Summarizing my political views is hard. In the forums, I’ve been calling myself a “liberaltarian” — because I’m too libertarian to call myself a liberal, and too liberal to call myself a libertarian. (I posted an essay here, at Blue Hampshire, where I discuss particular policies and describe how I reached this position.)
But in this post I want to focus on a more interesting aspect of my views.
Beyond policy lies another level of politics. This is the structural, or institutional, level. Institutions determine, not individual policies, but how policies are chosen. When New Hampshire Democrats and Republicans fight to make it harder or easier for college students to vote, they are making crude forays into structural issues. Campaign finance reform would be a structural change.
While straightforward republican democracy has been working relatively well in America, it suffers from well-established flaws. Special interests and voter biases, in particular, create the most obvious problems. Anarchists (of whatever variety) and communists are unique in that they actually propose an alternate set of institutions to deal with these flaws. No other major political philosophies do this.
In opposition to anarchists and communists, however, I would like to see more structural experimentation: let a thousand nations bloom. We don’t have to decide merely between government and anarchism or capitalism and communism. A whole variety of fascinating and promising alternatives have been proposed– futarchy, deliberative democracy, policy juries, market-provided law, different ways of allocating representatives, virtual federalism, experimentally-determined policy, and more. Not only that, but different structures can be mixed and matched as needed. For example, in response to David Friedman’s proposal to provide law on the market (popular with many anarchists/voluntaryists), Robin Hanson proposed a system of regulated private law.
(This structural thinking is what led me to create the pro-secession website NHBloom. Though I’m not as excited about the concept as I used to be, I’m keeping the site up to spread ideas.)
In the end, I want a variety different decision-making methods to create government policy in the areas where they have been rigorously, scientifically shown to be most effective, with constant experimentation to find better solutions. There are major parallels, surprisingly, between my views and the U.S. Constitution, with it’s separation of powers between the three branches of government (each with a different decision-making process), and the federal system (providing “laboratories of democracy”). The biggest criticism of the Constitution I can make, from the structural perspective, is that the states have been poor laboratories.
Experiments in deliberative democracy have been run in Vermont and my home state of Texas, with promising results. Policy juries are common in Canada. Many studies of futarchic betting markets demonstrate an uncanny accuracy.
Our current recession was allegedly caused by a failure of financial regulation; what would have happened if, instead of being decided by a representative democracy, these regulations were controlled by a policy jury or a betting market?
It’s time to experiment and add new approaches to our governance tool set.