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Extreme decentralisation

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Ludwig von Mises was an interesting individual who in his philosophy took human's ability to choose to its absolute extreme. He was a strong opponent of any form of coercion and believed that people should be able to make free independent choices in their lives, without anyone unnecessarily interfering with them.

The existence of a centralised state obviously is incompatible with this ideal. When there is a single entity that can impose its rules on you, without you being able to choose whether to abide or not to abide by them, then your freedoms are extremely limited, and you have very little control over your life, hence making it harder for you to self-actualise and achieve happiness.

Mises rightly noted that decentralisation of a state would lead to increase in personal liberties. In a decentralised state, his reasoning goes, different regions will have different legal systems, cultural norms, etc. Since moving from one region to another is associated with a much lower cost for the individual, than moving from one large centralised state to another, people will be much more prone to do so, and everyone will be able to move to the region matching their personal preferences the best.
However, even a very strongly decentralised state still limits what choices the individual can make. If the individual dislikes all the regions and wants to live somewhere else, they are not able to do so without leaving the country. 

To this, he proposed a radical solution: extremely decentralised dynamic state. In his vision, there would be no central government at all, nor would there be permanently defined state borders. Instead, people would constantly voluntarily secede from the state and form new states, or unite into state confederations. Anyone who is unhappy in their current state would be able to secede and establish their own rules on their land.
This would lead to constantly evolving borders, legal systems, trade and immigration agreements. Since the states are going to be tiny, and there is going to be a large number of them, they will be strongly incentivised to compete for highly qualified labor by offering the people better quality of life, and the workers and enterpreneurs alike will be able to easily move to whatever state suits them the most.

I like to look at this system as a "free market of states", where, in analogy with the free market of goods and services, states constantly change and interact with each other by means of mutually beneficial exchanges, merge and split, and their "customers" (citizens), "employees" (bureaucrats) and "employers" (politicians) define how the states are run by voting with their "wallet" (feet).

Do you think this system is viable and a good replacement for the model of a centralised state? As far as I know, only one nation on Earth - Switzerland - has something similar implemented, and although they still have a fairly powerful central state, they give an unprecedented amount of independence to their regions and municipalities. The US system is supposed to work in a similar way, but since the Civil War a lot of self-governing and self-determination mechanisms were scrapped, and even states no longer have much in a way of independence.
Mises points out that Europe in the Dark Ages as a whole had a similar system, as central governments were fairly weak and experienced logistical problems in collecting taxes and tributes from their citizens, so most villages and cities were mostly self-reliant and did not depend on any governments. That system worked fairly well and promoted trade of goods and craftsmen, although it also facilitated the abundance of brigands and militant deserter groups.

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  • WinstonCWinstonC 209 Pts   -  
    @MayCaesar To truly demonstrate the benefits of decentralization one must think of the manner in which we have progressed as societies in the past. Different nations try different methods of rule and we can compare these to inform our manner of governance. One might find, for example, that giving one's citizenry greater freedoms results in greater productivity. This is a big reason why nations grant freedoms to it's citizens; in the interests of what is pragmatic, rather than in the interests of morality. Different nations and empires each found different methods of progression at different times and intentionally or unintentionally shared these. For one example, the renaissance is at least partially creditable to the manner in which the Medici ruled Florence, including their patronage of artists, inventors and other polymaths. If Italy had been a united country, rather than a series of localities, the renaissance may not have happened.

    I've loved this idea for at least a decade now. There are some problems with it, though. For one, it's very possible that some localities would refuse to contribute towards the military. They could also refuse to cooperate with other localities in regards to law enforcement. Further, localities that are puppets of other nation states could arise (as they did in decentralized Italy). I would like to see greater decentralization, though I do think that a small federal government is also necessary for some limited functions, such as the military.
  • WordsMatterWordsMatter 493 Pts   -  
    I completely agree. Would it be possible to get to such a system from where we currently are or to maintain the same luxuries, I have serious doubts about it. However that system was In place for the vast majority of hominid history and it worked just fine.

    I won't talk anymore on this classical libertarian political philosophy as I am 100% in agreement with every single point you made. I would like to pull the economy into the discussion though.

    I feel you are an Ancap or possibly a minarchist. We agree that the more decentralized a political power structure is the more personal liberties we enjoy. However I wonder why you don't extend this same line of thought to the economy. Wouldn't decentralizing businesses increase personal freedoms across the board? More people would get a say in decisions. There would be even more competition. In combination with decentralized politics businesses could move to a population that fits them best. 

    Does not Comcast and Verizon restrict our freedoms by controlling almost the entire infrastructure for the internet in the US? 
  • MayCaesarMayCaesar 5050 Pts   -  
    @WinstonC I do not think a united military would be needed. Every locality would likely have their own small private military, and in case the nation as a whole is attacked from the outside, the states would quickly form a temporary military alliance in order to repel the rebellions. It is very similar to how, whenever in history a strong nation would arise and start conquering the nearby nations, the nations would group up together to protect their interests.

    I agree that law enforcement can be an issue, but at the same time, is this not a boon? If someone committed a crime in one state that another state does not consider a crime, would it be wrong to let that someone seek refuge in that state? Both states are happy. It is similar to how Soviet dissidents would flee to the US, which benefited both sides.

    @WordsMatter Anarcho-capitalism is the philosophy I follow in general, although my views are pretty flexible and adaptable to various specific circumstances. As for the question, there are two arguments I would like to make here. 

    First, the ability to make choices is intimately connected to the ideals of voluntarism, which states that only mutually consensual interactions between individuals are permissible, and coercion is strictly prohibited. The problem with the state here is that the state can impose its will on the people, without prior consent of the latter. Some would argue that democracy implies "collective consent", but that really is just a wordplay, since a collective consenting on something and proceeding to force it on its individual members is still coercion. As such, it is desirable that individuals can make their own choices on what state, if any, to associate with. 
    This problem does not exist with the free market actors. A business cannot impose its will on anyone, as it can only sell its services to the people who voluntarily agree to buy them. On the other hand, breaking businesses down by force, or forcing internal democratization on them, is coercion, since it is done without consent from the owner of the business, which is his/her righteous property.
    I agree that decentralisation is desirable for the market as a whole, but it already exists in a way of open competition between multiple businesses. Within a given business, there is nothing to compete for, as everyone is after the same goal, and the success of the business benefits everyone. It is hence not undesirable that businesses are managed in a centralised manner, since all participants have the same goals in mind.

    Second, businesses sell individual products individually. For example, when you buy a mobile phone from Apple, you do not accept the entire variety of things Apple provides; you just get the phone and nothing else. On the other hand, in the interaction with states, you accept the whole legal package. You cannot, for example, "purchase" the laws against murder, but refuse to "purchase" the anti-trust laws.
    That means that breaking businesses up does not necessarily increase decentralisation of the market; whether Microsoft sells both Windows and Office, or is split into two companies, one selling Windows and another selling Office - you still get a choice between two products. On the other hand, breaking up the government increases the variety of choices you have.
    Consider the US. We have a very strong divide between Democrat-leaning and Republican leaning people. However, most people support some Democratic and some Republican policies. There is no way for anyone to vote for only the policies they support, and whichever way they vote, they vote in favor of some of the policies they dislike. But if we had, rather than one large country, hundreds small states, then chances are there would be states among them the policies in which match your preferences very well.
    But that is not the case with markets of goods and services. There are thousands dental clinics in the US, but all provide essentially the same set of services. Would there be any benefit in taking one large chain of clinics and breaking it up into 10 smaller chains? Probably not. And even in case of oligopolies, such as Microsoft + Apple, breaking them up into multiple smaller parts will not necessarily increase the variety of services: there will still be Windows and MacOS, and, at best, you will get a choice between slightly different versions of each. You won't magically get to choose between 10 operating systems if you break each of these companies into 5 parts.

    There are a few more considerations I would make, but my general point is that there is the essential difference between a state and a company: the state is coercive and divisible with increase of variety, while the company is voluntary and divisible with no increase in variety. The state offers non-depletable goods, while the company offers depletable goods.

    I see economical liberalisation as done by means of removal of regulations and natural increase of market competition, rather than by means of forceful decentralisation. Especially considering that such decentralisation would, in turn, require a powerful force to perform it, which ultimately would undermine the very idea of decentralisation.
  • WinstonCWinstonC 209 Pts   -  
    @MayCaesar ; "I do not think a united military would be needed. Every locality would likely have their own small private military"

    I would expect localities with particular ideologies to have far smaller militaries than others. This would mean that other localities would be supporting them, somewhat like with the U.S. in NATO; many nations are not conforming to the agreed upon military spending.

    "and in case the nation as a whole is attacked from the outside, the states would quickly form a temporary military alliance in order to repel the rebellions. It is very similar to how, whenever in history a strong nation would arise and start conquering the nearby nations, the nations would group up together to protect their interests."

    In renaissance Italy, for example, this was not the case at all. Now, I don't expect anywhere would invade the U.S. due to their military dominance and nuclear arsenal. On the other hand, I would not expect all localities to contribute if called upon to do so, let alone contributing equally.

    "I agree that law enforcement can be an issue, but at the same time, is this not a boon? If someone committed a crime in one state that another state does not consider a crime, would it be wrong to let that someone seek refuge in that state?"

    Yes, because it means that people can commit crimes and flee elsewhere to escape the consequences. This completely undermines the law. Perhaps there is a communist locality that does not believe in property rights and thus armed groups raid nearby areas and return to safety. Or perhaps here exists a completely anarchic state with no laws. In terms of coordinating law enforcement, I simply mean that there would need to be some centralization, not that it would be entirely centralized (indeed, it isn't even in our current system). There would also be threats that affect multiple localities for which a coordinated response would be best.

    "It is similar to how Soviet dissidents would flee to the US, which benefited both sides."

    It's good for a dictatorship to get rid of it's opposing political activists, sure. It's not good to allow people to cause harm or commit theft and get away with it.
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