Should the government…

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As libertarians, we are often presented with any number of questions that begin with “Should the government…” The answer to that is “No.” Should libertarians paint with such a broad brush? This answer implies that the government has no place to exist since it means that it is never permitted to actually do anything. Should the libertarian ethic really be this narrow?

Let’s rephrase that and change the words “the government” to “a person or group of people who steal from everyone else in order to attempt to accomplish a goal that—through the threat of violence—they won’t let anyone else try to solve.”

That changes things, does it not? That would make the vast majority of people answer no to any question that leads with that.

Someone might say that this is not the correct phrasing.  He might say that you’re putting words in his mouth or committing a straw man fallacy.

“No one said anything about stealing or violence!”

This confusion is not surprising. People seem to forget that the government is made up of people. So if the people who make up the government have the authority to do something, they must be able to demonstrate that authority as individuals.

If you cannot demonstrate that authority, then something is seriously wrong with applying that authority further. It would be wrong for me to threaten some harm to you if you do not pay me for a service you never asked me to perform. So what difference does it make if a person does the same thing in the name of government? How do you delegate an authority that you do not have?

What if the decisions are voted on? If everyone agrees to participate, then it is acceptable. But is that what is actually going on? Or does the government find “consensus” and force it on people whether or not they agreed to the arrangement? Can a group of friends force someone to pay for the pizza they ordered when he explicitly stated that he did not want any before they purchased it?

If your answer to that question is yes, then you probably have some relationship issues you need to work out (and also probably don’t have any friends). If you answered no but think that it’s okay to do that outside your group of friends, i.e. via the government, then you should ask yourself why you think it is okay to treat others so poorly.

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