THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 391, October 29, 2006
This Empire of Lies
Credit The Libertarian Enterprise
Some people who hear about libertarianism don't seem to understand that we cannot centrally plan liberty. There can be no Federal Privatization Committee that decides which products of voluntary cooperation will fill whatever gaps are left by the dismantling of the state.
Of course, some do try directing privatization, often in a direction that reaches their cronies' pockets. Sometimes these privatized entities handle jobs that wouldn't survive in a free market, and therefore handle them just as badly as the government would. A Bureau of Oppression can possibly be operated more efficiently by a private contractor, but it will not necessarily work out this way since the bureau is still operated through coercion, which is something government is great at. At other times pseudo-private agencies are still controlled by the state, and are therefore really arms of the government.
In any event, the schemes described in the above paragraph do not describe liberty. A more accurate term for them is fascism. Unfortunately, the above is often what people think libertarians advocatesometimes due to socialist smearing, other times due to the way some libertarians talk. It only makes sense that people who think we advocate fascism wouldn't like us.
It could be improper usage of the word "we" that causes confusion. If you say that "We would replace welfare with private charity," you are implying that you and your buddies would be the ones coming up with charities that will do what the welfare system currently does, and you would decide how much people are to pay to them. When talking about what libertarians would do with the government, it is assumed that libertarians would be in control when all this was going on, leading people to think that you, as a government official, would be deciding what charities would replace the welfare system. Obviously this is not what real libertarians want, and a better thing to say would be, "Libertarians would remove the government welfare system, and people will be free to decide how they want to help others."
True liberty requires the absence of state control over anything that does not initiate force on another individual. The people will decide what will and will not replace government institutions. All individuals will decide, through voluntary interactions, what a libertarian country would look like.
Of course, individuals decide what the country looks like now. The only difference is that libertarians would take the decision out of the hands of the few ruling parasites and let it be distributed naturally as talent, money, and chance allow (unlike socialists, who steal property from those who don't obey them and distribute whatever doesn't end up in their pockets).
Those who don't believe in any human ability except for their own capability to rule would call this unrealistic. "The wealthiest will actually decide!" is what they might say. We could point to economics, history, and libertarian philosophy to prove them wrong. Or we can just say "Yeah, how will the poor ever get ahead without all those government regulations that destroy their neighborhoods and prevent them from competing with established firms?" The laws are made by those with the most political influence, often those with the most money. Who do you think those laws will benefit most?
Libertarians can afford to be realistic. We can, and we should acknowledge that nobody knows exactly what everyone else wants and needs, and that anyone who claims he does is probably more interested in what he wants than what everyone else needs. This is an example of why liberty works better than central planning. Libertarianism is actually built around human nature. It does not ignore human nature, nor does it try to change it.
Differentiation is a key to success. If libertarians are to get anywhere, people must know that we are not just another bunch of losers who want them to believe we hold all of the answers to life's problems. Someone will probably cure cancer, but it won't be me. Individuals laboring in liberty have the best chance of achieving anything worth having.
Obviously, we should not hesitate to provide examples or a general idea of what could replace certain things the government does. Otherwise we would look like idiots who don't care about the world. But it is important that people know when we are only giving examples. We will probably not be the ones doing the replacing. That is left up to the unrestrained imagination of free people. Will I be replacing welfare with private charity? Well, I guess you could say that when I donate more instead of having my money stolen by the state, but I don't have plans to create a charity organization, an education system, or a fire department. I have ideas of what such things would be like in a truly free society, but I won't be any more important to the decision than the millions of other people who decide where to put their money.
Ideologies often claim to know what is best for everyone. Libertarians, who would rather leave the choices up to the individuals involved, can afford to admit that nobody knows what is best for everyone else. It is a distinction we should be proud of, as it makes us the only people in politics with a realistic outlook on life.