Wherever you find yourself on the libertarian spectrum, you’re probably running into the same issue as me: a problem with imagination. The vast majority of people just can’t envision a social structure where government does not provide the services it offers now (or more!). This can be as radical as national defense and border security, moderate like roads, highways and “public” housing or as non-controversial (for us) as healthcare and waste management. When it comes to the liberty movement, Ludwig von Mises said we are fighting the intellectual battle and this academic fight serves as the primary battle front. Respect and gratitude goes to the great scholars consistently advancing the doctrine of liberty. Without this foundation, a future of liberty is not possible. From this academic foundation springs the secondary front, the political battle, with leaders like Rand Paul, who continue to further freedom through changes and limits to state power.
In addition to these two, there is also a third front that has yet to be fully developed: the market battle.
This is the real world expression of the intellectual and political fight — putting services and products on the market to compete with the existing framework of state services. We know that free markets provide higher quality goods and services at a lower cost than governments. Market genius is demonstrated every day through drones, tablets, WiFi, Uber, the list goes on and on. As libertarians, we see these as irrefutable results of free activity.
But there is a disconnect, because as we esteem these brilliant entrepreneurs, they point back to the state, exult its behavior and call for more taxes and regulation. This is where libertarians are at a steep and distinct disadvantage. Even industry leaders who are self-described “libertarians” concede the need for more government services and social safety nets. What the liberty movement needs is a growing body of bold entrepreneurs that profess the supremacy of freedom. These are venture capitalists and business people that give industrial backing to the notion that free markets outperform state services. Supporting market competition is both purist and pragmatic, so whether you’re a libertarian constitutionalist, minarchist or anarchist, you can coalesce around this idea.
A great example of the third front is homeschooling. Libertarians have entered the education market and are providing a vastly higher quality education than public schools. This great quality is offered at a fraction of the yearly cost ($600-900 per child), as the cost per child of government school surpasses $10,000. Free marketeers can see the benefit in allowing the homeschool industry to thrive, as it highlights both the distinct failure of governments to provide education and the genius market solution of homeschooling.
Take waste management. This municipal “service” is a truly ancient relic, sending 1.3 billion tons of food waste to landfills globally. There is so much research being done on insects like the wax worm that converts plastic into anti-freeze or the black soldier fly, that converts food waste into a protein. This shows that waste is really just an economic calculation: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and that plastic and food garbage can actually be used by entrepreneurs as raw materials instead of relegated as waste.
Recycle Revolution is a Christian and libertarian start-up that is crowdfunding to use the black soldier fly for this express purpose.
Leftovers from restaurants are fed to black soldier flies and converted into animal feed on an industrial scale. It is breaking open the third front in waste management, a fierce competition to the state service. Rather than restricting and regulating, Recycle Revolution is all about creation and giving the free market its due.
Like homeschooling, this project seeks to provide a clear-cut example of market ingenuity. By taking food waste as raw materials and processing it into protein-rich animal feed, libertarians have an industrial example of where government was failing and the market stepped in with a ground breaking solution. At the same time, its founders understand that entrepreneurial initiative, not government, drives social and environmental change. This project greatly outperforms the municipal “service” by collecting food leftovers at no cost, reducing methane gas emissions, diverting food waste from landfills, and simply yet effectively producing a low-cost, high-protein food source for animals.
Fighting the market battle is so important because it tackles people’s imagination. Those who lack a true understanding of free markets need clear examples of market and state activity stacked against each other. This is the truest expression of the intellectual and political battles, that creative and solution oriented people take to the market and solve problems. We can say that health care, roads or even national defense can be provided at lower cost and higher quality on the market, but until we actively demonstrate this to be true, with programs like homeschooling and Recycle Revolution, we will continue to be at a disadvantage.
* Justin Nguyen is founder and director of Nguyen Solutions, a Christian and libertarian start-up currently crowdfunding the Recycle Revolution campaign to recycle food using the black soldier fly. Their mission is to drive social change in direction of liberty using creativity, industry and free markets. Check it out at https://igg.me/at/nguyensolutions.