Libertarian Tribalism and the Road to Meta-Utopia

2008-05-29

JD Tuccille points to an LA Times article entitled The New American Segregation, which postulates that Americans are increasingly and voluntarily sifting themselves culturally and geographically along ideological lines. Tuccille observes:

[T]he geographical aspect of ideological segregation is something new. Only in a highly mobile and extremely prosperous society could large numbers of people afford to move from state to state, not for economic reasons, but to find political homes. That suggests that people are not just tribal (which we already knew), but that they'll use growing resources that come with relative wealth to reinforce tribalism. That's interesting.... Even more interesting would be if that ideological segregation led to increased decentralization and more political experiments.

America needs more decentralization. A lot more. If national politics become fractious enough, people may realize that it is futile to make all decisions in the District of Columbia and through weariness may be forced to resort to more localized decision making. And that decentralization may in turn open up some space both for greater local tyranny (from friendly fascists on the Right or Left) and for greater local freedom. And those effects might snowball as technological innovation and increasing personal wealth enable Americans to live where they please. In that context, if even a relatively small ideological "tribe" like the libertarians can concentrate (through purely voluntary, individualized decisions) in a few places like New Hampshire and Wyoming, they might be able to carve out a local sphere of greater liberty even as folks in other places (oh, say, Portland Oregon and Boulder Colorado) pursue greater government control. The result might look something like Robert Nozick's idea of meta-utopia: a framework in which individuals can pursue their own visions of the good life in loosely-joined communities rather than imposing one vision on all communities.

It may be the best we can hope for anytime soon.


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal