Building Liberty in Minecraft

The defining feature of this time period is the Internet, which provides unprecedented freedom of speech and access to information. But the more things change, the more they remain the same. Millennials have suffered from the same steady march against economic freedom. We understand much about social media and relatively little about free markets. But a new generation can know about a free society right now, and this led me to build Liberty Minecraft.

Prior Developments

For the past quarter century, the Internet has generated emergent digital economies in which people exchange digital items for analog items, usually fiat currency. These economies offer pay at any rate, avoiding minimum wage laws that remove low rungs on the economic ladder. Digital economies also exist in massively multiplayer online games.

In 2007, more than one hundred thousand people were employed as gold farmers in World of Warcraft for as little as thirty cents per hour.[1] A gold farmer is a person who plays multiplayer games to earn in-game currency for the purpose of selling it for real-world currency. Earning in-game wealth takes time and effort. Because online games can be accessed all over the world, people can earn a competitive wage in relatively low-wage markets by selling in-game currency to players in high-wage markets. Gold farming uses server bandwidth in exchange for money that players wish to spend on the game, and this costs game developers. It was once typical for game developers to ban gold farmers, but in recent years they have turned toward economic freedom as a solution to rising costs due to gold farming.

Today, players of Runescape and Eve Online may exchange in-game wealth for tokens called Bonds or CCP, respectively. These tokens are purchased for cash by one player, traded in game to another player, and may be used to pay for membership services that would otherwise cost $10-$15 per month. Game developers like play-to-pay business models because they can sell membership services for a 30% premium and use their own players to regain market share from gold farmers.[2] For gamers, play-to-pay models can provide dollar-equivalent hourly wages of less than $1, but highly skilled players can earn $5 or more. One may earn a wage during the least productive periods of their daily lives, producing at least some value instead of none.

Transactions are not always small. For example, a player of Entropia Universe spent $2.5 million to purchase virtual real estate in 2012. This was done because in the game, land owners share the revenue generated by player-to-player transactions, and this revenue is directly convertible to US dollars. This speculative bet may have yielded annual returns of 27 percent.[3] By their nature, speculations infrequently generate a profit, but one develops ability by trial and error.

Digital economies make it easier to learn about economics. Many capitalist acts between consenting adults are illegal in the real world,[4] but such barriers are rare in online games. Digital exchanges execute billions of trades per month for any of a thousand virtual commodities. Players of all ages can make thousands of equity decisions in those markets without having to file capital gains taxes. People can lose a digital shirt and learn real economic lessons.

Experiencing economic freedom in games is all well and good. This may partly explain why millennials were so attracted to Ron Paul’s “End the Fed” movement. However, organizing society by libertarian principles is about more than economics. Non-aggression and private property require freedom from the state. No such freedom presently exists in the real world. The lack of such empirical examples may help one understand why those same millennials support Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump just four years later. We do not understand freedom from the state, and this has not changed. Because a libertarian society is foreign to our experience, people ask questions like “who will build the roads?” The answer is actually simple. Without a state, people who want roads and are capable of building them do so. I have seen this in action because of Minecraft.

Original Conditions in the World of Minecraft

Minecraft is a sandbox game. Play is self-organized within a block building, 3D world. Players may select one of three basic game modes. In Creative, one may access a menu with infinite resources. In Survival, one must gather and consume resources to live but will respawn if they die. Hardcore mode is like Survival, but death is final.

Minecraft worlds are large by default. From an origin, a player may travel 30,000 kilometers along any axis and may build 256 meters to the world’s zenith. This is roughly half the size of Neptune by surface area (if it were a terrestrial planet) or seven times the surface area of Earth. Each Minecraft world has three dimensions of this size and depth. Each world is generated algorithmically from an 8-byte seed, a string of numbers. There are 264 possible 8-byte strings, leading to over 18 quadrillion possible Minecraft worlds.

The Virtual State of Nature

Online, Minecraft is lawless. Before modifications of any kind, the only rules which govern player behavior are physical laws. You have exclusive control over your player character but anyone may attack and try to kill you, thereby gaining access to resources that you carry or protect. However, in such large worlds with abundant ‘natural’ resources, violent conflict is relatively rare because it is simply easier to work for what one wants.

Competition among Minecraft servers is unfettered and meritocratic. Engagement is high; Minecraft is the best-selling computer game at present. The barrier to entry is low: a Minecraft server can be created or copied in minutes, deployed online at low cost, and operated by anyone. In less than one minute, a player may select and visit any of thousands of servers. Participation is voluntary; players always have the option to leave a Minecraft server at once.

Minecraft servers have diverse rule sets. An infinite number of server configurations are possible with server plugins that modify the game. Within commercial use guidelines and technical limitations, server operators establish rules according to their preference. These rules need not and often do not conform with existing laws in the real world. These rules can be and are often enforced by computer code. In this way, all Minecraft servers are new principalities which may or may not be governed by smart contracts.

Social orders are spontaneously created within Minecraft. Players develop institutions that are optimized to solve problems. Users build means to produce, distribute, and trade valued goods, especially food and building materials. They create farms, roads and shelters, and also chests to organize and store items for later use. Players create and promote their own social norms. If a player does not fill in potholes or replant trees to replace those that they have felled, other players may try to change their behavior. This may take various forms, from warning them in the game’s chat to attacking problematic players. Those who share values and aesthetics build their own communities and exclude (sometimes by violence) others with opposing values. Spontaneous order thus develops with or without an explicit ethical framework.

In Minecraft, people experience social orders with arbitrary rules. So, what happens if one creates a Minecraft server that defines rules by libertarian ethics and Austrian economics? In my case, the result is Liberty Minecraft.

Long Experience in a New Order

Liberty Minecraft is a sandbox for freedom. The goal was to establish a practice environment where people may test ideas within a digital free society and may learn about freedom by playing it. For over nine months, this goal has been achieved. Play is ordered spontaneously within the physical laws of Survival Minecraft. In a number of other ways Liberty Minecraft is different.

Liberty Minecraft is not as large as a default Minecraft setting. As before, there are three dimensions but their size has changed. The Overworld is seven kilometers on a side; just under nineteen square miles in surface area. This is roughly the size of Manhattan.[4] The Nether, another region, is just as large. The End, a place devoid of most resources, is ten times larger.

Some resources in Liberty Minecraft are renewable, while others are not. Resources must be gathered in order to be used or exchanged. Products are either created by the players or discovered in scarce structures that are native to Minecraft worlds. Liberty Minecraft could someday run out of trees, water, or soil, among other things.

Liberty Minecraft has few rules. Only one rule constrains player behavior; resolve nonviolent disputes nonviolently. Players of Liberty Minecraft must seek nonviolent solutions to the problem of scarcity. Two other rules further specify conditions that permit a player to use my server: read and understand the rules, and do not hack the server. The fourth rule is followed by myself and by the server itself. This rule does not bind the players, but rather provides them with an option and a promise: everything you claim is yours; if someone else claimed it first, then it is not yours. Private property rights within Liberty Minecraft are enforced by smart contracts.[5]

To claim property, a player may use a claim tool on unclaimed land and must spend claim blocks to create a claim. Claim blocks cost $20 each. A player may also purchase land from an existing claim holder. In both cases, smart contracts are optional and available to execute these transactions. Smart contracts also enforce all other forms of property on the server. This applies to player characters.

One may engage in combat with others provided that each player turns on the ability to do so. In Liberty Minecraft, a player character is protected from other players by default. This protection is optional. A player may disable these protections and enter player-versus-player mode. By entering this game mode, a player consents to be attacked at will by other players. This allows for combat between two or more people to take place, but only if all parties involved agree to enter into mutual combat.

Competition within Liberty Minecraft is unfettered and meritocratic. In under one minute, anyone who owns Minecraft for PC can join the server and begin to act within a libertarian social order. Player interactions are voluntary, with complete freedoms of association and discrimination. No one is required or forbidden to provide for others.

Liberty Minecraft uses Diamonds, one of the in-game commodities, as money.[6] At present, Diamonds are used to create the best tools and armor in Minecraft. They are also scarce, durable, and fungible. Within Survival Minecraft, diamonds cannot be farmed or produced synthetically. To obtain a diamond, one must search for hidden chests in scarce structures or dig underground for diamond ore.

Minecraft players seem to have freely chosen Diamonds as the medium of exchange. Thus, I have chosen Diamonds as money. However, a Diamond is indivisible. This problem was addressed by creating a Diamond Exchange to split a Diamond into $1,000. The value of a dollar is measured to fifteen decimal places, so there is plenty of room for revaluation if money becomes too valuable to perform ordinary transactions.

Engagement is strong so far; since the official launch in March 2017, players have engaged in more than 100,000 trades using our shop system. A single trade may consist of anything from one item to more than a thousand items, all player created. More than 8,000 hours have been logged by the players at the time of this writing. Liberty Minecraft is also cash flow positive and profitable.

Some Problems with Liberty Minecraft

There are four clear problems with Liberty Minecraft. First, the money is inherently disinflationary. Land claims as private property can only be traded when players have a “claim blocks from play” value that is larger than the size of the claim being traded, which is a technical limitation. To provide a real estate market with existing smart contracts, players must somehow accumulate claim blocks from play. To achieve this, players accumulate 20 claim blocks per hour, which is an arbitrary amount. All players receive the same amount per hour of play. Claim blocks are worth $20 each, so players currently receive a universal basic income of $400 per hour of play. Universal basic income is an obviously anti-libertarian element, but it does present the opportunity to solve this problem and observe what happens when a libertarian society eliminates universal basic income.

Second, within Liberty Minecraft, power is centralized in a single, flawed operator. I, Nathan Dempsey, make mistakes and correct them. Both types of actions can cause problems. For instance, when I created the world border in The End, I incorrectly calculated the area. The End was roughly ten times larger than I intended, and if I had left it that way, our world would become far too large for me to economically perform regular backups. I recalculated and changed the world size. This changes the availability of resources that are found in The End. I will make more mistakes as time goes on. However, if any player decides that my choices are intolerable they may (with some work) use software to download the world and their property. Then, they may put their version of the world online with server software and compete with me for players. This functions somewhat like a hard fork of a cryptocurrency. Following a land dispute, a player decided that absolute property rights are intolerable and left after downloading the world, which proves both that new competitors may enter my line of production and that I cannot be an ultimate decision maker.[7][8]

Third, the conditions of the game and server make theft and assault impossible. A player might create a death trap, but these can only be made on one’s own property, on unclaimed land, or on land in which they have been granted permission by the claim owner to create such hazards. Because property claims are impossible to violate (unless I chose to or a hacker managed to alter the server status), Liberty Minecraft does not provide a model for dealing with aggressors against property rights aside from having the server owner (me) remove someone from the server.

Finally, the Terms of Commercial Use prohibit anyone from selling soft currency for hard currency. Therefore, I cannot offer the play-to-pay model described in the opening without violating the Terms of Commercial Use. The terms provide a narrow range of ways that I can provide value to players in exchange for money. This even applies to affiliate marketing (which is not permitted), such as with Amazon. The consequence is that I must innovate within these narrow terms, which creates an interesting problem but deviates from a libertarian order. And ultimately, Mojang, the company that developed Minecraft, is regulated by the state, so Liberty Minecraft still operates within a statist framework to some degree.

Conclusion

Minecraft spontaneously generates social orders. Liberty Minecraft is an effort to create such an order based upon Austrian economics with libertarian ethics. Within Liberty Minecraft, players operate in an unfettered free market and experience social freedoms that are opposed by state aggression. This experience sharpens one’s thinking about economic and social affairs. Experiencing economic freedom online without freedom from the state has led people to reject the Federal Reserve System but favor the state at large. The goal of this project is to test libertarian ideas in a simulated environment and lead people to reject the state in favor of private property rights and non-aggression, which one experiences within Liberty Minecraft. Liberty Minecraft has some important problems that may be solved in future updates, and represents nothing less than a proof-of-concept for exploring social orders in games.

References

  1. Valdes, Giancarlo. “Jagex Wages War against Gold Farming in RuneScape 3 with Bonds” VentureBeat, 25 Sept. 2013. http://venturebeat.com/2013/09/25/jagex-wages-war-against-gold-farming-in-runescape-3-with-bonds/
  2. Dutton, Fred. “Entropia Universe player spends $2.5 million on virtual real estate” Eurogamer.net, 4 Apr. 2012. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-04-04-entropia-universe-player-spends-USD2-5-million-on-virtual-real-estate
  3. Block, Walter. “Fake Economic News | Walter Block” YouTube, Mises Media, 4 Aug. 2017. www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiwhlU4d-nY
  4. Dempsey, Nathan. “How The World Works” Liberty Minecraft, 14 Oct. 2017. www.libertyminecraft.com/how-the-world-works/
  5. Dempsey, Nathan. “How Private Property Works” Liberty Minecraft, 4 June 2017. www.libertyminecraft.com/how-private-property-works
  6. Dempsey, Nathan. “How The Money Works” Liberty Minecraft, 4 June 2017. www.libertyminecraft.com/how-the-money-works/
  7. Dempsey, Nathan. “Free Market Update: Land Disputes” Liberty Minecraft, July 2017. https://www.libertyminecraft.com/free-market-update-land-disputes/
  8. Hoppe, Hans-Hermann (2001). Democracy: The God That Failed. Transaction Publishers. p. 21.

Song Lyrics: Stickman

This song is written in honor of Kyle Chapman, better known as Based Stickman. He bravely engaged communists in battle on March 4, 2017 in Berkeley, Calif. He was then arrested and charged with several felonies for defending protesters from street hooligans when the police would not. He has since been bailed out and has become a folk hero, appearing on several libertarian and nationalist podcasts. The song does not fit well with my vocal range, but I may attempt to record this anyway.

[To the tune of Spoonman by Soundgarden]

[Verse 1]

Antifa enters the fray
(Based Stickman will save the day)
Stickman
Policemen stand down and watch
(Save us from the Red assault)
Stickman

[Chorus]

Stickman, shield and stick are in your hands
Help us, we’re together with your plan
Help us
Help, oh

[Verse 2]

Volunteer to save our rights
(Based Stickman is our alt-knight)
Stickman
Cops try to put him away
(Their cells can’t keep him at bay)
Stickman

[Chorus]

Stickman, shield and stick are in your hands
Help us, we’re together with your plan
Help us
Help
Help us
Help us, yeah
Help, with your

[Bridge/Guitar Solo]

C’mon x12
With your shield
With your stick
With your
C’mon x4
Stick

[Interlude]

Good night to Antifa x8

[Chorus]

Stickman, shield and stick are in your hands
Help us, we’re together with your plan
Help us
Help, help us
With your, with your stick

[Outro]

Communists come ’round again
(More Stickmen will follow him)
Stickman

Why We Need More Political Violence

The 2016 election season has seen the United States become more polarized than at any time in recent memory. The rise of Donald Trump on the right and of Bernie Sanders on the left has emboldened radical elements on both sides which had formerly been politically homeless. This has led to a greater number of protests, some of which have resulted in violence and threats thereof. Even third-party candidates have found themselves in danger from violent extremists.

Of course, the establishment media has condemned the violence, though most of the blame has predictably been levied upon Trump and his supporters rather than upon radical leftist elements. Most alternative media, with the notable exception of Christopher Cantwell, have followed suit. But there is a case to be made that politics in America have become too tame, and that more violence in politics would actually be beneficial. Let us consider that case.

First, let us note the hypocrisy of those who call for peace. For example, Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, “There should never be a ‘but’ when comes to condemning violence and intimidation. Violence and intimidation are never acceptable under any circumstances.” Yet she is the chairperson of one of two organizations which control the United States government, the most powerful and dangerous criminal organization in human history. In this role, she has presided over the use of violence and intimidation of the American people (and the rest of the world, by way of foreign policy) on a scale scarcely imaginable to an individual Sanders (or Trump) supporter. Most of the others who have made such statements are less directly connected to the state, but still bear vicarious liability for its crimes to some extent.

Second, libertarianism allows for the use of violence in self-defense. As such, when protesters attack people, those people may defend themselves with any amount of force necessary to end the threat. Moreover, when statists seek to wield state power against people to do what would be considered criminal if they were to attempt the same actions on their own, those people have a right to defend themselves not only from the state, but from the people who would employ it against them. In fact, using force against a group of citizens in this case is likely to cause less bloodshed than using force against agents of the state while achieving a similar result.

Third, for much the same reason that the Cold War never went hot and gun-free zones are disproportionately targeted by criminals, the very possibility of political violence tends to foster greater mutual respect. The knowledge that both sides of a dispute are able, willing, and even eager to forcefully defend themselves makes an attempt by either side to violently impose their will upon the other side more risky and therefore less attractive. However, if one group is willing to use force and the other group is not, then the group that is willing to impose its will upon others will win. As Vegetius said, “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

Fourth, the possibility of political violence can have the same effect on politicians that it has on citizens. Back in the days when dueling was common, a person who spoke ill of someone else risked having to either back up his words with deadly violence or be considered a coward. With this custom removed, political discourse is not necessarily harsher, but the harshness is more widespread because one need not back up one’s words with any show of force. (Notably, such duels occasionally managed to not only resolve a personal dispute, but to change the political course of an entire nation, as when Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton.) One could even make the case that a system of dueling would be preferable to a system of voting for determining political leaders.

Fifth, the past few years have seen the rise of a radical left-wing element, and this element has become increasingly violent and hostile toward civil liberties. Whenever someone says something with which these people disagree, their response is not to present a reasoned case against it, but to shout down speakers, deny them a platform, get them fired from their jobs, get them banned from social media platforms, ruin their reputations, and physically assault them. Private property rights also mean nothing to them, as they have shown a willingness to do this not only on public university campuses, but at private venues as well. These people are unwilling to peacefully coexist with people who are different from them, and their detachment from reality is capable of destroying civilization as we know it if they are allowed to triumph. The only sensible option, then, is to violently suppress these radical left-wing elements as a matter of self-defense. Leaving this up to the authorities risks pushing us closer to an authoritarian police state while making us less self-reliant for our own protection, so political violence by right-wing groups against left-wing groups in order to, as Murray Rothbard wrote, “take back the streets, crush criminals, and get rid of bums,” is essential. Such a move could also help to establish the sort of culture of resistance needed to abolish the state for the long-term.

Sixth, given that the state is the most powerful and dangerous criminal organization within its geographical area, it is entirely unreasonable to expect efforts to gain control of it to result in anything other than violence. In this sense, democracy is an unhealthy historical aberration. When voting with bullets is replaced by voting with ballots, the risk of using force against one’s fellow human beings is immensely reduced. It is much safer to have the state send a tax collector to take property from one’s neighbor than to take up arms and try to rob that neighbor oneself. This risk differential and the potential to profit from what Frederic Bastiat termed ‘legal plunder’ is great enough to make using violence to gain control of the state apparatus appealing to people of a certain mentality.

Finally, the ultimate check on state power, the greatest source of violence of all, is the ability and willingness of the populace to use force in self-defense against the state. In the words of Frederick Douglass,

“Find out just what the people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

Ideally, this would be an anti-political form of violence intended to permanently abolish the state, but such a revolt would be far more likely to replace one form of statism with another at present. The American nation was founded with political violence in the form of a long and bloody war for independence from Great Britain. But as soon as political violence ceased to be used successfully by the American people (usually dated to the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791-94), the new American state began to grow into its current monstrous form. But such defensive violence need not overthrow a state to be effective; it need only make government agents think twice before victimizing the innocent. The 2014 Bundy standoff was one example of this, as the presence of militia groups caused the Bureau of Land Management to back down from its efforts to seize Bundy’s cattle. Another example was the killing of two NYPD officers in December 2014, after which most non-essential police activities were significantly curtailed. As explained above, an activity becomes less appealing if there is a greater risk of experiencing violence for engaging in it, and being an agent of the state is no exception.

Whether the goal is to protect oneself on the street, reduce political cowardice, suppress destructive degenerates, prevent rivals from gaining control of the state apparatus, or to alter or abolish the state apparatus, we do not need less political violence; we need more.

Bring Back the Joust: A Modest Proposal

Every election season, people complain about the ineffectiveness of democratic voting as a means of achieving meaningful change. This is because major parties have conspired to keep minor parties from having a chance of success, wealthy donors determine who has enough money to stay in a primary contest long enough to win, and incumbents are able to use the considerable perks and powers of their offices to campaign for re-election. Voting also serves to sanitize statism and hide some of its inherent violence from the population. There must be a better way, and perhaps there is one that does not require a popular uprising or a cultural shift. To improve the future, let us consider something from the past: the joust.

Cavalry games date back to Roman antiquity, as does the idea of chivalry. The dearth of recorded history during the 5th to 8th centuries makes a link between the Roman hippika gymnasia and medieval jousting difficult to establish. What is known is that jousting tournaments were a development of the High Middle Ages and continued through the early Renaissance. Their invention is credited either to Henry the Fowler (876-936, r. 919-936) or Geoffrei de Preulli (d. 1066). The earliest known use of the word ‘tournament’ dates to 1114, and refers to the keepers of the peace in the town leaving it ‘for the purpose of frequenting javelin sports, tournaments and such like.’ Regular events of this type were held during the lifetime of Charles I, Count of Flanders (1084-1127). By the 1160s, the sport of jousting had developed into the form it would maintain into the 14th century.

There were two major types of joust; the joust a plaisance, which used blunted lances and was expected to be non-lethal, and the joust a l’outrance (also called joust à la guerre), which used sharp lances and was fought until surrender or death. Joust a plaisance was used for tournament contests while joust a l’outrance was common during wartime or for dispute resolution.

During the 14th century, jousting became more regulated and less lethal. A barrier between the riders was added and specialized jousting armor was produced which was too heavy for any other practical purpose. The sport declined due to the invention of the musket in 1520, the death of Henry II of France in a joust in 1559, and the rising popularity of the theatre as a form of entertainment. The final jousting tournament was held on March 24, 1624, but revivals of the sport have been attempted since the 1970s.

A combination of joust a plaisance and joust a l’outrance could serve as an alternative to political elections for determining who should hold government office. Rather than have candidates seek ballot access, advertising time, media appearances, campaign contributions, and debate access, all candidates for a particular office could be put into a jousting tournament bracket, much like the joust a plaisance of old. But the contest should be a l’outrance; a candidate must advance through the tournament bracket by either killing one’s opponents or by making them surrender to avoid being killed. The exact nature of this may vary by jurisdiction and office. In some cases, all contests would be to the death, with refusal to deal a coup de grace being punishable by death. In others, surrender would be not only an acceptable alternative, but the encouraged outcome. A surrender might allow one to try again in the next tournament, or perhaps it would bar one from seeking government office again for a number of years or for life, thereby substituting political death for physical death. A case where both contestants in a match either die or forfeit would create a bye for someone in the tournament unless it occurs in the final match. If a double death or forfeit should occur in the final match for an office, then the office may either be filled by another tournament or left vacant until the next political term has ended. A person who declares candidacy and is unopposed may not take office; all who take government office must joust at least once. Incumbents may or may not have to joust at least once per tournament, depending on the jurisdiction and office. A government office which cannot be filled after several tournaments have been held in an effort to fill it should be abolished.

This system presents several advantages over contemporary democracy. The joust severely curtails the influence of money in politics. The difference in electability between a candidate of a major party and a candidate of a minor party is usually far greater than the difference in jousting ability between the equivalents. A great expense on riding lessons, quality horses, and quality equipment will certainly bestow an advantage, but not as much as the advantages that establishment candidates currently have over outsiders or minor party candidates. The influence of money could be diminished further by standardizing the horses and equipment used for the joust.

Second, the jousting system eliminates two problematic types of politician in the current system: the chicken hawk and the oathbreaker. A chicken hawk is a politician who advocates for wars and other military actions while having refused to enter the military oneself and/or acting to keep one’s children out of military service. The jousting system ensures that no one can get into a position of power to be able to declare, fund, or carry out a war without risking one’s own life in combat. Thus, all who would vote to declare war would have at least some degree of combat veterancy, even if with antiquated weapons. Some oathbreakers could be weeded out in the tournament, as they display cowardice when faced with mortal combat and are punished accordingly. Other oathbreakers could be challenged in a recall joust, which would function as an analogue of contemporary recall elections.

Third, the jousting system channels political violence into a more controlled format. Assassination attempts should be far less common, as one may legally kill an unpopular politician by entering a jousting tournament against that person and winning. Even the threat that this may happen should make politicians treat their constituents with far more dignity and respect than they do now, and could lead unpopular politicians to resign more frequently.

Fourth, the jousting system would disabuse everyone of the notion that government is anything other than an institution of violence. Seeing their would-be leaders careening at each other on horseback while aiming sharp lances at each other would make clear to everyone that these people are intent on exercising a monopoly on initiatory force against the civilian population, to the point of being willing to kill people for the opportunity. The reaction of people to staring this reality in the face is likely to change the political climate for the better, toward less of a belief in a role for the state in society.

Fifth, the jousting system would essentially create term limits, as it is a very dangerous activity that leads to many injuries. After a certain number of jousts, a competitor will be sufficiently injured as to be ineffective. This would spell the end of the era of career politicians who stay in office for decades until dying of natural causes. While term limits can create perverse incentives in an electoral system, the joust mitigates those incentives as discussed above.

The joust would also have some non-political benefits. The code of chivalry developed alongside the joust, and the return of jousting could lead to a resurgence of chivalric values, such as courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and charity. The sport would also be a great source of entertainment, especially if a plaisance tournaments for fun and profit were held in addition to the political contests. Sports gamblers would have yet another subject for betting, and sports bars would have another subject to bring in customers. Merchandise could be made not only for those who joust, but for fans of jousting in general or champion jousters in particular.

Of course, we may anticipate some criticisms. One is that by abolishing voting, the joust takes us back to a time when the common person had even less power. The truth is that a voter has very little power; in some cases, the odds of deciding an election are less than the odds of being killed in a car accident on one’s way to the polling place. Unlike the historical jousts, this proposal allows anyone to seek office by entering. After all, titles of nobility, entry fees, and other such historical and contemporary encumbrances are rather petty in light of volunteering to fight to the death in order to hold government office. Another related criticism is that women and racial minorities may be disempowered by the change from elections to jousts. This is truly meritless; most of the energy delivered by a jousting lance in a collision ultimately comes from the horse, and any woman or person of color may enter the joust, just as a white man may enter. It may be that there would still be a minority of women in government office, but this should be expected regardless of the methods used to choose rulers simply as a matter of biology. There is also the matter that a highly skilled jouster may be nearly impossible for an ordinary person to challenge and defeat, but this is still more likely than an ordinary person with ordinary means challenging and defeating an establishment politician. Finally, one may wonder why all of the effort should be made to re-establish jousting when firearm duels could achieve many of the same objectives. The answer is that the joust provides a lengthier entertainment, requires more skill, and (most importantly) involves less luck.

Admittedly, it is unlikely that this method of choosing politicians will ever be implemented, and it is not the answer for creating a libertarian society. But as shown above, replacing elections with jousts could do far more good than harm. Bring back the joust!