The Road to a Libertarian Utopia – ‘Visions of Liberty’ Discussion

Utopia

While the world is substantially better and freer than it has ever been, we still have a long road ahead of us until everyone is truly free. In a follow-up Ideas in Progress episode with Aaron Ross Powell, director and editor of the Cato Institute’s libertarianism.org, and Dr. Paul Matzko, assistant editor for technology and innovation, they explore how radical freedom has changed, will continue to change, and how that change can benefit the world at large. Their latest book Visions of Liberty is an attempt to imagine what a freer future could look like in essential areas of society.

While it’s true that there have been some victories, many in part because of the influence of libertarians, it is still clear that the existing state is not good enough. The number of people living in abject poverty has substantially decreased, as an example, but more can be done.  

“There’s no reason to think that this is the best that it can be, because we can look around and see there are still lots of areas of our lives where we’re nowhere near as free as we could be,” Powell said.

Dr. Matzko added to that point, that this debate has occurred for hundreds of years: whether the current level of innovation and freedom is the most it will ever be.

Economists argue about whether or not we’re in the great stagnation, whether we’ve plucked all the low-hanging technological fruit, and whether economic growth will permanently stall here . . . I’m cautiously optimistic in that I think there is much more to do.

–Dr. Paul Matzko
Dr. Paul Matzko

They spoke about the unintended consequences of advancing a more libertarian utopian vision. There is always the likelihood that people will make bad choices, argued Powell, however the consequences of those decisions will often be minor enough that they can be learning experiences.

On the whole, radically more liberty seems to make people better off in all of the ways that we care about. So, we are willing to accept the occasional bad thing, the occasional negative, unintended consequence, because we are confident that on the whole, liberty makes the world better.

–Aaron Powell
Aaron Powell

One of the values of Vision of Liberty is that policy experts explore areas of society in a way that is beyond the status quo. They imagine a society organized in a way that is very different than how it is now. These essays examine those blind spots and expand on what is conceivable.

At the end of the episode, Dr. Comegna asked them what their wildest predictions were of a libertarian future.

Powell views new technology for individuals that allows more control and privacy over our digital footprint as a likely future. As we move towards decentralized technology, it empowers individuals and makes it more difficult for the government to access. It ultimately allows us to be radically freer in those spaces, with less surveillance and interference.

Dr. Matzo was particularly excited about innovations in environmental technologies. While capturing carbon from the air for other uses is not yet price-efficient, it could be. Solar energy has become much more accessible financially in a relatively short period of time.

We’re on the cusp of more innovation in the way we work and consume.

Visions of Liberty is available for free digitally through libertarianism.org, which includes an essay by Ideas in Progress host Dr. Comegna.

For the full episode (Episode 31: More Visions of Liberty), visit SoundCloudiTunes, or Stitcher. Each Wednesday, we release new episodes from our Ideas in Progress podcast on divisive topics with contemporary thinkers. Interested in participating in an IHS program? Find out more about our faculty and graduate programs, as well as our funding opportunities.

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