Welcome to another edition of The Lowdown On Liberty, where each week we take questions submitted from our readers as we attempt to clarify the inner-workings of libertarian principles. This week, we cover the infamous ‘who will build the roads,’ as well as vaccines, borders, and what a transition towards libertarianism in Washington would look like!
- Our first question is from David, who wrote “How would a transition to a libertarian government be made? Say they secured 60% in both the House and Senate, in addition to the White House.”
Well David, due to the extensive damage government has caused, and the long list of things libertarians would need to accomplish, I will simply tell you what we should do and not the specifics of how they will work.
First and foremost, libertarianism centers around not aggressing against others, so non-intervention would become our immediate foreign policy. This is not to be confused with isolationism, as many critics like to claim we support, but rather, simply pulling out of our foreign entanglements and no longer being the aggressors, thereby reducing three quarters of our military budget.
Afterwards, the focus should be on breaking up the centralization of power in America wherever possible. Whether that ultimately means the states retaining power, or broken up further to cities and counties, any decentralizing of power away from the current bloat of federal authority would be a step in the right direction. What that requires would be a return to sound money, perhaps by deflating the currency in circulation until such time that it was able to be paired back up to a gold standard. After which, the Federal Reserve could be dissolved and the monopoly on money ended.
Currently, however, the federal government’s largest portions of the budget are the military, Social Security, and Medicaid. With the military budget answered, we can tackle the other two. For Social Security, I would recommend Milton Friedman’s solution, whereby everyone would immediately stop paying into it and the government would issue bonds to each citizen in the amount they paid in. The bonds would mature when you reach 65 and Social Security would be shut down. As for Medicaid, we could reduce the cost of healthcare and the necessity for safety nets through extensive deregulation, a rollback on licensing laws, and the laxing of our immigration policy for skilled healthcare workers, all leading to drastically lower healthcare costs for citizens.
By this time, we would have addressed 80% of our current total spending, allowing us then to abolish the IRS and the income tax. Even more spending and regulation would be saved by abolishing the dozens, if not hundreds of independent agencies set up by the executive, each filled with unelected bureaucrats with the ability to write and enforce laws at their own discretion. With businesses able to spring up unimpeded by regulation, employment would soar, and social welfare programs would then be condensed into a single negative income tax, which would be implemented with a predetermined end date, slowly phasing itself out until then. The final big ticket problem we would have to face is our insurmountable national debt. We could chip away at it by privatizing most of the more than 640 million acres of land the federal government owns, selling it off to private owners to pay down the debt. From there, it would be a matter of scaling back government anywhere else we can. But, as a general plan for when we gain a majority, that’s a decent vision from which to start.
- Our next question is from Jesse, who wrote “I would love an honest explanation of how we don’t need the government for roads. I’m missing how rural communities or families would be able to sustain their own roads and bridges.”
Well, I suppose the roads question was inevitable. This issue has been addressed – like most market postulations – with many varying solutions. Our own editor in chief discusses his theories here. No matter which solution you find sufficient, the fact is that just like with any good or service, when there is a demand, supply will find a way. To think that it wouldn’t, especially in the case of roads, would be intellectually dishonest. Saying that a government is necessary to build paths connecting property owners would be like watching a multi-level high rise go up and asking, ‘who would build the stairs?’ Simply assuming no one would in the government’s absence. Currently, there are homeowners’ associations and industrial parks that come together to fund them, as well as a myriad of other methods already in use to fund roads.
In the marginal cases, however, such as rural communities or low-income neighborhoods, Murray Rothbard put forth what could be argued is the most rational solution. The cost of a road can be looked at as a calculable risk to be incurred by those who require its availability. In this case, it would not be hard to presume that insurance companies would purchase roads in rural or low-income neighborhoods, and then include a surcharge on homeowner policies in order to profit off the calculated risk of the cost to maintain it. Picture the contract for your homeowner’s insurance policy rising a few dollars per month for each house on the street, and in return, the insurance company grants public access to the road and agrees to maintain it. This way, the unmanageable cost is spread out over many installments to a third-party who will bear the inevitable cost, much like your health, home, and life insurance already operate.
- Our third question comes from Tim, who wrote “Could you please explain the libertarian argument for open borders in layman’s terms? 2-5 sentences would be perfect.”
I’d be happy to, Tim. Open borders, in its simplest terms, is the idea that people are free to move and travel as they wish. States would not be able to deny movement to groups of people over an area that encompassed millions of plots of privately owned land. Only the property owners would be able to control movement on their own land.
This is where many jump to conclusions, saying that if all land was privately owned, you could theoretically become trapped within your own plot of land, with each surrounding neighbor forbidding your travel onto their property, leaving you unable to ever leave. However, I showed in the previous question that private property would still give an incentive for public access in cases such as private roads. For example, businesses would allow access to whomever, in an attempt to entice customers to patronize their stores. For an extended answer, read The Privatization of Roads and Highways by Walter Block.
- The next question is from Eric, who writes “Should people have a right to an attorney and trial by jury? Both seem essential to a fair system, yet both require labor to provide.”
The answer to this argument is completely different based on whether the discussion is about a private, libertarian-esque court system, or the current government-run courts. In our current system, the idea of jury duty is nothing more than conscription. Although you are paid a miniscule amount for your time, the coercion brought on from the inability to opt out makes it hardly more than temporary slavery. This is one of the few places where the US Constitution guaranteed a ‘positive’ right, or a right that requires something of others in order to be carried out. As I have discussed in previous segments, positive rights don’t exist, only adding to the case that the court system is one of the most crucial segments in need of privatization currently under government control.
In a private system, no one could be conscribed. Jurors would have to be given an incentive to voluntarily attend, most likely through adequate compensation. Likewise, if a defendant didn’t find it necessary to show up in court, they wouldn’t have to. Although it would be in their best interest to attend if they wanted to win the case. Courts could charge a predetermined amount for arbitration and other services, such as an attorney if needed. They may also allow customers to enroll in a membership for their services, much like many law offices already do.
- Our last question is from Curtis, who writes “What are the views on mandatory vaccinations?”
There seems to be a lot of hysteria from ‘vaxxers’ and ‘anti-vaxxers’ alike, as this is a question often asked by people on both sides of the political spectrum. Private property rights dictate that someone could deny access to their property to a person who is or isn’t vaccinated based on the owner’s personal preference. However, actually mandating what goes into someone else’s body would contradict the idea of allowing people to choose what they do with their property, as surely one’s property must include their own body. The fact that this scenario is distorted when it comes to how we would treat students attending a public school, who may or may not be vaccinated, only goes to show the reality of the tragedy of the commons, and why clearly defined private property rights serve as a solution to many issues that are brought about by state ownership of resources.
Alright, that’s it for this week. Thank you to everyone who wrote in, and make sure you submit your questions each week on our Lowdown on Liberty post, and the top questions will be answered the following week!
Thomas J. Eckert
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