Thank you Mark, for your kind words. The esteem is mutual. And I appreciate your raising the issue of what question(s) libertarians are asking, or should be asking. “Check your premises”, as Russian-born philosopher Ayn Rand liked to say.
“Where can I personally enjoy the most freedom?” and “Where is the freest place in the world?”, both seem like perfectly legitimate questions to me. Although I believe what libertarians may really be getting at with the latter question, and which is perhaps a slightly better question, is, “Where are the best prospects for creating a sustainably libertarian society?”
A few years ago for instance (maybe still?), Hong Kong topped the list of economically free places in the world, and rated fairly well in terms of political freedom and civil liberties too. As subsequent events have showed however, failing to read the cards of the larger geo-political situation and betting on the sustainability of those statistics probably would have been unwise from either a personal freedom/happiness perspective or an activist “let’s build a free society” perspective, at least in the near term. (Long term, if there’s a revolution or major shift toward democracy and individual rights in China, as I expect to see in my lifetime, it might start looking quite good again.) But there may be places where one condition exists but not the other – either the political prospects for sustainably building a free society are relatively good but conditions for enjoying life are relatively poor (the moon or Mars in years to come?), or vice-versa (e.g. Disneyland or a cruise ship – pleasant, yet fundamentally authoritarian environments).
What I’m getting at here is that they are not the same question. Rand believed that “if you achieve that which is the good by a rational standard of value, it will necessarily make you happy”, i.e. that personal benefit and objective benefit are one and the same. I can understand the appeal of this idea, as one can relate to how astronomers long clung to the idea that planetary orbits must be perfect spheres, but for better or for worse I believe reality is more complicated and nuanced than that. I’ve met libertarians who’ve insisted that libertarian activism was rational from a selfish (in the positive Randian sense of the term) perspective, because they themselves would be happier in a free society, but I’ve never found the argument very convincing.
Although I’m not sure I could feel truly fulfilled or satisfied in life if I were to live out the rest of my days without being part of the struggle for freedom in some manner, I don’t think this is necessariliy rational (again in the Randian sense of everything being perfectly aligned), nor that it is true for everyone. While they sometimes happily intersect, living in freedom and fighting for freedom are two distinct and different things.
It’s a key libertarian (as well as objectivist) value that no one is obligated to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others. If you have found that you are tired of fighting statism, either at present – lots of people experience burnout from time to time – or henceforward, and just want to live your life wherever and however you feel you can be most personally free and happy, I don’t begrudge you this. You’ve already done more for the freedom movement than most will in a lifetime. I love tropical climates myself (as long as they aren’t too muggy/humid!) so I get how the Marianas or Utila, Honduras – which I’d love to hear more about and maybe visit at some point – can seem more attractive than New Hampshire.
Still, so long as the world is on the whole mostly unfree, I think anywhere that begins to show promise in terms of significantly liberating large numbers of people, will inevitably be subject to the State and its minions and abettors trying to put a lid on it. While “dropping out” to seek personal freedom and fulfillment somewhere that governments don’t (at present!) see much reason to care about may not exactly be “taking the blue pill”, neither can I see it as some innovative new long-term strategy to advance the freedom movement as a whole. I don’t think humanity has any hope of achieving freedom unless freedom always has people who are willing to fight for it.
You’re not obligated to prove that your own life choices are rational, or better for society-wide freedom – if you’ve decided they’re right for you, that’s enough. You don’t owe it to anyone to come up with a rationale of how they are supposedly good for the libertarian cause. I see no value to the movement in trying to make libertarian activists question the value or wisdom of their activist lifestyles. And from a personal benefit point of view, why try to tear down what you’ve helped build? Let’s honor, celebrate, and endeavor to support those on the front lines who are sticking their necks out for freedom, even if/when we choose another path for ourselves, and you can go your way knowing that whatever follows, you’ve earned a place in that pantheon.