurisdictions is being actively opposed by big states. Big governments such as the USA and the EU, and globalist structures which amount to cartels of governments, have been suppressing tax havens and banking secrecy. The aim here is exactly to prevent states competing for economic activity through lower taxes and less regulation. This effort fundamentally relies on the power the United States to intimidate other, smaller states.
That is why Brexit is such a threat. The EU is a group of governments which imposes a high tax, high intervention Democratic Socialist model. It is crushing the life out of once prosperous societies. But it does offer a cosy existence for Europe’s big but un-competitive crony corporatists and banks, and for employees in and dependents of over-expanded public sectors. But if Britain leaves and prospers, other EU countries will sooner or later follow suit. That will start to reverse the anti-competitive dynamic in Europe, and elsewhere in the world.
The EU and the US state elites are in nearly impossible positions. They are in ‘coffin corner’ as explained in the most recent post here. That may be why we have had an attempt to piggyback on the much hyped corona-virus to establish police state control. The elites may sense they are losing their hold on the narratives they had used to control people.
Both these key Democratic Socialist regimes now depend largely on accelerating money printing to prop everything up; banks, private and public pensions, zero interest rates on government bonds, the deep state and its military boondoggles. Most of all, newly printed cash is dished out to buy political support in subsidiary jurisdictions.
Without Germany allowing more freshly printed money to be sent to Italy, it will leave the EU. On the other hand, freshly printed money impoverishes savers and workers. It disrupts commerce and enriches state employees and crony corporate and banking elites relative to productive people (see May 4th, ‘The Cantillon Effect: Finance displaces Productive People’). In the not so long run that is not good either.
The corona virus lock-down fiasco has moved everything along a lot. Police forces were officiously bullying innocent people a few weeks ago to enforce extremely damaging health measures. Now they have shown themselves unable to maintain order in the face of protest and riots, many fomented by a mix of Marxist, politically correct thugs and professional gangs of looters. It’s one law for ‘woke’ protesters and looters, another for us. And more and more people see the hypocrisy now.
In Minneapolis, after the grim Floyd killing by the police, the city has agreed to close (‘defund’) its police force and replace it with, it seems, more social workers. Will private people be allowed to provide their own defense? Maybe they could band together to organize private police forces? If so, will they want to pay to enforce government policies such as drugs prohibition, or collect its taxes? In Seattle the clueless Democrat mayor bizarrely bent the knee to BLM and Antifa rioters. She has also conceded a six-block area of Seattle to them, from which the police have withdrawn. Its rioter occupiers have announced that they have seceded from Seattle and from the USA. They are operating their own police function and controlling their borders.
It is not clear what the owners of the 500 or so properties in the new Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) think of all this. Will they have to pay taxes, and if so to whom? Will rent and mortgage payments be enforced or banned by their Marxist overlords? Will corona virus social distancing be discarded? Could it become a rather hip, racy (so to speak) drugs and party locale, a bit like some no-go favelas in Rio have been? Or will there be Taliban style puritanical social control?
Some key changes need to be noted. One big change is to the controlling narrative about policing. The state’s police forces have been revealed to be dedicated to enforcing the state’s wishes, not protecting residents. That’s why they are called ‘law enforcement’ officers. They have neither the will nor, increasingly it seems, the ability to protect the citizenry. One of the core functions of the state, accepted even by classical liberals (also known as minarchist libertarians), has been the police and judicial function protecting persons and property from internal aggressors (aka ‘criminals’). Now the state seems not to agree.
The ‘myth of policing’ as Tom Luongo calls it (see his ‘Gold, Goats n Guns’ website) has been exposed. You can’t ultimately control large populations with relatively small state police forces. Violently and publicly suppressing a few individuals doesn’t keep the rest intimidated for good if popular support and trust are weak.
I will be addressing the question about how free non-state societies could protect themselves from aggression by neighbouring, state dominated societies. In a real-life example, the issue of bringing in the United States Army to restore order in America has already raised its head. Governors could also arm their State’s National Guard units and ask them to suppress riots or reoccupy areas like the CHAZ. The problem is, what happens if the National Guard or the Army won’t obey orders to fire on protestors and rioters? That would be game over for the American Empire, the biggest bastion of Democratic Socialism, as it was for Totalitarian Socialism 1989 - 1991 in the former Soviet Bloc. (But not of course in China in 1989 where the People’s Army proved willing to massacre, er, the people.)
Neither the technological nor the political viability of deploying apparently overwhelming force against weaker groups is quite as clear as believers in the state imagined.
But let us return to the subject of Seattle’s CHAZ. This is neither a secession as a result of a formal political process, nor an agreed creation of a free city in a failing state. The Seattle CHAZ, and the (soon to be?) police free city of Minneapolis, join a growing list of other instances of failing central control. There are Californian sanctuary cities where Federal immigration laws are not enforced, American states where drug prohibition is being undermined, and cities with Moslem no-go areas, in France and Sweden in particular.
None of these represent thorough going libertarian developments. Many run counter to liberty, especially the BLM/Antifa CHAZ in Seattle. But they do represent a broader possibility. Society is polarized between cultural Marxists, politically correct, pro-state control, progressivists on the one hand, and social conservative and broadly pro-liberty or pro-being-left-alone people on the other. Superimposed on this divide are plenty of other cultural and historical divisions. There are profoundly varying strands of opinion and differences of temperament within these groups.
At the moment everyone lives under centralised states. These try to impose one size fits all solutions on diverse groups. They also confiscate up to 50% of value added and impose stifling regulations designed to feather the nests of corporate cronies and their banker allies. They just make life too damn expensive for most people and businesses in the West. That makes for a lot of tension. The worry is always that the other side will win the next election enabling them to divert resources away from one’s own priorities. Perhaps nearly everyone has an interest in just letting central control lapse.
Instead of discussing how libertarian societies might arise in future, perhaps one should be explaining that a freer world could hold a lot of very different jurisdictions, not all of them free societies – may be not even most of them. The libertarian model tends to assume that free societies would just look like what we have now, but without the state. So, we imagine big, open, pretty cosmopolitan, relatively tolerant and diverse societies. They would be more prosperous and less tense societies based on competitive application of NAP style laws. And hopefully such societies would indeed prosper.
More thought reveals another, parallel possibility. You don’t need a one size fits all model – even a libertarian one. In a free society, some people might be willing to be less free. They may be willing to make agreements to constrain their liberty to join communities based on distinct founding principles. That would not be a violation of the Non-aggression Principle (NAP), providing entry is voluntary and exit is possible.
The result? Everyone, including every minority, could have their own CHAZ. You could have BLM CHAZs (as in fact we have now in Seattle), Christian, Moslem, atheist, and other ethnic or religious CHAZs. There could be drink or drug free CHAZs, homosexual, no sex, libertine, feminist or simply single sex CHAZs. After recent events, many might be pleased to see a special CHAZ for hypochondriacs and health enthusiasts to go to.
You could even have Democratic Socialist CHAZs. People could band together to hand over half their income to support inefficient heavily unionized monopoly public services. They could continue to enjoy the delights of masses of unread legislation, Marxist social engineering and meddling interference by officials, content-free MSM news, unsound money, recurrent slumps and generally low standards of living.
It is quite possible that many CHAZs, including libertarian communities, would in fact require people (including children when they came of age) to leave if they would not adhere to their community’s founding principles. With any luck, the chance to avoid living with people you disagree with would go a long way towards reducing tensions all round.
It would be a most interesting evolutionary experiment. Which styles of life and approaches to community organization would actually survive? Which would fail, or at least not really prosper? Would societies need a minimum size? Would minority lifestyles turn out to be un-viable once they became majority lifestyles in each specialized community? Would bigger, open, diverse societies be more successful than smaller more segregated communities? Could a mainstream atheist society remain stable or maintain its numbers? Which societies would best suppress disorder and resist external aggression?
I wouldn’t be surprised if the eventual result was success for larger populations with a somewhat varied mix of tolerance and trade-offs. Something not wildly different from life in past nearly free classical liberal societies in Britain and America. But perhaps not.