Climate Change, Net Neutrality, & more – The Lowdown on Liberty

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Welcome to the second edition of The Lowdown On Liberty, where this week we will be answering questions pertaining to discrimination laws, net neutrality, climate change, and more.

  1. Let’s start off with a crowd favorite with Brian, who writes: “If taxation is theft, what is the alternative? I understand we need a government, and it needs money, but how much should we be happy to give?”

Great question, Brian. There are many ways to answer this based on your own personal views. Let me first clarify that it is not a matter of if taxation is theft; it most certainly is. Now, some who subscribe to the anarcho-capitalist mentality would tell you that we don’t need a government at all, that there isn’t a single service the government provides that the free market couldn’t do itself, and that people would purchase these services as needed. This is obviously the extremely simplified version, and a great expansion of the theory in Murray Rothbard’s book For a New Liberty.

Another way comes from the minarchist point of view that government is only needed for a few basic functions, such as courts, military, police, and in some cases, a few other miniscule services. With the drastic reduction in the size of government, it would be much easier to fund through things like tariffs (much like the beginnings of the U.S.), simple property taxes, or a consumption tax. That way you technically choose how much you pay in taxes based on how much you buy.

I, however, like to consider myself a voluntarist, whereby all transactions should be agreed upon voluntarily. Whether or not government is necessary (which is debatable), it should be funded voluntarily. Much like the anarcho-capitalist view, we would see important services funded by those who plan on using it. The difference being that instead of a private entity providing the service, it would be organized and carried out by the government. Those who don’t help fund it would not benefit from its services, simple enough.

  1. Our next question is from Alex, who writes: “Do you guys think a business should be able to refuse service to a group of people for any reason?”

Yes, Alex, that’s exactly right. An easy way to see why would be to reverse the roles. Consumers are allowed to discriminate on where they buy their services from for whatever reason they choose. If you don’t want to buy from a baker because you may not have liked a sign in their store, or the owner was rude, or even if you don’t like the religion of the owner, you are able to turn around and walk out.

Most people would never suggest that the government should come in and tell you who or what products you buy from, yet they think doing exactly that to a business owner is perfectly fine. It is logically inconsistent to hold that view, and much easier to recognize that the only person the business owner is harming is themselves. For example, if I choose not to buy from a certain place, I am only making the situation more difficult for myself, as I have narrowed down my options by my own doing. Transactions should always be voluntarily agreed upon by all parties involved to maintain the consistent enforcement of property rights.

  1. The third question is from Peter, who wrote: “What is the libertarian position on net neutrality?”

As with most things Peter, the libertarian position revolves around maintaining a free and open market. With net neutrality, however, the waters have been muddied on which side represents that idea. Jason Stapleton recently did a segment about this on his show, where he hit the nail on the head of this argument. Net neutrality, like many other government-mandated “agreements,” is nothing more than the government restricting the market, in this case the internet, in order to favor select groups. It originated when certain groups began lobbying the government for regulations controlling the price internet providers charged their users.

See, as streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube, and Google became more prevalent, internet providers wanted to charge them more than others, seeing as they used up a much larger portion of the providers’ finite bandwidth. Like with most things, those who use a larger supply usually pay more than those who don’t. As Jason put it, a car driving down a toll road pays less than an 18-wheeler would, due to the extra wear and tear caused by the truck. The truck would obviously benefit from a mandate requiring everyone pay the same tolls, where the car would be penalized. In the case for net neutrality, the 18-wheeler is the large streaming entities, and they want their bandwidth cost spread around to everyone else using the internet regardless of how much you use. It has only been sold to the public as a protection of the little guy, like most government intrusions. Libertarians, however, rarely advocate for government control as a solution, and the case of net neutrality is no exception.

  1. Our fourth question is from Mark, who wrote: “As a veteran, I find myself in favor of military action in places with oppressed people. How do I explain to someone that the wave stopped today, would be a catastrophe tomorrow? How does one fight for “liberty” of those cordoned off from the rest of the world?”

Unfortunately, Mark, as we have seen through the past 50 years of American intervention, even the most noble causes of fighting for the oppressed seem to be misconstrued over time to either serve the interest of others, or turn out to do more harm than good. For example, in Yemen US-backed Saudi forces fighting the Houthi rebels in the north have inadvertently pushed more than 1 million civilians to the brink of starvation from the food shortages caused by the conflict. Whether or not this conflict is even being fought over noble reasons is questionable, but even if it was, at what point do the repercussions outweigh the original problem? Another example would be Libya; we claimed Gaddafi needed to go due to the treatment the people under his rule were facing. Yet not even 5 years after we intervened, conditions in Libya have declined to a point where open slave trades are occurring in the capital. There are plenty of current examples throughout the world to show that these types of interventions fail more often than not. As Murray Rothbard argued, oppression on a mass scale is almost always caused by government, and rarely, if it all, is it ever solved by it.

  1. Our last question is from Zachery, who writes: “Should the government, in any way, be involved with policies regarding climate change?”

Great question Zach, climate change is a hot topic these days – pun intended. However, when it comes to solutions, government is much better at playing the referee than an active player in this game. We already have laws on the books to protect the Earth from all sorts of pollution. Government would do best to simply enforce the fraud and property destruction from companies polluting and misleading the public. As for other aspects, such as emissions and carbon footprints, we simply need to let the market work. When we allow competition to take hold, we put consumers back in control of what products are provided in the market. And with today’s environmentally-friendly atmosphere, we already see a positive effect. Companies are advertising that they send profits towards conservation efforts in order to appease consumers. Places like McDonald’s have begun sustainability projects, all without the necessity of government mandate. If we continue to reward those being the most environmentally friendly, that’s exactly the behavior we will see more of.

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!

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Thomas J. Eckert

Thomas J. Eckert is the Managing Editor of Think Liberty and Copy Editor for Being Libertarian. With a passion for politics, he studies economics and history and writes in his spare time on political and economic current events. He is a self-described voluntarist.

5 COMMENTS

  1. The argument you use to detract from the idea of net neutrality makes no sense. It’s not YouTube, Google, and Netflix that are using the bandwidth, it’s consumers. Consumers are using these services because they are effective and popular. In effect, you’re arguing that these companies should pay ISPs more simply because they’re popular. How is that free-market? The ISPs should be using their massive stores of cash to increase network capacity and speeds.

  2. Re: Net Neutrality

    While it’s nice to think that the market will sort out the Internet if NN is repealed, the virtual monopoly cable companies have leads me to believe that MORE regulations will be needed in the future to manage the fallout.

    Repealing Net Neutrality is short-sighted.

    We have one very simple regulation: Treat all data equally. Why repeal something so simple, clear and easy to enforce?

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