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Libertarianism, Equality, Fairness, and Discrimination

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From the Libertarian Party Platform:

3.5 Rights and Discrimination We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant. Government should not deny or abridge any individual’s rights based on sex, wealth, race, color, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation. Parents, or other guardians, have the right to raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs.

Pretty self-explanatory, right?  If you’re a bigot, you’re an idiot.  This isn’t to say that you personally can’t be a bigot if you want to – that is so long as you’re not infringing on anyone else’s rights – so if you really insist on having your own private Whatever Supremacist meetings, enjoy them in the comforting knowledge that your rights allow absolute stupidity.  The point of this platform plank is to state that no government entity can or should ever engage in discrimination of any kind; that is totally forbidden.  I think we can all agree that this is an accurate and unobjectionable position, right?  However, some people will mistakenly translate this into “we’re all equal.”  They are wrong.

Equality is the single stupidest idea anyone ever came up with.  We’re not all equal, and the notion of equality is nothing short of a catastrophe.  And I realize that this statement might leave you saying something like:

Huh?

There’s a tremendous difference between equal rights and equality.  Everybody has the same rights, but I personally am tempted to vomit every time I hear some variation of “we’re all equal.”  Even my most creative profanity fails to describe my level of hatred for that statement.

What is equality?  I insist that it is the utter and systematic destruction of individuality for all parties concerned, masked as justice and virtue.

You have to be overreacting.

The concept of equality – please train yourself to inject a mental “and that’s not the same as equal rights” so I don’t have to keep typing it – is based on the ludicrous assumption that fairness is a beautiful thing that springs forth from this womb of moral righteousness that is Sameness.  And while the concept of fairness is indeed directly related to the notion of equality, that’s nothing to celebrate.  So I’m really sorry, Fairness, but there’s no trophy for having a bad mother.  

Who the hell actually objects to fairness?

I know, right?  Well, this is sort of a thinker.  For starters, you have to realize that nothing is or can be fair.  Sure, in the name of fairness there are ground rules for checkers and so forth to establish some sort of a level playing field, and we all shout “that’s not fair!” when somebody wrongs us when we’ve done nothing to earn their venom, but consider what “fairness” really means.  It means that we’re either entitled to a particular outcome that we feel we deserve, or that someone got something they didn’t deserve and that just isn’t right – it needs to be “fixed.”

Considering this, it turns out that inherent in the idea of fairness is that somebody has to decide who has something that somebody else should have.  Now when you’re talking about horse-collar tackles in football or using certain foreign words in Scrabble (“What the hell is ‘borscht?!’  How is that legal?!”), fairness is actually just a phrase to describe the concept of abiding by mutually agreed-upon rules.  And, when you’re talking about somebody punching you in the face when you’ve done nothing wrong, unfairness is actually just a word you’re using as a way of describing a totally unjust infringement on your rights.  But fairness – real fairness – is completely consumed by the idea that everyone is entitled to an equal outcome.  Anything else, therefore, is unfair.

Ok, so let me get this straight.  While we use “fairness” to mean different things, you’re saying the actual meaning of fairness is just an enforcement of equality?

Yeah, basically.  And the kicker is that somebody has to decide what’s fair and what isn’t.  Unlike rules everyone agrees to and rights that everyone already has, what fairness means is that some third party is going to decide who gets what, and why.  Fairness is the arbitrary muscle behind equality.  Fairness is a demand for absolute power to enforce a vision of “right.”

Ok, so fairness is based in the notion of equality, and fairness is about dividing up who gets what based on what somebody thinks is “right.”  Where things start to break down is when you consider that no human being can ever be truly impartial when it comes to deciding fairness.  Fairness is always influenced by a particular world view, which is why fairness today means racial quotas in college institutions (this is considered equality), taxing producers to support certain consumers’ wants (this is considered equality), and the entire concept of “social justice” (also known as “getting even,” and this is also trumpeted in the name of equality).

“There are too many white people in this classroom!  Something is horribly wrong!”

“You own too many Mercedes!  I demand tax-subsidized compensation for your success!”

“Remember slavery, asshole?!  I deserve reparations!”

Ah, equality!  Gimmie, gimmie, gimmie, because I am entitled.  You’re in the wrong majority, you have too much (more than me), and your ancestors might have been in a group of really bad people.  Fork it over.  It’s…only…fair.

But some people really have too much!

Read this and get back to me. I’ve already covered it.

Oh, yeah.  Well… you’re being unfair.

Ha.  That’s a really poor choice of words.

What I mean is that equality isn’t just about fairness by way of redistribution.  Equality is about ending discrimination, too.

Not quite.  In fact, it’s about the exact opposite.  All you’re doing with this notion of “fairness” is discriminating against one category of people to prop up another.  How does that jive with what you call fair?

Consider the implications!  If you’re confiscating wealth or rigging a system against certain people, how in God’s name can you seriously say that equality is about equality?  What you’re saying is that we are not equal, and you’re proving it by demanding special treatment.

“Equality” and “fairness” are just as responsible for discrimination as abject bigotry. What’s the suggestion of equality/fairness by way of racial quotas?  “Blacks just can’t make it on their own.”  Penalizing others’ success?  “Nobody – except me – deserves what they earn.”  Social justice?  “I’m going to get my revenge, because I’m a victim of something that somebody did somewhere, some time.”  This is what people do, and this is what they call equal and fair.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Before you start coughing up blood and writing me anonymous death threats, let me repeat and semi-clarify:  equal rights, which absolutely everyone has and deserves, has nothing to do with equality and fairness.  Bigotry is nothing short of evil and disgusting, but you must realize that “equality” and “fairness” are just two insidious vehicles that serve to perpetuate it. I’ll leave you with the words of Barry Goldwater, who says it much better than I ever could:

Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed. Their mistaken course stems from false notions of equality, ladies and gentlemen. Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences. Wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.

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Written by libertarianews

December 2, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Libertarians and The Welfare State

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Many people reading this are currently under the assumption that public welfare is a necessity which must be provided by the government to people who are, for one reason or another, lacking something.  This “lacking” could be due to any number of external factors, but it’s usually chalked up to people being victimized by economic decline, evil business practices, or more generally their socio-economic status.  Regardless of the indicated root cause, poverty, old age, and disability are certainly prime examples of what many of us think requires government welfare, and this assumption probably continues to reason that not only is government welfare a necessary thing, but a good thing.  How else does money, housing, medical care, prescription drugs, retirement stipends, food stamps, job retraining programs, assorted kinds of compensation, education, and all the rest reach those who lack, if not via government’s guiding hand?

But let’s be crazy and controversial, shall we?  Let’s assume that there might be more to the story than “and they all lived happily ever after, because they advocated for more funding in the subsequent fiscal year.”  Let’s stop for a moment, and ask a few questions about welfare, like:

So how much do these government welfare programs actually cost, anyway?

That’s a good place to start, right?  Savvy consumers that we are, we probably want to know what the price tag is before we buy something, no matter how good it sounds.  I mean, a Rolls-Royce looks great until you find out it’s like half a million bucks plus tax, so, y’know, let’s keep our credit cards in the wallet for a minute before we get too excited about all the features.

A convenient starting point for adding up the so-far price of welfare is back in 1965 with President Johnson’s Great Society programs.  This “Great Society” was to be the series of government welfare programs that were going to end poverty once and for all.  They even called it the War on Poverty, which was a really severe thing to do before it became an increasingly offhand political expression, such as Nixon’s War on Drugs, George W. Bush’s War on Terror, and Michelle Obama’s War on Childhood Obesity (send in the tanks; they’ve got Twinkies!).  In other words, they weren’t screwing around – I repeat, they were going for THE END OF POVERTY.

So, with the Great Society came state and federal funding for medicare, medicaid, food stamps, a wide variety of education initiatives, job training, urban transportation, and so on.  Various civil rights initiatives – the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and so on – were considered a part of the overall program as well, though we’ll just be focusing on the War on Poverty and its creation of many modern welfare programs that are still in place today.

And now, the price of the War on Poverty:

$15,900,000,000,000 between 1965 and 2008.  That just under sixteen trillion dollars, give or take; sixteen trillion dollars to “end poverty.”

Well, that sounds like a lot, but think of all the good it’s done.

It’s actually very important to focus on just what that number means before we progress.  If you added up the cost of every war the United States has been in since there was a United States, you’d need to multiply the total two-and-a-half times over to reach the price of the War on Poverty.  That is a colossal pile of money, and it’s only increasing.  In fact, another $10.3 trillion is going to be spent on welfare over the next ten years, not including our new nationalized health care system.

So what?  We’re the richest country in the world.

I’d love to meet whoever started that rumor.  Actually, as a country, we don’t have enough money to buy the rope we’re hanging ourselves with.  We’re flat broke, but that hasn’t stopped both Republican and Democrat administrations from spending as if times were never better.  The fact is  we’re rapidly approaching $14 trillion in debt, which is a problem not only because it’s past a dangerous economic tipping point, but also since we’re planning on increasing that precarious number by another 70% just to fund massive welfare programs that we literally have no way of paying for.

Wait… what?

This situation really encapsulates everything libertarians are calling for; we demand less government because, among other reasons, we’re at the point of impending economic collapse in the near future.  If you fell asleep in history, let me be succinct: continuing this insane spending addiction means The Great Depression Part II, and it doesn’t matter what we spend the money on, either.

Now hang on just a minute.  Why can’t we just buckle down and pay it off?  What’s the big problem here?

I’d like to direct your attention to a previous link I posted, which was to the U.S. Debt Clock.  Its numbers come from from the likes of the U.S. Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Census, the Congressional Budget Office, and so forth.  Mouse over any number you like to see the sourcing.  The debt clock, I should mention, is a concept that began during the Reagan years as an actual billboard in Times Square, but unfortunately our national debt is so high that the original board can no longer display it.  This website is a new version of the same thing.

So, while you might say something like “let’s pay it off,” you need to realize that, as a taxpayer, your share of the current ever-rising federal debt burden is actually over $124,000.  Yes, if we split all the national debt up, that’s your piece of the pie.  If you spread the debt out further to be paid equally by every citizen – which would also include every man, woman, and child not paying taxes  – the new cost is $44,000 per individual, and climbing.  This debt share does not include local and state government debt, but I’ll get to that momentarily.

Furthermore, each citizen could have an additional $52,000 share of the cumulative privately held debt in our country – the significance of that number will be explained in a minute.  Unfortunately, the average family only has about $9,600 in the bank.

What does that mean?

Bear with me here.

It means that every citizen – not just taxpayers – would have to pay a total of roughly $176,000 to settle up their even share of all U.S. debt held today, and that includes all personal, business, financial institution, state government, local government, and federal government debt.

Here’s an important point to differentiate these numbers I’ve been mentioning:  public debt – which is to say government debt – is quite literally everyone’s problem; however, the possibility of additional debt at your own state and local government might make your debt share even worse for you, or possibly worse for everyone if that additional debt is spread around to all Americans as well.  The bottom line is that we are all responsible for federal government spending, and some of us if not all of us are going to be responsible for state and local government spending.  On the other hand, private debt – like credit cards, mortgages, business debt, and so on – is an individual problem until government assumes that debt with bailouts, as is the practice today.  In other words, the “best” case scenario is that literally everyone owes $44,000 (alternatively, all taxpayers owe $124,000) to get just the federal government out of debt, and then everyone would be expected to take care of their own personal private debt on the side; the worst case is $176,000 from every citizen if the government continues the bailout insanity, which includes a federal bailout of state and local debt.

Whoa, wait.  What if we, like, get the government to cancel the credit card debt?  Wouldn’t legislatively erasing some of that private debt be a good start to helping us pay off the national debt?

That would be a bailout.  I’ll show you why that doesn’t work.  Let’s say the government signs a bill to bail you out and pay for some or all of your credit card debt.  Yay.  Of course that bill wouldn’t be targeted literally just at you; lots of people would be bailed out.  Now all you have to do is pay for that bailout through increased taxes (because government money, even bailout money, is literally your money), plus now you get to pay for the new additional costs of creating and administering the program that they’d use for this theoretical bailout.

So I’d basically get lots of free money with this bailout?

No.  Initial debt + personal government bailout – new government bailout program tax share – bureaucratic fees – administration costs – corruption = quite possibly even more debt than you started with.  A bailout wouldn’t be dodging a bullet so much as jumping in front of one and insulting its mother; the government’s debt is your problem, your personal debt is your problem, and when government assumes your debt and/or anyone else’s debt, it’s your problem.  

So you’re saying we can’t afford welfare?

I’m saying that this means that we can’t afford government programs beyond our income, and that certainly means we cannot afford a continuation of the Great Society.  Perhaps the greatest irony of the welfare system created by the Great Society is that it not only failed to eradicate poverty, but that its skyrocketing cost has an excellent chance of impoverishing this entire country.

I want to emphasize that the debt problem as a whole isn’t caused exclusively by welfare spending, even though that’s specifically what I’m hi-lighting today.  It’s easy to point at the largest government expenditures, like welfare, and show how and why they in particular are disproportionately part of a larger problem.  There is, of course, more to the failure of welfare than dollars and cents, but I firmly believe that the failure starts there.

Written by libertarianews

November 2, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Libertarians and Drugs

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If you’ve spent any time reading the Libertarian Party Platform (do it!), you might’ve run smack into this:

1.2    Personal Privacy

Libertarians support the rights recognized by the Fourth Amendment to be secure in our persons, homes, and property.  Protection from unreasonable search and seizure should include record held by third parties, such as email, medical, and library records.  Only actions that infringe on the rights of others can properly be termed crimes.  We favor the repeal of all laws creating “crimes” without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes. [My emphasis added]

If you’re anything like me, the first time you read that last sentence you might’ve laughed aloud and said something like, “Those morons!  Recreational drugs!  Legalized!”  Yes, the mere thought of it probably caused you to spew a mouthful of beer all over your pack of cigarettes.

I’ll pause to let the irony catch up to you.  Take a sip of your coffee if necessary…

It’s true: we already have legalized recreational drugs in this country.  Nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine are all dangerous in their own ways, but we accept them almost without a second thought while marijuana and cocaine are frowned upon, albeit to vastly differing degrees.  Why is that?

Before I continue, let me make the following abundantly clear:  I do not and will not endorse drug use.  This blog post has nothing whatsoever to do with advocating legal or illegal recreational drug use, period.  I’m going to keep my personal views reasonably out of the equation here – which is to say I won’t argue the virtues of one drug over another from my viewpoint – and focus on the logic behind the Libertarian Party’s position on legalized drug use.  Suffice to say I’m currently attending graduate school in order to apply for licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor.  In other words, my #1 goal is to help people overcome their addictions, chemical and otherwise.  I hope that gives you a reasonable bit of clarity that this post is not based on downplaying any dangers of legal and illegal drug use in itself.

I can’t believe you’re even going to defend this.

It’s counter-intuitive for most people to consider legalizing drugs, because we often equate “legalization” with “it’s okay for people to do whatever the hell they want,”  as if simple legalization magically creates a moral or societal permissiveness to get high and then commit violent crimes.  This simply isn’t true; even though alcohol use is legal, it is not legal to drive drunk, rob a bank under the influence, beat your wife after one too many, or perform surgery while tanked.  In other words, you have a right to drink as much as you please so long as your actions do no harm to others. Drunk or not, you’re still responsible for your actions.  Why can’t we extend a similar outlook to currently illegal drugs?

Because they’re more dangerous than alcohol.

That’s a riot.  Five times more people die annually due to alcohol versus illegal drugs, which sounds really terrible until you realize twenty-five times more die due to tobacco use.  Incidentally, both tobacco use and alcohol use are in the top three most preventable causes of death in the United States.  In other words, Coors Light makes heroin look safe – statistically speaking.

But just think how many more people would die if those drugs were legal!

You’re jumping back to the “legality = permissiveness” position.  And just because something is legal doesn’t mean we all want to do it, after all.  I’d direct your attention to everything Johnny Knoxville has ever done in front of a camera.  Legal?  Yes.  But I don’t see people lining up to do it.

The best way to influence people in general is to educate or demonstrate the rewards and dangers of specific behaviors.  For instance, if heroin was suddenly legal tomorrow, would you seriously want to run out and try it?  Your knowledge of the inherent dangers is more effective in keeping you from doing a drug than the ludicrously small chance that you’d get caught for possessing it.  But, as with a good cigar or a glass of scotch, if you choose for whatever reason to take that risk then that’s your decision you made concerning your own self.  Even though the overwhelming majority of libertarians would view the decision of heroin use as a horrible and dangerous choice, consistent with our view of self-ownership – among other things soon to be mentioned – there should be no legal means of locking you up exclusively for that choice.

To any and all libertarians, it is never legal to do harm to others in any way, shape, form, or fashion, whether or not drug use is involved.  The difference is that criminalizing someone’s private behavior – no matter how unappealing or stupid it might be –  is fundamentally immoral and, practically speaking, a completely un-winnable battle, anyway.

So I say again, legalizing a substance does not legalize all behaviors a human being can engage in while under the influence of that substance, nor does it make substance use acceptable, attractive, or appealing.   But, in the end, you still own you.  You have the right to eat yourself to death, drink yourself to death, smoke yourself to death, snort yourself to death… you get the idea.

Okay, but do we really need more legal drugs out there?  Aren’t we still ultimately safer by making some of these drugs illegal?  Doesn’t that cut down on the actual crimes caused by drugs?

As someone who plans on being an addictions counselor, let me just say that it would be really, really, really nice if making drugs illegal actually set up a serious and lasting roadblock to drug use and drug abuse – let alone to the crimes caused by drugs in one way or another.  I’d have addicts, essentially forced to get help, kicking down my door and paying me ludicrous amounts of money for my services.  I mean, if Lexus built a helicopter, that’s what I’d be taking to work.

So, yeah, I wish I could just give you reams of evidence showing how useful and effective the War on Drugs has been over the years and decades.  Unfortunately, there is no way to do that – it’s a completely doomed conflict between law enforcement, people who wish to do drugs, and the vast organized crime apparatus created by drug prohibition itself.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we thought making a drug illegal could actually stop or deter use, abuse, and crime.  We might look at the dangers of drunk driving, and we might decide that just outlawing drunk driving wasn’t enough; after all, even though drunk driving carries stricter punishments seemingly by day, alcohol is still behind 31.7% of car accident fatalities nationwide. So ask yourself, would making the actual possession and use of alcohol illegal keep people from doing certain things – like drunk driving – that are already illegal anyway?  Thanks to the alcohol Prohibition of 1920-1933 – and the resulting explosion of political corruption and the creation of organized crime in America that came directly from it – we know that the answer is “no.”  Someone will gladly step in and meet the demand for a drug, and then an entirely new and vicious criminal element will come along with it.

Here’s the the point to remember about Prohibition:  while the government ran around to proudly bust open a barrel of whiskey here and blow up a moonshine still there (always in front of cameras, just like today), and while it busied itself with arresting and prosecuting individuals who merely possessed alcohol, the vast and brutal criminal organizations behind the bootlegging remained untouched as they grew more and more powerful.  And, worst of all, completely innocent people were caught in the crossfire among rival gangs as their neighborhoods, communities, and cities were turned into war zones.

You’re saying drug prohibition causes crime?!

What many people don’t realize is that Prohibition was the first serious drug prohibition.  Alcohol, in every sense of the word, is a drug and, at one point, it was an illegal one.  Prohibition failed completely; why do we expect this other drug prohibition to be any different?

There are unbelievable profits to be made in drugs while they’re illegal, which is where the real criminality comes from.  Take a gander at Mexico if you don’t believe me.

Hasn’t Mexico decriminalized or legalized some drugs?  According to your genius theory, shouldn’t the violence have stopped there?

The reason Mexico has called in their own army to deal with the drug lords, and has seen 28,000 innocent lives lost since 2006, isn’t because the cartels are competing for sales in Mexico – they’re competing for the market in the United States.

Why are illegal drugs so profitable, anyway?

Because they aren’t a part of the free market.  For instance, there’s nothing terribly special about marijuana – it’s literally a weed.  Anyone could grow it.  So why does a mere eighth of an ounce of it routinely go for roughly $60-80?  Simply because it’s illegal.  The price reflects the unique risks and challenges somebody – typically some criminal organization – takes to produce and deliver the product.  Why were the profits from rum running so gigantic 90 years ago?  Again, simply because it was illegal.  Gangs and cartels have always killed each other and anyone even remotely in their way in order to make money on drugs, and why?  Because it’s a $400 billion a year industry – and that means 8% of the entire world’s commerce is made in the illegal drug market.  That also means that because of the War on Drugs, 8% of the world’s commerce is funding the violence perpetrated by these gangs and cartels.  In other words, this patently evil $400,000,000,000 industry and everything that comes with it exists solely because we’re pointlessly engaged in the embarrassingly futile attempt of trying to stop some end users from damaging their health with a certain set of chemicals, just so they legally can do it with another kind instead.

Libertarians don’t want addiction and don’t support drug abuse at all; we simply recognize that the drug war, on so many levels, is a proven and guaranteed loss.  All of the money spent on the drug war – on incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders, on bizarre tax subsidies to Colombia and Afghanistan to try and destroy their own drug crops, on fruitlessly catching the occasional drug stash and trumpeting the “success” – could be used to educate people on the risks of drugs instead.  And couldn’t we use that money to give addicts treatment?  Couldn’t we deny the worst and most sadistic criminals the ability to become rich off of human misery?  Couldn’t we just accept the reality that people can and will harm themselves, legally or not, and that trying to prevent them ultimately puts innocent people, families and communities at risk?

Libertarians want to make the best of a bad situation.  It’s just that simple.

Comments and questions are always welcome.

Written by libertarianews

October 25, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Libertarians and Your Money

with 2 comments

I’ve mentioned that libertarianism is fundamentally about the principle of self-ownership: I own me, you own you.  Self-ownership also means that I own the fruits of my time and labor, just as you do.  If that sounds like common sense, that we own ourselves and that what we earn is ours, then that’s because it probably is.  In reality, however, our individual self-ownership is routinely violated, typically in the name of the “greater good.”

Wait a minute.  So all this libertarian stuff is just a front for being selfish, self-centered, and greedy?

No.  First of all, when I say “in the name of the ‘greater good,'” that’s exactly what I mean.  Invoking a name, cause, or purpose of any kind doesn’t automatically legitimize what somebody does.  For instance, I could take hostages at The Discovery Channel headquarters and threaten to kill people unless my particular demands were met, and I could do this in the lofty name of saving the planet, but that wouldn’t legitimize my actions.  Another example is that it would not be acceptable for me to come over to your house, reach into your wallet, and take your money without your consent – no matter what justification I might offer.  This behavior wouldn’t be okay even if I really wanted, say, a new car.  Strangely enough, if I elect a congressional representative to take your money and give it to me to buy a new car, we call that Cash for Clunkers and get really excited about it.  Theft by proxy in this way is considered completely appropriate; sure it’s not my money, but I’ll get somebody to take it from you for me.  I’ll vote my way right into your bank account!

That’s simplistic.

Examples that illustrate a broader point typically are.  Still, it’s important to realize that a program like Cash for Clunkers – done in the name of the greater good! – penalized some tax payers to support the consumption of others.  Quite literally, some people’s wealth was confiscated – taken without their consent – in order to pay for the desires of some others.  To a libertarian, this is not acceptable.  Why should anyone, congress included, have a higher claim on my earned wealth?  Or yours?  Or anyone else’s?

That’s ridiculous.  You’re just being selfish.  Obviously there are some things everyone should pay for.

Without getting too deeply into specific programs (this time), my point is to illustrate the ludicrous fallacy that when government “gives,” everybody wins.  Every dime spent by government comes from somebody – namely, the taxpayer – today, tomorrow, next year, next decade, next generation, and so on.  When anyone demands that a need be met by the government – even if it’s a totally legitimate need that a large number of people want to have met – a lot of people are going to be robbed in order to implement any given program.

It’s just those rich people getting soaked.  So what?

Relative to you, me, or anyone else, somebody is always going to be rich.  You’re much richer than the majority of the Earth’s population if you’re reading this, actually.  Does that give the rest of the world the right to zero your savings account, ruin your credit, and generally do whatever the hell they please with your justly acquired property?  If your paycheck is bigger than mine, can I come take some of your stuff?

Dude.  Bill Gates.

You’re completely missing the point.  Just because somebody’s an easy target doesn’t make it more acceptable to take from them.  You can’t justify taking what you want by blaming the victim, no matter who the victim is; just because you want something or even think you need something doesn’t make it permissible to get the government to steal from people in order to implement your desires.

So what’s the plan then, huh?  No taxes for anyone?  Close down everything and eat the poor?

The vast majority of libertarians are minarchists (that’s “minarchist,” not “monarchist”), which means we believe in minimum government – alternatively, the smallest possible government.  For many reasons, when government does something it always does it in such a way as to penalize one group of people in order to theoretically benefit others.  This is just a consequence of how it operates, regardless of which political party happens to be in power.  Still, government has a role in our society.  The important part is to make sure that governmental control and intervention is as small and as local as possible.  The more decisions that are made at the local level, the better.

What’s so great about local government?  You keep harping on “the government.”  What’s the difference?

“The government” is often a reference to the federal government, but it’s also used to describe government as a broad concept.  Context clues are your friend.

The great part about localized government is that it maximizes taxpayer choice and, ultimately, control.  I would argue that the number one problem with our government today is that all kinds of decisions are being made for us in all levels of our personal lives (and at ruinous expense!); the second biggest problem is that these decisions are being made by a group of people in Washington D.C. who are not, contrary to what must be popular belief, some kind of elite geniuses that understand what arbitrary rules and regulations work best in our individual communities.  I would like to direct your attention to the recently-passed health care bill nobody read, yet is nevertheless projected to cost all of us – and I guarantee that this is a low-ball estimate because they always are – over one trillion dollars.  If this number confuses or surprises you, you may be remembering it as the health care program that wasn’t going to cost anything.

Basically, localized control means an enhanced ability to opt-in or op-out of programs, as well as to quickly meet the needs of the community in a direct and customized way.  Less inefficiency, pointless regulation, waste, and political posturing gets in the way the closer to home government is.  Plus there’s something in a little old thing called The Constitution of the United States of America that delineates what the federal government can and can’t do.  You shouldn’t be surprised to note that compulsory health care isn’t in there.

Oh?  What about the part in there about promoting the general welfare?

Welfare in that context doesn’t mean socialized medicine, it means prosperity.  I promise we’ll talk about that another time.

Okay, so back up.  Taxes are bad, federal government is bad, local control is good.  So where do we get the resources to take care of big problems?  I mean, not everything is putting down fresh linoleum at the community center. Like, NASA and stuff.

The really amazing thing about government is that everyone assumes nobody else could possibly do what they do.  It’s absolutely breathtaking to me.  Why in the world couldn’t there be, oh I don’t know, something more efficient and profitable than the tax-subsidized U.S. Postal Service (the USPS is $10 billion in debt as of September)?  Oh, wait.  UPS and FedEx.  How about that.

Whenever you want or need something, even if it’s something small, amuse yourself by asking “Can I take care of this, or do I need a federal program?”

But really, how many of our taxpayer-funded federal programs are just so important that the private sector – or at the very least state and local governments – couldn’t take care of it?  Well, let’s see, shall we?  For instance, we all value education and learning.  That’s a big deal, and we want to encourage it, right?  Okay, so do we need a federal Department of Education?  Has it really done anything useful?  Is the quality of our local education improving because we are forced to hemorrhage untold billions of dollars on this federal department?  The answer is a resounding “No.”  Badly needed innovation and creative approaches to learning have not come from bureaucratizing the school system and imposing inane programs and boilerplate standardization.  Thanks in large part to the Department of Education, every aspect of school is a politicized nightmare.  Frankly, other government programs and policies abound which similarly set out to accomplish a nice-sounding X, but ended up completely mangling A-W – and usually Z, too.  It’s the nature of the beast.  And, of course, I’ll be exploring this recurring theme much more in the future.

Basically, we all have wants and needs; the question is, what is the best way to accomplish them?  Libertarians contend that government is not the best vehicle for achieving virtually anything.  If not for the inherent immorality of taxation, the patently obvious waste and corruption of government, the lack of flexibility, and the stagnation of ingenuity that comes with crippling regulation and inevitable political meddling, maybe the public sector would have more going for it.  The fact is, government usually doesn’t need to provide; it doesn’t have to forcibly take money from people to “give” them things  – complete with routinely counterproductive oversight – that they may not even want.  There can, in fact, be a better way of getting the job done.

Libertarians insist on less government to make sure that you own you, and that means keeping your property in your hands to make your own decisions as much as possible.  Localized government helps to ensure exactly that.  In short, we promise more by insisting on much, much less.

Comments and questions are always welcome.

Written by libertarianews

October 19, 2010 at 12:51 pm