Today I came across a piece by Josh Guckert of The Libertarian Republic called “10 Socialist Policies Implemented in the United States.” The article wasn’t bad—I think that all of the programs on the list should have been there—but it was just very soft, which is what a lot of the material out of The Libertarian Republic is like. And that’s okay because different media outlets have different audiences.
Still, I do think that the more mainstream libertarians who are sympathetic to minarchy need to be challenged more. Who is better to do that than one of their trusted sources of information?
To save you from clicking ten times, the socialist policies listed by Guckert are as follows:
- Social Security
- Federal Reserve
- Endless Wars
- Farm Subsidies
- Government Schooling
- Corporate Welfare
- The Internal Revenue Service
- Health Care
- Public Transportation & Security
- The Food and Drug Administration
To reiterate, it’s not that I disagree with listing any of these, but these are all softballs for most libertarians. Does anyone who considers themselves even a little bit libertarian find themselves liking the TSA, IRS, or socialized health care? So since Guckert and The Libertarian Republic did not do it, here is a list of five programs and policies that make up the core of the socialism pervasive in the United States (and almost every other country in existence)
Believe me, I’m tired of talking about the roads, but since so many people jump to it as their example of choice to show one of the necessary functions of government, it is worth briefly discussing it. The government collects money from the populace and builds and maintains roads as it sees fit. Now it may be true that a portion of the money comes from usage fees such as tolls, the fact remains that the majority of the funds come from people who may or may not use the roads. It would not be as bad if the government only charged people who actually used the roads based on how much they used them, but the problem of the artificial monopoly on roads that the state enjoys would remain. The privatization of roads is the only way to peacefully and efficiently manage the roads system.
Of course, be ready to hear: “If you privatize the roads, you would be paying tolls every block!” Maybe I’ve been lucky my entire life, but I have never paid a toll to use the roads in any homeowner association.
4. All government regulation
Guckert listed the FDA, a regulatory agency, as one of the socialized programs in his list, but all government regulation ought to be on the list. Like the roads, money is pooled together from many tax sources to pay for all of this regulatory apparatus. And again like the roads, it’s not as though regulation itself is a bad thing, but rather the socialization of it that is bad. Private regulation exists already and it does such a fantastic job that most people take it for granted.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and FM Global are two companies that privately set safety standards. If you want their stamp or sticker on your product, then you have to prove that you follow their regulations. This is advantageous to a business because the money they spend on purchasing the standards helps them lower their insurance costs and builds consumer confidence.
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) was formed to produce standards to prevent fires in order to decrease insurance costs and loss of capital equipment and production. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) creates codes and standards to ensure the proper construction, operation, and repair of pressure vessels, welding, flanges, valves, etc. In other words, it keeps the plant in the town or city near you from blowing up.
Now it’s time to show how deep the socialized programs of the state go. Since disputes between people are a common feature of everyday life (watch some late afternoon network television if you don’t believe me), there is no doubt that there is a demand for courts regardless of whether or not government exists. So why should the system be socialized? Why should judges be elected or appointed by politicians? Why not allow people’s dollars to determine who the best judges are? Let the system work on reputation and how well arbitration rulings are perceived.
A private court system incentivizes the judge to act fairly and impartially in the cases presented to him. Remember, people go to court thinking that they are in the right and have the facts on their side, so of course they would want someone who looks at the facts in an unbiased manner to resolve their dispute. If a person refuses to go to court, there is reason to suspect something suspicious.
Speaking of bias, people often go to court in cases against the government, but the judge is an employee of the government. How exactly do you expect to ensure that you get a fair and impartial case?
Guckert listed “Endless Wars” as one of the socialized policies of the United States but does not say that the military should not be socialized. He actually advocates having a socialized military by saying, “Though defense is perhaps the most important, or maybe the only thing that the US Government should do, it is impossible that there is not a more efficient way of using our resources.” I do not know why Guckert thinks that the military should be socialized, but the typical argument is that if it were not for a military provided by the government, your rights could be easily taken away by some outside invading force.
As I have written about in a previous post, the problem with this position is:
Rights would then be subject to the whims of the minarchist military and government; the dichotomy of “lacking a military means invasion” does not actually exist; the burden of proof is on the minarchist to show that defense means could not be privately funded (after all, people generally purchase insurance and protective services to make sure their property is not damaged or invaded regardless if the attacker is nature or human).
One of the problems with socialism is that it creates perverse incentives. How does Guckert and those like him suppose that a socialized military will not fall victim to the same troubles that all other socialized industries and markets do?
Nothing guarantees that you will make a non-voluntarist libertarian look like a full blown socialist faster than arguing about the police. People do not like to admit it, but:
Socialism has everything to do with how the police are currently organized. The government collects money through taxes and uses those funds to provide law enforcement services to the people. How you would describe that as anything but socialism, I do not know. Substitute the words “law enforcement services” with anything else and it becomes easier to see.
Considering that the most fervent police supporters are usually conservatives, this is a bitter pill to swallow. These are the people who are so outspoken decrying socialism (especially “Obama socialism”) and praising the merits of capitalism. There really is no way to deny that this is a socialistic system, so people will have to rationalize their beliefs with something like, “Well, some socialism is necessary.”
The usual response is that the police services market is different from any other market, but the people who say this fail to sufficiently back the claim up. People argue that it would lead to constant violent struggles between different competing forces, but in reality violence is extremely expensive and the businesses that are able to peacefully resolve their conflicts (see private courts) would be the most successful. And as Michael Huemer points out in his book The Problem of Political Authority, it’s not even a sensible point:
But one does not hire a protection agency to fight other agencies, nor would agencies provide that service (Section 10.3). One hires a protection agency to prevent criminals from victimizing one or to track down criminals after the fact. In this task, one’s protection agency must have the power to apprehend criminals, but it need not have the power to defeat other protection agencies, given that other agencies are not in the business of protecting criminals (Section 10.4).
Like the courts, the problem of who is paying who presents itself. How do the police make money? They certainly do not earn it in the sense that people voluntarily pay for their services. No, the police earn their salaries through taxes and by levying fines in the form of tickets. They literally force people to employ them. That alone should make you want to seriously reconsider the way the police are organized.