13 September 2008

One Country Makes Geo-libertarian Changes

I'm a big fan of the geo-libertarian approach to economics, which is a synthesis of the georgist principle that everybody has an equal claim over natural resources and the libertarian principle that government should be kept small and services should ideally be provided through freedom of choice, rather than by the state.

When you combine those two viewpoints, you get the geo-libertarian position that, economically, the state should be limited to collecting charges for using natural resources (oil drilling permits, land rent, broadcasting licences, etc.), taking only as much of the revenue as is necessary to fund the essential functions of government (courts, land registry, etc.) and paying the rest out in equal shares as a "citizens' dividend."

While I make an effort to promote these ideas, I've never really believed that there is much chance of them being widely adopted, because they go against the mainstream political momentum. Georgists struggle to gain ground, because many of the wealthy supporters of mainstream politicians benefit from special privileges over natural resources, such as control over large swathes of land or exclusive access to gas and oil fields. Libertarians struggle to gain ground, because most politicians want more power and work to create the impression that giving them greater control is the only way to make things better.

However, over the last week, I've gained a little hope that geo-libertarian ideas might make some progress after all, after one political leader announced his plans to introduce a citizens' dividend to replace large parts of his government's spending. In a speech outlining the changes, he said "Corruption is linked to bureaucracy everywhere in the world. The solution to ending corruption is to end this administration which manages money spending, and put the money directly in people's hands." About the education budget he said, "Put it in your pockets and teach your kids as you wish, you take responsibility."

So, who is this visionary? Muammar Gaddafi, the leader of Libya!

The leader of the oil rich nation said, "Libyans, with oil money directly in their hands and bureaucracy dismantled, will set up a genuine popular administration and form a society of the masses ruled by a genuine direct democracy."

Of course, talk is often cheap and it still remains to be seen if Gaddafi will convert his talk into action, but just to have a political leader expressing these ideas is a major step forward.

So, it seems that the country leading the way on progressive economics is an authoritarian military dictatorship. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

You can read more about the story through the BBC or Reuters.

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Panopticon Britain said...

Hi Paul, found your blog on Iain Dale's site today. I'm annoyed I didn't discover it sooner, it's interesting stuff.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Paul, I'm here via Samizdata.

For some strange reason, Gaddafi always struck me as the least bad of all the Arab leaders, apparently he has a form of geonomics in that he dishes out oil revenues as a citizen's dividend.

Paul Lockett said...

To be honest, I'd never really paid much attention to Gaddafi before. I'd always viewed him as a bit of cartoon character military dictator, but there's obviously more too him than that.