Within political circles throughout the United States there has been an indefatigable debate on the role government should play in the economy. There are libertarians and conservatives that are proponents of limited government; socialists and welfare-statists who are advocates of big government; and anarcho-capitalists and anarcho-communists who are advocates of a stateless society with no government.
From my perspective, government’s role should be to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens from domestic and foreign criminals, as well as to provide necessitous services that compliment the aforementioned natural rights of its citizens. That’s it!
These services include fire departments, police departments, infrastructure like demandable highways and bridges, hospitals, etc. On the other hand, government should not have the exclusivity of the aforementioned services; since, throughout history, the public sector (government) has shown itself to be inefficient, complacent, unorganized and intrusive. Hence, the reason why there should be private hospitals, highways/bridges, security firms, fire departments, etc.
Natural rights are the innate possessions that humans have, and are in place to provide the opportunity for each citizen to have the freedom and autonomy to pursue their happiness without the imposition of force or harm from another citizen.
A human pursuing their own individual happiness may be seen as selfish, but the incentive for doing so is actually selfless: producers and innovators are risking their human and financial capital to meet the mercurial demands of society, and aren’t guaranteed success (due to the changing preferences of human beings).
For government to regulate everything – from health care and cosmetology, to the educational sector (with teacher’s licenses); from the food, drug, and agriculture industries to the broadcasting industry and countless others – is nothing but the augmentation of the criminalization of American society. This helps explain why America has close to a quarter of the world’s prisoners.
At the end of 2016, the Federal Register possessed a record high of 91,642 pages of regulations! A typical human can’t even count to 91,642; it is somewhat unfathomable to visualize 91,642 pages worth of content. Additionally, there have been 81,000 regulatory laws passed in the United States since 1993. It is next to impossible to mentally apprehend and memorize the prodigious amount of laws that exist in the United States!
Statistically, the average American commits three felonies per day, and often doesn’t even know it!
There’s a general correlation between the rise in government regulations and the rise in the state and federal inmate population in the Untied States.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the U.S. state and federal prison population was estimated to be around 400,000 inmates in 1982; however, by 2015, that number had increased to 1.53 million inmates!
To play the devil’s advocate, one might explain this augmentation by pointing to the increase in population (i.e. immigration and sexual reproduction), yet only 1.6% of foreign born men in the United States are incarcerated compared to 3.3% of U.S. born men, according to the American Community Survey.
Most foreign born men that are behind bars are there due to immigration offenses, not for violating the non-aggression principle or the infliction of force and harm on other citizens.
Sexual reproduction does cause a population to increase. However, due to perverse incentives created by government, the illegitimacy rate has increased exponentially as have government increases in subsidies for mothers (based on the number of children).
Government creates a moral hazard by rewarding irresponsible and irrational behavior.
The government has gone so astray in attempting to control the property and natural rights of citizens that they are now attempting to criminalize piano teachers.
The Federal Trade Commission accused the Music Teachers National Association for violating anti-trust laws because of their “anti-competitive practices” of recruiting students that belong to other piano teachers.
But, there are no stories of piano teachers kidnapping or intimidating either students or their parents, to transfer their music education. It is not the government’s job to regulate the industry of piano pedagogy, or to interfere with teachers who are utilizing their skills positively to add to the artistic manifestation of humanity.
In 2007, in the author’s hometown of Jersey City, 14 barbershops were shut down due to the violation of the municipality’s regulatory laws, which included: the acquisition of a license to engage in the barber practice, abiding by the municipality’s laws of specified operating hours, and owners paying exorbitant fees in order to own and operate a barbershop.
The government dictating to an entrepreneur how to run their business (a business that is not violating the natural rights of its customers or other competitors) is unconstitutional, immoral, and dictatorial.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that there is a correlation between increased regulations and laws, and the amount of citizens whose rights are stifled and who end up being criminalized.
In conclusion, in the words of Frederic Bastiat, “When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.”
Illustration: Keith Bendis
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