THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 856, January 24, 2016
We live in a moral leper colony.
Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
"The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults."
Recently, candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, as well as others, have been claiming that they will make America great again. So I thought it would be useful to examine two things that seem to be impediments, right now, to American greatness. I agree with de Tocqueville that America can repair its faults, as well as with his idea that America isn't more enlightened than other nations.
To me, the two main problems in America are, first, the desire by quite a few Americans to take from other people the things they think they themselves should have, in particular money and property and, second, the desire to have this done on their behalf by a government strong enough to accomplish this goal. These problems are fundamental rather than secondary. They result not only in difficulties in themselves, but in all kinds of related consequences, intentional and unintended.
In order to engage in redistribution of property, wealth, income, or any other thing, including matters like housing, healthcare, border control, and education (to name only a few), there has to be an initiation of force. Someone with power, with the ability to project that power, has to take the things that other people have away from them. Some of the ways that such initiatory force are described include: taxes, regulations, mandates, legislation, compliance, and asset forfeiture.
To me, all these terms are smoke, a smelly effusion of vapours meant to distract from the facts. Redistribution is theft. Taxes are robbery. Regulations are force. Asset forfeiture is ransom, and never civil. Mandates, legislation, and compliance are extortion. It all amounts to confiscation, judicial theft, or "takings."
Necessarily, in order to accomplish all this stealing, a huge set of powers has to be granted to those who do the taking. Those people have to be paid, and because a lot of their work is really unpleasant, many of them have to be paid well so that their subordinates can hope for a better future. All these costs have to be met before any of the stolen wealth, stolen goods, stolen services can be conveyed to those who are supposedly in need.
Harming the Poor
But, what does that actually involve? Many government programmes clearly are designed to help people in the middle classes have jobs in offices, in air conditioned comfort, taking wealth from some and giving some portion of what is taken to others. Or mandating health care be extracted from some and provided to others. One could go on in this vein at great length, because there are so many government agencies, and so many millions of people employed by international governmental bodies, national governments, provincial or state governments, municipalities, and other levels of government.
So, are these agencies and jobs meant to help the poor? If so, wouldn't you find poor people holding some of those jobs? In fact, there are generally educational and experience requirements for those jobs that are completely unreachable for many of the poor people. So, having a government agency is not itself helping the poor.
One thing that would help poor people a great deal is if they were able to keep the money they earn. Another thing that would help poor people a great deal is if they were able to protect their own property with effective tools. One of the things that wealthy people generally have is the ability to resist government agencies, rules, and regulations, using lawyers, legal tricks, loopholes, jurisdictional arbitrage, and so forth.
When socialists propose to attack the wealthy by taking away their property through the various approaches described above, they create precedents that make it more difficult for poor people to keep their income and property. Taxes are harder to avoid if you are poor, because you have less time to look into tax avoidance schemes, and because you cannot get legal help doing so. The burden of taxes, regulations, and legislation always falls more heavily on the poor, the middle class, the struggling entrepreneur, than on the wealthy.
In fact, regulatory capture is the way in which the owners of big companies force everyone to play the "game" their way. When was the last time a public utilities commission refused a rate increase from the power company in your area? When was the last time that a big company was actually broken up into a bunch of smaller companies? The 1984 forced break-up of AT&T comes to mind, and we do have much lower phone costs worldwide, now, than ever before, partly because a few government-imposed monopolies have been ended.
Most of the time, though, we see car designs being made in government agencies so that all car makers have to meet an enormous level of sophistication and detail, even to the placement of the brake lights, so that big car makers don't have to have as much competition. We see things like flying cars stymied for decades (about 50 years so far), in order to preserve a market "niche" for airlines and another for surface car makers. These aren't ecological niches, but thoroughly protected and government-authorised economic niches.
Poor people would be better off if they paid no taxes. Poor people are always better off if they can have guns to defend themselves. Where they are forced to pay high taxes and are expected to never be armed, as in Chicago, the suffering of poor people reaches monumental levels.
The way to get there from here is to accept less from government agencies in the way of interference, participate less in the system, and use the counter-economy that Sam Konkin and J. Neil Schulman wrote of in the 1970s and subsequently to thrive. In short, the way out of this mess is the free market.
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