Friday, March 1, 2013

Hardcore vs Softcore Libertarianism

Here is an an interesting article on libertarianism in Silicon Valley by Peter Thiel's partner at the Founders Fund, Bruce Gibney: Silicon Valley's Libertarian Problem

The author starts out by clarifying that by "libertarian" he is referring to "the purist strain most prominently embodied by Rep. Ron Paul and family, embraced by an increasing number of entrepreneurs and VCs."

In criticizing the libertarian impulse among venture capitalists, he raises a couple of issues where pure libertarianism seems to fall short:

  1. What about the government's role in creating the internet? 
  2. What about the government's role in net neutrality?

He's right on both accounts, but his problem is he doesn't step outside the "purist strain" of libertarianism and recognize that most libertarian thinkers aren't purists. So what is the classical liberal, "softcore" libertarian response to both of those issues? Pretty simple:

  1. As a rule of thumb, government investment in fundamental research is beneficial up until the point of proof of concept, after which point it should step out of the way and let competitive enterprise within the patent system take over. 
  2. The net neutrality issue is essentially a common carrier type of situation and needs to be regulated as such.