One of the very great ironies of posting about angry shitfights between libertarians on other websites was that they came to Club Troppo to carry on the brawling. Now by Catallaxy standards it was a very gentlemanly affair, reaching no more than 112 comments. For the rareified (some might say stultified) milieu of Club Troppo it was a positive riot. So much for improving things.
I felt it was time to revisit on of the themes of my previous entry: the ease with which ideology can derail practical outsomes. The LDP is looking at voting policy. Unlike debates about gun laws, this one hasn’t descended into name-calling, but it does illustrate the classical flaw in ideological (particularly deontological, rights-based) thinking: failing to realise not all outcomes are possible, because there are instrumental costs for backing any policy.
It’s funny that this has to be pointed out at all. As a group libertarians are stereotypically awash with economic understanding. They refer to it and derive from it to explain many of their policy positions, regardless of whether they are deontological or consequentialist libertarians. Probably the first principle any economics student learns is that wants are unlimited, means are limited. Choices have to be made.
Otherwise put: the question of whether or not to make voting voluntary is not worth pursuing with any great energy. It is an example of what I might, to extend the analogy I’ve used before, call a “high hanging fruit”. A fruit which is difficult to obtain and in any case fairly scanty. For the libertarian program to obtain traction, focus must rest on the low hanging fruit: the fat juicy policies which have a large positive effect, are straightforward to explain, and which can at least fall within spitting range of mainstream discourse. The 30/30 tax and welfare reform package is an excellent example of a low-hanging fruit.
It doesn’t hurt to investigate these sorts of policies. Let the party draw its conclusions. Broadly speaking voluntary voting is a better fit in principle for the deontological libertarians, though yours truly has some very strong consequentialist objections to it. Indeed it can be helpful to have addressed these issues in advance, so that the fleeting opportunities and sudden moments of change which sometimes come to politics can be used to the fullest advantage.
But to do any more than this is folly. It wastes scant resources on a scant return. I would urge the LDP not to pick this policy instead of the low hanging fruit.