L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 290, September 26, 2004
"Taxation With Representation"
It's the Government, Stupid!
Exclusive to TLE
We have lots of problems in this world. Poverty, lack of freedom, famine, crime and despair are all in ample supply. They seem to be much more widespread than happiness and freedom. But why?
Simple, in almost every case it's government that is the culprit.
Examine The Sudan with its slavery and religious strife, Burma with its military oligarchy, sub-Saharan Africa with a raft of intercultural wars, South America's political and drug wars, even the struggling nations of the former Soviet Union and Warsaw pact. Look at poverty stricken Cuba, the late dictatorial Iraq, theocratic Iran and Pakistan, oil-rich yet poverty stricken Nigeria and deeply divided former Jugoslavia. If you look deep enough you will find government at the root of the problems in all these nations.
Billions of dollars are donated by the developed nations of the world in an attempt to improve the lot of the most abused people, all of which goes to government and stops right there. Little or nothing gets down to the average citizen or the small towns and villages. The power structure absorbs nearly all of it. You'll notice I said billions of dollars are "donated" to these nations. It has become a popular pastime for providing nations to "forgive" the loans they make so in effect the money is "donated."
In Nigeria, years ago, the people lived in grinding poverty despite the foreign aid dollars flowing in. At the same time, the government was relocating the nations capitol and building a world class international airport. Today Nigeria is awash in oil yet the people are no better off because they live under a dictatorial regime. The Russian government continues to support a superpower style military while its citizens lack basic human needs. North Korea wastes its meager treasure chasing nuclear arms and intercontinental missiles despite having one of the worst economic situations in the world. Poverty-stricken India has one of the most bureaucratized, centralized, socialist regimes on Earth. It's all but impossible to obtain something as simple as a business license there, yet government does little to address the fundamental needs of the people. The supreme irony is that India is a "democracy" and the people have voted themselves into this mess
The conclusion may be fairly drawn that all of the aforementioned problems are the result of government action. The people involved would be better off with no government than with the corrupt systems under which they exist.
Over the centuries, government evolved from a simple "I'm bigger and stronger than you are" proposition through caste/class and hereditary systems to representative, constitutional and participatory forms and the ones that offer the most freedom and individual rights are also the strongest and longest lasting.
It is ironic therefore to witness the apparent (though transitory) success of socialism, arguably the most stultifying and regressive form of government in the world today. In effect it is a nation's population volunteering for a dictatorship. The seductive song of egalitarianism draws in the ignorant and disaffected and they have no idea that they are actually being ruled by an entrenched elite until it's too late. Socialism tells its adherents that their skill, education, hard work and willingness to take risk mean nothing. The criteria for success are absolute obedience to the rules and the willingness to subordinate personal ambition to the advancement of the state. Of course those who go along with them are hardly the sort who can take an underdeveloped nation and turn it into a world leader. That's why the technology of the Soviet Union appeared so similar to the technology of the West. The commissars couldn't trust their people with the freedom of thought necessary to develop modern technology so they wound up stealing it from the free nations they so despised.
The European Union is a prime example. Most of the countries of Europe have been more or less socialist since the aftermath of World War II and now they seek to seal their fate by adding still another layer of statism and giving up even more freedom. England (and I was once an unabashed Anglophile), once the predominant nation in the world has, through the predations of corrupt politicians and by election of her own people become a socialist bastion and a welfare state. Nations as disparate as Norway and Spain, as different as Scotland and Greece with all of their languages, customs, cultures and traditions are placing their fate in the hands of Germany and especially France, both notoriously socialist. For the promise of open borders and a single currency and "free"-trade" they abandon their sovereignty to a bunch of centralist bureaucrats. They will come to regret it.
Strangely enough the biggest socialist state of all is moving steadily, if reluctantly toward a market-based, capitalist economy. Red China has finally realized that they cannot compete against free economics with Maoist political control. The politicos in charge are vainly attempting to merge communist centralized control with the reality of the free market. It won't work and in due course even the Chinese people, who haven't known freedom for millennia, will see the individual triumph over the state.
The totalitarian state is on its way out and with it will go the poverty and suffering that government begets. The only oligarchic states will be those whose people are too venal or ignorant to overthrow them.
All government depends on controlling, restricting or at least influencing the free flow of information. Lack of information is the great inhibitor of individual rights. The new wave of communications technology will defeat government control
The time is approaching when poor nations like most poor people will have only themselves to blame. It will be interesting to see if the poor and ignorant nations will overwhelm the wealthy and educated ones. My money is on the latter if they have the courage to take advantage of their superiority. If they wimp out and give away the store, the ignorant will swamp them.