As I read more, I am more and more convinced that a careful analysis of the problem suggests that the distance between modern libertarianism, Moldbug, and myself is not that far.
Things that all 3 camps seem to agree on...I think these are almost trivially true.
- Economic growth is the root cause of most human happiness (liberty, work hours, amelioration of poverty, environmental beautification, clean air, clean water, concern for the poor).
- Growth is, itself, almost entirely maximized by private enterprise, and almost exclusively hindered by state interventions.
- State interventions are primarily done to either benefit some group of elites (rich folks, or rich companies) at some net cost to the rest of us, or to signal some positive feature of government or politician (like caring) at some net cost to the rest of us.
- Those elements of human well-being that are not (at root) caused by economic growth are caused by lack of violence (war and violent crime and physical property crime, employer thugs and union thugs).
- Organizations tend to grow without limit.
- The best historical cases of growth have all been cases where the government is largely inactive or heavily limited (17th Century Holland, 18th century England, 19th century America, 20th century Hong Kong/Singapore, 21st century China), with a strong, trading, lets-get-rich culture.
- The stifling growth of government generally parallels both the growth of democracy and the growth of total wealth
- We have never seen a successful long-term limitation of government growth based on paper constraints. Constitutionalism has not yet worked long-term.
- People in general don't know what works, and are moderately easy to sway, in predictable, prejudicial, pro-government ways.
- Is it possible at all to generate long-term solutions? (Moldbug: yes, with incentives; Romer: maybe; try different things; Patri: probably: float away; Anarchists: Yes: eliminate government ; BBdM: no? It's inherent in government; Aretae: I don't know)
- How best to limit the stifling effect of government? (Moldbug: CEO-ish incentives & responsibility; Romer: try different things; Patri: New systems (on water); Anarchists: burn it down; BBdM: The Selectorate matters a lot; Aretae: I don't know)
- How much of government growth is due to democracy, and how much is due simply to the growth of wealth, because it's hard to skim 20% off a subsistence farmer? (Moldbug: democracy; Aretae: I suspect wealth is most of it).
- Where is the biggest problem in government? (Moldbug: Democracy. Libertarians in general: excessive power. Anarchists: the existence of government. Aretae: Our reliable sample set is tiny in quantity and time and quite homogenous. We don't actually know at all)
- What is more likely to constrain real world solutions (Moldbug: "Imperium is conserved"; BBdM: The selectorate wins; Aretae: First prototypes always fail.)
I guess here's where I sit.
Moldbug defines problems pretty well...Limitations on government have never worked before.
He is tremendously insightful about the modern clerisy, and their history, but his core, semi-unique belief is that the libertarians mis-state the problem. While libertarians agree that paper restraints cannot stop the growth of government (just like Madison did in his design of government, attempting to get parts in conflict), Moldbug goes further and believes that NOTHING can stop the growth of government authority. However, if authority is simply granted, the costs of government can be minimized by aligning incentives properly (same task Madison tried, but failed at)...and our best current guess is CEO-style structure.
However...Engineering, System design, software, process improvement, war, and every other HARD problem we've ever faced tells us that
- In practice, theory and practice are different (In theory, they're the same).
- First solutions never quite work
- though iteration 18 does sometimes, and sometimes your first iteration even fails less badly than what you had before. Usually iteration 1 fails worse than what you had before
- My favorite real data (and models from the data) is from BBdM and de Soto...and it doesn't seem to me line up with the Moldbugian theory
- Since the details matter so much, they are usually designed with good intentions, but fail rapidly on a technicality
I think we're moderately distant on which model we think best explains the problem.
I always think that "all models are wrong, but some are useful".
I don't know how convinced anyone is of their respective models (I think Patri gave himself a 50% chance, which is almost certainly self-biased). I'm not very convinced of any specific solution, but I am convinced that it's obvious that NO ONE else should be convinced either. Romer and Patri seem to be 100x more likely to be correct (try different things to find a solution) than Moldbug (try this solution), even if Moldbug were to have the best idea going right now.