Month: May 2008

Why Have Governments?

For what reason do cities, states and nations each require leaders with special powers to rule over them? It matters not how they are selected, by popular vote or an electoral college, whether the national leader is chosen by the people or by parliament. Why do we keep letting them restrict our liberties? Why do we put up with the huge burden they impose, economically, through taxes, the cost of regulations and harassment? 

There is a viable solution to the situation if enough people voted None of the Above (NOTA). However, we drag wearily to polls at every election to choose some lesser of two or more evils. 

Why do we do this? We should, rather, get half or more of the people to vote NOTA and watch the house of cards fall, leaving us free to have market solutions to everything! 

Do these leaders, aided by a million bureaucrats deliver quality products and services at decent prices? Studies show that they do not. First, we are all required to pay for what they produce, whether we want them or not. Second, they charge about twice what the free market would charge. Third, the delivery is sullen. Lastly, the quality is lower than even free market monopolies would produce. 

We should just let go of government, stop voting for DemoPulibcans, ignore them, buy and sell on totally private markets. They dare not use brute force against all of us. They rely on our sheepish subjection. They try to dazzle and distract us with wars and space programs, and work secretly to grow their power. 

As Éstienne de la Boéite wrote in 1553, “custom becomes the first reason for voluntary servitude.” 

“I should like merely to understand how it happens that so many men, so many villages, so many cities, so many nations, sometimes suffer under a single tyrant who has no other power than the power they give him; who is able to harm them only to the extent to which they have the willingness to bear with him; who could do them absolutely no injury unless they preferred to put up with him rather than contradict him. Surely a striking situation! Yet it is so common that one must grieve the more and wonder the less at the spectacle of a million men serving in wretchedness, their necks under the yoke, not constrained by a greater multitude than they…” 

“If we led our lives according to the ways intended by nature and the lessons taught by her, we should be intuitively obedient to our parents; later we should adopt reason as our guide and become slaves to nobody.” 

He urged everyone to withdraw their support and allegiance to government. I do also. 

Oh but, you raise objections: 

1. Only government can provide the police to maintain order, investigate wrongdoings, arrest the wrong-doers. 

Thousands of private businesses already perform such functions. It is growing faster than that of government agencies doing the same. Organizations like Brinks and Honeywell, as well as private investigators are doing it. The only power they do not presently have is the authority to arrest. 

2. Only government can provide a court system for arraigning, charging trying and punishing wrong-doers. 

The American Arbitration Association is one of many, plus a large number around the globe who respect each other and cooperate. Punishment is, however, not part of the business. Instead, restitution is the goal, or making victims whole. Payment of an adequate sum to the victim or her family is the end-point, which is intended to replace the loss and may include a sur-charge to discourage repeating the wrongdoing. This may involve calculating the risk of convicting the innocent and the probability of the wrongdoer being caught. Crimes would all become civil disputes (torts). 

3. Only a national government can provide national defense. 

There is no evidence of a purely defensive military action by the United States . The national government did not yet exist when the Revolutionary War was fought. 

The closest thing to an event where we were attacked by a foreign power is the attack on Pearl Harbor . However, it was clearly a provoked attack. When President F. D. Roosevelt put the clamps on Japanese trade 6 months earlier that year, he made the war with Japan something other than a war of defense of America . 

Otherwise, the remaining war that started or took place on American soil, the war against the seceding southern states, the so-called Civil War, was again very much a provoked war. Initially slavery was not the major issue between the northern states and the South. Economic provocation was already happening in the form of federal tariffs in favor of business in the North. If slavery had been the problem, the federal government could have purchased the freedom of every one of those that wanted to end their slave status. 

If another nation or group should carry out an unprovoked attach on our soil, people or assets, private defense could very well do the job. 

As Murray Rothbard wrote “Defense in the free society (including such defense services to person and property as police protection and judicial findings), would…be supplied by people or firms who (a) gained their revenue voluntarily rather than by coercion and (b) did not—as the State does—arrogate to themselves a compulsory monopoly of police or judicial protection . . . . defense firms would have to be as freely competitive and as noncoercive against non-invaders as are all other suppliers of goods and services on the free market. Defense services, like all other services, would be marketable and marketable only.” Murray N. Rothbard , Power and Market (Kansas City: Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1977), p. 2. 

If we can insure ourselves against the damage of earthquakes, floods, huge financial losses and other disasters (which some individuals and most businesses do), why could we not voluntarily purchase policies protecting ourselves from the damages of war? 

Of course, the insurers would require, for coverage to be effective, that you, the insured, does not provoke or do anything to bring war about. That means, among other things, that peaceful, profitable trade that other parties abroad clearly want, is maintained. It means that those who trade are allowed to carry out business and to resolve disputes under the Law Merchant, with no outside interference. 

4. Only government can provide a safety net for the unfortunate. 

The story on poverty in America did not begin with Lyndon Johnson’s 1963 “War on Poverty.” In the above figure (from the U.S. Census), note that poverty in absolute population number and in percentage for (poverty rate) were already falling in 1959. This is echoed in figure 2 of this report from Catholic University of America. Since that “War” went on with improvements for decades, it is a mystery that around 1975 poverty was on the rise again. Methinks Charles Murray had the answer in his study, published in the book Losing Ground (New York: BasicBooks, second edition, 1994). 

Murray presents staggering statistical evidence (some of which has been criticized as being more ambiguous than he thinks) showing that government efforts to reduce poverty largely fails. In fact it appears that many times those efforts do the opposite, enabling people to fall into dependency, which becomes multi-generational. He closes the book on a sad note, indicating that there may be no politically feasible solution. 

How did people ever get along before the welfare state? 

Conclusion 

If private organizations, competing with each other, can provide the good services and products that we now get from government on its terms, why do we need government? If private agencies, with whom we would contract voluntarily for no more than the services we want, can provide them, the competition would drive the price we pay down, and raise the quality to be “what meets requirements”, why would we submit any longer to the coercive system that government provides, where we have too little choice of what to get and how much to pay? 

Why do we need governments?