In response to my latest book, which is an explicit espousal of laissez-faire, I’ve already gotten a few emails and messages with the exact comments I anticipated — anticipated from the moment I first conceived the idea, in fact, because I’ve been fielding these very same questions for well over a decade now.
My main character’s name is Kristy Reed, and today I received the following:
“Let me ask you: Did Kristy use the public libraries?”
The questioner might just as well have asked:
“Did Kristy live in government-sponsored homes when he lived on the Indian Reservation?”
Because it’s exactly the same sort of question.
Or the question could also have been:
“Do the citizens of North Korea eat the food that their government provides them?”
“Did the Cambodian people live in the homes Pol Pot provided them?”
The answer is yes — because government holds a (coercive) monopoly on such things.
There’s a world of difference between political power and economic power.
It is not true, however — it is patently, provably false — that if government doesn’t provide it, it won’t be provided.
Private libraries, like private bookstores, both of which already exist, would exist more abundantly if government weren’t involved.
This illustrates perfectly the principle of entrenchment: the Entrenchment Fallacy.
It’s a well-known and well-observed phenomena that in, for instance, communist regimes, people rapidly become so accustomed to government providing for them that in virtually no time at all, it becomes inconceivable to these same people — even those who were once self-sufficient — that human life can flourish without government intervention.
The same phenomena once happened with mafia protection: people got so used to it that they couldn’t imagine life without it.
So the first, among many, questions I ask my government-loving interrogators:
Why stop at public libraries?
And where do you stop if the principle is that government doesn’t just protect but provides?
Food, clothing, and shelter are by far the most urgent human needs. Should government provide all this?
If not, why not?
And do you then regard the Indian Reservations as a successful government program — which, after all, the book is about?
There are 5,000 arguments against laissez faire — and every single one of them is demonstrably incorrect, predicated upon fraudulent premises.
Let me also note that laissez-faire proponents like me, who love animals and nature very much, we’re the only people pressed to elaborate on precisely how our proposed system will play-out.
Democrats and Republicans all across the entire spectrum, with all their jargon and easy platitudes, they’re not held to such standards — and good thing for them, because no one could ever in a million years lay out a logical argument for the elaboration of either of those systems, which are really the same system, with all its corruption and sheer waste and mushrooming bureaus and the unforeseeable red-tape-bandaids and endless fingers-in-the-dykes to plug-up the endlessly springing leaks.
Most of the questions I receive about laissez faire I’ve addressed innumerable times before.
Here are hyperlinks (the majority, though not all, written by me) to the most common queries — and so if you’re about to hammer me with hostility, your task is to first read all that you see below and process it, and if your questions have still not been answered, you may then hammer away.
Renewables and sustainable energy
Public Roads and Highways: Bloodbaths and Endless Gridlock
Zoning: Houston — 4th Biggest City in America — has No Zoning Laws
Where Does Government Come from — and Why?
How Human Progress and Increased Populations Have Made the World Cleaner and Better
Industry and the Impossibility of Centrally Planning economies
Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, “Why I Left Greenpeace”
Socialism, Collectivism, Environmentalism
Twentieth Century Hong Kong: a Textbook Example of Laissez-Faire Success
Socialism, Communism, and Welfare Statism: Defining the Terms
For the record, I love teachers — I honestly believe teaching is among the noblest of professions — and I also love countless people, men and women alike, who are government employees.
People who work in or for government, including teachers, wouldn’t be out of work without government, but just the opposite:
They’d have more and better to choose from.
Emergency medical care — open-heart surgery, renal failure, you-name-it — does not require government.
Did you know in the 19th century, they sold insurance against poverty — and it worked?
Did you know that in the 19th century, the so-called safety net was primarily private charity — like the Shriners and other lodges and organizations, religious and otherwise — and that it, too, worked well? (No, people weren’t dying in the streets for want of emergency surgeries.)
This country prospered for 140 years without a Federal Reserve or an national income tax, both of which are barely 100 years old, though now thoroughly entrenched, as is social security, medicare and medicaid, all of which are even younger.
On the subject of species extinction, which is a subject near and dear to me, I want to first note that over 99 percent of species that have ever existed on planet earth are now extinct and they went extinct before humankind was ever in the picture.
Please think about that for a long moment.
The second thing to note is that largely (though not exclusively) due to privatization and private habitat reserves and stewardship, many, many species have been pulled from the brink of extinction. Elephants, rhinos, tigers, pandas, albatross, many whale species, and countless other creatures are now flourishing. Quoting the ecologist Stuart Pimm:
“The overall rate of extinctions has been reduced by 75 percent…. A number of ecologists and paleontologists believe that the claim that humans are causing a mass extinction is hyperbolic.”
And as Stewart Brand notes:
“No end of specific wildlife problems remain to be solved, but describing them too often as ‘extinction crises’ [i.e. noble cause corruption] has led to a general panic that nature is extremely fragile or already hopelessly broken. That is not remotely the case. Nature as a whole is exactly as robust as it ever was — maybe more so.”
Here’s a fantastic article on private habitat and how it protects animals.
Freedom and laissez faire promote innovation, technology, private stewardship, and human progress — in no small measure because laissez faire promotes so much economic gain.
I know no serious government-lover, even die-hard communistic-socialists, who at this point deny that laissez faire creates vastly greater wealth (they object to laissez faire for other reasons) — and on that point, it’s critical to note that as long as the capital base of a society remains low, the means of dealing with societal issues remains proportionately low.
This is an absolutely vital principle.
I ask you to never lose sight of it.
There’s a reason that America, vilified as she is by so much of the world, still gives by FAR the most foreign aid to the entire world. There’s a reason that only America can afford such trillion-dollar extravagance, year in year out, decade after decade.
John D. Rockefeller and Henry Flagler, who founded Standard Oil, once held over 90 percent of all oil sales in the United States. This is called a non-coercive monopoly.
There’s never been a proven case of so-called Predatory Pricing — or “cutting-to-kill” — which is another anti-laissez-faire myth, another urban legend, totally false and provably so.
Standard Oil (like Walmart today) kept its prices at rock-bottom precisely because Rockefeller understood that if he jacked up his prices, competitors would come in and he’d lose his share of the market.
Only coercive monopolies — i.e. government monopolies — can fix prices.
The real point, though, is that nobody — not John D. Rockefeller, not Henry Flagler, not anybody — could have foreseen that because of laissez-faire and the innovation it fosters, the competitor who would put the biggest hit on his oil-market was not in the oil business at all.
Do you know who it was?
Thomas Edison and his lightbulb, which abolished kerosene and other oil-burning light. (Petroleum, by the way, abolished whale oil.)
It’s called creative destruction.
In a laissez-faire system, consumers, who pay their hard-earned money for the things they want, always determine the success or failure of a given idea or product or service.
If you allow people the freedom to innovate, invent, and profit from their inventions and creations, there are no limits to what will be created.
Today, Thomas Edison’s lightbulbs would perhaps not even come about because he and his staff weren’t wearing the proper government-required lab-goggles, or Thomas Edison and his employee Nikolai Tesla were in breach of labor-code for working too many consecutive hours.
Just because government currently provides it does NOT mean that without government, it won’t be provided. In fact, it’s the opposite:
Government, which by definition is an agency of force, cannot produce a SINGLE thing without first either taxing, borrowing, or printing — or all three.
Government is for this reason inherently wasteful and inefficient.
Remember also that because of entrenchment, the majority of people in this country once believed that we could never successfully privatize the mail.
Now answer this honestly:
If you must mail something which absolutely, positively has to be there overnight, whom will you most trust? The U.S. Postal Service or FedEx or UPS?
And where of those places would you rather go to wait in line?
And do you want to wait in line for urgent healthcare as you wait in line at the DMV?
I’ll close with a brief quote from a book I recently read: Enlightenment Now — by left-winger Steven Pinker:
The “population bomb” defused itself. When countries get richer and better educated, they pass through what demographers call the demographic transition. Birth rates peak and then decline, for at least two reasons. Parents no longer breed large broods as insurance against some of their children dying, and women, when they become better educated, marry later and delay having children. Fertility rates have fallen most noticeably in developed regions like Europe and Japan, but they can suddenly collapse, often to demographers’ surprise, in other parts of the world. Despite the widespread belief that Muslim societies are resistant to the social changes that have transformed the West, Muslim countries have seen a 40 percent decline in fertility over the past three decades, including a 70 percent drop in Iran and 60 percent drops in Bangladesh and in seven Arab countries.
The other environmental scare from the 1960s was that the world would run out of resources. But resources just refuse to run out. The 1980s came and went without the famines that were supposed to starve tens of millions of Americans and billions of people worldwide. Then the year 1992 passed and, contrary to projections from the 1972 bestseller The Limits to Growth, the world did not exhaust its aluminum, copper, chromium, gold, nickel, tin, tungsten, or zinc. In 2013 the Atlantic ran a cover story about the fracking revolution entitled “We Will Never Run Out of Oil.” Humanity does not suck resources from the earth like a straw in a milkshake until a gurgle tells it that the container is empty. Instead, as the most easily extracted supply of a resource becomes scarcer, its price rises, encouraging people to conserve it, get at the less accessible deposits, or find cheaper and more plentiful substitutes.
This idea, that environmental protection is a problem to be solved, is commonly dismissed as the “faith that technology will save us.” In fact, it is a skepticism that the status quo will doom us — that knowledge and behavior will remain frozen in their current state for perpetuity. Indeed, a naive faith in stasis has repeatedly led to prophecies of environmental doomsdays that never happened.
Did Kristy — my main character — use public libraries? Not really. He went to bookstores, new-and-used. He preferred them. He preferred private libraries — preferred voluntarily paying a minuscule amount ($20.00 yearly, unlimited books) for a private-library card, with money he’d saved from not having to pay compulsory taxation.