I know what you’re thinking. Why am I writing a Blog post for “Republicans Annoy Me!” about Libertarians? Well, quite frankly, I think the Libertarian Party shares quite a bit of the same ideals as the Republican Party. Sure, they hate Political Parties, but if you listen to them talk, both sound eerily similar on a bunch of topics.
Let’s look at this issue now, the size and role of government. After all, the Libertarians are for reducing the size of government to the absolute minimum to have the country be able to function.
Here’s what Reagan had to say about it (and I know, Reagan was a Republican, not a Libertarian, but this idea came from somewhere):
“Government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.”
From his first Inaugural Address (credit, YouTube):
In their own Platform, the Libertarian Party desires minimization of, although it never directly calls for the removal of, any system of government. They have some high ideals, perhaps even some points that I agree with. However, every time I engage in conversation, or see a Libertarian pundit on TV, the message is always the same, small government that doesn’t interfere with individuals or businesses.
Here’s an excerpt from their Statement of Principles:
“Since governments, when instituted, must not violate individual rights, we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals. People should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others. They should be left free by government to deal with one another as free traders; and the resultant economic system, the only one compatible with the protection of individual rights, is the free market.”
It’s this idea of the “Free Market” that I want to address. Imagine this scenario:
If the government of the United States (or anywhere really) adopted these principles and took a hands-off approach to its citizens, and businesses lives.
Let’s take John, for example. John is a man living in a world with little government. John wants to start a business making widgets. John has found he is good at making widgets, and has made and sold some out of his garage. So John starts a factory, hires workers and starts making widgets by the truckload. His widgets are popular, and he quickly saturates the local market with them.
Now, the principles of the “Free Market” assume that John is a good man, and is above board in all his dealings with people, so John does everything right. If John doesn’t, then John will be out of business, because the consumers of his widgets would find out, and stop buying them.
Now, Let’s take a different point of view of John starting his factory. Perhaps John gets greedy and wants to cut some corners and save money, or perhaps John just needs some help with his business, or even help getting it started. What could possibly be wrong in this picture?
- From the beginning, John would be lucky to get his factory open. 1) There would be no Federal Reserve to set rates for banks, so banks and credit unions would vary widely on the terms they would offer John for business loans. 2) There would be no Small Business Administration to provide loan programs, or even basic business training to John. Since John is unlikely to have the cash needed to start his business, and no clear way of helping him get financing to do it, John would be lucky to even get the doors open on his factory.
- John has to hire employees to work at the factory, but since all the regulation is gone:
- John does not have to worry about OSHA requirements to keep the factory safe, so he can cut corners and save money with unsafe practices.
- John does not have to hire people of color, women, LGBT persons nor anyone he doesn’t like because he does not have to worry about the EEOC or the regulations it enforces.
- There is no Minimum Wage, so John can pay as little as needed just to get people to come to work.
- John can hire and fire as he pleases. His workers have no Labor Unions or Department of Labor If someone has a difference of opinion with John, they’re gone, if John decides he wants to fire all the handicapped workers one day, what prevents him?.
- John decides he wants to sell his widgets to the rest of the country, even overseas. He will have some obstacles though:
- There are few, if any trade agreements in place, and no agency of government to provide guidance to him. He will have to find distributors wherever he wants to sell, and negotiate not only the basics (costs, volume, etc.) but now he has to negotiate with the governments involved (overseas), pay whatever tariffs they impose, and cut through all the red tape himself.
- If he gets past all of those challenges, now he has to ship his widgets to a port to get them overseas. So, with little government handling of infrastructure needs, John will have to build and maintain a road or rail line, or pay to use an existing one, from the factory to the port. How much will that cost?
- To get the widgets to consumers in this country he will either have to join a transportation network that already exists or build one from scratch.
- John wants to use trucks to transport wherever he can. But there’s no Department of Transportation, regulating the vehicles, drivers, or highways. Overloaded, dangerous vehicles fill the roads to maximize every trip. Drivers are operating their vehicles tired, because no one is there to mandate otherwise. They have to use smaller, private roads because there would be no Interstates or U.S. Highways. The roads would be littered with accidents from these conditions, and there being no speed limits.
Assuming John overcomes all of these challenges and gets his widgets to markets everywhere. How much will he have to increase the price of his widgets to cover all of the costs incurred. Will they be so expensive now that nobody buys them?
Fortunately for John, Libertarians don’t expect us to defend ourselves, they believe that the government should provide defense (but only what’s necessary), So, should the cargo ship carrying John’s widgets be attacked by Somali Pirates, there will at least be a Navy out there to deal with it.
I’m sure you get the point. Government, for all its failings, obstruction, gridlock, partisanship, etc., still provides us with some everyday things we often take for granted.
The next time you have to speak with someone (Libertarian OR Republican) that expresses a desire for “smaller government” or “less interference” from government, feel free to ask them these questions:
- Have you ever taken a vacation and used an Interstate? (if Yes) How do you think those got built?
- Do you have an e-mail address? (if yes) So you use the Internet then? (if yes) Do you know who developed the early version of the internet? (no, not Al Gore!)
- Have you ever been snowed in (or flooded and blocked, or had a water main break, etc.) and couldn’t go to work because the road was blocked? (if yes) So who comes and takes care of those things for you?
- Did you graduate High School or get your G.E.D.? (if yes) Was it a public school or private? (if public) So, who do you believe set the standards you had to meet to get your diploma?
- Which departments of the government would you cut? What service do they provide that you can live without?
You can probably, if you think about it, come up with twenty or more examples just like this. You should, it’s a good thinking exercise.
Yes, there are some redundant agencies in government. Yes, some parts could probably disappear and we would be none the wiser. However, can the government take a step back or a hands off approach to things that affect our daily lives. NO!
It can be easy to say, and sounds like great logic to believe, that people can live their lives out just fine without the governments “help.” There are over 300 million people in this country and it takes a lot of people to manage our needs. If left to their own devices, do you truly believe that people and businesses would do the right thing EVERY TIME, or is it better for everyone to have some assurances for that?
Remember, less government regulation brought us:
- The drinking water crisis in Flint
- The Coal Ash Spills in North Carolina
- , etc., etc….
Think about that the next time someone says we need “less” government!