Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Answering Jon Stewart’s Questions

So Jon Stewart has 19 questions for libertarians and I thought I would take a stab at them.

What would be your best response to these questions and statements:

1. Is government the antithesis of liberty?

Government as an institution is not the antithesis of liberty.  However, as with all institution, government is a collection of selfish individuals working to further its goals.  As government has the ability to apply force and is often run by selfish individuals who seek power over others, the actions of it often stamp out liberty.  The short is that ideally no but practically yes.

2. One of the things that enhances freedoms are roads. Infrastructure enhances freedom. A social safety net enhances freedom.

The purpose of roads is to facilitate the transportation of individuals from one location to another.  However, they do inherently enhance freedom.  Think about the Oregon Trail and how there was no road but plenty of freedom.

The public works that are designed to enhance “infrastructure” could easily be built and maintained by the private sector.  Virtually everything that the government does can easily and readily be done by private citizens in a private market.  Even things like defense and justice could theoretically be done in the private market.

As for the concept of a social safety net, is that not what TARP was all about?  A safety net that is provided by the government more often than not will not only catch you when you fall, but ensnare you in a web of regulations and red tape.

3. What should we do with the losers that are picked by the free market?

The free market is about free choice.  The market itself does not pick losers since it is not a centralized economic theory.  What happens is that producers make choices on how to present their product to a consumer.  If they fail to make their product appealing to consumers, then they will fail.

This does not mean that individuals who “lose” in the free market are losers forever.  The beauty of the free market is that you get as many chances as you can feasibly do.  Most of the great entrepreneurs were huge failures during the first decade or two of their lives.

4. Do we live in a society or don't we? Are we a collective? Everybody's success is predicated on the hard work of all of us; nobody gets there on their own. Why should it be that the people who lose are hung out to dry? For a group that doesn't believe in evolution, it's awfully Darwinian.

Libertarians have a wide ranging belief when it comes to evolution.  One thing they all tend to recognize is that a free society tolerates all kinds of beliefs and seeks only peaceful interactions with others.  So it is ludicrous to state that all libertarians don’t believe in evolution.

As to the question at hand, people who lose are never hung out to dry.  As stated in my answer to number three, nobody is a permanent loser.  For those who are truly downtrodden with some kind of mental handicap or physical handicap, there are always options in a free market and there will always be charity in some form or another.

5. In a representative democracy, we are the government. We have work to do, and we have a business to run, and we have children to raise.. We elect you as our representatives to look after our interests within a democratic system.

Theoretically, yes that is the case.  In practical terms, the elected representative will usually defer to the group with the most money to give to them.  The United States government was originally a Republic, where only a small section was determined by the general population and the rest were either appointed or selected based on the rules outlined.  Ultimately, they were all given limited powers so it is not our interests they should be looking at necessarily, just our interests within the scope of the powers explicitly granted by the Constitution.

6. Is government inherently evil?

Given that all people are sinners and that government is a collection of sinful individuals, then yes it is.  As an institution, no it is not.

7. Sometimes to protect the greater liberty you have to do things like form an army, or gather a group together to build a wall or levy.

All of which can be done without the aid of a government.  Military might can be created by private organizations along with walls and levies.

8. As soon as you've built an army, you've now said government isn't always inherently evil because we need it to help us sometimes, so now.. it's that old joke: Would you sleep with me for a million dollars? How about a dollar? -Who do you think I am?- We already decided who you are, now we're just negotiating.

Again, government is not the only option for defense against foreign invasion.

9. You say: government which governs least governments best. But that were the Articles of Confederation. We tried that for 8 years, it didn't work, and went to the Constitution.

If you read the Articles of Confederation, you would notice that many of the powers outlined there were then copied over to the Constitution.  By and large, the Constitution merely added a federal court system, a chief executive, a central currency standard, and some other new powers.  Very little was left out.

In any case, the Founding Fathers originally were suppose to improve the existing system and decided instead to do their own system.  It was done based on irrational fears of the splitting of the Union into separate entities.

That being said, the United States Constitution is not a bad system.  There a few things I would like to see removed from it, but by and large it was a fairly solid document for a governmental system.

10. You give money to the IRS because you think they're gonna hire a bunch of people, that if your house catches on fire, will come there with water.

None of us give money to the IRS.  If you think you give money to the IRS, try not giving them money and see what happens.

Also, the Federal government does not concern itself with house fires (yet).

11. Why is it that libertarians trust a corporation, in certain matters, more than they trust representatives that are accountable to voters? The idea that I would give up my liberty to an insurance company, as opposed to my representative, seems insane.

But you can choose the corporation, despite the ever increasing monopolization of various industries due to the increasing government regulations.  You cannot choose your government, merely the jerks who are supposed to be running it.  Even that is questionable at best.

12. Why is it that with competition, we have such difficulty with our health care system? ..and there are choices within the educational system.

For part one, any industry that is heavily regulated will have difficulties in the free market.  The problem is government regulations, not the lack of them.  If you look at the software industry, an industry that is not regulated all that much save some minor intellectual property standards, you would notice that it is prosperous and provides numerous options.

As for the educational system, the choices are a government skool, a slightly-better-but-still-shitty private school, or homeschooling.  In all cases, you have to meet minimum standards set by the government and you still have to pay taxes to support the government ones.  Not much of a choice as far as I am concerned.

13. Would you go back to 1890?

The free market is about moving forward.  However, if you mean the government as it was then, it would be a good start.  The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 was probably one of the biggest free market-destroying pieces of legislation ever produced by our Imperial Federal Government, coming in a close second to the Federal Reserve Act.

14. If we didn't have government, we'd all be in hovercrafts, and nobody would have cancer, and broccoli would be ice-cream?

If government had not built all those roads in 1950, then we might have a different mode of transportation now.  But no, most libertarians are not Utopians, merely practical free marketeers.

15. Unregulated markets have been tried. The 80’s and the 90’s were the robber baron age. These regulations didn't come out of an interest in restricting liberty. What they did is came out of an interest in helping those that had been victimized by a system that they couldn't fight back against.

The free market, especially the likes of Wall Street, has been heavily regulated since the rise of the Progressives at the turn of last century.  What happened in the 80s, 90s, and in the last decade was that the government regulators started to become more and more entwined with the businessmen they were regulating.  It could be argued that this has gone on for much longer than that, but essentially the regulators were either bought off or replaced by greedy individuals.  There were plenty of safeguards in place to prevent such unethical behavior and these were largely ignored by everyone involved.

Mr. Steward, you really should not believe everything you see on Hollywood.

16. Why do you think workers that worked in the mines unionized?

There were some horrible conditions, but unions came about because of one individual wishing to exert power over his boss.  The horrible conditions were used as an excuse to get the workers on the union bosses side.  Ultimately, private unions were never Socialist as they often kicked out the communists, by the way.

17. Without the government there are no labor unions, because they would be smashed by Pinkerton agencies or people hired, or even sometimes the government.

The Pinkerton agencies were largely responding to potential violence against the private property of the owners.  In the beginning days of the unions, a strike usually meant a literal strike against the factory or mine they were working in.  In fact, if you check your history books, you would note that the Pinkerton agencies often suffered losses at the hands of the unions more so than the unions suffered at the hands of the Pinkerton agencies.

18. Would the free market have desegregated restaurants in the South, or would the free market have done away with miscegenation, if it had been allowed to? Would Marten Luther King have been less effective than the free market? Those laws sprung up out of a majority sense of, in that time, that blacks should not.. The free market there would not have supported integrated lunch counters.

Laws like Jim Crow laws were established in opposition to the free market.  A businessman would not want to alienate a whole group of customers just because of their race as he would lose a lot money.  Greed, more often than not, would trump racism.

The free market did not create Jim Crow laws.  Government did.

19. Government is necessary but must be held accountable for its decisions.

Government is not necessary nor can it be held accountable since the only option for the people to hold government accountable is choosing between a douche and a turd sandwich every election cycle.