Friday, January 6, 2012

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

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