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