Sunday, January 29, 2012

Libertarians - The True Pragmatists

Libertarians have long been regarded as impractical dreamers, slaves to a political philosophy of no real-world value. The practical, or pragmatic view, they are told, is that government serves crucial purposes in today's complex world, and that compromising our ideals is a necessity for the survival of our society. Careful observation, however, demonstrates that libertarians (and other small-government groups) are the pragmatists, while those who believe in the benefits of big government are the impractical dreamers. There is a cornucopia of evidence to support this simple observation.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was established over 35 years ago to rid us of the scourge of illegal drugs. Yet today, the use of marijuana and cocaine is actually higher than it was when the DEA was founded, more than a trillion dollars has been spent to stem the flow (over $40 billion in 2010 alone), yet the drugs on the street are more potent than ever, and our inner cities have become warzones where civil liberties fall prey to the battle between the prohibitionists and the black market. Thanks largely to the drug war, a larger percentage of our citizens are incarcerated than any other country on earth.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is charged with the safety of our food and drugs. Yet tainted foods regularly reach supermarket shelves, drugs such as Vioxx and Troglitazone regularly reach the marketplace, and the media bombard us with hype for hundreds of designer drugs with lists of side effects longer than the diseases they treat, many generics languish on the shelves, while other desperately-needed generics fail to find a producer due to low profit margins. Meanwhile, drugs that have been used to save lives in other countries are still undergoing testing. The seven-month average approval time of 40 years ago has stretched to over twelve years today.

Minerals Management Service, the federal agency charged with ensuring the safety of the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform that failed and contaminated the Gulf of Mexico was found to have performed 16 fewer inspections than scheduled in the previous five years. The rig was allowed to operate without required safety documentation for the exact disaster scenario that occurred. Two years earlier, "the department’s inspector general found that employees in its Denver office, responsible for royalty collections, had parties with energy company representatives, had sex and used drugs with them, and accepted gifts, ski trips and golf junkets." Some employees of MMS were fired as a result. The government's response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster was to rename and restructure the agency.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is responsible for enforcing the federal securities laws and regulating the securities industry, but former SEC chairman Harvey Pitt has acknowledged the agency's multiple failures regarding Bernard Madoff. The ARMS, subprime lending, fraudulently rated Residential Mortgage Backed Securities, and excesses of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, all of which combined to create the housing bubble, took place under the watchful regulatory eye of the SEC.

Amtrak and the United States Postal Service, nationalized corporations by any reasonable standard, are shining examples of what we can expect from the future nationalization of failing auto manufacturers, banks, or any other industry.

The list is nearly endless. We must not forget the CIA and their failures prior to 2001, or Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, the agency that's been keeping airline passengers safe from nail clippers and bottled water since 2001 by performing unwarranted searches which have now expanded to the use of naked image scanners and searches that would qualify as sexual harassment or sexual assault if performed by an individual.

Unlike the dreams of utopian benevolence that the fans of big government embrace, FedGov's programs have repeatedly been shown to be poster children for massive bureaucracy, incompetence and graft run amok. They are the most egregious violators of civil liberties, and "our government, at the federal, state, and local levels, is the single greatest polluter in the land."

The problem is not only federal in scope. The sheer pleasure of a visit to the local DMV, a journey along our crumbling roads, or an attempt to build any structure or operate any business that falls outside of very rigid guidelines rapidly provides proof that state and local governments are no more capable than their elephantine brother. Indeed, the states have shirked one of their primary responsibilities, that of keeping the federal government in check, as is evidenced by the very existence of this commentary.

The primary stated purpose of government is to secure the rights of the individual. Yet governments at all levels grant special dispensation to groups of individuals at the expense of others, even to the extent of recognizing special legal status for those groups that care to call themselves 'corporations,' and thereby shield the members of those groups from ultimate responsibility for their actions. Governments at all levels ignore the rights of the individual in the name of expediency, citing the "War on This and That" as the reason.

In the face of such overwhelming evidence, I question the sanity of allowing Uncle Sam, who has proven to be a poor security guard, to provide additional services as a reward for his incompetence.

Our society has need for many services. One of those many services is security guard, to protect the persons and property of the community from aggression both within and without. Within the structure of our Constitutional Republic as defined, that is a just and proper role for government. However, that service holds a very special post, being the single service granted permission to initiate the use of force.

I daresay few of us, in helping to organize our local community, would choose to put the safety of our food, the maintenance of our roads, the education of our children, and the control of our monetary system, and therefore of our economy, in the hands of the security staff. Yet that is exactly what we have done by handing over all these chores to government agencies.

We should seriously question whether the services we need, outside of security, are best provided by an organization that brooks no competition, controls the justice system that protects us from predators, has the power to dictate terms to its supposed customers, and can unilaterally raise its "prices" to correct any revenue shortfall.

Even if we accept that government has some critical purposes, conflating those with a long laundry list of the needs of society and turning the provision of all those services over to government is a horrid mistake that leads to an ever-ballooning, ever-less-efficient monstrosity destined to eventually collapse under its own weight.

...and that's all I have to say about that.

1 comment:

  1. Libertarians are very pragmatic when it comes to pointing out the basic problem with the state.

    Unfortunately, few libertarians are really pragmatic when it comes to effective methods of reducing the size of the state.

    Too many minarchists advocate political reformism (fail) and too many "anarchists" continue to be law-abiding net tax payers (fail).