About a year and a half ago Jon Stewart confronted Judge Napolitano with 19 ‘questions,’ (ten questions and nine provocative statements to be precise). I learned about the interview from Stefan Molyneux’s Youtube response to it and from a response to his response.
After watching Stefan, I did not feel necessary to respond, but after I suffered through the long winded and seriously confused response of Riley Haas (the second link above) it occurred to me that maybe the favour should be returned. We do not question the socialists. Maybe we should. I started to put together my own questions to socialists of all colors but I figured that if I want to ask my questions, I should answer theirs first. This is what you have here. My questions to socialists will follow in an upcoming post.
I have to start with a preamble. The left-wingers have a tendency to use some fundamentally different notions interchangeably. We could debate the proper use of terminology when it comes to the ‘state’, ‘government’, legislature, executive, the bureaucracy, etc.; but that should be another discussion. The only point I consider necessary to make here is that ‘society’ is functionally different from the above, which are all instruments of collective power. Society is a big, intricate network of voluntary associations. Emphasis is on VOLUNTARY, a synonym of FREE. Jon Stewart, like most left-wingers, does not differentiate between that and the different institutions of power. I don’t think that this is accidental, but that is yet another discussion for another time. I will try to live with the sloppy definition of ‘government’, but I will insist that society is different.
…..and now, the Q&A:
1. Is government the antithesis of liberty?
Liberty is a notion, a government is an institution. Are governments enemies of liberty? Sort of. The essence of the state is to control; the essence of liberty is being free from control. The question is how to find the right balance between the two.
2. One of the things that enhances freedoms are roads. Infrastructure enhances freedom. A social safety net enhances freedom.
This is not a question (#1). What is supposed to be one question is turned into three stupid statements. These statements betray the basic socialist misunderstanding of what freedom is and what rights are. Roads do not enhance freedom, roads enhance mobility. Roads are products that somebody needs to produce. Same goes for infrastructure. It has nothing to do with freedom. With this logic I could also say that shoes enhance freedom and insinuate (as the other statements do) that therefore they should be produced and distributed by the government. While the suggestion is clearly nonsense, I grew up in a world where it was taken for granted.
Any government transfer and handout can be seen as a freedom enhancer.
Even slavery enhances freedom, the freedom of the slave owner at the expense of the slave.
The “social safety net” does not enhance freedom, it does exactly the opposite.
When the ‘social safety net’ enhances someone’s freedom, it has to do it at the expense of someone else’s freedom. The net effect is an overall decrease of freedom because the freedom taken away is always more than the one given to someone else.
3. What should we do with the losers that are picked by the free market?
The free market does not pick losers. Statistics pick losers. People pick losers. Reality picks losers, evolution picks losers, society picks losers. Pretty much by definition, the free market can only pick winners. A free exchange of goods benefits both parties; they would not make the exchange otherwise.
4. Do we live in a society or don’t we? Are we a collective? Everybody’s success is predicated on the hard work of all of us; nobody gets there on their own. Why should it be that the people who lose are hung out to dry? For a group that doesn’t believe in evolution, it’s awfully Darwinian.
My goodness, what a mental mess of assumptions and insinuations! What group are we talking about? Are you suggesting that Libertarians are creationists? Where did you get that information? Aren’t you mixing them up with the progressives? They invented the idea of social Darwinism. Maybe you should ask Hilary.
This is, again, the same confusion mixing up state and society. The essence of society is voluntary cooperation. Nobody is hanging anybody out to dry. Civil society will be there to help until the state succeeds killing it.
5. In a representative democracy, we are the government. We have work to do, and we have a business to run, and we have children to raise.. We elect you as our representatives to look after our interests within a democratic system.
This is not a question (#2) but it is still wrong. We are not the government. The government is the government. We have no direct input into its formation. We elect representatives based on some loosely formulated ideology and vague promises. They are tiny clogs in the machinery of politics with very little influence on the formation of the government and practically none on the functioning of the bureaucracy. The main goal of our elected representatives is to get re-elected. The ‘government’ is an entity with a life of its own functioning according to its own set of evolutionary principles.
6. Is government inherently evil?
No, it is not. If anything, government is inherently corruptible. A governments like any living organism, wants to feed, grow, survive and perpetuate itself. Its main interest is its own survival, serving the interest of the people it is supposed to serve is a distant second, if it exists at all. It can be argued that the only function of the electorate is to provide justification for the state’s existence. While governments may not be inherently evil, they are definitely not the selfless embodiment of benevolence and impartiality.
7. Sometimes to protect the greater liberty you have to do things like form an army, or gather a group together to build a wall or levy.
This is not a question (#3) ………so I must ask: What is “the greater liberty”? Who decides what it is and how it should be defended? Who is the ‘you’ that ‘have to’ do things? Why would any of it have to be coercive? Why does the single minded stupidity of the statists prevent them from even imagining a world where such things can be done by individuals or by the voluntary cooperation of some, but NOT necessarily all of them?
8. As soon as you’ve built an army, you’ve now said government isn’t always inherently evil because we need it to help us sometimes, so now.. it’s that old joke: Would you sleep with me for a million dollars? How about a dollar? -Who do you think I am?- We already decided who you are, now we’re just negotiating.
Very funny, ha-ha-ha, but where is the question (#4)? I do not build armies. And I do not want the kind of help that requires the robbing of somebody else on my behalf. The government is either forcing its help on its citizens or it is pimping it to them. I do not need the help of the government, but very often I am defenseless when it forces its ‘help’ on me. Does the government being a pimp makes me a whore?
9. You say: government which governs least governments best. But that were the Articles of Confederation. We tried that for 8 years, it didn’t work, and went to the Constitution.
This isn’t exactly a question (#5) and I do not even know what the implied question is, but we may have found a point of agreement. Are you suggesting that we should reduce the size of the Federal Government to the size and role that was intended at the writing of the constitution? You are a libertarian dream! If that could happen, I would have no room to ask for more liberty.
But seriously: the differences between those two documents dwarf next to the differences of the realities of the government then and now. Most libertarians would be happy to go back to those principles.
(I also doubt that the badly misquoted statement in your ‘question’ was ever part of the articles of confederation…..)
10. You give money to the IRS because you think they’re gonna hire a bunch of people, that if your house catches on fire, will come there with water.
ABSOLUTELY NOT. I am giving money to the IRS (well, the CRA in my case) because they have the power to lock me up if I do not. Besides, I don’t even see that money as my employer is withholding it from me.
I would much rather give that money to the firefighters myself, to the people who provide me services that I need or to causes and charities of MY CHOSING.
The essence of government services is to deny us the right to make decisions about those services ourselves. ……..and what was the question? (#6)
11. Why is it that libertarians trust a corporation, in certain matters, more than they trust representatives that are accountable to voters? The idea that I would give up my liberty to an insurance company, as opposed to my representative, seems insane.
It is insane the other way. Your influence over an individual representative in a large monopolistic organization (such as the Government) is infinitesimally small. When it comes to insurance companies, you can just choose another. Provided, of course, that the government allows you. Besides, 99.9% of all interactions you have with the state are with bureaucracies, not the elected representatives. We have far more control over corporations than we have over governments. The ONLY time this is not true is when they work in cahoots.
12. Why is it that with competition, we have such difficulty with our health care system? ..and there are choices within the educational system.
See my note above. There is no free market in American Health care, and this should be evident to even the most superficially informed. About half is under direct control of the government (Medicare and Medicaid) while the other is castrated by rules and regulations. As for education, of course there is a choice – as long as you are willing to pay for it twice. First you pay for the government school through your taxes; then you can pay for the private school of your choice. When someone puts a gun to your head and says: “your money or your life” they are offering you a choice too. Just like governments.
13. Would you go back to 1890?
What happened in 1890? I mean what event or what state of affairs in particular do you have in mind?
If you mean the world without modern medicine, mobility, computers, etc. then of course not, but if you mean the world without the federal income tax, the Federal Reserve, the FDA, the DEA, and the rest of the alphabet soup agencies and departments for just about any activity that I can imagine, then the answer is: in a New York minute!
The underhanded insinuation of the question is that we would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for the ever increasing role of the state in our lives.
14. If we didn’t have government, we’d all be in hovercrafts, and nobody would have cancer, and broccoli would be ice-cream?
Something like that, but in any case we would be much closer to whatever our silly dreams may be. The effects of government interference with the operations of the free market are measurable; they are measured and found to be in inverse proportion to GDP growth.
15. Unregulated markets have been tried. The 80’s and the 90’s were the robber baron age. These regulations didn’t come out of an interest in restricting liberty. What they did is came out of an interest in helping those that had been victimized by a system that they couldn’t fight back against.
This isn’t exactly a question either (#7) and as a statement it is just wrong. Try to learn something about the subject and only start asking questions (or making statements) when you know what you are talking about. Here is some help:
The Myth of the Robber Barons with Burt Folsom
The Truth About the “Robber Barons”
The Robber Barons and the Real Gilded Age
The age of the robber barons was not exactly what the communists made them out to be. The only thing they ‘victimized’ was their competition and they did have the power to fight back. They just ran to big daddy government for help while also perpetuating the myth of the evil capitalists.
16. Why do you think workers that worked in the mines unionized?
This is another loaded question and I could offer another list for your education…….
Big Trouble – A Revealing Look at an Episode of Labor-Union Violence
Do Unions Have a Death Wish?
A History of Labor Unions from Colonial Times to 2009
…… but the answer is simple: for power. How much of their action can be considered legitimate is a fascinating question, but the answers are far from being simple. Labor is a service. You should be free to offer it at any price, but whoever you offer it to should be equally free to decline your offer.
17. Without the government there are no labor unions, because they would be smashed by Pinkerton agencies or people hired, or even sometimes the government.
Bad statement (#8) (Could you please read the underlined part?)
You think we should be happy because with the government’s help we have the labour unions ‘smashing things’? Why should we have criminal organizations such as the labor unions? What you are doing here is condoning extortion as some sort of social virtue. Labor unions are inherently corrupt and prone to violence. They are the creations of governments which ‘lend’ them some of their coercive power in return for political support.
18. Would the free market have desegregated restaurants in the South, or would the free market have done away with miscegenation, if it had been allowed to? Would Marten Luther King have been less effective than the free market? Those laws sprung up out of a majority sense of, in that time, that blacks should not.. The free market there would not have supported integrated lunch counters.
I would not be the first person to argue that YES, the free market would have desegregated on its own, if it was not prevented by government laws such as Jim Crow and the actions of figures such as the racist hero of Obama, Woodrow Wilson, who was responsible for segregation in all Federal government offices.
In this case, the government is clearly the bad guy.
19. Government is necessary but must be held accountable for its decisions.
I could simply say to this last non question (#9), that government is not necessary, but I suspect most libertarian would agree with me that the real question is not its existence but its scope and power that never seems to stop growing.
Governments make so many decisions that it is impossible to know them all, let alone holding anybody accountable for them.
What I, as a libertarian hope and could aim for is taking away from them about 99.9% of all the decisions that they now think they should be responsible for.