The Essential Difference Between Liberty-Lovers and Big-Government Types Is Political Tolerance

By Daniel J. Mitchell

As long as it’s voluntary, free-market supporters are happy to let others experiment with socialism. The opposite does not hold true.

Why are there so few liberty-oriented societies compared to the number of places with statist governments?

And why does it seem like the size and scope of government keeps expanding around the world?

If I’m feeling optimistic, I’ll disagree with the tone of those questions. There are reasons to be cheerful, after all. the Soviet Empire collapsed and there’s solid data that global economic liberty has increased over the past few decades. And for those who care about evidence, there’s a slam-dunk argument that smaller government means more prosperity.

But if I’m feeling pessimistic, I’ll look at grim numbers suggesting that the burden of government automatically will expand because of demographic change. And I also worry about eroding societal capital, with more and more people thinking it’s okay to live off the government. And let’s not forget “public choice,” the theory that explains why politicians have an incentive to make government bigger.

Why Decentralization Is Important

I go back and forth on whether the glass is half full or half empty, and I’m not sure which side is winning. All I can say for sure is that Americans are getting increasingly polarized as we have big fights about the proper role of government.

It is why I’ve always thought decentralization would be a good idea. Not just for policy reasons, but also for domestic tranquility. All the leftists could move to places such as CaliforniaIllinois, and New Jersey and vote themselves Greek-style government. And all the advocates of limited government could move to more laissez-faire states such as New HampshireTexas, and South Dakota.

We don’t need a national divorce, not even the humorous version. We just need Swiss-style federalism.

But statists will never agree to that approach. And these two sentences from Reddit’Libertarian page succinctly explain the left’s opposition.

This guy nails it.

The Inherent Difference

Libertarians have no objection to a bunch of statists creating some sort of socialist or communist mini-society, so long as it’s voluntary. Indeed, we’ve periodically had experimental societies in America based on Marxist principles. Starting with the Pilgrims (who learned from their mistake). And I still laugh every time I think about Bernie Sanders getting ejected from a hippie commune because he was too lazy to do his share of the common work.

But this tolerance isn’t a two-way street. Libertarians will let socialists create statist systems inside a free society, but the left won’t allow libertarian outposts in statist societies.

Heck, our statist friends don’t even like it when other nations have pro-market policy. That’s one of the reasons international bureaucracies always persecute so-called tax havens. Folks on the left may be misguided, but they’re usually not stupid. They know that statist systems will quickly fail if productive people have the ability to move themselves (or at least their money) across national borders.

The bottom line is that federalism is good because it means people can easily move when a government imposes bad policy. This is also a recipe for tolerance and tranquility, though only one side sees it that way.

P.S. The left is so hostile to tax havens that a bureaucrat from the U.S. Treasury accused me of “being disloyal” to America. A former Senator said my actions to defend low-tax jurisdictions were akin to “trading with the enemy.” And the bureaucrats at the OECD actually threatened to throw me in a Mexican jail for defending tax competition.

Reprinted from International Liberty and sourced from

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2 Comments on "The Essential Difference Between Liberty-Lovers and Big-Government Types Is Political Tolerance"

  1. lightingstrikesthrice | May 17, 2018 at 8:49 am | Reply

    I disagree with the author and most the logic posted here. Check out the White Rabbit community for some insight. Activist Post has written articles about the infiltration of the Hippy Movement by the CIA & MIC. Miles Mathis has done so at length as well As with the ‘evil’ soviets, one must know how that word translate into English. It means community. A play of words seem so often. So, all the Western(and even Russian/Eastern leaders) using the English word and not the Russian term would give people pause, would it not? Instead of the evil Soviets, it would be the evil Communities. Stalin was trained here in the U.S. to infiltrate and obfuscate. To veer more into State Capitalism from Socialism/Communism. Dr. Richard Wolff explains this succinctly as has others.

  2. Oh please; yah, US already has the experience and lesson learned (if able), oligarchs moving where they can find a ready pool of cheap or even free (slave) labor, zero environmental regulations and low/no taxes, like when globalist, traitor US corporations moved their/”our” marbles to communist Red China. I guess statism is OK when you’re allowed to exploit the population, but as Lenin rightfully said, “Capitalists will sell us the rope we use to hang them.” Libertarians are that stupid. Meanwhile the socialist nordics are doing fine and rated the happiest countries on earth; is it the slide-rule or OP?

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