Beyond the basics: Here’s how a Libertarian would address specific social ills.
In an earlier Extreme Libertarianism Pt. 1, I explained why I was an Extreme Libertarian, and what that meant. This triggered some follow up questions, which I’ve reposted below, along with answers. This is too long for a regular FB response, so it’s going in as another Facebook “Note” as they call it.
- As a Libertarian would you use laws and regulations to stop businesses from raping and pillaging the environment?
- Yes. If they really were raping and pillaging the environment. These days Big Green is doing much of the raping and pillaging themselves. For example, their pathological attack on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would actually help the environment (moving oil by pipeline is way safer than by train, which is how that oil is moving today) is symptomatic. Also, the religious Cult of Global Warming directly harms the environment, by demonizing carbon dioxide instead of carbon. Carbon is what’s bad to have in the air, but Warmists have diverted all attention away from Carbon so they can focus on eliminating CO2. CO2 is what plants breathe. Global Warmists are hugely damaging the environment and I would like to see them—and their fake science—prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Fraudsters like Phil Jones, Michael Mann, and James Hansen should be in jail. (You can find a HUGE debate on Global Warming under one of my Facebook “Notes” here.)
- Laws to protect employees? Labor laws?
- I’d get rid of most of them, especially minimum wage laws, which hurt the poorest among us by preventing them from being able to learn a trade and gain valuable work experience. Bad actions on the part of employers can be handled within the existing tort framework. Just to be clear what I mean by that: If I took a sledgehammer and bashed in your car’s windshield, you could sue me for damages. We don’t need a law making it illegal to bash a car’s windshield with a sledge hammer. Tort law handles all that. Libertarians are big believers in tort law, and while there may be some labor regulations that are really needed, I expect 99% of them could and should be eliminated.
- Would you still have taxes? If so what kind? Sales tax? Taxes of some kind?
- Sure, just far lower than today, and a government downsized sufficiently to live within its means. Also, lowering tax RATES can actually yield increased tax REVENUES, so lowered rates don’t necessarily mean starving Washington of cash. (Although starving Washington of cash is generally a good thing.) My preferred federal tax plan? Well, this deserves many lifetimes of study, but you could do worse than a straight 10% tax rate on personal income, with the first $25k exempted. That’s an entire tax code that fits into one sentence.
- If gov’t doesn’t run social programs who should? Churches?
- Churches are just one example. There are zillions of charitable organizations that funnel assistance to worthy causes. However, much of this gets crowded out by the government muscling in and trying—in its bloated, inept way—to do it via a one-size-fits-all policy directed by high-priced bureaucrats in Washington. And my earlier post demonstrates how well that often works: $22 trillion spent to help poor people, and zero progress in the War on Poverty. The lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal today cited a study that showed the U.S. government spends about $31 billion a year in charitable aid to countries around the world, but U.S. citizens privately spend a whooping $39 billion in aid to other countries. I have no doubt that the citizen donations are doing a huge amount of good, while the U.S. donations are probably mostly ending up in the Swiss bank accounts of corrupt African “Presidents-for-Life.” To reduce this to a single sentence, and at the risk of over-simplification: In general, private charity actually helps people who need it, while government social programs create cultures-of-dependency. This is the nature of government programs.
- Who is going to protect minorities?
- From what? If party A commits a wrong against party B (a minority), party A can be sued under tort law. If no tort (harm) has occurred, then nothing further need happen. However, let me add that as a civilization we need to quit classifying people by racial groups and seeing them as “minorities” entitled to special protections. What’s Tiger Woods, for example? For that matter, what’s Obama? Obama is routinely classified as black, but he’s no more black than he is white. And even on the black side of his family, he doesn’t descend from slaves. And what about Latinos and Chinese and folks from Chechnya? The U.S. racial makeup is way too complicated and intermingled to play race games any more. Again, if someone harms someone, they can be sued. Period. Doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.
- Here are a few scenarios. How would you solve them: the disabled child who needs an assistant to go to school. Assistant costs 50,000.00 a year. A person like myself who has an average to a little lower than average income who needs a new prosthesis ever 7 years. That’s 63,000.00 or about 10,000.00 a year. That’s 25% of my income. Would the churches pay for that? What about funding mental health programs and institutions? A 5 day stay in a mental hospital is about 30,000.00. Mental patients can not pay for that.
- OK, let me come at this a little circuitously. Right now milk costs about $4.00 a gallon over at Safeway. What if you walked into Safeway tomorrow and milk was priced at four thousand dollars a gallon? And let’s say the manager confirmed that was the correct price; not a typo. It’s a thought experiment. What would you do? Here’s what you would NOT do. You would not say: “Well, apparently I can’t afford milk. I need to find some other entity like private charity or the government or someone to pay for my milk.”
Of course you wouldn’t do that. You’d walk out of that store, shaking your head in disgust, and find some place where milk was available at a reasonable price. But wait. What if grocery stores didn’t work that way. Consider Alternative Universe “X”. In alternate universe X, when you go into a grocery store, you just grab anything you want, fill up your cart, and when you go to check out, someone else pays the bill for you. Let’s say you never even see the bill. It is automatically picked up by a third party.
Now, in alternate universe X, when you go into that store and milk is priced at $4,000 a gallon, you don’t care do you? In fact, in Universe X, the items probably don’t even have price tags, because why would anyone care about price? Someone else is paying for it.
You can imagine, fairly easily, that in Universe X, where price was never a factor in consumption of goods/services, where there was no marketplace discipline, all kinds of weird things would start to happen. For example, milk might go to $4,000 a gallon and no one would even complain. As long as someone else was paying for it, who cares? Here are some other things that might happen: The cost of paying someone to walk a special-needs child to school and back would go to $50,000 a year. The cost of a prosthesis would rise to $10,000 a year. The cost of a stay in a mental hospital would rise to $10,000 a DAY.
Guess what? We do live in Alternative Universe X. Not with grocery stores, but with health care. We have not had a free market in health care since WWII. And almost all health care is provided under a system where the receiver of the care pays little if anything for it, and doesn’t even know what it costs in most cases. Yep, that’s Alternative Universe X. And the insane prices mentioned above are the natural result.
Unfortunately, we’ve all been so conditioned by Universe X that it never occurs to us to question why it should cost $10,000 a day to be in a mental hospital. The question is not: “Are you friggin’ kidding me?” (Which is what the question should be.) Instead, the question is: “Well, I can’t afford this, so who can I get to pay for it? Hmmm, I think I’ll vote for this politician because he says he’s going to get someone else to pay for it so I won’t have to.” (Consider Sandra Fluke’s outrage that someone might have to pay for their own birth control pills. The horror!)
If free market (Libertarian) principles were brought to the health care market, we’d still need some safety nets for some things, probably provided best by the private sector, but actual costs of care would plummet down to what the market could actually deliver those services for.
I’m not an expert in some of this stuff, but just speculating. Escorting a special needs child to school and back is something the free market should be able to deliver for maybe ten bucks a day. In Sierra Leone, at the amputee camps, I saw beautiful state-of-the-art prosthesis being manufactured on site by local people for a few dollars each. There’s no way I’m believing a free-market society would price such things at $10,000. Competitors would fall all over themselves producing them for less. (A barebones laptop computer costs only a couple of hundred dollars, and contains more computing power than existed in the entire world, two generations ago.) And $10,000 a day to be in a mental health hospital? That’s like $4,000-a-gallon milk. These things are ONLY possible because the free market has not been allowed to come anywhere near the health care industry, for nearly 70 years. And Obamacare takes us in exactly the wrong direction by exacerbating the problem. Obamacare is all about finding someone else to pay for that $4,000 gallon of milk, rather than exposing the market to competition and allowing the milk to drop back to $4/gallon.
Want to fix the health care industry easily? ELIMINATE ALL GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT WITH IT. And then stand back and watch prices drop by many orders of magnitude—to the point where health care is easily affordable. And when it’s not, let private charity kick in. And if private citizens wish to form associations to pool risks (what we used to call insurance) let them do so, but don’t let government get it’s fetid, corrupt hands anywhere near it.
- If gov’t doesn’t run the parks, education and the fire department who should?
- Anyone but government. In Trinidad they have a wonderful system where public facilities like parks, bridges, etc., are paid for via corporate sponsorship. Every bridge has a tasteful corporate logo on it. (Bridge provided by Citicorp.) Works great. You could easily do the same thing with parks.
Formal education? Please. Formal education is so last century. Today we have something called the Internet. A relative of mine, for medical reasons, had to drop out of high school and attend classes on line from home for two years. When he went back to school, he’d gone from the bottom of his class to the top. What’s that tell you? In an age of Wikipedia and YouTube videos, which can teach anything from how to change a tire to quantum physics, education is now a free resource. The only thing government can do to it is screw it up Which it does, hugely. It’s time to get the government completely out of education. In fact, the government should never have been allowed near it.
Fire departments? I already pay an electric bill, a water bill, and a sewer bill. Why not a fire-services bill? Sound crazy? Having government provide it is what’s crazy. I used to live in New York where trash collection is a free, government-provided service. It was a nightmare. Every few months the unions would go on strike and mountains of garbage would pile up in the streets. When I moved to Colorado I found I was required to pay for trash pick up like I paid for other stuff. I think it costs about $85/month, paid to a private company. In over thirty years here, I’ve never had a single problem. Never a single day where the trash was not picked up properly. That’s the difference between government-provided services and market-provided services. When my family lived in Texas (in an area far away from any fire department), my dad started a volunteer fire department, and I worked in it. I understand it’s now gone private, but private fire departments are all over the place, and they work great. Remember: the more important something is, the more important that government stay as far away from it as possible.
- Do you think rich people are generous? It is my experience that the rich want to get rich not share.
- Rich people, in general, are the most generous on Earth. Wanting to make money, and wanting to share, are not mutually exclusive things. In fact, the one tends to follow the other like day follows night. When people make more money, they tend to share it. The biggest philanthropists in the world are—not surprisingly—super rich people. Look at Bill Gates. Look at Warren Buffet. Look at Mark Zuckerberg who recently wrote a $500 million check to Planned Parenthood. This is why, for example, private charity in the U.S. (rich people) spend more money on overseas aid than does even the U.S. government. But rich people don’t like to see their money going down a toilet. This is why rich people hate paying taxes (think: toilet) but are very willing to spend money on charitable causes they approve of. I would guess that every dollar spent on private charity does ten times if not a hundred times more good than every dollar spent by government (aka: toilet).
Conclusion: Applying Libertarian principles won’t solve everything. It won’t make the world perfect. However, the more Libertarian principles are abandoned in favor of government control of resources, the worse everything tends to get. Government control has ruined education. Government control has ruined health care. Government control has ruined the natural progress of people trying to rise out of poverty. Look to any section of the economy that is relatively free (computer services, travel, groceries) and you will see amazing efficiency and the delivery of almost unlimited goods/services for absurdly small amounts of money. Look to any section of the economy that is heavily controlled by government, and you will see vast inefficiency, obscene pricing, and terrible delivery of goods/services.
Why aren’t people educated in the power of markets and the dysfunctionality of government-provided services? Because governments have taken control of education, and ruined it.