Friday, January 6, 2012

6 Part Series on Abolishing Govt use to have a six part series on the abolition of govt.  Unfortunately it is no longer archived on the site.  Through the years I have found five of the six articles.  So as to have an easy place to reference the whole series, I have posted them below.

edit:  I meant to post in reverse order so one could read them in order scrolling down the page, but somehow I managed to post the 2nd article above the 1st.  In other words, the first article below is the second in the series and the second one posted is actually the first in the series.

Why Abolishing Government Would Not Bring Chaos

I wrote recently that government should be abolished. Among the responses to the article were objections of the sort shared by most who encounter for the first time the prospect of living without forcible government. The most common objections are fundamentally similar to each other: Violence would rule the day; corporations would run over us little people; foreign governments would invade; big neighborhoods would pillage small neighborhoods; etc. The books I linked in the previous article answer these objections, but since most of us (myself included) might not buy a book online – and then be sure to read it – every single time we surf the net, I’ll address those objections briefly here, and provide links to online articles wherever possible.
The pervasiveness of these objections makes it worth addressing them, as does the fact that it seems counterintuitive to assert that abolishing government would bring more peace, security, and abundance – just as it seems counterintuitive that the way to reduce gun violence is to allow everybody to own guns.

Without government, you still must deal with local criminals. Most people believe you need government police departments to do this, else the nation would become a violent jungle.
Mary Ruwart, in her book, documents examples of private police departments in the US. These agencies charge subscription fees and provide patrol services. In each case, the private police cost substantially less than the government police yet produce significant decreases in crime by, among other things, patrolling more often and actually checking the doors and windows of homes when there is no one there. In other words, the private policemen work all day instead of driving around intimidating innocent drivers or sitting in donut shops and speed traps. In some cases Ruwart recounts, local governments have forcibly shut down the private police and replaced them with government police. Crime and cost both increased dramatically thereafter.
There are private security forces providing neighborhood and town security around the nation, and they are effective and affordable. Why would someone start up a private police force? For the same reasons you’d open a dentist’s or marriage-counseling office: To provide a valued service while making a profit. Abolishing government police would produce entrepreneurs who would compete with each other to do the best job for the lowest cost while making a profit. We already have these entrepreneurs wherever government allows them, and they have arisen because government police are ineffective while residents are willing to pay for good service, just as we pay for cable television even though we get the major networks over the air. Most importantly, a private police force that destroyed property and harmed innocent people would go out of business in a hurry, with the responsible individuals sued and jailed. In other words, the agency would be contractually bound to perform. The market provides – enforces – incentives for businesses to do what’s good for customers (a.k.a. society), and this applies to every good or service – roads, medicine, plumbing, underwear. Such pressure cannot be applied to government police.

What about foreign governments observing a prosperous anarcho-capitalist society, and deciding to invade? Don’t we need a military, funded by tax dollars, to defend us from aggressors? Hans-Hermann Hoppe has discussed this question at length: Already, large insurance companies have the financial resources, the incentive, and the general business skills to provide for regional defense. As customers, we would have the option to pay a little more in homeowner’s insurance, and be able to make a claim in the case of lost property or personal harm resulting from foreign invasion. It is good for private insurers to provide "military," or regional, defense: Insurers can be sued and/or driven out of business by customers if the insurers do a bad job by either failing to keep their promises, or by hurting innocent people in an attempt to keep their promises.
It gets better: Extensive historical experience shows that private militaries have incentive to kill as few of the enemy, and destroy as little of their property, as possible, while there is still incentive to defeat the enemy. This is covered in detail in the new book edited by Hoppe, The Myth of National Defense, which discusses the problems with government defense, of course, but doesn’t stop there; there are numerous historical examples of the superiority of private defense. Further, insurers would never have incentive to initiate war – the insurers would have to pay for it out of reserves, or raise customer’s prices (while customers can change insurers); and insurers would have to pay restitution and penalties to each victim of "collateral damage." Notably, though insurance companies already are capable of developing a powerful regional defensive deterrent, history has shown that they would have less need to worry about foreign invasion if more of us are armed, and we would be in the absence of government gun control laws. (Insurers probably would offer lower premiums to gun owners to encourage widespread gun ownership.)

A side note: As the loon Ross Perot suggested by personally outperforming the US Army in Iran, insurers wouldn’t even have to maintain their own defense forces. A market of private defense forces of varying sizes and specialties would develop. And as is the case with private security agencies today (as in 99.1% of the occasions a law-abiding individual draws a gun to stop a crime), private defense forces would rarely need to fire a shot.

As to the haves running roughshod over the have-nots, history is again our guide. As Mary Ruwart discusses in detail, one famous example is Standard Oil, believed by many today to have been a stronger monopoly than Microsoft. Standard Oil became a near-monopoly by bringing down the price – from 58 cents to 8 cents (!) per gallon – at which it could sell kerosene to the consumer. Very soon, oil companies around the world matched Standard’s efficiency. Rockefeller then resorted to underhanded tactics to sustain monopoly power in the US (which he never really had; even at its peak, Standard had competitors who were constantly reducing their own costs and prices, though they were usually a step behind). The only efforts that had any effect were his activism in getting enacted laws that would hamstring the competition. By the way, Microsoft’s share of the operating-system market has been decreasing steadily to Apple, Linux, and others, and was decreasing even before the big government antitrust attack.
As to public safety against greedy corporations, Ruwart reminds us that before the FDA and its approval requirements, women’s magazines routinely ran articles detailing the side effects of drugs on the market. Many private consumer-interest agencies exist today, even though government is supposedly doing the job for us. You can subscribe to Consumer Reports yourself for information on product safety and reliability. Entrepreneurs always arise to take care of social needs, and they always do it faster, more effectively, and at a lower cost than government. Entrepreneurs don’t enjoy the sovereign immunity government enjoys, so they are always required by their customers to live up to their promises, and the only people ever charged for their services are the ones who come to them freely, offering money.

Without government licensing, trade restrictions, centrally-imposed regulations, and other barriers to entrepreneurs, there would be more companies able to offer services, not fewer; and any innovator who approached monopoly power would enjoy profits that attract intense competition. Thus, any firm that approaches monopoly power and profits in a free market produces the seeds of its own downsizing. No firm can approach monopoly power unless everybody wants that firm’s product at the price the firm offers. And no powerful corporation will ever be free from the continuous, nagging oversight of customers and consumer-interest agencies.

There would still be crime in the absence of forcible government, but it would be far less frequent without gun laws, as John Lott has shown using data from every county in the US for the last 100 years or so. Since there are always some evil people, we would need a court system. Bruce Benson (read a few of the papers at his web page, and scroll down on this link for a start on his books) has written extensively on the topic of private justice, showing examples of actual practice to demonstrate that not only are such systems less expensive, more effective, and more available to us than government justice, but that incentives to commit crimes decrease with private courts and police. Additionally, recidivism and violence among inmates decrease under private penal systems. Private penal systems produce profits, produce restitution for victims, and can produce earnings, sometimes substantial ones, for convicts – no taxation required. Such systems are in use in the US right now. Benson also addresses the greater fairness of private courts, again using historical examples. None of this should be surprising: Anyone whose income depends on satisfying customers has a strong incentive to do good by them; government employees lack this incentive. Private courts must, over time, impress all their customers – winners and losers – with their fairness.
And since everything about an anarcho-capitalist society is voluntary, a convicted criminal would be able to choose from among various private prisons (choosing the one with the best living conditions, or the one that would produce the greatest income given his skills, thereby shortening his incarceration), or simply ignore the court’s verdict. What about a convicted criminal who refuses to go to prison or make restitution to his victims? As Benson shows, historically in societies that allow criminals to ignore their convictions, such persons have been considered "outside the law." The victim’s insurer might then forcibly confiscate some or all of a convict’s property to pay court costs and make restitution to the victim.
Insurers wouldn’t do this lightly, as private appeals courts would be available to the convict, and insurance companies forcibly confiscating property (as when forcibly defending it) would be held responsible for any errors. Watchdog consumer agencies, such as we already have, would publicize insurers’ mistakes. In the US today, many people who have property confiscated by the government and are later found innocent wait years to have their property returned, often damaged; and sometimes the government charges the acquitted party for storage. An insurer, by contrast, would have to make full restitution for an error, and would pay compensatory and punitive penalties as well.
And whenever such a company might face customer pressure to use coercion, you can be sure that that pressure would be matched by market pressure not to use coercion. Insurers representing opposing parties would tend to work between themselves first, out of court. In a free society, businesses simply don’t have incentives to resort to violence.
The assumption that people are basically good
Remaining are the "human nature" objections to freedom from forcible government. A common protest is that a completely free market requires that "people are basically good." This is not correct; to the contrary, what makes a market work is that people are self-interested. In every field of endeavor outside government, producers must attract and keep customers. They can do this only by pleasing customers, inducing them to purchase from them when the customers are free to purchase from someone else. Humans already are self-interested, and want to be pleased. Hence, the market is a 24/7 watchdog with 280 million pairs of eyes and ears. Each one of those 280 million customers earns less money than he wants to, and therefore makes purchases in a discriminating fashion. This applies to customers of private police forces and insurance agencies who provide coverage against natural disasters, foreign invasions, etc., just as it applies to customers who buy shoes. Everybody watches everybody else by demanding good products and services at reasonable prices – you already do this every day – and everybody has greater and more affordable recourse against frauds and unethical manufacturers when private justice is available.
Establishing all these private systems is easy: Entrepreneurs do all the difficult and risky business-development work for you, while you just keep on living, making decisions in your own best interest the way you always have. That’s how you already do the critical, governing work of deciding which solutions, entrepreneurs, and firms survive and which ones fail.
So, is anarcho-capitalism (that’s really just another name for liberty) utopian? Of course not; much of what is attractive about the absence of forcible government is how the market handles the conflicts that any adult knows are inevitable. Anarcho-capitalism is in this sense the same as any other political system. Political systems are attempts to handle conflicts. Under a truly free market, you have 280 million American minds working to handle the conflicts, voting voluntarily with their dollars for the best solutions for each of them under their own circumstances; under forcible government, you have a tiny percentage of those minds trying to handle things for everyone else, and forcing everyone else at gunpoint to accept government’s ideas of solutions.
Many regular readers of know more than I’ve written here already; I’m hoping readers new to libertarian theory, and readers of other websites who might pick up this article, will pursue the links above and find that there is a mountain of proof, covering all of recorded history up to the present day, that we can do anything government can do, and better. People acting freely in their own interest continue to prove this, and they do so not because of government benevolence, but in spite of it.
December 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003

Why Government Must Be Abolished

Readers frequently fail to recognize my fundamental position, and are shocked when I say such things as "the US Constitution is an irrelevant, ineffective mistake" and "no, we shouldn’t be bombing villages in Iraq and Afghanistan." Readers sometimes accuse me of being a communist of one sort or another when I say something contrary to their Republican Party or neo-conservative assumptions.

First, one thing needs to be made clear: Republican representative democracy is not the opposite of communism. Under our system of government in the US, everyone is encouraged to vote for what he wants. Then, government aims its guns at the minority who didn’t agree with the majority, and forces the minority to pay money (or do more) to support the outcome they didn’t want. This is a perversion of justice. It is fundamentally wrong. Even in our early days, when senators to the US Congress were not popularly elected, but were appointed by state legislatures (therefore, ostensibly, appointed by the best and brightest), our form of government was just a dressed-up version of mob rule.

The real opposite of communism is anarcho-capitalism, under which there is no forcible government, and no adult is ever forced to do anything he doesn’t agree to. This extends even to criminal justice. The empirical data supporting my claim that this sort of civilization would be more peaceful and prosperous than anything we could forcibly impose spans every year of recorded history, and is found in every civilization we can name. For empirical evidence, I refer the reader to anything he can find on,, and, searching for authors Lew Rockwell, Mary Ruwart, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, and Bruce Benson. If you follow my advice here, and read everything you can find by those authors, in six months you’ll have a new library, a mountain of empirical evidence to refer to, and a conviction that forcible government must be abolished.

In the meantime, the terse reasoning why government must be abolished needs only two supporting statements: Forcible government is a moral wrong, and forcible government is always a practical failure.

Forcible Government is Morally Wrong
For traditional, forcible government to accomplish anything, it first must tax. This requires stealing, at gunpoint, money (property) from everyone under its rule – even the people who don’t want done what the government is going to do. This is theft. There is no more fitting term for it. Government gets away with this, first because it has more guns than any individual it’s taxing; and second because the population has usually been convinced, lately through years of government schooling, that such stealing is necessary for civilization.

Hand-wringing philosophers are invited to write me to disagree, but I hold that it’s self-evident that there is no good act that can be performed that requires first the commission of an evil act. As an example, "killing the few to save the many" has never in human history found a practical application outside war, which always involves governments imposing their wishes on each other. There is no natural emergency or shortage of resources that requires first committing evil in order to bring about a good. Bringing about a good never allows beginning with an evil.

Government Never Works
There has been found no domain of activity in which government action is as effective or efficient as solutions provided by entrepreneurs in the market. This extends obviously to schooling and medical care; even the general public knows this. It is less obvious (except to students of history) that this applies also to roads, justice, and military defense. For empirical evidence of these claims, search for the names I listed earlier.

There are two reasons government never works in practice: First, 100% of government employees operate under distorted incentives. No government employees face only the incentive to serve their customers, while 100% of entrepreneurs do.

government employees have incentive only to serve the most, and this must come at the expense of the few. The way this works is for the government to steal as much as possible from the few to provide free goodies for the most.

Appointed and career bureaucrats
have as their incentive expanding their territory and pleasing their bosses. If their bosses are elected – see the preceding paragraph. If their bosses are career bureaucrats, the incentive of subordinate bureaucrats is to spend all of the money in their budgets, so they can claim they need more next year. Thus, their goal is inefficiency – the opposite of what serves the customer best.

Finally, rank-and-file government employees are union members. Unions always work to serve employees, and always at the expense of customers. The only thing that is in the best interest of customers is for each employee to be judged and rewarded individually, based on how well the customer is served. Unions work to the opposite goal, always striving for greater rewards for lesser work. This is what the union members pay their dues to accomplish.

The second reason government never works is its creation of laws that are applied by force to an entire population. First, government laws can – almost always do – have unintended consequences: Minimum wage laws always result in higher unemployment and crime; "equal employment opportunity" laws always result in people being hired based on the color of their skin more than the content of their character; the Americans with Disabilities Act has resulted in workplace mass murders, usually at US Post Offices; and so on.

Second, government laws are always used to advantage by those who have an incentive to do wrong. As one example, polluters are allowed to pollute to certain levels by the EPA. Thus, polluters have no legal responsibility to landowners whose wildlife they’ve killed, as long as the polluters can prove they’re within legal guidelines. If people had true property rights, people could seek restitution based on damage done, not based on whether laws were obeyed. Under present circumstances, lawsuits are won and lost only on whether laws were obeyed; damage done is irrelevant. As another example, Enron used accounting and reporting laws to legally hide losses on the balance sheets of other companies in which they had part ownership. Enron also used campaign contributions to buy the favor, and silence, of US legislators. It was the stock market that first broke the news that Enron had problems.

Third, government laws invariably create losers by creating win/lose scenarios when the unfettered market creates win/win scenarios. All government laws select winners and losers, except criminal laws, which make everyone a loser. Under forcible government, criminals usually come out of the system worse off than when they entered, and victims are forced at gunpoint to pay for the criminals’ upkeep in the meantime; at the same time, victims have little claim to restitution. I mentioned environmental laws, which make partial winners of polluters and complete losers of everyone else. Name the law of your choosing, and you can identify the loser immediately.

So that’s my stance. Do not confuse a lack of respect for the US Constitution, for the Pledge of Allegiance, or for American pre-emptive wars, with communism. Both the American system of government and old-fashioned Soviet communism have at their root the same mechanism: Lethal force applied to an entire population to provide the government what it wants without the government being required to live up to any promises of recompense.

That forcible government is a moral wrong in itself is enough reason to abolish it, even if market solutions were not an improvement. That market solutions are always better – more efficient, more peaceful, more just, more productive of wealth – should be all it takes to convince even die-hard statists that all governments should be abolished. It’s too bad statists are blinded by their personal incentives.
December 8, 2003
Copyright © 2003

How to Abolish Government

Libertarian commentators often discuss the reasons government doesn’t function as advertised. There are so many things wrong with government, and so many examples to point to, that documenting peccadilloes is easy. We take some heat, then, for failing to suggest solutions. Much of that heat is a little misguided, as we mention the final solution frequently: Privatize everything, from education to roads. Additionally, we writers often make the mistake of assuming readers know what we’re thinking; it is often the case that identifying a problem identifies the solution, but not everyone is on the same page – most folks (us writers included) don’t always realize how many solutions are already available. For that reason, in recent articles I’ve linked some resources that have good bibliographies, and that refer to concrete, current instances of private successes.

Going another step, I gather that the real problem is how to get from here to there: How to implement the solutions we suggest in the face of government opposition; how to reach the eventual (peaceful!) abolition of government.

First, the good news: I’m convinced government will be abolished (the reasons why will be for another article), but that it will take time. For now, here are some things we can do to hasten it along.

The most effective, enduring thing you can do is home school your children. That’s easy to say; actually doing it is a big deal. You have to make arrangements to live on one income, which assumes you have two parents in the house, which of course you should. Many believe the parent (hopefully the mother) who stays home and educates her children is making a great sacrifice. Fortunately, this isn’t really true; sophisticated New York cultural magazines are finally carrying articles showing that career mothers increasingly wish they’d stayed home, and more of them seem to be making the decision to do so. Further, homeschooling is engaging and rewarding for both parents. It’s simply more fun than the doodads and vehicles you can buy with the second income (while paying someone with inferior talents, skills, and motivation to take your neighbor’s tax money to control what kind of adults your children become).

When you home school, you produce well-educated, freedom-loving, self-reliant, well-adjusted children who will make you proud; who are consummately able and willing to take care of you in your old age; and who can take over the world (by being best able to ensure that nobody else actually takes over the world, as the UN wants to do today). You produce adults who are articulate, quick-witted, and equipped to persuade others of the benefits of living without forcible government.

Homeschooling will take a generation or three to have profound societal effect. Fortunately, since homeschooling has been gaining popularity since the 1970s, the first generation has been prepared for us. The middle of that generation is now winning all the national geography, math, and spelling bees.

Another important thing you can do, second in commitment only to homeschooling, is to compete with government in the provision of security. Organize your neighborhood, perhaps, and contract as a group with a private security service. If you’re an entrepreneur, start your own security firm. It’s a big enough business that some states regulate it closely; this means there’s already a market, and some folks already know how to get the business started.* According to left-wing opponents of private security, there are more private than government police in the US already, and the private security business is growing fast. Now may be a great time to get started. Security isn’t the only arena where you can compete with government, it’s just the most obvious. Roads, firefighting, a libertarian private school, you name it – you’re the entrepreneur. Competing with government at something it claims only it can do is for the daring and resourceful, of whom there are many active already.

If committing the next several years or decades of your life seems daunting, you can commit only a few minutes at a time: Pressure whoever’s in office now. For whatever reason, office holders at all levels are more impressed by snail mail than by anything else. Send letters to everyone who rules you whenever they are to make a decision. Tell them which choice to make, and give them a few short, level-headed sentences explaining why. Of course, you always want to tell them to vote in the way that reduces government. This may require telling them to vote in ways you don’t like, such as in favor of erasing gambling, prostitution, or drug laws. Every vote our rulers cast against government action will be a vote that increases or preserves liberty, economic prosperity, and (believe it or not) public morality. If the issue they are faced with does not present a smaller-government option, then tell them to grab the bull by neither horn – invent your own government-reducing command. For example, if your senator in Washington is deciding whether to write into law mandatory 10-year vs. mandatory 20-year sentences for drug pushers, tell him he needs to write instead a bill returning drug-legislative power to the states. Then tell your state legislators to give such power to counties.

Even if you dislike the idea of participating with your forcible government, it remains the case that telling your governor not to put a new tax up for vote is a step in the right direction. He doesn’t need to know you’re moving him in the direction of abolishing his office, that you didn’t vote for him, or that you don’t vote for people at all. He needs to believe only that you might vote for him next time. Forty years from now, it will be easier to abolish a government that taxes 10% of your income and offers no social programs than to abolish a government of the sort we have today.

Buy guns. Be sure you can use them effectively and safely. Just FYI, some of the best gun safety training is in the owner’s manual of your new gun. The more guns we own, the safer we are from ordinary criminals, from foreign invasion, and from our government. In case you’re wondering, the government’s own information shows that private guns and their owners are safer to children and to the general public than are wading pools and government policemen.

Join organizations, or start your own. Search the web, and find the libertarian organizations nearest you. You’ll make contacts and find new and useful information. Additionally, when you pool resources with like-minded people, public education and involvement become more practical. When energetic, liberty-minded people join forces voluntarily, they can lift a heavier rock than any person can lift alone. And yes, there may be some extremely well-informed anarcho-capitalists at Libertarian Party outings.

Finally, work hard to inform yourself. This makes you more effective in persuading opponents. Use the bibliographies at These bibliographies include commentary to help you select the books that most interest you, and posts reader reviews – worth scanning, because you might not finish a book that speaks below your level or that goes over your head. You’ll be able to separate the smart reviewers from the dumb ones.

Other things you can do depend only on your energy and imagination. Start your own anti-state website. Email articles to everyone you know. Buy vegetables from roadside stands (or anywhere you can avoid paying sales tax), or grow your own vegetables. Buy children’s books at garage sales. There’s even a market for used homeschooling curricula.

Notice that none of these solutions suggests that we can abolish forcible government overnight. The American Revolution (both of them) took years to complete. The revolution I want doesn’t even involve bloodshed; it requires bringing hearts and minds away from the dark side, one at a time. Any one person can require years to undo the pro-government indoctrination he has received.

When people are convinced, educated, and capable, they’ll come up with more solutions; the work will be under way. Worldwide anarcho-capitalist (a.k.a. voluntary) society is not only possible, I believe it is inevitable; many are already doing everything I’ve mentioned above, planting the seed of self-governance in the minds of people everywhere. Work at it one day at a time, and stay tuned.

* That there are others doing it means one or many of them will help you get going. They’ll know that increasing the visibility of their business means more business, even given the chance you’ll grow to be a competitor. In a strip mall some time ago, there were two discount shoe stores. One burned down. The other owner helped rebuild the burnt store, because the presence of two stores increased the shoe-related visibility of the strip mall. The presence of a competitor increased sales for the unburnt store. Near my home, three fast-food joints opened within 100 feet of each other within the last six months. You’ll have help starting your business.
December 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003

Government Will Be Abolished

Government Will Be Abolished

"There's something in the American character that always looks for a better way and is unimpressed when others say it cannot be done."
 ~ George W. Bush
And that is why government will be abolished.

Always looking for a better way isn’t even an American invention. Human beings do it by virtue of being human. We act in our own self-interest. Right now, 279.something out of 280 million Americans believe it is in their best interest to allow government to exist – to follow its orders, pay whatever taxes it demands, and cheer it on when it kills foreigners or when it kills those of our countrymen it decides to kill. Americans will change their minds about all that. History, ancient and current, establishes beyond a shadow of a doubt that anything government can do, markets can do better – except mass murder, which markets are only better able to prevent – and history is better disseminated with each day that passes.

People are responsible for their governments, and ultimately determine whether governments persist. The Republican Party platform of 1932 insisted that prohibition was the law of the land, and was to be enforced of necessity to rid the land of the evil of alcohol no matter how onerous the enforcement. The people disagreed, however, and the law was repealed. We’re all better off for it. Other unjust federal and state laws have been abolished because the people decided it should be done.

That having forcible government is not in our best interest is demonstrated every day. A basic illustration shows the implausibility of any hope that government, even at its most benign, can improve our lives: Say you have three people, one of whom is poor. Under a free market, the poor one builds a fence for a non-poor one, and is paid. Now, three people are working, each producing and earning wealth. Under forcible government, the poor one appeals to the government one. The government one points a gun at the non-poor fellow, takes some of his money, and gives it to the poor one. The government one keeps some of this money for himself. He does this all day long. It’s his job. Under the government scenario, we have one of the three people working to create wealth while the other two commit an injustice and forever operate under distorted incentives. All three now regard each other with distrust and resentment, with two of the three (the non-government folks) wishing there were a better way. This scenario applies equally to law enforcement, justice, roads, and geographic defense.

The 279 million of us who believe forcible government is necessary haven’t yet seen enough history or enough entrepreneurs (government schools ensure this), even though the occasional government official utters something vaguely supportive of free enterprise. As historians have documented from the dawn of civilization, government works only for its own purposes. Any good work a government chances to accomplish for any person or people can come only at someone else’s expense. Government never creates wealth, and it never improves, but can only degrade, the standard of living of those under its rule. Forcible government has no moral standing, no right, to exist.

People and firms acting within the market, however, are governed by the market, and customers buy from them only voluntarily, only if they believe they will be better off for doing so. Any use of force is in defense – the market treats any initiation of force as a crime, and an unfettered market vastly reduces the incentive to commit crimes. People and firms in the market must earn their right to exist, and they keep this right only one day at a time. They earn this right by pleasing those they deal with.

This message is getting out. Hitler was wrong: A big enough lie, told often enough, will work only for a limited time. Every government on the planet is outnumbered by the people it governs, and ultimately is allowed to govern only by their acquiescence. That acquiescence will be withdrawn as more of us become informed. And no government can stop us from informing each other (even if Rumsfeld would have listening devices in all our homes).

Eventually we will all be contracting through local merchants for police services, through insurers for defense from foreign governments (not that foreign governments would have any incentive to invade – a free territory would be a porcupine from their perspective), and private courts for reliable and sane justice delivered speedily and affordably. Juries will refuse to convict anyone accused of breaking an unjust law (as they did in government courts until the 20th century), or indeed anyone who didn’t violate someone else’s rights through force or fraud. Eventually, government courts and police departments will be abandoned by everyone not employed there, as citizens take their business to private service providers. Government eventually will have no supporters and will be unable to find anyone competent to hire. Finally, there will be no one to enforce regulations, seize property, collect taxes, fight wars, or keep the lights on in the White House.

That such a scenario is plausible, and supported by many already, is demonstrated by the Free State Project. Over 5,000 people already have committed to relocating to New Hampshire, and once there, voting as a block to move the government in a libertarian direction. Their inevitable economic success will serve as an example other states will follow. By the time we put together a (peaceful, unarmed) five-million-man march on Washington to request that all politicians there step down, those politicians will already have their bags packed, as they’ll already know the inevitable. Five million is an easy number: In the first American Revolution, we had 15% of the population involved, which would equate to 43 million men today.

Many scenarios suggest themselves, ranging from violent revolution to tax revolt, but the best and most likely strategies are the peaceful and gradual ones such as the Free State Project is already undertaking.

It is inevitable that forcible government will be abolished, replaced with the spontaneous, voluntary governance of the market, in which every participant is responsible to every other and is governed by the self-interest of 280 million pairs of eyes and 280 million personal wallets. It is the morally just thing; the number of people aware of this is growing exponentially, especially as entrepreneurs outperform government in more cities and in more lines of business; the technology for informing everyone has been in our hands for only a few years and is growing exponentially; and people are inherently self-interested. Peace and free exchange serve man’s prosperity and security best, and government is the lone institution that perpetually threatens peace and free exchange. It is inevitable that people will come to know this. Eventually they will request that government disband whether I write articles or not. They will do this in spite of, and with contempt for, the impotent bleating of those who continue to believe that forcible government is necessary.

It is a mistake to assume that government must necessarily last forever. The institution marks a certain stage of civilization – is natural to a particular phase of human development. It is not essential, but incidental. As amongst the Bushmen we find a state antecedent to government, so may there be one in which it shall have become extinct. – Herbert Spencer
December 30, 2003
Copyright © 2003

Abolishing Government Improves the Roads

Look on the back of your ATM or debit card. Check your credit card, too. Whoever your bank is, on the back of the card you’ll see the logos of other outfits – Cirrus, Plus, Star, maybe others. Cirrus is an ATM network management system owned by MasterCard; Plus is owned by Visa; and so on. There is cooperation between companies, and the network managers are somewhat independent. For example, Visa debit cards often have a Cirrus logo on the back.

This means you can use your debit card, the one from your little three-branch local bank, to get instant cash from an ATM clear across the country. Yes, each bank charges you a dollar or two. They should. A single ATM costs $100,000, costs money to maintain and manage (people have to put money in it, and take money out, daily), and it costs participating banks to hire Cirrus to move the money around.

More important is what we learn about the market’s capabilities. One of the objections to privatizing roads is that we’d have to stop at a toll booth at every intersection. A 5-minute commute to the grocery store would require, for me, three toll booths, 75 cents, and become an 8-minute commute, according to this objection. But it’s not so, and here’s why:

Our time is worth a few pennies to us. Cirrus and Pulse would charge us, wild guess, $3–4 a month to provide magnetically encoded stickers for your car. Machines scattered about the roads, or sensors under the pavement, would record your comings and goings. That information would go to Cirrus and Pulse, and from them to your road providers. You might get three or four monthly bills, or just one, depending on the wherewithal of your road owners. Some road owners, out in the woods, would still have toll booths, which would work perfectly well – less traffic and slower pace of life make it no big deal. I use a toll booth occasionally in Atlanta, and the delay is only a few seconds.

Lest you think your money would be going up in exhaust fumes, remember that market firms, who must please customers to stay in business, provide everything better and less expensively than government, without that nasty moral hangover of forcing people to pay for things they may not use or want. Your gasoline price probably includes 50 cents per gallon of taxes for road building and maintenance. This means I’m paying $25–33 per month for road use now. With privatization of roads, that cost would most likely go down, most likely considerably. It happens every time anything is moved from government hands into private hands.

There are other benefits that would follow road privatization. The private roads that exist now have fewer accidents than public roads, probably in part because they’re better maintained: If private road builders let potholes remain, get reputations for high accident rates, or do repairs during rush hour, they have to deal with complaints and with people choosing other roads.

Pollution and pollution controls on automobiles would be handled by road privatization. If auto pollution gets high, people living near the offending roads would sue the biggest, most obvious target: The road owner. Road owners would therefore charge higher fees for cars without up-to-date inspection stickers. Auto manufacturers would build pollution-control equipment into cars, and advertise how clean they run, as Honda and Toyota already do. They all do this already, but with government mandating pollution levels and what kind of pollution controls manufacturers use. Without government interference, engineers would be free to compete to provide different technologies to reduce costs and improve horsepower while providing cleaner burning engines. With the inspection stickers being coded to your automobile’s age, manufacturer, and model, there might be a separate pollution rider on your monthly statement. Drivers of new Hondas might see a discount, while drivers of old belchers would pay fees that might be bigger than the road tolls themselves.

Ain’t the market grand? I’m just one person describing likely market solutions; imagine how efficient it’ll be with 280 million minds working on the issue.

Reality continues to provide apparent (but not real) obstacles in the mind of the statist: What about new roads, and eminent domain? Again, the market comes to the rescue. First, since roads are already there, getting started would involve nothing other than entrepreneurs bidding to take over. (Who would they pay when they buy the roads? US government creditors. Once the government sells all its land, the government’s vote-buying debt might be paid off.) Even so, new roads are being built all the time, by developers who buy land and convert it to new uses. They build new roads on their own property.

Land alongside interstates is cheap in some places, and expensive in others. Widening rural interstates wouldn’t be a problem. (There would be some correlation between road tolls and road quality/congestion.) Prices would be higher where road owners face little competition (Alaska), lower where people have alternatives. If prices for rural stretches of interstate get too high, people will use planes, trains, and buses, and road owners will be forced to lower prices. (If you think you’re getting the interstate for free, think again; those gas taxes mean you’re paying 1–2 cents per mile now.)

Anyone who wanted to build a new interstate would face the huge task of buying up land crossing perhaps hundreds of miles. Widening existing highways would be more likely. In Los Angeles and other large cities where traffic is consistently choked, road owners would have the incentive, and plenty of funds, to buy property along highways so they could widen them. Owners would also have incentive to improve interchanges, such as Spaghetti Junction in Atlanta. Roads would improve, overall, period. (I interviewed a road engineer years ago, and he told me they design circular entrance ramps deliberately with varying radii – experienced as odd changes in the curve, forcing you to constantly readjust the steering wheel – to "keep drivers awake." How many of us have trouble keeping focused for 15 seconds on a curving entrance ramp?)

Without having had forcible government the last 200 years, would the interstate system have come about? We don’t know; we don’t care. Without an interstate system, you can bet we’d still have plenty of commerce; probably plenty more (when railroads were built – partly through government subsidies – much land between the coasts was unclaimed, and thus open to use. Much would still be unclaimed today without government.) We have what we have. Abolishing government is the way to improve what we have.

Last question: What about Cirrus et al. knowing your whereabouts? (The road owner would want to know only mileage.) Service providers would still make privacy pledges, as they do today. They’re already looking out for you: In gas stations, where you use your credit card at the pump, years ago your entire account number was printed on the receipt. At most places, it’s not printed out any longer, because the card issuers put pressure on merchants to modify their machines. Yes, card issuers might give your whereabouts to a private police force or insurer if presented with credible evidence you’d committed a crime against someone; the market would determine whether card issuers end up doing that. They do that today. The difference would be that you could much more easily sue the card issuer, your accuser, and the investigative agency without government than you can now. As always, abolishing government is the best way to improve circumstances for yourself.
December 20, 2003
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