The Libertarian Challenge
Note: I am using the term “libertarian” very loosely to describe the ideological premise of anarcho-capitalists, free market capitalists, cypherpunks, or any “liberty-minded” individuals, etc.
Since early adolescence, I have described myself as a “libertarian Marxist,” paradoxically promoting what I see as the values of both individual freedom and collective social responsibility.
Growing up in what has been labeled “the most liberal medium-sized city in America,” my self-proclaimed political leaning left a bad taste in the mouth of most people I knew.
When I entered the world of Bitcoin, that label left an even fouler taste in the mouths of many of the ardent liberty-minded folks I came across.
How dare I use the platform of the “Non-Aggression Principle” in the same breath as the villainous Karl Marx!?
For those of you not familiar with the Principle (known as NAP), it “is the idea that each person has the right to make his or her own choices in life so long as they do not involve aggression, defined as the initiation of force or fraud, against others” (Source.) This consequently means that taxes, and any government redistribution, are fraud, as they can only be enforced by coercion and the use of force (i.e. the IRS and imprisonment.)
I love NAP, and I think libertarianism may be the most ideologically pure train of political thought in contemporary society. That being said, I have always had one major contention with this principle, and libertarianism in general, which might be an unalterable, fundamental flaw: Even as, or perhaps, due to being, an ardent capitalist, I believe humans are inherently greedy.
Adam Smith’s theory of the “Invisible Hand” — the notion that the pursuit of self-interest may benefit a society as much as any action intended to directly help that society, is a compelling argument for the positive influence of the free market. This is very much why I became an entrepreneur and not a politician. Greed can be good.
However, if libertarianism is to work, without society breaking down into anarchy, there’s a necessary precondition: a strong commitment to private charity.
It is incontestable that some people, whether due to hereditary, economic, or family misfortune, are inherently disadvantaged upon entering this world. So if libertarianism were to succeed, social programs would have to be replaced by private charities that would need to be financed entirely by a philanthropic citizenry, in order to at least, partly, ameliorate those disadvantages.
This is where I depart from my less cynical, liberty-minded brethren. In my twenty-four years on this planet, I have not been convinced that humans are inherently generous enough to fulfill such a massive societal burden without coercion.
If my libertarian friends’ ideology would just admit that they don’t really care about the disadvantaged that much, I would already fully accept their ideology. However, having intellectually jousted with some of the world’s foremost Libertarian thinkers, they consistently claim that private charity would adequately replace government welfare/social programs.
Well, Dear libertarians, I could not be more thrilled to put your claims surrounding private charity to the test:
Match or surpass my $1,000 donation to Unsung, and help this charity app wildly surpass its $25,000 crowdfunding goal.
If you can do this in a timely fashion (in the next week), and identify your donations (if you donate using cryptocurrency), I will switch my political registration from Democrat to the Libertarian Party, and vote for Gary Johnson in the upcoming presidential election. (I know some of you do not believe in voting, but this is the best deliverable I can offer.)
Of course, you can donate less than this (and it will fully count towards disproving my fears), but I have set threshold for matching at $1,000 for several reasons:
- Many of the libertarians I know are far wealthier than I am.
- I have already given thousands of dollars and hours of time to seeing this organization succeed.
- Unsung is a powerful use-case for proving the supremacy of private charity over government.
Please allow me to expand.
If you are unfamiliar with the work of the extraordinary Jason King, he’s one of the only tried and true libertarian/anarcho-capitalists I know. He is an army vet who was left appalled by the brutality of government, and later a proven entrepreneur. For more than three years now, Jason has run a homeless sanctuary in Pensacola, Florida solely off of bitcoin donations (many of which he received when he literally ran across America to raise awareness for his cause.) If you’re not familiar with the state of bitcoin, many startups in the space have failed for lack of funding in the past two years— while Jason has been running a non-profit and kept it going.
About a year and a half ago, Jason announced that he had an idea for combatting homelessness and hunger at scale, in a way that had never been accomplished before.
Unsung harnesses the concept of Uber and the sharing economy and applies it to food waste. The app gamifies the experience, and often financially rewards, volunteers, giving tax breaks to donors (the org is 501(c)(3)-registered,) and getting food that would normally be thrown away into the hands of the hungry.
In the year and a half that Jason and the team have been working on this, we have yet to identify a valid reason why this technology would not work. (To get it out of the way: The Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects good-faith food donors from legal liability nationwide.)
And, in fact, Unsung has worked. In our preliminary beta tests in Baltimore, Maryland, we have have had success working with both establishments like shelters and soup kitchens, and directly with the homeless.
As a resident of San Francisco, where most often it seems like the town is a decade ahead of the rest of the country, our tragic homeless problem is a constant reminder of how much work needs to be done— and how government has fallen short in their service to those in need.
If we can raise the money to finish developing this application, and take it live nationwide, then I believe libertarian-minded individuals everywhere will have a compelling argument for private charity.
However, a day into our crowdfunding campaign, every fear I hold about the authenticity of free market ideologies has been realized. For nearly two years, Jason has spoken about Unsung at bitcoin conferences around the country. We also personally reached out to all our wealthy libertarian friends (of which we have many), who had expressed support for this initiative, telling them about our crowdfunding launch.
Yet in the first 30 hours of our campaign, Unsung has only raised about $1,500 — just 6% of our $25,000 (minimum) goal.
Interestingly, despite well over 500 people (many of them being the aforementioned libertarians) sharing our crowdfunding page on social media, only 33 people have donated.
It’s easy to talk the talk as a libertarian (sharing)— there’s no shortage of liberty-espousing mouthpieces on Facebook and Twitter; but it doesn’t matter much if you don’t walk the walk (donating.)
In what is perhaps the most damning indicator of the vapidity of libertarian ideology, the majority of large donors have, in fact, been my “filthy liberal” friends and family.
I am posting this after only 24 hours, I know. However, having witnessed many of the same libertarians pull the trigger on much larger investments in my last (profit-driven) crowdfunding initiative, Augur, in a shorter time, I’m impatient.
Visit Unsung.org and look at our team. We have a collective track-record of success in non-profits, entrepreneurship, and programming. We want to end hunger in America. And we want to show that private charity can better the world in an unprecedented way.
This is a real chance to prove that liberty doesn’t mean greed.
So what are you waiting for?
Lastly, please don’t allow my matching proposal to deter you from contributing just a few dollars, every penny (and bit) counts— Once this goes live, we’re going need to a whole lot more than just $25,000!
Our crowdfunding campaign can be found here, at Generosity.org (Indiegogo’s nonprofit arm.)
Our bitcoin address is on the left (don’t forget to tell me!)
If you want to pay with alt-coins or ether, pay here at Shapeshift.