This is a common argument I have seen countless versions of, in fact I have seen it taken to down right attacks on one’s claim to be a libertarian. It will often take the form of something such as, “well you claim to be a libertarian and think everything the government does is wrong but you benefit from pubic roads, use public lands and you even get your water from government run utilities”. The connotation is that the libertarian is either ungrateful and disingenuous or simply all theory and no practice.

The problem from what I have seen is most libertarians have no real idea how to respond to such claims. The general response is to write off the other party or more often to attack them as wanting “government to run their lives”. This exact scenario just played itself out on my website when a person who took exception to libertarianism left a comment with a link to this political cartoon in the comments section of my blog.

The image shows various pets complaining that humans have never done anything for them all while enjoying the benefits of being fully cared for with an attempt at a clever caption titled “If House Pets Were Libertarians”. In the cartoonist’s attempt to be clever he has actually made an exceptional case for libertarians. People are not pets. Now the government is trying to treat us like pets but I sure don’t want to be one; even with good food and free trips to the vet. The animals in the cartoon can’t use logic, reason and forethought, humans can. This stab against libertarians is actually an excellent cartoon with the right interpretation.

The average libertarian actually does know that many things that have been done by government are “useful”, they just know in most cases government wasn’t required to get them done. They know they could have been done for less money and with more efficiency with out big brother. Their anger at government hides this fact and is one of the things that impairs reaching more people with the libertarian message.

Here is a simple way to explain these so called government “successes” and why the libertarian will choose to “benefit” from the results of big government, even while speaking against them. Consider what I would be forced to do if our government some how legally took 50,000 dollars directly from my bank account and then bought me a 25,000 dollar car with my own money. If I had no legal recourse, no way to fight the injustice, I would have no choice but to simply accept and drive the car. Sure it would get me to work every day and the big government types would say, “look see he uses the car and doesn’t acknowledge it”.

Now was this program a success? Is the car useful to me? Does it run when I turn the key, stop when I hit the brakes and will I use it to get where I need to go? Of course I will use the car but the reality is my right to buy the model I wanted at the price I was willing to pay has been taken away from me. I had four choices before I was “helped” by the car program.

If I had been left to my own choices I could have…

1. Purchased a similar car for 25,000 dollars instead of the 50,000 it ended up costing me

2. Purchased a much nicer car with the full 50,000 dollars they took away from me

3. Purchased a less expensive car all together and kept most of my money for other needs

4. Not purchased any car at all and chosen to walk, hell may be I wanted a motor cycle!  Perhaps I already had a car that I deemed to be “good enough”.

The reality of successful government programs is perfectly illustrated in this example where my money is stolen and spent in a way I disapprove of and then they tell me how lucky I am to have the car they over paid for and chose for me. So the next time you are challenged about this type of thing use this example. I had a great friend at one time that called this “eggplant theory”, to quote him, “I hate eggplant, they take my money and feed me eggplant and tell me I should be happy to be fed”.

That sums it up pretty well, sure the libertarian will utilize the few useful things that government has produced but it is only because we have paid for it and have been left with no alternative.

~ Jack Spirko


Why Won’t Libertarians Admit What Government Has Done Right? — 84 Comments

  1. This article is bullshit because it uses a fake ridiculous hypothetical to make its point – about government taking $50K and giving you a $25K car.

    The point would be better made – if it can be made – by addressing for example how a muncipal water system would or could have been done better AND cheaper by individuals rather than government.

    I adhere to much of “libertarian” philosophy, but I think the “movement” has blinders about government. Let me explain if I can: Sometimes, people can get things done better and more cheaply and efficiently by collective action rather than personal action. Government can and should be a useful instrument of that collective action, so long as it is not used for personal benefit and aggrandizement. Government is inevitable. No matter what human grouping you consider throughout history, governments have been and will be formed – governments as ways of organizing and running things, making decisions more or less democratically, setting up hierarchies and chains of command. This will happen in your church, your club, your business and your community – no matter what you think. It is something that people do in all circumstances – organize for the common good, and try to pervert that organization for personal gain. Imagining you can live without government and/or a ruling group is just setting yourself up to be oppressed and robbed. The real problem is not “government.” The problem is human nature, in two aspects: (1) people’s desire for power and wealth, and (2) people’s desire to have benefits without paying (i.e., leave me free to finance my own health care however I want but if I come up short, you can’t turn me away from the hospital ER and you must let me out from under the debt in bankruptcy court). The consequences of human nature are a problem in private enterprise as well, and it is especially a problem in the type of rigged market crony capitalism we have in the modern world.

    • When you start out with something STUPID, like this article is bullshit you generally are written off from that point forward.

    • ” Imagining you can live without government and/or a ruling group is just setting yourself up to be oppressed and robbed.”
      How is acquiescing to live under a government and/or a ruling group not just setting yourself up to be oppressed and robbed? This is the strong man argument that is as bogus as any other argument against libertarians or anarchists. How many of the worlds worst oppressors were not elected? People simply get the government they deserve by demanding that there be one with the power to suppress them.
      The two problems in human nature you mentioned are not prevented, or even mitigated by government, but are encouraged and facillitated by it.

      • Back a few decades, John Campbell, the real father of modern science fiction, came out with a means of sorting people by their behavior in a government setting.
        Citizens realized they had to give to get, to be a citizen of Rome meant you had to pay your taxes and defend Rome. In return, you were able to travel the known world, and nobody wanted to mess with you, because you could tell them, “I am a Roman” and that was all they needed. They got aquaducts and theaters and public works. When citizens no longer controlled Rome, then Rome fell – and the fall began with General Marius – who is certainly worth study.
        Tribesmen are those who believe only in rules, laws and taboos. There are no exceptions. Everything not forbidden is mandatory. While they love bureaucracy, they actually hamper rational action in many cases. When you hear of a school superintendent suspending a student for a tylenol, that person is surely a Tribesman.
        Barbarians are those who do not believe in any government at all, they exist only to tear it down, dance on the fire and then proclaim how free they are. Barbarians recognize only strength as right, if you cannot force me to do it, I won’t do it.
        I think it’s pretty obvious which classification the majority of the current libertarians who post on the web fall under.
        Agreeing to live under a social contract is not slavery. Any Lib who doesn’t like the social contract of the USA can either petition the government to change it, or they can move to another country and renounce their citizenship in the US. Slaves cannot do this. The claim that Libertarians are “forced” to endure the USA is wholly false.
        Also, one often hears the claim that “we are for small government”. Ok, how small? Never will you get a straight answer to that, you’ll get homilies about how great small government is, or you’ll get goofy talk about Social Security. Really people, if the best you got is complaining about being required to buy an annuity that’s a damn sight more sound that the annuities sold by insurance companies, then you just ain’t got much.
        Then they fall back to the force thing very often. Government FORCES me to pay taxes or to not dump sulfuric acid on my neighbors lawn, or whatever. They USE ARMED MEN WITH GUNS! Ok, exactly what small government are you going to set up (in the real world, with real people) that enforces laws without force? WHO exactly is going to be enjoined by a law that has no enforcement? Are you or are you not going to have a law against men raping their 10 year old daughters? If you are, do you think this guy is going to care if you don’t send a cop after him? OMG you have a cop! With a GUN! In the perfect libertarian world! Really people, that’s such a high school sophomore piece of illogic, it’s just ridiculous. Any government that “EN”forces laws must use force. Anything that doesn’t is assuming there is magic intervening somewhere. Or they are assuming there is no law at all. Tell that to that ten year old.
        As for Ayn Rand, well, her writing stands up to semantic analysis for about ten minutes. She was writing polemics against communism, not proposing anything realistic. Good grief.

        • People like you are just sad, if you are under 45 good luck ever collecting that annuity. If you want to use the fall of Rome as an analog to the US we are already past the point where the fall has begun. I would answer you questions, including how small government should be but I know it would be pointless, you are clearly a statist, trying to convince you of the ills committed by government is pointless. None of us want to be “free” to dump toxins, that is just plain stupid to say.

        • You have a very good point about force. Now it would be great if force were only used in such dire examples as the scenario that you presented. Unfortunately in America, force is being used to arrest citizens for expired vehicle inspections and other petty issues like growing food in your front yard. Forced purchase of an annuity isn’t that big of a deal. Forced confiscation of labor is! This is the real issue. Every other unfounded mandate is just a smoke screen.

        • Why, the smallest unit of government is simple. Its the individual and its self-government upon which all other forms of government hang (like parasites, symbiotic or not). It’s quite apparent that you are having a difficult time finding an explanation of small government because you are not paying attention. The barbarians ransacked the citizens only to be conquered by the tribesman. The only lasting form of government will be the one that realizes and protects the rights of the individual. America has an excellent 200 year start on this, but we’ve got a long way to got before governments begin to respect the rights of individuals and begin to obey the very laws that

        • I was trying to finish my thought when my smartphone decided to govern itself and hide the last few lines in the text field.

          I was trying to say ” when governments abide by the very laws that they pass themselves”.

        • And yet the “barbarians” exist and have some form of government that works well enough to trample the citizen-supported, tribesman-manipulated, Roman empire.

        • While I disagree with alot of what was said here, thumbs up for bringing up ol’ gaius marius who yes indeed is worth further study, on more than one level. That guy needs to be on the “bad ass of the week website” (for all I know he might be)

      • @MadSat

        The US empire is arguably more powerful than the Roman empire ever was, and do you not believe that proclaiming “I am an American!” could in many places get you killed? The death of Navy diver Robert Stethem in 1985, blows away the theory that you are protected by your identification with a powerful empire. He was on a plane that was hijacked, and diverted to Lebanon. When he was mistakenly identified as a Marine, he was tortured, shot and dumped from the plane. Now, there is a documented case of what you describe. In one of the books of the New Testament, the Apostle Paul saved his ass by proclaiming he was a Roman. But who had accosted him? That’s right, the Romans. My basic point, though, don’t expect your citizenship to be your ticket to walk the world unmolested.
        Aqueducts, etc. I suppose it is just impossible that any such thing can be provided in a free market setting? Or is it that you believe it can’t be done economically enough, so it must be done through forceful means? In 19th century America, the building of railroads was being subsidized. There was a per mile financial subsidy, and a land subsidy provided by the US Army murdering, driving off, or rounding up Indians, and taking their lands. This certainly got railroads built, but at a horrifying human cost. Gotta love that civilized society! All these subsidized railroads experienced bankruptcies in the ensuing years. There was, of course, one railroad that remained solvent. That would be the privately funded Great Northern, built by James J. Hill. He took no financial subsidy, and paid for right of way across any land on which he laid track.
        Being a citizen makes you complicit in the predations and murders committed by the government you pledge allegiance to. Public funding is only necessary for those who are too impatient to let the market work, and for those who desire to enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers. Because of these anti-social afflictions, loyal citizens would see people robbed, incarcerated, and murdered to serve their ends.
        So who are the barbarians? Who believes might makes right? Certainly not libertarians. The libertarian subscribes to the non-aggression principle. I won’t aggress against you, and expect you to afford me the same courtesy. Is the taking of income or other property and calling it taxation, an act of aggression? Does the collection of taxes not come with the implied, and sometimes, explicit threat of force? If in fact there is a threat of force, it can only be considered an act of aggression.
        Libertarians (sort of my camp, me being an anarchist) reject the notion of might makes right, whereas the statist (that would be your camp) embraces it. The libertarian believes in peaceful self-governance. The statist is unwilling to peacefully live and let live. The libertarian understands the difference between voluntary, cooperative society and coercive government imposition of what is often arbitrary rules. The statist not only refuses to consider the possibility of self-governance, but refuses to allow anyone to attempt putting it into practice. We can seek to be free of your influence, but your kind will follow right along wherever we go. So you tell me, how do we show you by example? Where do we go that you won’t move in and pitch your statist tent and begin trying to impose your rules on us?
        Let’s look at your example of government beneficence in the form of Social Security. You are of the notion that Social Security is the imposed purchase of a superior financial instrument along the lines of an annuity. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Social Security is a taxation scheme. No more, and no less. You are taxed now, the money goes into the hands of politicians and bureaucrats who pilfer it. They then create an IOU in the form of a bond to deposit in their “lock box”, and claim they have put aside what they collected for your future benefit. Catch that sleight of hand? The money is gone, but they tell you it is right there in the box waiting for you to retire. What is this bond that they created for your benefit? It is a promise to stick a gun in the ribs of future tax victims to provide money to cover your retirement. There is no savings. No annuity. Nothing that you as a private citizen would ever be allowed to do. But, through the magic of government, the crimes of theft and extortion are washed clean of their stigma, and the statist smiles, contented.
        If a libertarian believes in the non-aggression principle, he thereby is enjoined, by his own philosophy, from dumping acids, poisons, paper and plastic goods, etc. on his neighbor’s property. Does this preclude the necessity for the use of force? No. Simply, no. Likewise, it does not necessitate the creation of a coercive organization to prevent or rectify problems. It is well demonstrated that governments create more problems than they resolve. How does a government prevent a father from raping his ten year old daughter? It doesn’t. It may swoop in after the fact and take father and daughter both into state custody. In this way, not only is the criminal apprehended, but the victim is also further victimized. At this point, the punishment get diffused across society. The taxpayer will pay for Daddy’s arrest, trial, incarceration, attempts at rehabilitation, etc. The daughter continues to pay until she comes to terms with the ugliness that befell her. It would be a wonderful thing if governments truly did provide protection for her and all potential victims. Sadly, government, by its nature, makes victims and seems incapable of providing restitution and making victims whole.
        How do we deal with those who refuse to live peaceful, self-governed lives? It is indeed a complex issue. It is often uncomfortable and ugly. No more so, though, than employing thugs to do your dirty work for you. This is, after all is said and done what government, police and military are. Being self-governed requires that you accept responsibility for your actions, and for providing for your own protection. Does this mean you cannot hire someone to provide a certain level of security for you? Certainly not. We believe in the division of labor. Some people are suited to some things better than others. Now let’s make the distinction here, to head off your gotcha! There is a huge difference between hiring someone to provide security services for you and your property, and the formation of a coercive body, essentially irresponsible to anyone to both define legalities and enforce them upon a population. The private security provider is your employee and can be dismissed, and another hired if necessary. Yes, you get to vote for your masters in government occasionally, but try to tell them to take a hike. Unlike with the private firm, the government will simply refuse to bend to your wishes. If they attack you, your fellow statists will largely shake their heads and assume you had that coming. You must have trespassed the social contract. If a private firm were to do the same, your neighbors, who probably employ them as well, will drop them, and spread the word to everyone they know who uses them. the firm would likely be financially ruined in short order. This is the true problem with governments. Regardless of how brutal they are, they still enjoy implicit support from people who believe that they can effect any needed change at the ballot box. Mark Twain once remarked that if voting changed anything, they wouldn’t let you do it. Only one type of vote changes anything. That is withholding. Withholding votes, support, payment, etc.
        Our paradox now, in the US, is that of withholding taxes. The government doesn’t run on taxes. It is funded by lenders. Taxes basically cover the interest on the debt. Withhold your taxes, and the lenders will float the government the money it requires to put down the rebellion. Shoot a few. Bring the rest to heel.
        What is my bottom line? Most people desire to live in peace, and will behave accordingly. Some people are just bastards, and will refuse to behave properly. These same bastards tend to gravitate to centers of power, and end up holding the reigns in government. That means they hold the reigns attached to the bit in your mouth and direct your movement as well. This, to me, indicates that we are no worse off without a government, and certainly no better off with one. In fact, I believe we are much worse off with government due to its predatory nature.

    • Arguing about cost accounting or the “value” of anything the gang called government provides is wasting time. Government is evil because it is a gang of individuals who survive by forcing themselves on others. Parasitism is evil.

      The silliest comment I’ve read here is:

      “Sometimes, people can get things done better and more cheaply and efficiently by collective action rather than personal action. Government can and should be a useful instrument of that collective action, so long as it is not used for personal benefit and aggrandizement.”

      So that writer believes that he can force himself on me so long as HE has decided it’s “efficient”. The key to spotting human parasites is their disdain for choice – other than their own choices and their embrace of human sacrifice for what THEY define as the greater good. Collectivism is at the root of evil. The antidote is individualism. VOLUNTARY co-operation is still individualism. He is not a libertarian and he would like to confuse voluntary co-operation with forced collectivism. I would guess he is feeding off the extortion racket called taxation and doesn’t like his victims to question the “efficiency” (for him) of the system.

    • But John, It’s for our own good, and for the chiiiiiildren!
      He doesn’t see the difference between the desire to gather wealth through production, (which benefits not just yourself, but those around you as well, by raising the general standard of living) and the libido dominandi (lust for domination) that is destructive of these ends. He certainly doesn’t recognize that these are traits of the collective rather than the individual. People like this think we are dreaming of a utopia where people trade peacefully. They fail to recognize that they are the ones dreaming of utopia wherein the same, flawed as they like to point out, people magically form a mob and enforce “good” behavior. Nothing enforces the rules like good old profit and loss, or boycott for those who don’t play nice.

    • To: Robert J. Pomerene. You are almost correct. I agree that governments are inevitable because these systems act as a means of communication between parties that would otherwise never talk. And yes governments are not the problem, it is human nature. However your assertion that government should not be used for personal benefit and aggradizement is a mere fantasy and ignores your latter assertion that human nature is to blame. If governments are collections of human natures, then the problem of human nature is magnified a ten-fold in organizations, a hundred-fold in businesses, a thousand-fold in corporations and quasi-governmental institutions, or a million-fold in government organizations. This is the problem. The individual begins to experience a gradual erosion, then selective denial, and ultimately abrogation of it’s Creator-given right to self-government and personal sovereignty due to the poor decisions and economic requirements of these larger collections of human nature. These larger bodies of human nature become the new tyrants and oppressors due to their inability to sustainably govern themselves as a direct result of the non-integral nature of these collectives. The individual is the only sustainable form of government and should be trained and empowered to be so. Our current system of economics, education, and industry does the exact opposite. Reserving rights to non-integral collectives of human nature is poor excuse for denying the individual it’s Creator given rights. That’s why we call them individuals. They are un-divided. We should respect and treat them as such.

    • Jack, in the original article, you wrote: “The connotation is that the libertarian … simply all theory and no practice.”
      I have read everything you have written here and appreciate the Survival Philosophy to the extreme. I’ve also read this entire thread (some of which was beneficial and some inane) and I have read for several years. However, I still have some honest questions I haven’t had answered.

      Please, don’t respond by telling me I’m stupid as you have other respondents because that is as counterproductive as the Pomerene response beginning with “bullshit article”. I’m serious here and as I read your blogs I am addressing this question to you:

      “Where and when in modern history (the last 400 years) has any nation existed with a Libertarian governing philosophy or economic system?”
      Because I want to believe that this is more workable than the flawed concept of democracy as a system of government, I would like to understand where this has actually been implemented and existed, how it was implemented, what system it replaced, and how it has survived. By seeing where this has been actually practiced, I can agree that this is more than theory. But no one has yet pointed me to a real world example. Can you do so, please?

      And if there is no real world example of a Libertarian economic/government system, how is it possible to assert that the philosophy is anything beyond theory with no practical history?

      I am NOT seeking to be argumentative. I am hoping beyond hope you can point me to such a system in practice today with a lengthy history revealing it can succeed over time.

      • Are you saying that it has to be practiced at a national level to move it from theory to practice? There have been communities where the governing system was more libertarian than not, but you will not find modern, large scale, examples. I don’t accept this as evidence that they could not exist. I do see it as an indicator that far too many people would rather use the shortcut provided by coercive force to accomplish many things. This is the example we have all grown up with. It is all we have ever seen in practice. I am not about to throw up my hands in despair, though. It will likely not happen in my lifetime, since there are many more years behind me than ahead. I do think that we have only two probable outcomes. Those being either a much more libertarian society, or a totally engineered society similar to Huxley’s “Brave New World” where freedom is only possible within very narrow confines. This kind of freedom is more illusion than anything. The kind of illusion Americans are experiencing today. Many say this country has the most freedom of any on Earth. They totally ignore the fact that their behavior has been narrowly constrained by an overabundance of laws and edicts from on high. We have more laws than anyone will ever read, remember, and abide. It is such that it has been estimated that almost everyone commits at least three felonies every day. What freedom can anyone have when at any time, the government could take an interest in you for any of a countless number of reasons, and find something to warrant locking you away? What freedom is there if you can be accosted by armed agents of the state with no right to resist? What freedom is there when what comes out of your mouth could be labelled hate speech, treasonous, unpatriotic, or impolitic, and for the state to claim authority to do something about it?
        So, what was my answer to your question to Jack? Simply that there is no clear example to point to, especially given your requirements of country and last 400 years. That in no way proves that it is all theory, and no practice, just that it isn’t practiced on the scale you believe necessary to validate it.
        The state has captured the minds of the people, and deadened their collective imagination. Quite frankly, I don’t care. That will not stop me from promoting the philosophy of freedom and voluntary cooperative society. It will not stop me from proselytizing among those who have been seduced by the fraudulent promises of the state.

      • @Voyagernok –
        As Jeff mentioned, you’re not going to find a ‘national’ example.

        A couple of thoughts..
        A large central state isn’t compatible with Libertarian philosophy. So that precludes a state example.

        ‘Stability’ doesn’t exist within ANY governmental system. One of two things occur.. the rulers change (monarchy or oligarchy overthrown by new monarchs or oligarchs), or the form of the system changes (republic to democracy to dictatorship).

        Historically this seems (to me) to be a slide from freedom to slavery, over time, followed by a revolution that resets ‘the system’ to a ‘free-er’ form.

        Not having a ‘previous example’ doesn’t mean that a new form or structure isn’t possible or superior to previous structures.. (see history of this century and 18th centuries birth of republics).

    • “Sometimes, people can get things done better and more cheaply and efficiently by collective action rather than personal action.” Absolutely! You then list several examples of collective action groups, like the church, club, etc… I think most people only think of government as being the state, but there’s a huge difference between the types of government you mentioned, where people come together voluntarily with a common purpose, and the state. With the state, you have no choice but to comply. With the other organizations, you are free to join or not or participate to the extent you wish, which is completely consistent with libertarian philosophy.

    • Oh, you mean the municipal water system that puts a neurotoxin, rat poison in our drinking water and says it’s good for you?

    • I wonder how all those folks without municipal water haven’t died of dehydration.


      Government is not necessary for collective action.

  2. Also, I would add – part of the problem of human nature is (3) people’s desire to have other people do the work but still reap the benefits – the old 80-20 rule, that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. This also will be true in your church, your business, your club, your community. It is part of the innate baseness of human nature. People want to think they are more important than they are. People want to have their cake and eat it too. People want to believe in a free lunch.

    I for one am tired of paying for other people’s health care through my health insurance premiums being higher than otherwise because of the insurer’s required contribution to the uncompensated care pool, and the insurer paying insanely excessive compensation to its top executives.

    If I am going to pay for other people’s health care (which I already do through the private system), I would rather do it by way of “Medicare for all.” Not Obamacare, which is too effing complex – but “Medicare for all.”

    Someone will call me a socialist for that I am sure, but I’ll tell you who I think is the real socialist – the person who wants me to contribute to his/her family’s health care but pretend I’m not because it’s hidden in the private health insurance system.

    If we don’t have the clarity of mind to do “Medicare for all,” then my libertarian solution to our health care issues is (1) if health insurance is too expensive, don’t buy health insurance, and (2) if you can’t afford to pay for your medical care as you go, then don’t go to the doctor or hospital! If everybody did this you would see health care costs go down. That’s free market, baby, not the bullshit we have in the so-called “private” system we have today of health insurers colluding with politicians in typically crony (un)capitalist style.

    • It took you quite a few paragraphs, but you finally got through your own bullshit! Who made the rule that we can go to the ER and demand care we can’t pay for, and then the right to have that debt wiped out by bankruptcy court?

      Abolishing government will solve all the problems you speak of.

      In a situation where we “can get things done better and more cheaply and efficiently by collective action rather than personal action”, does it not take the personal action of each individual acting in his own best interest to accomplish that goal? What is government’s actual role in these undertakings? Say an individual decides a project needs to get done, draws up a plan and asks his community to help. If this project is truly in everyone’s best interest, would they not be willing to help? If there are individuals who do not help, would the group who built it be disinclined to allow that individual to reap the rewards? Perhaps some monetary compensation for the group who built it? Does there need to be government for this to happen? Would the interested parties not want the project to be completed as efficiently as possible so their personal work loads are lessened?

      • In your hypothetical example of an individual coming up with a project, I believe the “haggling” costs to get everybody to agree to contribute enough can be very high. From a game-theoretic perspective, why would the individuals want to contribute if they knew some others might decide not to pay and to still benefit from the project? The government avoids this issue by asking a much smaller group of people – the representatives – to agree to contribute the money that is necessary. I am not saying that the decisions will always be aligned with the interests of the community, but the haggling costs can be avoided. So we may get a project that is less efficient but at least it will be done.

        • In a privately funded project there are usually not contributions, but rather investments. If the project is worth investing in, it will be adequately funded. If it is just an object of someones fancy, and not economically workable, it will not receive funding from investors, and will not proceed. If there is a need to be filled, it will best be filled by the market. It is what entrepreneurs do. Nothing that people aren’t willing to pay for really needs to be done.
          What those who think as you do don’t like, is that entrepreneurs don’t normally do things for altruistic reasons. They provide solutions for something in exchange. They fulfill the needs of others, but only if they can also benefit. This is how societies are raised from subsistence to technologically advanced levels, where more people are having their needs and desires met as overall standards of living are increased. Have you noticed that the “poor” in the US usually have conveniences that are practically unheard of in third world areas, except to the ruling elite? It is due to the productivity made possible only by entrepreneurship and capital investment.
          By capital investment, of course, I am referring to the profit gathered from previous production that was over and above subsistence, saved by those who turned an eye to the future and directed their savings into future production. Oh how the truly greedy hate profit. They have little understanding of how the capitalist’s profit benefits them by making their higher standard of living even remotely possible.
          Game theory? Economics is truly a behavioral science. People will always try to make the best of what they have, or what is readily available to them. They may not want to contribute, as if that were what you were really referring to, if they thought that they were just subsidizing the free riders. But there are always those who will benefit in some way from what one does, which is why few things are ever actually done through contribution. On the other hand, rather than confiscating from all within a region to make something available to the public as though all benefit equally, why not allow investors to risk their own money to provide what people will be willing to exchange money for as their need arises?
          As to your hypothetical example:
          You admit that the project in question may not even align with the interests of the community, and yet it proceeds as a community or “publicly funded” project. How is that even possible? I’ll not keep you in suspense. It is made possible by theft. Theft carried out by those who are quite willing to have you killed should you sufficiently resist their demands for your private property in the form they like to call taxes. There are no legitimate contributions from representatives. They are offering nothing they haven’t first taken forcefully from others. You are quite right, though. There is no real haggling with the tax collector. He will at some point simply refer the matter to the men who will extract the funds at the point of a gun. Go ahead. I invite you to refuse to pay tribute to the various little kings and principalities. You will pay with property at the very least. Their next step is to also take your freedom of movement by restraining you in one of their many cages. Ultimately, if you do not quickly submit to their attempts to abduct you, you are likely to be carried away, covered head to toe with a sheet, or zipped into a bag that will contain the flow of bodily fluids as they drain from your perforated corpse.
          I would like to graciously decline any invitation to live in a society of coercion and forced benevolence for the common weal. I choose instead to seek out a voluntary society, or find like minded individuals willing to work and trade peacefully, thereby forming such a society one willing trading partner at a time.

          “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master.”
          – George Washington

      • Mitch P., mandatory life saving treatment is not a rule. It’s a system of law that comes from the best of human nature, to help another person retain their life and therefore their liberty. These are also known as good samaritan laws. Despite many hospitals being non-profits, these hospitals are still businesses and want to make money to pay for their existence, so these hospitals treat now and ask for payment later because they want to. No one is demanding anything when life saving treatment is being rendered. Unfortunately life saving treatment is used to conflate the issues when discussing managed health care or universal health care. There are people in towns and cities all over America that voluteer just to provide life saving care. They are called Emerygency Medical Technicians (EMT). My sister was volunteer, and her husband was volunteer and is now career. Under the volunteer system, they have to pay for their equipment and drugs that are administered, but this is done with bingo events, raffles, and other voluntary activities. That is the free market at work. Take note of towns that have both a volunteer and career rescue squads. You can always identify the little tyrants around you by asking them if we should switch to a career-only rescue squad and get rid of the volunteer squad. You’ll know if they answer “yes”. Increase in choice is libertarian. Eliminating choice is tyranny.

      • Brandon,
        Mitch’s point is really about the force used by governments to make someone give something at the risk of not being compensated, and the very real possibility that the same government will then ensure that they don’t get paid.
        I think a better example of a true alternative, is a company like Rural/Metro. They provide fire and emergency medical services on the free market. We pay a pretty reasonable yearly subscription for their services, but we could wait and pay full price for the same services if they were ever needed. You pay for what you get. If they were known to not provide the services they were being paid for, they would soon find themselves out of business. I’m sure someone will chime in with a story about how they failed, but that isn’t typical. It wasn’t a private company that made the news a couple of years ago for watching a house burn to the ground that was not within their jurisdiction. Where we live, R/M will put out your fire or haul your broken ass to the hospital regardless, and seek payment afterward for services rendered. They would do it with or without Good Sam laws, because there is money to be made. Entrepreneurs only make money when they do a good job of providing something of value and improving life for people. Those who do poorly, end up working for those who do well.
        In the political realm, you not only pay those who provide such services, but also for the parasites who con people into believing that they could never get such things from a free market source, and the thugs they hire to ensure you hand over the taxes to pay for it. If only those like Roman could see the fist without the velvet glove, they would understand. It is a shame so many are willingly blind to the reality of this violent system.

  3. The private sector would love to get control of the roads and water systems. As a 20 year public employee who builds roads, I know how much they cost and how much you pay. If your car gets 20 MPG, you pay less than a penny a mile to tool along to work. If they were owned by a private business, do you think it would cost a penny a mile?

    I guess you think pack animals and trails would be a better solution.

    • @Chris, and where do you get this number from? I guess gas taxes vs. 100% of the cost of roads? I mean don’t get me wrong I think roads are one of the few, very few legitimate functions of government but if I can make one cent a mile on every single car in the private sector on roads, I bet I can do a better job and make so much money your head would spin.

      Roads are not only funded with gas taxes. Even if they were the waste in government support of road construction and maintainence far exceeds any PRODUCTIVE tax payer the one cent a mile you cite.

    • Actually the history of private roads provides a good case that (like most areas of life) private is better than public (government). Very early in the industrial revolution in England, private firms built roads between factories and markets to get raw materials in and products out. With time they began to cooperate together to build shared roads that interconnected. Eventually they sold the roads to construction and maintenance companies who built and maintained the roads and yes, even profited through tolls. The Crown decided this was better served if done by the government, so they took over. That history shows us one concrete, though anecdotal, example. In it we actually find the building of new roads slowed, the quality deteriorated, and the costs raised.

      As to the pack animals and trails…, people will have whatever the market will provide. When (not if) there is economic depression or collapse the roads go to hell, except where the market supports them. This is inevitable and shows in many areas right now. I travel the country every day. I have witnessed in this economic downturn, paved roads being ripped up and returning to gravel as other roads simply fall apart because the market will no longer support them.

      I heard a rather stark analogy about these “good” things the government does with our stolen money, for our own good. I’ll plug in roads. “Who will build the roads if we don’t have forced taxes to pay for them?” This is equal to the textile mill owner prior to the Civil War saying, “But how will we have cloth if the slaves don’t pick the cotton.” I don’t recall reading about a textile shortage due to having no cotton picked after the slaves were freed. The market solved the problem quite quickly and quite well.

  4. It’s easy. Federal taxes are 19 cents per gallon. If your car gets 20 mpg, there you go. The roads must be owned by us. (We own the roads) Not a private business or corporation. Do you think a corporation would build a road to ten farmhouses in the country at a cost of a million a mile? No.
    As late as the 70’s and 80’s many rural areas still had no phone service and some had no electric because there was no financial incentive to do so. So we (the taxpayer) had to form cooperatives (See intermountain rural electrification association for an example)

    This is our government and if we could get people to care and vote with some common sense (And keep corporations from making multimillion dollar donations to candidates) we could take out country back without throwing away things such as roads that have served us well.

    • @Chris Baum, See that’s what I thought! You actually believe 100% of road construction and maintenance is paid for with that 19 cents. Wow man, really. Do you believe there is money in the social security trust fund too?

    • I guarantee you the roads to farms where I grew up cost nowhere close to a million a mile, not even today. Besides which, most farms are on the way to somewhere. Do you not think that private companies might want to build roads from one town to another, passing between farms, and making it easier for trade to happen between inhabitants of those towns and farms?
      Someday, maybe you should take a trip to central Illinois, and see how the other half lives. The rural roads there developed over years by laying down gravel and spraying it with oil. As a kid, I watched, in town, as they would take a road grader with scarifying teeth on the back, and rip up the road. After breaking it up pretty well, they would grade it out, roll it, rock it with half inch limestone, then oil it. Within a couple of weeks, it looked like they had never ripped it up. But there were no potholes, and the road was good for years. The road construction between Tolono, Philo, Pesotum, Sadorus, Savoy, and all the other towns in the area, even into Champaign-Urbana, were of the same type. They ran between the farms, and the farm houses were built near the roads that had started, years before we were born, as wagon paths along the perimeters of the farms. Farmers and traders first cut the roads and did early improvements to help get goods between town and farm and also between one town and another.
      It is a well known fact that rural roads are much less expensive to build per mile than urban streets and highways. Well known to everyone except you, it seems. What is probably considered much less though, is the transfer of wealth from rural America to urban America through the fuel tax. Those in rural America subsidize your urban road building by paying the same taxes on fuel that you do, while driving on roads that cost a small fraction of the ones you build and drive on.

  5. I would argue the Constitution explicitly states what the government is supposed to do right. Here are some of the basics.

    Defend states from foreign invasion, coin money and fix the standard, pay for post offices, roads, militias/military spending and needful buildings, art and science museums. That is pretty much everything the government is supposed to do better than the private sector.

    I had a professor from my University ask me “Do you want to go back to a time America followed the Constitution?” “Do you want States to have control over FAA?”

    I said, yes. I prefer the States or the people to handle control of anything not empowered by the Federal Government under the Constitution.

    I believe getting into these type of argument distracts from the real issue and question which should be “where in the U.S. Constitution does it state (place the institution or practice of your choice) is authorized to be administered by the government?

    • @Sage of Monticello

      Actually I don’t like most of the regulations that come from the State OR the states. Now roads, yea I am actually fine with government managing the roads. I do see a role for government and national defense is another one we agree on.

      However, the Constitution isn’t necessarily the solution. Much of the abuse in government is empowered by the Constitution. Barack Obama says the Constitution is a document of “negative liberties” because it says what the government can’t do to you but no much about what it must do for you.

      Well the reality is it isn’t nearly “negative” enough! Those who pushed for the bill of rights were correct anything we don’t say they can’t do, doesn’t mean they won’t.

      In the constitution the government has the power to TAX and pass ANY LAW not in direct conflict with the Constitution. And with such many of the abuses of power today are in fact quite constitutional.

      • Jack, I agree with you 100% on this. The founding fathers were just ordinary people. They were much more self-reliant and self-sufficient than we are today, but they weren’t perfect and certainly not clairvoyant. This can be seen in their own provisions for amending the constitution. They were trying to establish for themselves life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by metaphorically locking the tyranny of the king in a cage of law. Lex Rex not Rex Lex. We need to understand that tyranny is still alive and well today, and that it has mutated and adapted to the modern complexities of today. There are little tyrants in school, at work, in business, in government, in your loved ones, and yes even in ourselves. It is our duty to keep the tyranny locked up so that liberty and freedom can continue to reign. If this means passing more restrictive laws to limit collective government we need to do so because every day collective government is trying to restrict or place additional requirements on the individual.

  6. Never read about this before, never got interested.

    I see it too close to anarchist theory (not a bad thing per se), I’m going to look for more literature.

    • Crow,
      For literature, may I suggest And it would really be interesting to hear your definitions and views of anarchy from before and after exploring the information available from the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

  7. That is a thought provoking post. I will tuck it away in my political rhetoric tool box because I have heard that exact argument several times but never had a snappy response. Thanks

  8. Hi there, this is Flo from Germany, I only recently became aware of the whole storm brewing in the economical world and I am currently in the phase of fundamentally rearranging some of my views. This is how I became a fan of the show.
    Sorry if I haven’t taken the time to read through all the comments here, but I would just like for the discussion’s sake flip the argument around and ask: Is there any part in civil life, that should be taken care of as a communal peer or collective effort? Some things that should not be left to the free market to be prized? For moral reasons? People often say, I don’t want to pay for my neighbor’s whatever… I guess where this line of question boils down to is, which is the legitimate extent of solidarity with your fellow citizens that you are willing to share your income on.
    For example: A young person can’t afford health care, and has an accident – should he be left to die, or should the community say, we got your back, and if so should he be left to pay his medical bill? (moral hazard?) Would there be such a thing as “can’t afford healthcare” in a true libertarian free market society?
    This may be a bit abstract – but what about quality control? For instance, a libertarian free market community has roads and water supply built in a particular requested quality degree, at the best price the market offers. How do you make sure the quality is actually being met? Price in independent quality control? What if the business that carries out the construction miscalculated the costs, and the road/water supply doesn’t get done? Are localized cooperative models of market participation the answer to my question? What about a national level of quality control – which I would argue is needed in education and health care?
    A lot of questions, I’d be glad to see anyone sharing a thought or two. Thanks.

    • @Flo your question on health care presupposes something that IS NOT TRUE. I don’t know what horror stories they tell you in Europe about health care in America before Obama care but your above scenario has never happened. No one has ever been left to die with life threatening injuries at a hospital due to an inability to pay. In fact hospitals often create the largest bills for those they can not pay by inflating charges just to create a phantom loss.

      To answer your question anyone in need of lifesaving care can and does get lifesaving treatment. Lots of illegal aliens are getting treated for skinned knees and runny noses in America’s ERs every day at our expense as well. If you question is should lifesaving care be open to all my answer is yes, if you are asking if your primary health care needs are society’s responsibilities my answer is HELL NO.

      On roads the problem is as soon as people hear libertarian the media brainwashing shows up and people think of only the purist libertarian. I am very libertarian but I am also of the opinion that government should build roads, what should not be stopped though are private roads along side and adjoining public ones. As for QC, hell come to America and drive on most of our government roads then find one of the now private toll roads, the experience is night and day. As the government I TAX you for all the roads and tell you to use them you have no choice. As a private road manager I have to compete to get you to use my route, if you don’t I go broke. That is better QC then any bureaucrat with inspector in his job title.

      The reality is NOTHING in history has done more for the “collective good” then the “free market”. Problem is today there isn’t a free market, don’t believe your media they lie just like ours do. They will hold up America’s problems as proof of faults with the free market, the truth is the last vestiges of the free market in this nation were trampled out about a year or two after Ike Eisenhower left office.

      The Euro is screwed just like the dollar. We have neoconservative fascism and you have euro socialism and both have failed. The free market freed Europe in WWII and the cold war, put men on the moon, created more wealth then the world had ever known. Our only hope is after this experiment in collectivism fails the future will hold some of the promises of the past.

      For that to occur, remember, the revolution is you.

    • Thanks for taking the time to answer at length – btw, in no way did I recap any myths that people are left to die in the US. this was just to make a point in an extreme way. And of course, the health care business over here is just as corrupted. You may have seen the video where Ron Paul is questioned on health care, the young man who has an accident tale, and the crowd cheers on when suggested to let the person die. Of course this makes a strong case for anti-American prejudices, but people only see what they want to see.
      It is really hard to come to terms with the own blindness, mind-numbedness, and brainwashedness.
      You sense a truth when assuming Europe is far more skeptical about the “free market”, and you rightfully point out that it is the words that have become occupied for propaganda purposes. Over here many people confuse free markets with unregulated markets with reckless turbo-capitalism à la Wall street. And to put all of these into a discussion is valid, but it calls for a differenciated discussion with clear definitions. I think this is what we ourselves are not doing, and we’re not seeing a good role model in the media either for that matter.
      On politics, we have strong welfare states in Europe, but -this I can say for Germany- the banks are in charge. Ever wonder why Greece, Ireland and soon probably many more states will be pilfered? It’s so the big banks in the power states won’t get bankrupt. Plain and simple.
      So anyway, just to come back to an initial questions do you think generally cooperatives are a good way for communities to create wealth? The idea of “socialized profits” (mind the word trap) – I find the idea compelling to make the employees the shareholders of their own company. Maybe I should take this to the forum? Thanks again.

    • On the question “A young person can’t afford health care, and has an accident – should he be left to die, or should the community say, we got your back, and if so should he be left to pay his medical bill?” In the days before rampant government intervention into healthcare, people got hurt, had no insurance, and still managed to get treated by doctors in and out of hospitals. Sometimes charity on the part of the doctor covered it if it was minor. Often doctors would arrange payment plans after the treatment had been performed, sometimes before. This young person probably has family, maybe even friends, but regardless of those, there are churches and charities that can also help cover the costs. All done without the implied threat of the taxman backed up by government enforcers with guns. Someone being left to die would be a rarity, because someone cares enough to do something, and usually it is many someones. The difference being the lack of threats or actual force being used in the free market solution.

      You also wonder about quality control in the free market. My first inclination is to ask what assurances do you have of true quality control in government provided services? Governments have the ability to take from you whatever they want in payment, as long as you are willing to let them. In the case of elected governments, which are the prevalent form in the world today, you are afforded the illusion of changing your government if it doesn’t perform as expected. In the end, though, changing government through the ballot nets you only superficial changes and little real improvement. So quality control is negligible, really, in the government monopoly. You never really get to fire the crappy provider of goods and services when no competition is allowed.
      Quality control in a free market environment is often demanded by contract. That in itself is not sufficient to ensure anything, but what other mechanisms are available? Great question! When someone agrees to do a job for a certain amount of compensation, they perform that job, and they get their compensation. If they fail in that job, they may get much less than the agreed price, because they have not satisfactorily completed what they agreed to do. They may not get paid at all. Or they may simply not get paid until they have redone the work correctly. If there is a dispute concerning the performance and compensation, the interested parties can take that dispute to an agreed upon third party for arbitration. This is getting a second opinion of both the work and the validity of the claim of non-performance.
      In the end, if the provider of goods and services under performs the competition on a regular basis, and maybe on his one big shot, he will not be asked to do many other projects and will have to find employment elsewhere, or in a line of work he is better suited to. The key is that compensation for the job is withheld until the customer is satisfied. This is the market at work. Customer is king when they are not forced into transactions, but hold the cash that the provider of goods or services wants in exchange.

    • Flo, in your second post, you are correct when you say that people only see what they want to see. for instance, you say that the crowd cheered when Ron Paul was asked whether an injured person with no insurance should be left to die. In fact, there was a smattering of applause, and a very small group of loudmouths cheering. This hardly equates to the crowd cheering.
      And let’s clear up the market question. You say Europeans confuse free market with unregulated markets and Wall Street turbo capitalism. I submit that free markets are indeed unregulated by the government, but are rather self regulating by both producer and customer. Wall Street turbo capitalism is not really capitalism, but more correctly would be identified as corporatist or fascist. They are working hand in hand with bureaucrats to game the system. There are some capitalist who work among the fascists on Wall Street, but are the exception rather than the rule, in my estimation.
      On politics and banks, all I can say is read (or listen to the audio books) of Mises, Rothbard, and Spooner. You will find very thourough collections of their works at You will find that banks have been the means for government tyranny and expansion for centuries.
      On your last question about cooperatives. What you describe seems more collective than cooperative. By that, I mean that in cooperatives individuals retain their identity and property. They may participate in a group purchase or other effort, but if there is a profit each takes away his rightful proportion based on input. In a collective, it is all a lump, and there is a group benefit, but not a direct individual benefit other than possibly to those who had less to begin with. In short, and I know you addressed this to Jack, not me, but I do not like socialized profit any more than socialized risk as we have seen with the banks.

    • Jeff,
      I’m glad you’re taking the time to share your thoughts. I am a big fan of discussion – exchanging arguments along the line of fairness and reason is the stuff that expands the mind and will eventually bring everyone forward. I don’t know who said it, but I believe in the quote: “If you pay attention, everything can be your teacher.” Thanks for the tip I will definitely be looking into that.

      Shoot, there is so much to know, and there more time I spend, putting this wake-up experience into perspective, the less time is left to prepare for what’s coming down the road.

      • All too happy to share, Flo. The thing I dislike in these forums is that, in order to get to the point, my writing is often terse. As I looked back at what I wrote in response, I was struck by how annoyed I seemed. This is after some years of consciously trying to make my remarks more substantive and less emotional or confrontational.

        The Ludwig von Mises Institute is an excellent place to learn about economics and libertarian/anarcho-capitalist philosophy. The site takes its name from Ludwig von Mises, an economist born and raised in Austria (1881-1973). One of the great things about the site is the sheer volume of free to download books and articles. Many of these are also accompanied by mp3 format recordings just like TSP. I have listened to many of them on my daily commute, and frankly, it only makes me want to read the books more. I have so many of them downloaded and converted to Kindle format, that I really have no need to buy anything from Amazon. (I do, though, buy some Kindle books from Amazon that would not be found on Perhaps a good starting point, would be “For a New Liberty” by Murray Rothbard. I have listened to that one at least three times while driving to and from work. It takes a few days to get through (15+hours), but it is clearly read by Jeff Riggenbach, and allows you to accomplish other things (prepping?) while listening.

        Waking up to the realities that governments have tried to conceal from people, for pretty much all of known history, is indeed a jarring experience. I don’t know whether it is harder in the European countries where the governments are more openly fascist or socialist, or in the US where the GDP (Generally Deceived Public) believes we are in a free market, capitalist economy. Regardless, if you are awake enough to begin prepping and providing for your own future needs, more of the truth will become clearer to you, just because you are aware things aren’t quite what the public is being led to believe.

        “Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”
        ? Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)

  9. Good points, Jack. Maybe sometime you could address the concern that Libertarians invite environmental destruction by only reacting to individual situations after they occur. If a nearby industry pollutes groundwater (in Libertyville) then it becomes the victims responsibility to prove who caused it and how bad it is. Current environmental regulations require the industry to address potential off-site issues (water, air, health) before they occur by avoiding or minimizing them. Our command of logic, reason and forethought compels us to learn from experience and to predict and avoid these impacts.

    The problems (as I see it) are several fold but I don’t see us going back to the Wild West where everyone’s left to their own judgement on how to make the most money. Yes, it costs money up front and involves some guess work, some impacts will still occur. Yes, the laws are too general and a “wet land” is not always a “wetland” that needs protection (but some do, whether privately owned or not). Many others too, but I think that some basic assurances are warranted that someone’s dream isn’t going to levy nightmares upon others. Isn’t that just proactive Libertarianism?

    • Or perhaps Mike, we could address the fact that environmental disasters are not prevented despite government interjecting itself into our lives. Much of the pollution problem is due more to lack of protected property rights than by anything else. Companies truly have little to fear from the government, because over the years it has been the government limiting their liability for the problems they have caused. Personal property rights are violated when companies pollute, but the government tends to tailor regulation so that what they deem an acceptable amount of pollution is permitted. As long as the companies are within these so called “strict guidelines” property owners have little or no recourse for actual damages to their property, regardless of whether the property is their bodies or their possessions. If companies knew they would not be able to hide behind the skirts of government, and would be held liable for the damage they caused, they might think twice about the actions they consider taking.

      Let’s consider the Libertyville case. Now I haven’t looked into it more than to do a quick search, but what I found was that a JiffyLube facility had a leaking underground tank. I recall a similar incident with the underground diesel storage tanks at the El Paso city owned bus yard in the early 1990’s. Now, I am quite sure that JiffyLube had to file stacks of paperwork, and submit to inspection prior to, and during, the installation. There was probably even routine inspection of the facilities. Now, under who’s supervision and oversight did this incident occur? That’s right, Big Nanny.

      I didn’t look for more than the basics, so I don’t know the final outcome if there is one, but what did I see? There was a petition to have the Village enter into a Highway Authority Agreement wherein the residents would be prohibited from using the groundwater within the spill zone. So, in this case there is no restoration, but rather, victims are further damaged by being deprived of their own resources. I also noted in the search that there were several hits for law firms. Should these people be able to file lawsuits? Absolutely! Will the lawsuits result in restoration of the property or full compensation to the property owners? Hardly likely! Who will benefit though? Law firms, that suffered no loss, will file suits and will extract judgments, most of which will be used to pay their fees, leaving the victims with nominal monetary compensation that doesn’t come close to restoration of what they have forfeited. Who are the winners? JiffyLube paid a fraction of their true liability. Win! Lawyers divided the spoils, most notably among themselves. Big win! The property owners lost value in their property, and all they got was table scraps from the mahogany tables of the lawyers. Losers!

      Who allowed it to happen? The government whose only real stake in the game is the taxes they can extract from the losers under the pretense that they will protect them! In popular internet terminology – Fail!

  10. I made up “Libertyville” as a fictitious place where folks stumble into problems because they don’t put rules in place to avoid them. Ironic that it exists and there were leaking underground storage tanks (USTs) that were probably not regulated until after the groundwater was polluted.

    Most of the leaking underground storage tanks (USTs) were installed prior to being regulated in the 1980s. Dry cleaners really made some nasty messes with chemicals they were using so the gov’t made some rules, then expended them to include USTs at gas stations. In crazy CA where I live private business owners had to pay for a gov’t program to measure and report if their USTs were leaking. The gall, right? Well, most all of them did leak and many are still measuring the groundwater plumes, which can stretch for miles. There’s a website

    By now, most all of the old tanks have been dug up and replaced with specially designed tanks with certain backfill. Is this guaranteed to work? No, but it’s a helluva lot better than just waiting until people get sick, sue the culprits, and get paid a settlement. Some bills are too high.

  11. Therein lies the problem. Even with government regulation, nothing is done until something adverse happens. To make matters worse, those responsible for the damage, are generally partially relieved of the liability, and the burden is simply shifted to the victims. Why assume that if people were actually held accountable for negligence, that they, and everyone seeing the example, wouldn’t have a tendency to be more cautious, and that owners wouldn’t have moved in the direction of double lined tanks, and special containment anyway? The reason they don’t is that there is always the protection of the courts that limit liability, especially in environmental cases, and of course, cheap insurance offered by companies who also understand the implications of limited liability. It isn’t really free markets that allow things to happen. It is the nature of human actions, and in some cases simply nature. Government, though, encourages irresponsibility by shifting responsibility onto “society” and away from those who are rightly responsible.

    Now you assume that I am opposed to UST owners having to pay for the administration of the program to monitor those tanks. The gall, right? You would be correct. I am opposed to them having to pay for a government bureaucracy to do so. I would whole-heartedly support a market based third party monitor who had to answer to their customers, I assume primarily insurance companies, (though possibly also other property owners) that would be shelling out market priced resolution to problems. This would be restoring the property of the victim to the extent possible. Some damage cannot be undone, this is simply fact, unfortunate though it may be. In the government run system of today, a token financial settlement is about the best you can expect, coupled of course, with higher taxes to add bureaucrats to the payroll to oversee another bloated non-solution to a real problem.

    Not that I don’t think that these regulations can help, but governments are not as responsible to their tax slaves as businesses are to market forces. Government fails and the price of their services go up and are compulsory. You will pay, or you forfeit your person or property. Business fails, and barring fascist backing of government, their revenues begin to dry up. Who wants to pay someone to do badly? Who would be willing to pay them more after they have demonstrated their tendency to perform poorly? You know who? All those people who vote to increase their own taxes, and sadly, those of us who haven’t bit the bullet and refused to pay, just because it could result in our actually taking a bullet. In case you are wondering, I do fully realize I am in that group, and am still walking around “free” only because I have continued to allow government entities to screw me day after day, and year after year.

    I proselytize for the cause of liberty all the time, hoping to sway as many as I can. I see it as being more productive than sacrificing my limited freedom for total captivity. With the prevailing mindset today, my words from prison would be ignored at best, and more likely, openly derided with many saying that I was getting what was coming to me for refusing to pay tribute to Caesar. When one hangs, he is consigned to the dustbin of history. When many hang together, they at least make history that could result in positive change. I yearn for the day that people ignore government demands, and laugh in the faces of the clowns who presume to be our betters, and want to enforce their will on us. I don’t fancy being swept into the dustbin and being rendered totally irrelevant.

  12. You missed the point: we learned, we acted, and now we have reasonable rules that are pro-active to avoid future underground chemical plumes. Environmental regs aim at preventing problems from happening in the first place, which Jack talks about in a different context.

    The beauty in Jack’s article above is that he admits he needs a car and that he receives a car of significant value from the government – he just feels that it’s a piss poor deal. Sometimes that will be the case, especially when politicians assume that correlation is causation and use unsound science as a basis for action.

    The plumes in CA are fading away while Libertyville, Illinois, is apparently still taking businesses to court one by one. Note that it’s the local jurisdiction taking legal action on behalf of the citizens.

    Look, I like the idea of increasing our liberties in many areas, but it can be hard or impossible for individuals to put their finger on what’s poisoning the neighborhood.

    BTW: The UST owners do hire a private geo-tech firm of their choice to monitor and report to the state EPA who can close the case or direct further remediation efforts. The owner has to pay for the mess, so I don’t see how that relieves them of responsibility.

    • @Norcal, NO I DID NOT ADMIT I NEEDED ANYTHING. See Jeff’s response for the rest. Let me just say I agree with his point that if land owners could sue for every single dime of damage, both on the land and any surrounding land it would do more then any law could ever do. Your argument is a straw man, goes up in flames with any reality check.

      Imagine if say the oil spill in the gulf if every person effected could sue as long as the damage was still being done.

      Google Anniston Alabama and tell me exactly what good governments magic regulations have done for that town.

    • Right, sorry, I meant that the car in the example was useful (albeit presumptive and not specifically desired).

      In AL, it looks like Monsanto settled with 20,000 residents for $700 million for knowing release of PCBs for decades. Non-participants in that settlement can still sue Monsanto for whatever they can prove – though it would be daunting as an individual or small group.

      People affected by the Gulf spill are also free to sue BP for a number different than they’d get out of the lump sum account, but again, good luck in court against a mega-corporation.

  13. No, you are missing the point. Creating a program after the fact is hardly proactive. You can’t prevent something in the first place, if it has already happened. My contention is that pure market forces would be as effective in preventing future incidents providing government doesn’t step in and limit liability. UST owners and their insurance companies prefer to stay in business. You don’t do that by being reckless, especially if you will be called to account for the full amount of property damage. You would instead, improve your facilities in advance to avoid that loss to yourself, and in the case of many business owners, they don’t want to harm their neighbors anyway.

    The beauty of Jack’s article is not that he admits he needs a car. In fact point 4 says that he could have – “Not purchased any car at all and chosen to walk, hell may be I wanted a motor cycle!” He does feel it is a piss poor deal, but that is all you get from government, and you always lose wealth and purchasing power when government is involved. There is always the unseen opportunity loss. Read Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson” if you aren’t familiar with that term.

    Unlike your Problem in CA, the Libertyville problem is newly discovered, which is why it is still ongoing. And that local jurisdiction is a perfect example of limiting liability at the expense of the property owners. They are going to ultimately simply forfeit the right to use the water on their property, and maybe receiving a token payment, after lining the pockets of lawyers. If they recognize it as a bad deal, an throw the bums out only to fill the offices with new bums, they haven’t really gotten anything for the trouble. It is just the “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” routine.

    Since the Industrial Revolution, courts have limited liabilities of companies when it comes to pollution. Those who tried to take on the polluters were told by the court that the collective good of industry outweighed their property rights. EPA is just the continuation of the same attitude. They make regulations, that are often called strict. The problem is that government regs generally strictly inhibit competition and favor certain businesses over others, especially since connected players in specific industries basically write the regs then pass them to those who will introduce them as their own ideas, or the result of studies they commissioned. Government is a cartel builder, it runs rackets and grants monopolies. There is nothing about government that makes it any more moral than an unfettered market. It is only when government introduces the moral hazard of protection that businesses go bad and are able to remain in business. In the free market, customers make or break a business by rewarding with cash when it enhances their lives, and punishing it by taking their cash to competitors when it doesn’t. Likewise the violator of property rights could be driven out of business for negligent, or even malevolent, harm to others by the same loss of revenue and the expense of restoring damaged property.

    You are welcome to continue in your attempts to persuade me that government provides me with some mystical benefit, but since I have crossed over from what I consider the dark side many years ago, you’ll have a hell of a battle convincing me to return. Bureaucracy is just another drain, economically and spiritually, since it always opens the door to the moral hazard of socializing responsibility.

    • Environmental regulations, operating permits and/or issued licenses do not relieve companies from legal liability for external damages. Land owners CAN sue for every dime of damage they can prove as long as they haven’t already taken part in a settlement. Libertyville is probably leading the charge because they provide muni water, but others might also have a claim.

      I agree that a free market (not gov’t perks) should be the primary operator rewarding businesses doing good things. And that letting industry write their own rules is anti-competitive and just plain wrong. I think that the worst corruption exists at the highest levels of gov’t and I hope that this internet age will help us straighten out crooked practices. I still believe that there are some useful roles for gov’t oversight, especially in the realm of “look before you leap” environmental assessment.

      Thank you for exploring these dark corners with me. I am always open to modifying my viewpoint, and I think that we agree on many things.

  14. We obviously have some overlap in our views. I agree that government doesn’t relieve all penalty and civil or criminal liability, but regulations do cover a multitude of sins. As long as a company adheres to the regs, which always incorporate some amount of cover for them, they will not feel the full force of their liability. That is my primary objection to relying on government regulation to protect us, because it is expensive and prone to failure.

    Look before you leap is something we would all do more carefully if we didn’t assume that there was a safety net that offered adequate protection. Government becomes, in effect, a false sense of security for the majority.

    I enjoy these exchanges as well. Some dismiss this sort of thing as mental masturbation, and such other nonsense. To me, this is how you discover what you really know , and what you really believe. At the same time you gain some insight into the thinking of those with opposing views.

  15. I think the notion that government needs to be abolished, cut to bare essentials, and/or that all matters should be handled at the state or local level completely misses the realities of the modern world. It seems to be an antiquated approach to the complexities of contemporary life . Individual responsibility just isn’t enough to cover the all the aspects of the world we live in. A greater, group responsibility is needed so that we don’t have to spend every moment of every day trying to protect and defend ourselves against abuse from all corners. In addition, in the U.S. we tried living without a strong central government between 1781 and 1787. The states had more power than the central government and it was a very unstable time in American history. The country was ruled by mobs and vigilante groups. Personal rights were greatly diminished. Businesses failed in high numbers and international investors pulled away from the U.S. John Adams warned that our greatest enemy wasn’t too much government, but too little government.

    The “car” example above takes a very limited view of government’s function and reduces it to simply a matter of purchasing goods and services. If government is viewed only in those terms then the libertarian view will always appear to be the most economical. But government is much more than just a purchasing agent.

    One of the most important functions of our national government is creating a reasonably fair playing field for all Americans to pursue their dreams and passions., i.e. protecting our individual rights. The federal government, in a not-entirely-perfect manner, protects the rights of individuals to speak freely, congregate with whom they wish, vote, worship a god of their choosing, and to compete in the business world with some protection from abuse by the powerful The court system, regulations, the Bill of Rights, all protect the little guy from being completely abused by the wealthy, politically-connected, and powerful. It’s the fabric and foundation of the “freedom” we all love dearly.
    For me, the argument that the market does everything right misses the fact that the market has one goal; to make money. Making money isn’t inherently ethical. Many people ascribe values to the “free market” that it does not possess. A free market doesn’t care anything about fairness, individual rights, fair pay, child labor, or preserving natural resources. The ideal for any company is, quite simply, to make money and monopolize the market. Free markets also don’t provide real protection for consumers. Sure, a company might lose business if it were putting known toxic chemicals in its baby food, but how many babies would have to die first? How can an individual possibly be informed enough to properly protect himself from all the products of a modern world? Our national system provides us with a variety of protections and rights, albeit imperfectly administered, that allow us to choose to how to live our lives.

    “Free market” principles were enacted in Chile after Pinochet and in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Both situations resulted in terrible inequities where a small group prospered, the masses suffered., and the country’s resources were squandered and abused. A balanced , self-regulated free market that offered greater choice and opportunity was not what resulted. I have no problem with people being successful and rich. Good for them, good for us. I just want to live in a place where the opportunity to be successful is available to all people, not just the privileged.

    As Churchill said, “it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

    I think we need to work to reform government and make it better, fairer, and more efficient rather than cutting it beyond recognition. It’s a hard job, a dirty job, but one that is worth the effort.

    • I don’t have the time right now to get into all your points, I’ll try to get back to this in the next day or so. I want to clear up this one point, though, before addressing anything else.

      The market is you, me, and all others who wish to trade for our wants and needs from our own production. The free market is nothing more than that same market without any interference by busybodies who are not party to the trade being conducted. So, the goal of the free market is not to make money, but to meet needs and wants. By pointing this out, I don’t mean for you to infer that I don’t believe people who freely engage in trade do not want to make money. They do wish to make money. All of them, from the one scratching in the dirt to the one in the board room. They all wish to acquire the commodity or token representing money, that they can then trade for the items they actually need and want. There is nothing unethical about making money, only in acquiring it through theft, and fraud. Two things that government regularly engages in for its very existence.

      Forget Marx, Engels, and pretty much any politician’s pontification. Read Hazlitt”s “Economics in One Lesson” instead.

    • The replacement of the Articles of Confederation was little more than a coup carried out by those who desired a strong central government. All lovers of government will tell you we need more and stronger government. Like Adams, they want everyone to live by their rules, and fully intend to muster the means to make it so. It was Adams, after all, who signed the Alien and Sedition Acts into law. It is known as libido dominandi, the lust to dominate. If you take an honest look at government, you can clearly see that it is itself mob rule, and employs thugs enforce its rule.

      You say that one of the purported functions of our national government is creating a reasonably fair playing field etc, etc. People are conditioned to accept this through propaganda (in and out of schools). The reality is that govs at all levels choose winners and losers by grants of monopoly and harassment of the out of favor sellers operating without the govs stamp of approval (aka licensing) in the market. By extension, this punishes buyers by reducing available options while raising prices.

      You mention protecting rights, and even trot out the Bill of Rights, but that provision, tacked on reluctantly to buy a passing vote in R.I., is meant, supposedly, to restrain the gov itself from violating our rights. It is not directed at restraining businesses, or individuals. Though, if a government has any legitimate function it would be protection of the citizen’s persons, property, and rights. But, alas, SCOTUS will tell you that the police are not bound to protect you. They are there to maintain order, and compliance with the rules created by the gov, and for its safety and security. Who are the powerful after all? Is it not the gang of thugs sanctioned by the ballot box who claim a monopoly on the application of force within the bounds of their geographical territory? Gov does not prevent, but rather facilitates abuse. Without gov, the seller is at the mercy of the buyer. He can only sell to a willing buyer. If a seller misrepresents his product, he should not be surprised if someone retaliates either through violent means, or preferably, by getting the word out that he is untrustworthy and should be boycotted.

      The market is not meant to do what is “right”, but what is “wanted” by buyers and offered by sellers. What is “right” is a purely subjective moral judgement as it pertains to trading. If the trade is agreed upon by all (mature and informed) parties directly involved, it is nobody else’s business. The market participants seek to out compete others with similar offerings, but they do not monopolize unless the thug masters grant them monopoly. Fairness and fair pay are also subjective valuations that are to be arrived at between the buyer and seller. In the case of wages, the buyer is the employer and the seller is the employee.

      Government is never proactive when it comes to product safety. The regulations that prohibit anything arise because someone has already been harmed. So the babies you are afraid would be poisoned without big nanny, will suffer no more under a free market where bad products are ferreted out and producers punished by bankruptcy, or in extreme situations, lynch mobs. Killing or otherwise harming your customers is a piss poor path to prosperity.

      You don’t really believe that what arose in Russia and Chile was anything like a free market do you? Say it with me. Fascism! The former government operated industries were turned over to politically connected cronies. We haven’t even had a truly free market in the US for over a century, and in many ways you could say closer to two centuries. The government intervention was much less in those days, though. I’m thinking of characters like Henry Clay, and even Al Hamilton (whiskey rebellion, anyone?). You are concerned about the average person being abused by the privileged. But, from where is the privilege derived? Government, of course.

  16. I find Hazlitt’s notion of the market to be simplistic and dated. It doesn’t, and couldn’t (because of the time it was written), take into account the complexities of modern economies and technology. He describes an idealized market system. It would be great if markets worked the way you described. The means of exchange you outline is rational, ethical, and ordered. Motivations are clear and the system works in the best interests of the people involved. If I am trading my extra yellow squash for your famous farm butter, our market exchange may work great. But that’s not how our multi-national corporate world works. That’s one of the reasons I think the Libertarian free market position is both idealized and antiquated. Squash for butter may work in a utopian system but the model doesn’t work when Wal-Mart and Nike enter the picture. Libertarians seem to be seeking a return to a less encumbered, more rational time where people acted with clear intentions and no one was bothered by other people. Unfortunately, that time probably never existed. A simpler, smaller government, and a citizenry with fewer restrictions on their activities is a wonderful notion. It’s arguably what many of our founding fathers envisioned. It just seems to be a model that can’t accommodate the messiness and less-than-rational realities of our current, globally connected world.

    • “The perfect world can’t exist, so let’s just live with the awful world we have now and not try and better it.”

      That’s just horrible by any metric.

      • In response to Mitch P’s comment; What option do we have other than to live in the world we are in right now? This is what we have. I personally don’t believe a perfect world can exist. And who’s perfect would it be anyway? Your perfect, my perfect, the perfect of some child in Mali, or the perfect of an Eskimo woman in the Arctic? Whose perfect would we choose for all people? All we can do is deal with what is right in front of us and work our butt’s off to take this messy, confusing, beautiful world and make it better each and every day.

      • @Old Man,

        Therein lies the problem. Why don’t the busybodies mind their own damn business and let people try to make what they want of their little part of the world. Instead of forced relationships, allow people the opportunity to form voluntary relationships. Introducing the force brought about through government only exacerbates problems between individuals, and groups of individuals. That is the essence of libertarianism, voluntary society eschewing the use of violence to make people conform to other’s idea of normal.

        Before you tell me it can’t work, tell me your personal cop’s name. How much does the bastard weigh, and don’t you get tired of hauling his sorry ass around to keep you in line?

      • Lots to discuss here. My concern is that Libertarians vilify government and idolize the free market, choosing one false idol over another, when neither is a solution on its own. The belief that (as you state) “If the trade is agreed upon by all (mature and informed) parties directly involved, it is nobody else’s business. The market participants seek to out compete others with similar offerings, but they do not monopolize unless the thug masters grant them monopoly. Fairness and fair pay are also subjective valuations that are to be arrived at between the buyer and seller. In the case of wages, the buyer is the employer and the seller is the employee.” assumes that all business relationships are entered into by equally powerful and equally informed people. That’s a huge leap of faith. You assume ethical transactions between involved parties. That’s just not what commonly happens. Child labor and child prostitution, for example, would seem to be two areas where there is a huge market and a gross inequity between the buyer and seller. Sex trafficking, for another example, fulfills a need, but at what cost? The sale of sex slaves, more common in less regulated parts of the world, is often an exchange between mature and informed parties. Unfortunately, the business deal just doesn’t include the concerns of the person being sold. Although fairness may be subjective, there seems to be a good bit of agreement agreement about certain things.

        Regarding the notion that free markets don’t foster monopolies, that’s just not what happens. As you state, “The market participants seek to out compete others with similar offerings, but they do not monopolize unless the thug masters grant them monopoly.” There are countless examples throughout history where businesses strive to, and succeed in monopolizing markets. Businesses want to dominate markets. It is common practice for a well funded business to enter a market and offer products at artificially low prices. They force competing businesses to join with them or they drive them out of business. Once they have a monopoly in the market the consumer typically suffers; fewer product choices, lesser quality, fewer jobs, lower wages, etc.

        A further concern is where two informed and mature parties enter into an agreement that harms people who are not involved in their transaction. For example, Property owner A sells his neighborhood home to buyer B knowing that buyer B wants to tear down his house and use the land to deposit radioactive waste. Owner A makes a huge profit, and is happy because he plans to move far away to be with family. Owner B is happy with the deal because he can dispose of radioactive waste and make a good living. It’s a good and “fair” transaction that two informed people agree upon that would seem to be perfectly acceptable under the free market system. The only problem is that it would potentially destroy the health and lives of countless people.

        • If a family is in such dire straights that they must have their children work to support the family, that is still a trade entered into by the two parties. The alternative is that the child starves; is that any better?

          We have agreed that slavery is terrible, and we must all fight against those who wish to employ it. Why does that fighting force have to be a government? The government only got its ability to fight slavery because a large number of people wanted it gone; why couldn’t those people stand up to slavery without the government?

          Without any other forces, when a company monopolizes a market in the way you describe, what’s to stop another company from employing the same methods? What about an entrepreneur with the vision to see that there could be a better product that could be produced at a lower price? Can you name an example from history where a monopoly occurred without requiring the sanction of government at some level?

          If we had an aware and armed neighborhood, and someone wanted to dump radioactive waste in it (which would essentially have the same effect of them threatening us with a gun, as it would eventually kill us), I think we would probably have a “talk” with that person. I don’t believe it would be a problem.

          Your arguments are so much pontificating; do you have any examples?

        • @Mitch, let me add to what you stated here. There are two major total bullshit misconceptions about slavery and they are ALWAYS present when someone shoves them into a libertarian argument.

          1. The US Slavery model was unique and slavery has always been about blacks being enslaved by whites. The reality is slavery was once the most dominant form of labor around the world. Africa itself created the slave trade, people of every race and creed have been enslaved in history. While all slavery is evil nothing about the US version was unique in any way.

          2. That it took government to end slavery. WRONG it took citizens to end slavery which you pointed out but what you didn’t point out was that slavery only existed because it was ENFORCED by government. Do all these people miss that it was the Fugitive Slave Law (a federal law) along with a FEDERAL Supreme Court Case that allowed southern states to violate the sovereignty of northern states and pursue slaves living in the north and take them captive?

          Anytime people point to a problem government supposedly solved you don’t have to look far to see how government was the cause. In the case of slavery government sanctioned it, made it legal and made it enforceable, that is NOT a free market.

          The most fundamental libertarian principle is that one man should never do harm to or infringe on the freedom of another unless the first man is an agressor and attempting to do harm himself and then action is only taken in self defense. Slavery can not exist in such a system.

          One thing people also fail to get is Libertarians don’t want zero government, they want a very small one. There are some roles for government to fill but anyone that thinks the current government isn’t too big seriously could not have read and understood our own constitution.

        • @Oldman, seriously you fear libertarianism would lead to monopoly, do you have a clue that we are surrounded by them already? Monopolies enforce and run by government, it is called fascism. That is the nation you live in! Monsanto running the FDA, etc.

          Try to break into a major economic sector and see what stands in your way. See if it is market forces, lack of capital, etc. or if the primary blockage is regulation, most of it written by former employees and lobbyists of the very companies you would be attempting to compete against.

      • @old man
        So, as counter arguments you try to throw all these things in my face that would not be tolerated in a free market and libertarian system? Every violation of other peoples rights, and that is what they are, would be dealt with in the system I describe. The sex slave/ child prostitution crap you speak of does not happen more in areas with less regulation, but in areas with more government oppression.

        If you want to prove the worth of your beloved government, don’t use examples of its abject failure. Like Mitch, I would love to have some examples where you clearly demonstrate the free market failure where I can’t logically lead you back to the government intervention that made it possible.

        • Jeff, An issue for me is that Libertarians seem to have an idealistic faith that a pure market system will solve all of our problems. There seems to be a notion that the complexities, irrationalities, corruption, cravings for power, and the tendencies to abuse those of lesser power that human beings inherently possess will be neatly handled by a free market society. “Greed is good” will make a better world and organizing society around a simple business principle will create a more prosperous and free world with reduced corruption, violence, crime, abuse, etc. and a greater quality of life for all. To me it’s a little like saying muscles are the real movers and workers in the body so let’s get rid of tendons and ligaments. I likely can’t give you an example of free market failure that isn’t tied to government in some way because we live in a hybrid world of government and market interconnectedness. I also can’t give you an example of muscles working totally independently in the body, because muscles work in conjunction with tendons and ligaments to move bones. To say that one is the solution to our problems is to ignore the importance of their interconnectedness.

          Nevertheless, let’s try this as an example of a relative corporate monopoly that currently exists. Luxottica, recently on “60 minutes”, controls most of the eye wear market in the U.S. They are an Itlalian Corporation. They own most brands of eyeglasses and control distribution and sales of the majority of eyeglasses sold in the U.S. In addition, they own eyeglass insurance providers and eye clinics. They set the prices and control what is sold. Smaller companies can’t break into the market because Luxottica controls the overwhelming majority of eyeglass sales and distribution. Even large brands such as Oakely can only succeed if they agree to the terms and conditions set by Luxottica. If not, they cannot get their eyeglasses onto the market. Independent stores cannot sell private brands because they would be punished by Luxottica and unable to get other merchandise. Luxottica has a vice grip on the eyeglass market. In this situation, the consumer is being duped into thinking he has real choices in eyeglasses and sunglasses because of the number and variety of Luxottica stores and slick marketing. But the reality is he has severely limited choices because the market is being monopolized. Fewer choices, less freedom, and less competition are the result.

          Similar problems have happened in many other industries and there used to be anti-trust laws to fight against such monopolies. But corporate influence in government over the past 3o years has gutted the anti-trust laws that used to provide a means to break up monopolies. And much of the gutting of laws has been done in the spirit of creating more “free markets”. Ironically, the very people who gutted the anti-trust laws often condemn the government for its failure to check the abuse by large monopolies. They argue that government has failed to provide needed controls so all controls should be eliminated.

          The Libertarian view seems to be grounded in a belief in ethical and fair dealings between individuals. I think that is a great and powerful notion. I want to believe in that. However, the Libertarian individual to individual transaction model doesn’t seem to accommodate the changes in behavior that occur in scale economies and corporate or large scale group behavior patterns. The individual model is great for reducing things to an understandable model but likely not rich enough, in my view, to handle the complexities of human behavior and modern life. In addition, it doesn’t seem to recognize the inherent problems with free markets such as the realities of corporate oligopolies and their intrinsic desire to avoid competition and monopolize markets.

          My point is not that “all government is good” or that “all commerce is bad” but that we need a system of checks and balances that work together. That’s exactly what the founding fathers decided upon. It’s a little like a marriage where both the man and woman contribute to the health of the relationship. If one person dominates too much it’s bad for the marriage and for the individuals. Working together, providing needed input and restraints (checks and balances), the marriage can be much greater than the sum of the parts. And granted, it’s not at all easy to do. It can be a total pain in the butt. It involves a lot of work, struggle, active participation, and frustration to make a good marriage and a good country work.

        • @old man
          Your assertion is that libertarians have an idealistic faith that a pure market system will solve all our problems. I would have to say that the believers in government are more idealistic in their beliefs. Most of us do not have such a simple view of the world as you seem to think. We know the market system works, because even while government continues to subvert the natural market force, it still manages to topple the pillars that support the distortions introduced by government. We know that nothing is going to solve all our problems, but see the freedom to trade and associate peacefully and voluntarily as the best possible way to achieve our individual goals and, by extension, help others achieve theirs. There are always two sides to a trade. When trade is voluntary, both sides trade something that they value less, for something they value more. Subsequent buyers remorse is a product of overestimating the value of the acquired good at the time of the trade, realizing later what the true costs are in lost opportunities. It is not a sign that one has been screwed by the other guy, but that you screwed yourself.

          We don’t organize around a simple business principle. We have as our core principle the non-aggression axiom. You may not initiate force against anyone, but you may respond in self-defense. From this flows our adherence to the belief that all should enjoy the freedom of peaceful action. This encompasses freedom to form and dissolve voluntary associations, and to engage in trade without interference.

          You claim that we naively think that the free market will wipe away all human failings. All the undesirable tendencies you list have never been alleviated by government intervention. In fact, government, when introduced tends to make matters worse. They bring a gun to the pissing contest. If two parties have a dispute, and the government gets involved, the often unspoken threat of violence has been introduced. Everyone knows that the government possesses the means and the will to back up their demands and decrees.

          I find it ironic that you would equate government with tendons and ligaments, when I would categorize it more as an affliction such as arthritis. It doesn’t tend to facilitate the operation of the moving parts, but rather hampers certain movements throwing things out of balance, causing pain and degeneration.

          Markets will work without the interference of government. People will trade regardless of the presence or absence of Big Nanny. People will however refuse to trade with those who try to take advantage of them. market forces will discourage and punish bad behavior. Perhaps if you think Hazlitt’s little book on economics is too simplistic, a more rigorous text such as “Human Action” by Ludwig von Mises, or “Man, Economy, and the State: With Power, and Market” by Murray Rothbard will suffice. One can hardly be simplistic and spread it out over 1400 pages. Perhaps, just investigating libertarianism, leaving aside a deep investigation of econ would be better. For that, I would suggest “For a New Liberty” also by Rothbard. All these can be downloaded from free of charge. Audio versions are available as well. I have a 45 minute commute each way, so books like these often accompany me on the drive. I recommend books like these, because this is not an appropriate forum for in-depth analysis of these topics. I wouldn’t want to “monopolize” the space. I don’t know if my recommendations mean anything to you, since you immediately rejected Hazlitt’s book, but someone reading our exchanges will investigate, and finally discover the explanations they have been looking for. So whether I have influenced you or not, I will reach someone. I remember believing in government, but as the months count down to my half-century mark, I find that my mind’s eye becomes clearer, as my physical eyes lose their sharpness. I see the depravity of coercive government crisp, clear, and sharp.

          PS – I haven’t touched on the Luxottica example, for a few reasons. First, and foremost in my view is, there is no current example of a pure free market on any large scale. Secondly, and ironically, Luxottica hails from the country that gave us fascism. Third, I couldn’t do it justice in this forum. Perhaps I will create a blog on blogspot to address the topics we have raised in this thread. If I do, I will post a link here. It does allow for working the mental muscles responding to objections, though I think the authors on mises,org are better equipped than I to answer them adequately.

    • Compare the causes and effects Hazlitt wrote about in “Economics in One Lesson” and explain why they don’t apply as well today as they did fifty plus years ago when it was written. For that matter why they wouldn’t work fifty years in the future. There is nothing new under the sun. The basics of economics are still the same as they were then. The only thing that changes is the details when it comes to the latest round of government interventions and distortions of the market. Even those are really no more than the same warmed over, polished turds they have always been. The principles Hazlitt wrote of can be applied on the smallest of markets, and also to the world-wide market of over seven billion participants. Technological advances do not change the applicability of economic principles.

      Governments have distorted markets, hampering peace and prosperity in the past, and will continue to do so for as long as they are tolerated. All the interventions do is introduce unnecessary and destructive factors into a market. Political economy is just a way of placing the libido dominandi of politicians behind a veil. They then tell people that this market thingy is just too complex for you to understand, and getting more so all the time, so don’t bother with the details. We will protect you from the predators! (says the wolf to the lamb). They train people in their schools to believe their lies. The biggest one of all is that “We are the government!” This is a handy bit of trickery, brought about by democracy, that dupes people into tolerating tyranny. Just wait a few years, and you can cast another worthless ballot for another worthless slave master.

      You say the market we believe in would only work in a utopia, but it still forces its way through in the real world confounding all the utopian Keynesianism. You believe, apparently, that trade becomes something different when it moves from barter to a money based system, and particularly large scale retail operations. Trade is still trade, though. WalMart sets a price for a stock of identical items, and if the buyer believes that the product being sold is of more value to him than the dollars he has for exchange, he makes the trade. The only difference is dickering over the price in a more personal exchange, versus not dickering in the high volume operation such as WalMart. If Wally sets the price too high, more people leave it on the shelf and keep their money, forcing Wally to rethink that valuation, and reduce it to one more readily accepted by the bulk of the customers. Do we get the absolute best price in a system like this? Maybe, and maybe not. In the Wally style trade, the cost of getting in and out and moving on with all the other things you have to do, is to forgo haggling over price, and simply deciding to take it or leave it. That is an option you still have in a market situation. You can always walk away from a trade. If the government controls things, the choices you do have are reduced, and usually, your standard of living is reduced to the point that you are only going after necessities, so you really have very little, as far as choice goes, in that situation. Try to walk away from the government’s “offer that you can’t refuse.”

  17. Lots of good comments and questions. I find it interesting that many of you want to twist my words into saying that government is the solution to all problems. That is not what I am saying. Rather than answering challenges to the Libertarian position you launch into a rant about how government is the root cause of all evil.

    To Mitch P:
    Regarding your point about a family sending a child to work to earn money for food. You say that that is still an agreement between two parties. I agree, the only problem is that the agreement is between the parents and the employer, not the child. A young child cannot be considered an equal and informed negotiator of a contract.

    Regarding slavery. Your example of people, not government, rising up to fight slavery seems to violate basic Libertarian principles. I understand a basic Libertarian tenet to be the right of property owners to enter into a contract with another for goods or services. Wouldn’t concerned citizens, rising up to fight slavery, limit your freedom to enter into an agreement to conduct business as you choose?

    Regarding monopolies; Large, well-funded businesses often move into communities, wipe out local businesses, and try to monopolize the market. Local residents often end up with fewer choices of products, fewer choices of where to acquire goods, and fewer choices of vendors for goods. To your comment of why an entrepreneur doesn’t just start up a competing business; sometimes they can’t. Because of a large company’s ability to control or manipulate the market and reduce prices of goods to undercut local businesses, a large business can effectively drive away competition.

    Regarding the radioactive waste and an armed militia response; your solution to rely on violence to solve problems seems extreme. And again, wouldn’t militia rule violate the land owner’s right to do with his property as he wishes? What happens when the mob stops the dumping of waste? Do they then set up rules limiting future owners from using their property as they wish? Aren’t we then back in the realm of government regulation? And what if the situation is slightly different? What if the armed neighbors object to the skin color or religion of who has moved in? Should they be able to take their guns and “talk” to the new tenants in order to have them move out?

    Again, I think the Libertarian position is a wonderful vision of how people should treat each other and conduct business. It seems to be a notion based on individuals interacting with other individuals in an ethical manner, respecting each others property and rights. Problems seem to occur when interactions are not between individuals with mutual interests and/or when there is a great disparity in power, wealth, or information between those conducting business. Other problems occur when people don’t follow the basic tenets and rules of Libertarianism, which all people would be unlikely to do.

    To be clear, I am not saying that government is without faults or that it is the solution to every problem. I simply believe that the founding fathers had it right when they founded a government that established basic principles, rights, and means to address grievances. And it was intended to be a collaborative governmental process where each citizen has a voice. The solution is messy, awkward, inefficient and fraught with problems. Interestingly, the system has worked fairly well and helped to make this one of the great nations in history. I agree, there are serious problems in the country right now. I just don’t believe that a “pure” system like “pure” free markets can handle the complexity and richness of everyday life.

    I’ll try to address some of Jeff’s thoughtful comments in a later post.

    • “Regarding slavery. Your example of people, not government, rising up to fight slavery seems to violate basic Libertarian principles. I understand a basic Libertarian tenet to be the right of property owners to enter into a contract with another for goods or services. Wouldn’t concerned citizens, rising up to fight slavery, limit your freedom to enter into an agreement to conduct business as you choose?”

      The two basic Libertarian principles are 1. Self Ownership Principal (SOP) and 2. Non-Aggression Principal (NAP). Non-Aggression does not mean pacifistic either it means, it is immoral to innitiate aggression against anyone who is acting peacefully within the bounds of their own property rights and harming no one. Slavery violates those principals. Any perceived principal attributed to libertarianism that violates either of those is not properly speaking libertarian. By those principals it is not moral for one to engage in the business of slavery as slave or master. As the master it is obvious why and one cannot revoke the natural state of self ownership thus to offer to do so is fraud. It would be foolish to contract with an individual to make him a slave because you have no right to violate his right to SO to keep him a slave. If he wishes to work for slave wages in slave conditions for a time that is his prerogative but to actually be a slave one must have no choice. Libertarian philosophy does not have this as a moral option.

      Anyone wishing to rise up to fight alone or in cooperation to further either of these principals is just in doing so, though he is not morally bound to do so.

    • As @Curtis has responded to ‘slavery’.. I’ll do monopolies..

      Large well funded companies moving into a local and wiping out local business..

      I was thinking the other day that a good definition of what government SHOULD do.. is anything an individual CAN’T do. And this is a good example of this.

      Don’t buy stuff from the large company. If you choose to shop at your ‘local’ stores instead of the megastore.. they leave and your local businesses stay. No ‘government intervention’ required.

      Yours is the standard pro-government argument of ‘people are too stupid to do/know what’s good for them.. so lets get government involved.’

      This leads to infantilization not maturity.

      • Sorry pre-coffee..

        The only role for government in this scenario: to keep the ‘large company’ from using *force* against the smaller companies or individuals. Lower prices are not ‘force’, nor is ‘more advertising’ nor are larger/nicer stores.

  18. I had someone argue to me that all Americans are socialist, to a greater or lesser degree, because we utilize “free” government services.

    Trust me, nothing is “free” to me, I couldn’t possibly receive enough government services to account for the taxes I’ve had extorted from me.

    I believe to explain things that way would be like saying a victim of robbery and rape had paid for and received a service.

  19. First I Think the car analogy is perfect for the current healthcare debate.
    Second, read the Declaration of Independence. Pretty simple concepts.
    Do not assault or infringe upon anyones natural born rights and everyone can get along. people are way to far into what other people do. As long as it does not affect you or anothers natural born rights get over it. I dont remember one of our basic rights to be telling others how to live there own lives. Government at any level only role is a referee for the natural born rights of the population it is refereeing, while we the people closely watch and referee the referees. Lastly we have no use for republicans, democrats, libertarians, and what have you. just created to further divide the populous.
    Freedom is simple.

  20. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” chec?box and now each time a
    comment is added I get thre? emails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?

    Many thanks!

  21. How about an actual example?

    In Pennsylvania wine and liquors are sold in “State Stores.” The marketing department in the early 1990s started calling them “Wine and Spirit Stores” but most people still call or consider them “State Stores.” Pre-1990s the signs even just said “State Store” like some USSR enclave. (If you watch the movie “Slap Shot” when they are in the park you can see a big sign of one in the background.)

    Being state owned and unionized you can imagine how any attempt to privatize them goes. Every few years it pops up, every few years people hope, and every few years it dies. The state says, “well, they are well stocked, clean, safe, have well-trained employees, and the prices are competitive.”

    Having lived in other states I will agree. The stores do have a good selection though not the best in wines, though there are other factors at play in wine distribution nationwide. They are clean and feel safe, which is often not the case in other states. Prices are competitive. And yes, when I ask an employee about a product they seem to know the answer. One other good thing is the stores put the boxes aside for anyone who wants them, which is great if you sell small things on eBay.

    All of this being said, I do not support the state running the stores. Why? BECAUSE IT IS NOT THE FUNCTION OF GOVERNMENT TO RUN A RETAIL STORE CHAIN!

    Simple enough?

  22. Mountains of empirical evidence exist and have been cited again and again for why a free market produces a higher overall standard of living for every class of person, but it seems people’s warm sentiments about the actual capabilities of our “beneficent” rulers to inspire positive change in our country override their conclusions that strict reason might otherwise bring them to.

  23. Just to drag this thread into the current day, Spain has elected to not have a Federal government. The Shackles of Franco have been fully shed and it will be interesting to see how they do going forward.

  24. Why I am a Libertarian/Anarchist in a nutshell:


    “It’s not important what you doing. its important _why_ you are doing…

    You can make food for somebody you love;

    You can make food for your Istah, the Lord;

    You can be forced to do some cooking for somebody you dont like;

    You will do it, you will cook;

    But you won’t enjoy it.

    The action will be the same,

    but inside it will be very different. ”

    ~ Sri K. Pattabhi Jois


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