15A031 Fun with a Naked Statist by Jim Davies, 5/4/2015
Just occasionally, believers in the government myth articulate their reasons for their faith. When they do, we skeptics have a fine opportunity to ridicule the lot - for generally, they prefer to keep silent on the subject, lest the nakedness of their rationale become apparent to all. Much safer to parade orators in $2,000 suits, and powerful generals in splendid uniforms, and solemn "experts" on TV that few can understand; like the Emperor's new clothes, it's more impressive.
I had such an opportunity last week, when "DrPretorius", a fellow user of The Guardian's fine reader comment facility, posted this gem:
Why have a guaranteed national defence, police force, roads, bridges, parks, public libraries, social security, health service, citizen and consumer-protecting regulatory bodies, schooling, trash collection, sewage maintenance, etc... when we could hopefully leave it to the market to maybe replicate all that at possibly a slightly lower cost to the wallet. In a very best case scenario.
That was his sarcastic response to a suggestion that government is surplus to requirement, and revealed why he thinks it's good and necessary. I replied with the first six of the following:-
1. "National Defense" is what they call it, as if government were protecting people from foreign marauders. Nonsense. In reality the people are, in war, protecting the government from foreign rivals. Frequently (in the USA always, since 1781) the wars have in any case been offensive, not defensive. In the case of the UK, there has been no defensive war since the Spanish Armada was seen off; even WW-II was declared by Britain.
2. "Police force." Now, there's a nice warm cuddly feeling of security. Perhaps in Britain where they are not armed (yes?) the police are still seen as friendly. For this side of the Pond, see The Guardian's lead story today about Baltimore. Or on either side, try exceeding the speed limit in good safe conditions and after paying the resulting fine, figure out who was protecting whom.
3. "Roads and bridges." When provided by government, these come with all manner of controls. Driving license? - maybe a good idea, once. No need for renewal. Last week I had to pay $50 for a piece of plastic I did not want, which the government will use to identify and control me. Absurd speed limits, already mentioned. Dragnet traffic traps, to find people carrying something government has forbidden. And pot-holes, repaired only when politically expedient.
4. "Parks". Yes, the Lake District is my favorite area. But it's owned and run, is it not, by a private charity called the National Trust? - as are very many others? In a zero government society I certainly expect that the rich and successful (presently despised as "the 1%") will in some cases donate parks for free use, as a memorial to their names. Benefactors. They've been around at least since ancient Greece.
5. "Public Libraries". So the whole population has money taken by force, to provide the studious with somewhere to read, and books to borrow "free." That was rampant socialism over a century ago, when the poor were made to subsidize the upwardly mobile; today, the Internet is vastly more efficient and these beached whales continue to exist only as a jobs program for librarians. To the extent that they used to be valuable, note that in the US, very many libraries were founded by the benefactor Andrew Carnegie, who made his fortune by hard work and free enterprise.
6. "Social Security". Ha! Where on earth have you been? That Ponzi scheme forces everyone to "contribute" to a soi-disant "insurance" plan, that ends up paying less than half what would be paid out (for the same premium) by a competitive, private insurance company. In addition it is so unsoundly financed that if it were run commercially, it would be closed down at once for violation of numerous financial-security rules.
7. "Health Service", yes. As with the "guarantee", above, government has zero resources to pay anyone who would work in one. Therefore the money comes from taxes, therefore it's a political allocation. And since no medic will work for free for long, "free health care" is a truly wicked lie; making it superficially and marginally "free" just shifts the way it's funded. As you well know in the UK, payment is made in terms of delay as well as money; and delay is sometimes fatal. When someone dies from delay, that keeps the costs down. Government health care would come with the efficiency of the Post Office, the compassion of the IRS, and the respect for privacy of the NSA. No, thanks!
8. "Consumer-protecting regulations" - hog wash. The ludicrous premise behind this one is that manufacturers intend to hurt their customers. Wake up and join the real world; profit making businesses totally depend on customer goodwill - because, unlike government, they cannot compel anyone to purchase their products and services. To help customers discriminate, for-profit consumer reports, on line and in print, already exist. No government needed.
9. "Schooling." I'm glad you didn't write "education", for that has to do with leading out students who wish to learn; slaking their inborn curiosity or thirst for knowledge. Government schools are a walking, talking disaster which impede those who are eager and ready to learn, while condemning the rest to 12 years of utter boredom and then "graduating" them with a diploma they cannot functionally read. One thing only they do achieve: they force growing children to understand Authority. Well, seven things actually, according to J T Gatto; go read what they are, and weep.
10. "Trash Collection" can and often is done by profit-seeking enterprises, perfectly well and for a competitive price. No need for government and its taxes and inefficiency - still less, for its ridiculous regulations that force homeowners to sort trash into different piles.
11. "Sewage maintenance" is, again, well performed by private competitive enterprise in rural areas, and so could also be done in cities. The task there is a bit different, but not necessarily more expensive (than in the country) because of economies of scale. The fact that government has frequently monopolized this function does not mean it must do so.
You say there would be a "slight" saving only, if these services were taken out of the hands of government. I disagree; I think it would be huge. Those that continued to be done (like trash handling) but by competitive enterprise, would be cheaper by a factor of two to three; but some, in a zero government society, would not be done at all. Nobody for example would volunteer to pay $7,000 per year per household to prop up a needless military. But government needs to evaporate not primarily to save money. The far more important reason is: freedom.
This, then, is what government junkies think government is for, but each "purpose" is shown, when examined, to make up a good reason to dispense with government. Statists are wide open to ridicule like the above; they are defenseless, as soon as this key question is brought out into the open. They are bare naked, they stand exposed. No wonder they like to hide their condition by seldom parading the supposed reasons government is "needed."
Okay, let's review your list; and first, about that "guarantee." It's not worth the paper it's not written upon. It's rumored to be provided at the expense of the people it's provided for, using compulsion. Government has no other resource at all, out of which the "guarantee" could be honored if push came to shove. Now to your specifics: