L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 277, June 27, 2004
"...the traffic jam at the spaceport..."
Why Can't We All Win?
Special to TLE
An Election Year is upon us, and the stakes are higher than ever. Thanks to decades of unrelenting growth in government, the winning President and the winning Party will get to determine many issues, large and small. What countries will be bombed and invaded, and for what reasons? What fundamental human rights will be denied, for the "common good"? Who can marry whom? What plants can individuals grow and consume, which ones will receive government subsidies, and which ones will subject you to the loss of your car, your home, and your free time for the next ten years or so? What will your children be taught in their formative years, religious morality or secular humanism? How much of your property and your income belongs to you, and how much will be taken from you to serve the whims of the Elected?
With so much at stake, it's no wonder that the political bickering has grown more heated than ever. The losers really lose, and the winners really wineven if the winners are supported by less than 25% of the population, as is usually the case. Why do the other 75% stand for this? Many don't of course, but they have correctly surmised that whichever side wins, they will lose, so voting for one or the other doesn't change things very much. Others figure it's the way it's always been, and it's better than a lot of other systems that have been tried, so why rock the boat? But why does it have to be this way? Why can't we all win?
Why not let every voter live under the government they vote for?
Republican voters could live under a Republican government. They could keep their high taxes, and shift the tax burden away from the wealthy and toward the middle class. They could prohibit Republican voters from marrying individuals of the same gender. They could mandate prayer in Republican schools, and allow Nativity scenes in Christmas plays again. Guns could be legal, as long as they were properly registered, and didn't have magazines of excessive capacity, or fire too quickly, or look too scary. Drug-using Republicans could be imprisoned for ten year mandatory prison terms. A Republican-financed army could invade whatever countries Republican leaders deemed necessary, even if it lead to terrorist blowback against Republican voters. (Did I mention that the secret ballot would have to be given up?)
Democratic voters could live under a Democratic government. They could keep their high taxes, raise them even higher, and shift the tax burden even more toward the wealthy. (Hollywood celebrities would still be Democrats, wouldn't they? Wouldn't they?) Democrats could set up a generous public welfare system for the poor and the elderly. Free health care could be rationed to all, provided there were enough Democratic doctors to go around. Democratic schools could teach diversity and tolerance. Guns could be registered and confiscated, while culturally sensitive police forces representative of the gender and ethnic mixture of the Democratic voter base could keep the peace in the community. Democrat-run businesses could be heavily regulated, for worker safety, environmental impact, and high minimum "living wages."
Libertarian voters could live under a Libertarian government. They could eliminate taxes completely, paying for whatever public services remained through user fees, donations, or perhaps a low uniform association fee. Or maybe even some type of contract insurance. Libertarian voters wouldn't be taxed to provide social "safety net" benefits, but they also wouldn't be eligible to receive any when times turned hard. Libertarians could engage in any voluntary business or activity of their choice, as long as it didn't harm others. Libertarian companies would be free of property taxes, business taxes, and regulatory burdens, though they would still be held legally liable for any harm they might cause to employees, customers, or the environment. Libertarians could own whatever guns they liked, so long as they used them responsibly.
How could this possibly work? What about disputes between the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian governments? Most basic issues could be resolved in the same way that geographically isolated governments resolve disputes nowthrough pre-negotiated treaties, or high-level negotiations for special cases. Crimes perpetrated by a member of one government on a member of another would fall under the jurisdiction of the victim. Libertarians might be permitted to sell various goods or services to each other, but would still be subject to arrest for selling those same goods or services to a Republican or a Democrat. (If anyone reports the sale, that is, and no fraud was perpetrated by the purchaser.) What about national defense? In the event of an actual invasion, each government might be pledged by treaty to provide its share of troops, planes, and ships, to be financed and commanded in whatever manner they wish.
Under our current system, most voters vote for the government they want to control others with, or against the one they fear the most controlling them. If instead their vote determined how they themselves were governed, and could not force others to live by their rules unless those others voluntarily accepted them, we might have something that could once again accurately be termed "a free country." Anyone care to guess what the voting percentages would be in November?