Thursday, August 10, 2006

There is no Button

Here I began a discussion based of Leonard Read's claim that he would "push the button" to abolish the State. I responded to one critic of this idea here. I remain a button-pusher.

But there is no button to push. So how do we get there from here? Or, more concretely, how do I persuade people to vote Libertarian?

It is important (especially for button-pushers like me) to keep in mind that even some Libertarians don't want to get "there." They are afraid of pure 100% laissez-faire capitalism (i.e., "anarcho-capitalism"). There are really two questions here. Before voters ask "How do we get there from here?" voters ask "Should we get there at all?"

I want to get there. I would "push the button" to get there. I want a world free from the crime of socialism, free from theft ("taxation"), free from senseless bureaucratic regulation.

To get there from here, candidates and campaigners like me must keep in mind that most folks are trained to react strongly against the idea of eliminating all socialism and moving to pure capitalism.

This fear is so strong, that those who are perceived as really serious about cutting government and lowering taxes (rather than just mouthing off campaign slogans) are considered "extremists" and "fanatics."

The idea of pushing the button was called "stupid"
here, in a post to a Libertarian group. A Libertarian group is where you would expect to find people ready to cut taxes and cut government. But even here you find that same emotional reaction to "anarchy." For those who are not members of the group and cannot read the post, here is how it began:

Okay, one problem here. If our principle is "no taxation" then do we have any government at all? Do we have a police force, military, court system, fire department. I'm just fine with not paying representatives (sorry to the candidates but if that's how we want it done, fine) but I rather like having a professional able to investigate crimes, a military to protect us from the islamofacists and I like my Logan Rogersville Fire Dept. I actually voted for the tax increase to pay for more firefighters, the first tax increase I've ever voted for (we are a growing area and my garden hose just isn't going to cut it if my neighbor's house catches fire). So are we against taxation? We cannot be. To be completely against taxation is stupid, and if you are completely against it then I'm not sorry to say that you are stupid. As a classical liberal I view the government as a necessary evil. It is evil, yes, but it is necessary and we must give it some leeway to maintain itself,

Three things must be said. First, we can have government without "the government"; order and safety without taxation.

  • "The government" feeds the poor.
    But the poor can be fed without taxation.
  • "The government" builds schools.
    But schools can be built without taxation.
  • "The government" builds roads.
    But roads can be built without taxation.

All these things -- charity, education, and transportation -- were at one time provided exclusively by the free market, with no government involvement.

There is no social service -- the elements of what we call "government" -- that can only be provided by "the government" and its various systems of "taxation," that is, theft. A Free Market in these services would deliver these services at a lower cost, with higher quality and efficiency, without threatening violence to those who don't pay the government's price for them. Even the services mentioned above -- "a police force, military, court system, fire department" -- can be provided without taxation.

The question is, why should we? The answer is, taxation is theft. Taking money from people under threats of force or violence is immoral.

But the libertarian writer above believes that it is "necessary" to maintain a system of institutionalized extortion in order to have our disputes adjudicated, crimes investigated, fires extinguished, and Islamofascist aggression resisted.

We can have "professionals" providing these vital services, just like we have professionals treating sickness, preparing legal instruments, and drawing up blueprints for our homes or businesses, without having these professions nationalized, i.e., seized and monopolized by the State, and funded through extortion.

Notice that our libertarian above voted to increase taxes, rather than force the government to provide these services more efficiently at a lower cost. I can only suspect that if Libertarians think and vote this way, the public at large is even more unwilling to "push the button."

Why would the average voter even consider the possibility of voting libertarian? If "libertarian" is the fellow above, who votes for more taxes, why vote for him when Democrats and (especially) Republicans have proven themselves more than willing and able to raise taxes? They will win in an election, whereas the libertarian tax-hiker will lose. Why not vote for the winning party?

The only reason someone would vote libertarian is if they want smaller government and lower taxes. I mean, really want that. Surely people know by now that even though Republicans talk about smaller government and lower taxes, they're not really going to deliver that. The only possible reason for voting libertarian is that you actually want less "government," that is, more social services at a lower price through the Free Market.

But most voters do not want this! Most voters want more "government" because "government" means social services provided "free." The great advantage of "the government" is that it claims to provide the vital social services we want, yet without our having to pay for them. The real costs are either transferred to our neighbor, or postponed into a future we don't have to deal with right now. The popular perception is (1) only the government, and not the Free Market, can provide certain essential social services, and (2) somehow, I can benefit from these services without having to pay for them personally. "Something for nothing."

Before people will vote libertarian, they must be persuaded that (1) less government means a better standard of living for me -- in every area of life -- and (2) even if I could get something for myself by having my neighbor (or my grandchildren) pay for it, government extortion (or deficit spending) is immoral.

In other words, few people will vote Libertarian unless they're convinced that we must get there from here.

If the government has proven itself to be the only way to provide the most vital and essential social services, why can it not be trusted to provide services which are not as vital? Why all this talk about "cutting" an institution which has proven itself to be so necessary? As long as a voter believes that government is "necessary," the possibility of voting for someone who is committed to cutting government will be seen as "dangerous."

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