18A027 Thanks to Uncle? by Jim Davies, 7/3/2018    


One of the archist's arguments these days is that everyone ought to be grateful to the State.

Two kinds of goodie can be detected for which thanks are allegedly due: the manifold benefits that Uncle pours out for us every day, right now; and secondly the massively valuable inheritance he has bestowed upon us from ages past; roads, bridges, honest banks, sewers, police, fire departments, schools, telephone networks, legal systems, health services, etc: infrastructure, physical and social, built up over centuries. We could not enjoy our standard of living today, if these foundational assets had not been laid down yesterday.

Taking the second of those first, the archist has a point. Visit any second or third world country, and notice how few of those assets (which we take for granted) are present; and the consequent poverty. Without rail and road systems functioning smoothly, an economy has a hard time delivering wealth.

The fallacy of this part of the argument is that most of those components of society's foundational assets were not laid down by the State at all, but by enterprisers in greedy search of profits. Rail technology was invented by an English engineer (Stephenson) and rapidly imported; numerous railroad companies were formed in the second quarter of the 19th Century, and in the following 50 years competed, amalgamated and extended their services so as to maximize shareholder return. They were forced to get permits from the State, which arrogantly claimed title over unused land in the West, and for sure they lobbied hard for taxpayer money to augment shareholder funds; alas, they got plenty, particularly after Lincoln's party had consolidated its grip on power in 1865. But the initiative to build it all came from companies, not the government.

The same is true of banks, which suffered ever-increasing regulation and interference by the State; and even earlier of road-builders, whose legacy of highways called "toll roads" is still visible today; they were displaced by government road building planned politically, financed by force, and furnished for "free". Nobody can compete with a zero marginal price. Schools, of course, were almost all run privately before 1840, either for profit or as part of a religious outreach; and prior to 19oo that was true also of hospitals.

So the inheritance of valuable infrastructure was not mainly a benefaction of Uncle at all; rather, he impeded their efficient development and when he did initiate one, the cost was greater than it would have been under management by a profit-seeking enterprise. One consequence is that the Federal Government alone has accumulated a debt, by overspending on infrastructure and other goodies over time, of twenty trillion dollars. The benefaction, therefore, comes with a huge price tag: about $250,000 per household. Just imagine members of the dear departed Sam's family, gathered for the reading of his will: the estate lawyer ends by telling them the bequests were not actually fully paid for, and so they each have to pony up a small fortune. Some would up and suggest they disinterr the old villain's bones and throw them in a pauper's grave.

So much for Uncle's benevolence in the past: let's now take a look at his alleged current generosity. A good source is the IRS, at page 103. The top three categories, totalling 85% of the FedGov spend, are Social Security, Medicare & Other Retirement; Social Programs; and National Defense. Ought we not to thank Uncle for these good things he provides?

Not exactly.

As shown in a recent ZGBlog, Sam's retirement programs have seriously impacted the ability of oldsters to provide for their own evening years; the money they could have spent buying a life insurance policy that would have yielded two or three times the benefits, was confiscated by force.

"Social Programs" is a catch-all category that defies exploration, let alone explanation - but the idea is that if something in society appears anomalous to the do-gooders who suppose government is the solution for every problem, then bureau-rats need to be appointed (and paid, with money taken at gunpoint from taxpayers) to take care of it. Anomalies that were almost all dealt with by voluntary means prior to the 20th Century, have passed under government control. The compassion which is the mainspring of voluntary action has, as a result, been eviscerated.

"National Defense" is a truly Orwellian title for the massive FedGov spend on the military, currently some $637 billion a year; for no foreign power has even attempted to attack the United States without provocation, since the end of the Revolutionary War. To take one small but current example in the news last month: the President negotiated with the thugs running North Korea, about reducing tensions in that region. Very good. But the North has had a reasonable worry; for 75 years, tens of thousands of US troops have been stationed and exercised just a few miles from its border. Basic question: what clause of the Constitution authorizes that deployment? If the answer is "none" (it is) then the FedGov has flagrantly exceeded its terms of reference and should be terminated forthwith. We ZGBloggers are, of course, working on exactly that.

So, ought anyone to be grateful to Uncle for the bennies he has bestowed, past and present? No, not in a million years. At best they have seriously distorted what an unfettered market would have produced anyway, and at worst they have exposed us to a wide variety of risks and dangers including that of nuclear annihilation. One other question remains: where we have the option, ought we to accept them?

Some very fine market anarchists say, No way. For example, Carl Watner in his magnificent book I Must Speak Out, tells of his grandmother who received social security checks but refused to cash them, saying "I don't want nothing from him" - ie, Uncle.

Each to his own, but I take the opposite view, because my focus is on terminating this monstrous evil of government as soon as possible; and every cent removed from its grasp (or not surrendered to it) weakens it. To leave money in its hands, in contrast, allows it to perform marginally more mayhem and murder. More is needed than merely taking away its money, but to do so is consistent with that far more vital activity.

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