- There's not much dispute over what succeeded in the past. In the past, per capita economic growth succeeded in a VERY decentralized system...with the rulers basically unable to restrain the actions of the citizens. Best examples: British peasant cottage weaving to start the industrial revolution, and the early Sili valley. Government can't figure out what to do, ignores the situation, everyone wins big, transforms the way life works.
- There's not much dispute over the fact that peace/low crime are essential to the good life, defined any-which how you like.
- There's not much dispute over the fact that all the systems we have seen so far have tended to decay over time. Greece decayed, Rome decayed, Britain decayed, America too.
- There's no disagreement that Democracy causes many of the problems we see in government now.
- There's little dispute, even, about what is the good life for most folks: safety from violence, and freedom to pursue the good life, and (mostly) freedom from government action.
The libertarians believe that concentration of power is THE problem...and the only path out is to build a government that is prevented from doing enough stuff that it largely avoids the bad stuff. The most applicable recent line I've read here is the Borepatch refrain: "tar and feathers".
Those of us on the left-libertarian/anarchist border think that very little should be a lot closer to none than the typical libertarian does... mostly because we find that police and military agencies (if not individuals) are inevitably like (ALL) other institutions: primarily self-protecting and attempting to grow, secondarily doing their nominal job. Strict interventionism, personal firearms, no drug laws, no prisons, no police, citizen-arrest, privately owned highways, and 10 years to evolve appropriate other institutions would solve about 300% of the problems currently "solved" by our system.
The formalists believe that lack of responsibility in government is the problem. Exaggerating mildly...unlimited power to the executive, with a 60% voting majority able to hang said executive. If the executive has proper incentives to make things work, he will fix things so that they work -- If the policeman who kills an innocent kid gets a Lethal Injection, rather than being protected by his cronies in the justice system, the no knock raids stop . Essentially, the model is the modern corporation, with shareholders, and accountability. It's actually me who advocates the death penalty for bad legislation, though, not the formalists. They just want to be able to switch to a shareholder-style democracy, picking an (effectively) unlimited-power CEO, not a one-nose-one-vote style democracy. The best argument I've heard for this is effectively (thanks Devin): All prior instances of good divided power situations came from semi-frontier situations, with no established elites. Since we have established elites, it's impossible to move to a properly decentralized system. Given this, the best path forward is the authority-with-responsibility path.
Again, I encourage comments, especially from the formalists.