16J Thoughts: Who Needs this Useless State?

After a day that dramatically showcased volunteers doing things better than the state, Venezuela lives something that genuinely has no precedent: its own libertarian moment.

Venezuelans are a statist bunch. Even the nominal right-wing has traditionally been of the statist, Christian Democrat kind, turning skepticism of the state into a fringe pursuit. But today’s smooth, self-organized, 100% state-free referendum exposed millions and millions of Venezuelans to an unfamiliar thought: what if there are some things society can do better than the state can?

Listen, I’m very far from a doctrinaire libertarian myself — though I do sometimes write like one. But I think of libertarian attitudes as a kind of antibody, a trait that, if spread wide enough across society, can at least create some pushback against some of the more destructive tendencies of runaway statism. For sure I find myself thinking that part of the reason Venezuela’s gone so far off the authoritarian edge is that skepticism of the state isn’t really a feature of our public sphere.

Which is why I’m glad that, after today, millions of Venezuelans will find themselves thinking unfamiliar thoughts and asking unfamiliar questions like: if we can do this one thing better than the government can, what other things can we do better as well?

And then, the ultimate irony: Venezuela’s highest-profile libertarian…boycotted it!