Government is an interesting thing.
They seem useful. I pay my taxes and someone comes to my curb and picks up my trash. We launch rockets into outer space. The Russians don’t get to invade. And we have libraries.
There is, however, what I like to call the Penn Jillette argument. I’ve heard philosophers, economists, historians, lawyers, political scientists, and politicians make the argument but no one put it more eloquently than a man with a degree in clown college.
Imagine you have a gun at your side and are witnessing a murder – would you use the gun to prevent a murder? What about an assault? What about a theft? What about using the gun to build a library? Is it ethical to use a gun to force someone’s money out of their pocket and use those funds to build a library?
The problem with taxation is that it only happens through force.
If one’s taxes go unpaid, people with guns will appear and use it to enforce payment. Everything the government does is a negation of liberty, and therefore every single government action ought to have the enormous weight of this responsibility in mind.
Libraries are useful. They are the bedrock of great civilizations. As great as they are, I can’t fathom any individual deeming an action as good that involves using a gun for their construction. Garbage pickup should not be done at gunpoint – this seems obvious when stated and muddied when practiced. The use of force is hidden but no less real.
There an argument for this practice – utilitarianism. It’s the notion that we must accept that we’re all better off because the system works so aggressively. The Moon landing project has likely contributed more to society in terms of technological advancement than it cost society.
The governmental triumphs of NASA have had their technological accomplishments outstripped by the telecommunications sector. There’s a reason for this and it’s natural selection within the business world.
When liberty is practiced, remaining businesses are productive and when industries are nationalized services are only those that are politically popular. Liberty builds, liberty perfects, governments tax, governments diminish.
There is another category of ethics, one that Kant would be sure to advise – the concept of motivation. Shouldn’t we want to help the poor and doesn’t that take overriding some of these other concerns?
There’s a very serious criticism of even this.
I wrote previously about the abolition of poverty within our generation – happening when economic freedom is achieved – where global poverty declined from 44% in 1981 to 21% in 2010, to 10% in 2016.
It isn’t that the left wants poverty abolished, their redistributionist programs are clear failures, it’s that they want wealth abolished – I’m not familiar with a greater evil than to accept the reality of poverty in order to eliminate wealth.
Ethics is squarely on the side of liberty. Whether it’s in consent, outcomes, or in motivations, nothing compares with freedom. Goodness, ethics, morality, all point to liberty.
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