Decentralize New York City
The writer known as Bionic Mosquito has helpfully brought to our attention some of the good stuff offered by Murray Rothbard in his articles for Libertarian Forum. Specifically, Mosquito points to Rothbard's 1969 article promoting the mayoral candidacy of Norman Mailer. Rothbard writes:
The Mailer platform stems from one brilliantly penetrating overriding plank: the absolute decentralization of the swollen New York City bureaucracy into dozens of constituent neighborhood villages.
Mosquito notes that Rothbard would be unloved among some modern libertarians who strongly oppose secession by bits and pieces — especially by individual secession. You see, these libertarians claim that secession is illegitimate if a group of people decide to do it by referendum. Presumably, if a single person opposes the proposed secession by referendum, then it becomes a crime against humanity. Oh sure, these libertarians claim they like secession in the form of "individual secession." This option, of course, exists totally outside reality, as Mosquito notes:
So…since libertarians cannot support secession by referendum, we are left with convincing seven billion people of the value of political, individual anarchy. They will all just opt out at the same moment – no pushback from the state or even their neighbors. All of them, simultaneously, having this “aha” moment.
Sounds like a great strategy.
This, of course, is why Rothbard supported all sorts of localized secession movements. Mosquito continues with his look at Rothbard's article on Mailer:
Rothbard is not waiting for the big bang – seven billion people simultaneously seeing the light:
Each neighborhood will then be running its own affairs, on all matters, taxation, education, police, welfare, etc.
As opposed to the idea that there is something un-libertarian about people living next to each other and sharing some desires in common for the neighborhood. In any case, the smaller and more local the political unit, the more control each constituent has and the more that those in government will be known individually – in person, face-to-face.
Rothbard recognizes that neighborhoods will separate into common groupings; he is not shy about discussing black and white. He recognizes that the idea of “diversity” is an idea formed to bring conflict; instead, he offers:
…in the Mailer plan, black and white could at long last live peacefully side-by-side, with each group and each self-constituted neighborhood running its own affairs.
Whites and blacks would be independent equals “rather than as rulers of one over the other….”
One of Mailer’s key proposals is that New York City secede from New York State and form a separate 51st State….
That the seceding New York City would likely be far more socialist than the rest of the state didn’t bother Rothbard one bit, it seems – decentralization was the key, the non-aggression principle put into practice. Also, keep in mind: Mailer ran as a democrat. Imagine that: a democrat for secession and political segregation.
Rothbard goes on to support his effort at New York secession by noting that the city has more then enough wealth to support itself as an independent entity. In the past I've claimed that large cities ought to become their own states, and noted the states have more than enough population and wealth to do so.
Moreover, Rothbard in the article makes the excellent point that if the federal government weren't siphoning off so much of New York City's wealth, the taxpayers there would have immense resources to address all the city's needs:
Another superb part of Mailer's libertarian vision is his reply about where the New York City government would raise funds; he points out that citizens of New York City pay approximately $22 billion in income taxes to the federal government, and that New Yorkers only receive back about $6 billion from federal coffers. Hence, if New Yorkers kept that $22 billion in their own hands . . . That way lies secession indeed!'
Those are 1969 numbers, but as I've noted in a similar context — in my "Decentralize the Welfare State" article — states like New York ought to be allowed to decentralize tax collections. That is, if we can't eliminate taxation, at least the wealth produced by New Yorkers — or whatever state you like — ought to at least stay in New York where the people who paid the tax bills actually live.
All of these changes are baby steps toward real decentralization that provides small amounts of greater choice to taxpayers, and more control over their lives by localizing political power.
As always, we're hear about how we should really be supporting secession for "7 billion people." That's fine. But as Mosquito notes:
My responses to a couple of the anti-secessionist libertarians can be found here and here. The very short version: we will never get from something like 200 political jurisdictions to 2,000 or 2 billion or 7 billion until we get to 201 first. Support secession, then the next one and then the next one. Do this a few dozen times and we might be getting somewhere.