Piet Le Roux – How I would promote individual liberty in South Africa

This is the essay and motivation contributed by Piet Le Roux as his entry in the recent Freedomfest competition sponsored by Bob Glenister. This essay was one of the winning entries.

The fatal conceit of many libertarians is to believe that a voluntary world of no government is unrealistic; to adopt the paralysing conviction that one should patch the state from within the confines of its own coercive rules, instead of replacing it.

Rejecting this paradigm is the best way to promote individual freedom in the South African region. I have decided to contribute to this in two ways.

Extra-governmental order structures

The South African state will continue to deteriorate. The answer to this state failure lies with extra-governmental order structures based on opt-in cooperation and trust relationships.

Two months ago I joined Solidarity as a senior researcher: economics. Although Solidarity was historically only a union, it has been growing towards an organisation with the potential to facilitate extensive voluntary rule-making and social cooperation. I aim to help develop Solidarity as the world’s trade union and community movement with the best economics ideas and as a model for similar organisations. Already, I present weekly briefs based on Henry Hazzlit’s Economics in One Lesson and am working on the development of a comprehensive, but layman’s terms policy position for the union on major economics questions, informed strongly by an Austrian angle, and tailored to a South African context.

But a full-fledged voluntary society needs more than the above.

Coordination platform

I believe I have an answer to the transition problem of liberty: of how to get from the coercive system we have to a non-coercive one. For the past eight months I’ve been designing – about 800 hours invested – an online coordination platform for large scale individual-based social cooperation, and the electronic currency to go with it. Think Facebook, but then with contracting, reputation-building and arbitration capabilities and a currency superior, in important aspects, to Bitcoin or gold-backed free banking issues.

The platform facilitates contracting and group forming around, or incorporating, government rules and so generates overlapping interest networks, whence it derives its stability. It’s a low transaction cost mechanism for voluntary and gradual replacement of the state’s judicial, legislative and executive functions. No initiation of force is needed for the platform to function – even property rights evolve from the interactions of its users. There’s no pretence of knowledge. Using Hayek’s or Vernon Smith’s terminology, one might call it a constructively rational design, populated in an evolutionary rational way.

Had there been such a platform during the Arab Spring to structure its loose online coordination into lasting agreements, it might have been possible to avoid the subsequent revert to statism.

A South African application could involve parallel, voluntary “municipal” structures in towns where regular municipal structures are imploding. Or think about the jobless shack dweller that is employable once he has an internet profile with a reputation to prove that he’s trustworthy.

The best way to promote individual freedom is to reject statist coercion and work not towards its modification, but its replacement. The two ways to achieve this is through extra-governmental order structures and by giving online structure to voluntary coordination.

Why should I be sent to Freedomfest?

The Freedom Fest will greatly strengthen me in my two endeavours to further individual freedom in South Africa and beyond. My first aim is to make sure that there are organisations with the potential to function as opt-in order structures in the event of partial state failure in South Africa. My second goal is to build an online coordination platform that can structure individual based agreements in such a way that its distributed order structure can gradually replace centralised statist order.

Extra-governmental order structures

Freedom Fest will be the place where I can significantly expand the international network one needs as intellectual inspiration and backing when one works towards extra-governmental order.

In the first place, I am convinced that a strong foundation of sound economics should underlie attempts to build structures and platforms that can facilitate order in the event of state deterioration. I would focus on developing personal ties with scholars of Austrian economics, especially people from the Mises Institute. Over the past two months I have started correspondence with some academics and other interested people with a view to form an Austrian economics circle in South Africa and ties with the Mises Institute in the United States will be of great benefit in this. Also, I wish to popularise Austrian economics views in South Africa, not only in English, but importantly in Afrikaans as well. I believe that an energised Austrian economics society in South Africa will be instrumental in this.

Secondly, I want personal exposure to the arguments of freedom from some of the world’s most enthusiastic people. I want to use this exposure to improve my ability to convince people in South Africa of the importance and benefits of freedom. I would make sure to bring the South African situation to the attention of fellow Fest-goers and acquaint myself personally with people connected to projects of extra-state organisation. This experience I will bring back to South Africa in support of my work not only at Solidarity, but in general and to promote greater local awareness of concepts like Charter Cities, Seasteading and Bitcoin.

Coordination platform

As mentioned in the first essay, I’ve designed an online platform capable of facilitating low cost, distributed social coordination and an online currency to go with it. The overlapping interest networks and reputation records it generates provides its stability and can be the basis for a truly voluntary society – one that can develop parallel to government and survive in its absence or presence.

At the Freedom Fest I will be able to speak to world experts on the practicalities of projects for freedom, get their input and excite their interest in this coordination platform.

I wish to go to the Freedom Fest to strengthen my knowledge of the economics of liberty; build the networks necessary to spread such economics locally; further the development of organisations capable of facilitating extra-governmental order in South Africa; and speak to experienced people about the platform design before I build a prototype.


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  1. #1 by miladytess on July 1, 2011 - 12:01 am

    I think I have had the impression that it’s not Libertarians who think it’s unrealistic to have no government, but the rest of us.

    Living in Ayn Rand’s land (America), it is easy to see the downside of individualistic freedom taken to an extreme,

    Where there are no regulations, those that are apt to take advantage of others, do so. And it is the height of ignorance to think that everybody has the ability to realize when they are being taken. They don’t.

    • #2 by Stephen on July 3, 2011 - 10:49 am

      I don’t think a single Libertarian is of the view that a world without government would be perfect. Human nature will not disappear with government, so some will take advantage of others. But do you really suggest that we stick guns and power in the hands of some of those people in order for them to keep some boundaries on human nature ? Do you really think that having government – those same people who run the department of home affairs and Baragwanath hospital – handle such important issues will be a good thing ? Removing government will vastly improve life, but nobody suggested that it would be Utopian.

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