L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 298, November 21, 2004
Give people what they want: more government!
Give 'Em What They Want
Exclusive to TLE
As it turns out, John Edwards was rightthere are two Americas. Not a rich America and a poor America, or a big-government America and an America that values liberty, but a Red America and Blue America. Both are led by nationalist socialist political parties, but the Reds emphasize the "nationalist" part, while the Blues emphasize the "socialist" part. With such a dismal starting point, how can libertarians persuade them to want liberty? Or perhaps just allow it? By giving people what they want: more government.
For the past several decades, the primary proponents of more government have been the Blues. Now that the Reds have wised up and begun offering more government, too, they find themselves in control of The Government, much to the consternation of the Blues. Democracy sounds much better when you're not on the receiving end of it, as the Blues are learning. Some have even called for Blue state secession, in hopes of escaping majority rule by intolerant Reds (while predictably holding on to trade sanctions as a possible tool to force social changes on the Red states.) But Blue state secession, while it might be a good start, would still be fundamentally unfair to Red voters living in Blue states, and vice versa.
This is where libertarians could make some real progress toward liberty, by joining the Reds and Blues in offering people more government. (Bear with me for a moment.)
As an aside, I've decided that I like "Red" and "Blue" much better than "Democrat" and "Republican", or "liberal" and "conservative." As the differences between the two parties have blurred, they have increasingly become not distinct philosophies, but simply teams to cheer for or against. Go Blue! (And take the Reds with you.)
Now, back to the libertarian case for more government.
This nation was founded on the battle cry of "no taxation with representation," yet the Constitution set up a Government that gives many Americans no representation, and plenty of taxation. Since each Congressional district is winner-take-all, up to 49% of the Red voters in a Blue district don't have a Representative in Congress at all. They may be roughly balanced out by Blue voters in Red districts, but whoever wins overall control of The Government gets to rule over a lot of unhappy voters.
Libertarians generally respond to this state of affairs by calling for massive reductions in The Government, trying to persuade Red and Blue voters that a smaller national Government would mean less bitter fights over who gets to control It. Libertarian candidates, not wanting to appear too radical, limit their calls for less government to 90% spending cuts and a repeal of the income tax, while relying on tariffs for funding, as in the Good Old Days. But in doing so, they violate the Zero Aggression Principle just a little, admitting that some level of government is a necessary evil. In the process, they lose the moral high ground and get into arguments with statists and each other about why 90%, instead of 75%, or maybe 50%?
Libertarian purists who accept the ZAP in its entirety, (sometimes known as anarcho-capitalists), either smile and say that Constitutional Government would be a good start, so let's go along with it, or they object and start rambling on about defense agencies or insurance companies providing the services that government currently provides.
But people don't like insurance companies (except of course, after someone hits their car or their house burns down), and they sure don't like the idea of giving insurance companies their own private armies. A claims adjuster with a briefcase and a calculator is scary enoughand you want to give him an Uzi?
Real progress starts when you accept reality, and the reality is that people want government. They want government to protect them from the bad people in the world. They are afraid to give up government for an unproven, theoretical system. So give 'em what they wantinstead of carving up the country into north and south again, or abolishing The Government, let people choose between multiple governments.
Let Red voters live under a Red government, and Blue voters live under a Blue government. Instead of dividing powers between three branches of a national government and fifty geographically distinct state governments, divide powers between two (or more) geographically intermingled national governments.
How would separate governments coexist within the same boundaries? The same way that geographically distinct governments coexist alreadythrough treaties, international organizations, and high level negotiations to resolve disputes. No one would have to be ruled by a government they don't like, or have their kids educated by someone else's government schools. No one would have to fund programs or activities they find morally objectionable. Crimes and torts would be adjudicated in the jurisdiction of the victim of the wrongdoing or negligence.
The original American government was set up to provide for free trade, free migration, and mutual defense between the states. Any new government that people vote to join would have to accept those same conditions. To prevent fanatical or criminal groups from trying to form their own governments, a few other requirements could be tacked on, such as universal bans on murder, theft, assault, and fraud. Oh, and full acceptance of the Bill of Rights.
Libertarians might even stipulate that any new government gain a minimum level of support before being recognized, say one million or more votes. This would keep the number of governments down to a manageable number, and give less popular groups a reachable target to shoot for. If people were really able to live under the government they voted for, no one could make the "wasted vote" argument ever again, and getting a million votes for a Libertarian candidate would be decidedly less challenging.
Discouraged that people want more government? Accept it, and give 'em what they want.
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