Libertarian Governments around the World
November 4, 2004 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Which countries in the world have the most libertarian governments (or come closest to it)?
posted by madman to Law & Government (27 answers total)
 
somalia.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:03 AM on November 4, 2004


Well, many libertarians like to use two axes, one economic, and one social. Here's the economic picture.
posted by trharlan at 11:11 AM on November 4, 2004


Uh, the United States. Seriously.

The US has high economic freedom, low tax burden (as compared to other first world countries). No national education system. No national healthcare system (45 million uninsured people can't be wrong!). Environmental protection is, however, a serious government encroachment. Pollution controls, and endangerd wildlife both let uncle sam veto your plans to build factories everywhere on your property. And now, with Tuesday's election here, the government is getting all upity (again!), getting into people's personal affairs like who they fuck and for how long and what we can and can't call people who are only going to fuck eachother for some long period of time.

But all in all, this is it. Move to New Hampshire if you'd like.

Or to Cyprus. They have a 30% top tax bracket.
posted by zpousman at 11:26 AM on November 4, 2004


the US, clearly, for better or worse.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:37 AM on November 4, 2004


There's nothing looser than the US worldwide? I'm kind of surprised no crazy pacific island nation ever tried to be an experiment of some sort.
posted by mathowie at 11:41 AM on November 4, 2004


Nope, there's no crazy pacific island crazier than the U.S.

/recovering libertarian
posted by wendell at 11:50 AM on November 4, 2004


This is a tricky question.

I think the US probably does better than any other country when it comes to freedom of speech. The same goes for economic freedoms. As for other "little liberty" issues... No drugs, by and large no public consumption of alcohol, pretty harsh police (though good protections for the accused, especially if they can afford lawyers), selective service registration (no draft for a while, though), the state controls marriage (this sends my libertarian sensibilities into a tizzy, even though I'm not sure that other countries do much better), prostitution is (mostly) illegal...

Of course, they're aren't many countries that are more libertarian on these issues (Except the police. American police are really far too powerful. I mean, seriously, disorderly conduct laws allow for arbitrary arrests.). If they matter to you, however, then, yeah, you might feel that you have more liberty in some places outside of the U.S.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:55 AM on November 4, 2004


Hong Kong was at the top of the list of economically free places for a while. No sales tax, and a flat 15% income tax.
posted by reverendX at 12:59 PM on November 4, 2004


my comment wasn't meant as a troll. i clearly have no idea what libertarianism is - can anyone point me to a good explanation of what the libertarian balance is between anarchy and government? i've been under the misconception that libertarianism was essentially anarchism from a right wing viewpoint (and i should add, in case you think i'm being derogatory, that i have a lot of political sympathy for anarchism although not, obviously, from the right in my case).

would it be fair to say, for example, that the libertarian ideal is to reduce government to a minimum, but no further?
posted by andrew cooke at 1:14 PM on November 4, 2004


would it be fair to say, for example, that the libertarian ideal is to reduce government to a minimum, but no further?

If we're talking about the U.S. Libertarian Party, they have some very specific ideas regarding the limits of government. Basically, they would prefer to limit the federal government to only those powers and responsibilities explicitly granted it in the U.S. Constitution. In more general terms, I think most libertarians have a very tightly prescribed view of government. They would have it serve a very limited set of purposes: providing for military defense, negotiating treaties, enforcing contracts, and protecting the rights of citizens from infringement by other citizens (they typically look for law enforcement methods that minimize governmental involvement, preferring, for example, fines to prisons). They also hate taxation: property rights are important to them, and they view taxation as a form of armed robbery. They prefer funding via user fees (tolls, etc.), and would prefer a sales tax (a fee for using the government-defended marketplace) to an income tax.

I think the big difference between libertarianism and anarchism (and this might be what you view as a right/left split) is that while anarchists have great faith in collective organization and cooperation, libertarians are laser-focused on the individual. While anarchists view authority as an evil to be done away with, libertarians view it as tool: a necessary evil that should be used to guarantee that each individual is as free as possible.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:41 PM on November 4, 2004


thanks (i agree with your last paragraph, which is much better than my vague left/right waffling). i guess i'm surprised (perhaps pleasantly, on reflection) that the libertarian approach keeps some (quite a lot!) government (the closest you might get in anarchism, i suppose, is a loose collection of voluntary collectives).
cheers.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:54 PM on November 4, 2004


Most libertarians also believe fairly strongly in federalism. That is, as few things as possible should be done by the national government, with most of it being done by the states and/or even smaller governments. For example, instead of the Federal government levying a tax directly on citizens to fund its operations, it should instead levy a tax on the individual states and allow the states to decide how to obtain the necessary revenues. This has the effect of creating a "market" among the states -- since it is much easier to move to a different state than to leave the country -- leading to more innovation and improved efficiency in government.
posted by kindall at 2:37 PM on November 4, 2004


I'm rather in awe that people think the USA is a libertarian-leaning country, or even a particularly free country.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:42 PM on November 4, 2004


In relative terms, sure. In absolute terms, not so much.
posted by kindall at 4:47 PM on November 4, 2004


Well, the summarist viewpoint between anarchism and libertarianism would be that libertarians believe in having police and courts to denfend your life and liberty, whereas an anarchist believes you and perhaps your friends are the ones who are best equipped to do that.
posted by shepd at 6:13 PM on November 4, 2004


What about Switzerland?
posted by bingo at 7:05 PM on November 4, 2004


I think the big difference between libertarianism and anarchism (and this might be what you view as a right/left split) is that while anarchists have great faith in collective organization and cooperation, libertarians are laser-focused on the individual. While anarchists view authority as an evil to be done away with, libertarians view it as tool: a necessary evil that should be used to guarantee that each individual is as free as possible.

Also, libertarians consider property a (the?) primary freedom, whereas anarchists think of property as a fiction that's more or less useless... which ties into all this.

bingo: Switzerland? Near-universal compulsory military service? That's not very libertarian at all...
posted by furiousthought at 7:25 PM on November 4, 2004


Jonestown was a libertarian experiment fueled by a need for religious freedom. Didn't turn out so well.

Reporters without frontiers have a freedom index, which is somewhat related to your original question. If your media isn't free, you probably don't have anything close to a libertarian ideal. This list is pretty close to corruption index list too. Afterall, if your media can't function without inteference from the state, then whatcha got?
1 Finland 0,50
- Iceland 0,50
- Norway 0,50
- Netherlands 0,50
5 Canada 0,75
6 Ireland 1,00
7 Germany 1,50
- Portugal 1,50
- Sweden 1,50
10 Denmark 3,00
11 France 3,25
12 Australia 3,50
- Belgium 3,50
14 Slovenia 4,00
15 Costa Rica 4,25
- Switzerland 4,25
17 United States 4,75
18 Hong Kong 4,83
Take that Hong Kong!
posted by skallas at 8:29 PM on November 4, 2004


Some countries can appear Libertarian without meaning to. If you get a laetrile and coffee enema in Tijuana, I don't think that means that Libertarians are getting elected in Mexico so that you can get medical attention without government interference.
posted by gimonca at 8:44 PM on November 4, 2004


Heh.

an anarchist believes you and perhaps your friends are the ones who are best equipped to do that

So you're saying the USA acts as an anarchist among the nations of the world...

libertarians believe in having police and courts to denfend your life and liberty

...while it is libertarian within?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:17 PM on November 4, 2004


OECD figures suggest that the UK has the least regulation applying to business and industry. IIRC the US was about 5th. Alas I got this from a book and for the life of me have not been able to find the table online.
posted by biffa at 2:38 AM on November 5, 2004


trharlan's link lists several countries as more economically free than the U.S.

Hong Kong
Singapore
New Zealand
Luxembourg
Ireland
Estonia
United Kingdom
Denmark
Switzerland
United States

the next five include a few interesting choices:

Australia
Sweden
Chile
Cyprus
Finland
Canada

Glancing at the criteria, I would say this is a very libertarian inspired list, and the U.S. is not being rated as the most libertarian. As for social issues, it is clearly far from being libertarian. Any assertion that the U.S. is the most libertarian country would be made in ignorance of what else is going on in the world. And I say this as someone who is not a libertarian, and who has no desire for the U.S. to become more so.
posted by jb at 4:07 AM on November 5, 2004


(to clarify on the interesting choices - remember, U.S. personal income taxes are at about the same level as Canada's, but apparently even the higher taxes of the UK and Sweden don't impinge that much on their economic freedom)
posted by jb at 4:09 AM on November 5, 2004


What we've seen here is that "who's the most libertarian" depends on your perspective. Switzerland has a liberal drug policy and good economic policy, but compulsory draft. America and the UK mostly lean libertarian in terms of economic policy, because they've main inroads into the conservative parties.

As for the definition of libertarian: some, like the US Libertarian Party, want a minimal government who controls the military, roads, a court and prison system, etc. Some say "no, we could privatize the military" or "no, we could privatize roads", bringing them closer to a sort of corporate anarchy.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:02 AM on November 5, 2004


I don't understand this claim that the US is economically libertarian. Sure as hell the government meddles continuously and in all aspects of business. Hell, it's fighting a freakin' war on behalf of the oil companies; it regularly imposes tariffs and fines on imports; and it adores giving tax breaks, incentives, and other economic support to failing companies, startups, and friends of the administration.

You can't be libertarian and have government and businesses diddling each other.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:01 AM on November 5, 2004


five fresh fish, and at the end of the day thats one of the larger nails the coffin of the libertarian. They want to dismantle OSHA, but cant live without the military stepping in for economic interests and protective tariffs. Oh, I'm sure they think they can.

Someone upthread said "corporate anarchy" which describes libertarianism perfectly.
posted by skallas at 2:40 PM on November 5, 2004


But what's the risk of getting killed as a Swiss soldier? If they ask for relatively few taxes and give you relatively many freedoms, they sound relatively libertarian to me.
posted by bingo at 9:07 PM on November 5, 2004


« Older JavaScript scrollbar width detection?   |   Can I cash this French cheque in Canada and keep... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.