Yeah, I know I should’ve pounded this one out sooner, and I didn’t take this long to publish this entry because the questions were hard, because they weren’t. The following are questions asked of Judge Andrew Napolitano by moderate comedian/fake news anchor Jon Stewart when the former appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Other libertarian sites and bloggers have attempted to answer these questions in their own way, and I thought it would be entertaining for me and informative for the reader if I attempted to answers these questions before peeking at the answers of others and actually watching the Daily Show episode. Here goes.
1. Is government the antithesis of liberty?
Yes and no. Government by itself is not the antithesis of liberty. It is the initiation of force and the implied threat of such initiation of force that is a threat of liberty. The use of force and the implied threat of force, both lethal and non-lethal, is the only real power government has and is the sole purpose for its existence.
2. One of the things that enhances freedoms are roads. Infrastructure enhances freedom. A social safety net enhances freedom.
Not exactly in question form, but whatever. The statement makes the assumption that only government can provide infrastructure. In Europe, many roads and highways are actually privately owned. There are tens of thousands of private roads in the United Kingdom. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are a total of 2,200 private bridges in the 41 states and Puerto Rico. If these private bridges and roads and highways caused traffic accidents or posed some other kind of threat to public safety, the government would not allow them to exist.
As for the last part of the statement, government-owned social safety nets don’t enhance freedom, especially if I am not free to refuse to pay for it. If you mean it enhances freedom for those who need the social safety net, that too is incorrect. The only freedom enhanced by a social safety net is the freedom from having to suffer the consequences of one’s actions, inactions or bad choices. Yes, there are some who made all the right choices, acted responsibly and through not fault of their own, have fallen on hard times. But the people who are concerned about the welfare of the less fortunate will come together. Think of all the people who give to charities. In places with lower tax burdens and less generous public welfare systems, charitable acts and charitable giving is greater. As for those who are broke or poor because of the poor choices they’ve made, giving them the same safety net as the first group fails to discourage them from making more bad choices in the future, and the government makes no distinction between the two.
3. What should we do with the losers that are picked by the free market?
Let’s bail them out with tax dollars, because they’re too big to fail. No, seriously. If a business cannot survive in the free market, it should be left alone to die. If your business fails to meet the market’s demand for a particular product or service, or if you extend credit to people you are not sure have the financial stability to repay them, if you make bad choices, your business should suffer the consequences. Who bails me out when I screw up financially? The Occupy Wall Street protests was launched primarily over public outrage that failing banks who were rightfully losers in the free market, were instead rescued with billions of dollars by the federal government, so I think most of the public would agree that corporations like Bank of America, Citibank and others should simply be allowed to die a slow financial death.
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.
Society is a collective, but it is a collective of individuals, with different interests and perspectives. Most collective efforts (corporations, charities, families) are conducted through voluntary interaction. You chose to buy that product. You chose to work for the company, You chose to have children. You chose to reach out and help the poor. You chose to collaborate your efforts with others who shared your interests. With government, nothing is voluntary. Peaceful people are forced to pay for wars, socialists are forced to pay for the rescuing of failing corporations, Christians who are pro-life are forced to pay for federal funding to Planned Parenthood, and drug users are forced to pay for the police that pursue them, kidnap them and throw them into cages.
Yes, it’s true that nobody gets there on their own, but that doesn’t imply that everyone who contributed to the success of one person is somehow owed a piece of that success. CEOs still need to hire employees to do the work, and customers to buy the product or service. Being a customer or a laborer of a business does not automatically make me an investor, so I am not privy to whatever profit or loss the company incurs as a direct or indirect result of my interaction with them.
Yes, the people who lose should be hung out to dry. Why shouldn’t people have to suffer the consequences of their bad decisions? This is a question I’d expect from a Wall Street banker or a support of the Wall Street bailouts, not from someone who allegedly is outraged at them. If there is that much concern for the well-being of a particular “loser” than a the people who share that concern will come together to help out said loser. If there isn’t that much concern for a loser
The last part of the question is just asinine, and proves that while libertarians can understand how statists thinks, statists have no clue about how libertarians think. I believe in evolution, and I know many libertarians who are atheists and they certainly don’t believe in creationism. Perhaps Jon has libertarians confused with evangelical Christians.
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.
That’s quite lovely. The Communist Manifesto says some very lovely things as well, such as destroying the bourgeois and creating a classless society. However, when practically applied in socialist societies, a group called the politburo (the ruling class) always seems to have things much better than the rest of the population. The same can be said about representative democracies. Our representatives are elected to look after the interests of the electorate, but they often look after the interests of their most generous campaign donors. Corporations, labor unions, political action committees and entire industries bribe politicians with campaign donations to help the politicians remain in power. But politicians are not exactly innocent in this exchange of money for political power. Candidates and incumbent politicians regularly hold fundraisers for their election campaigns, inviting anyone with a few thousand dollars lying around to buy a thousand dollar dinner plate for their fundraising dinner or “birthday party”. Strip politicians of their powers, and suddenly special interest groups will no longer be interests in attending pricey fundraisers the average voter is unable to afford.
6. Is government inherently evil?
This is a rephrasing of question #1. Government has a legal monopoly on violence, since they only real power they have is the use of or implied threat of the use of force. Government can restrict freedom as they see fit, for whatever reason they can come up with. Government is not inherently evil, but the monopoly on the initiation of force is the main reason it exists at all, so yes, it is evil, but not inherently.
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 true, but you don’t necessarily need government to do that. This goes back to the issue of voluntary versus forced action. If adequately threatened, people will act to protect themselves, their families, their friends, and their property. If the threat is large enough to threaten millions of people, millions of families, and millions of acres of property, millions of people will do what is needed to collaboratively defend it. What we have in the United States is a trend of initiating force upon foreign nations and foreign populations under the guise of defense. Even if the people of a foreign nation is asking for military intervention, the call should only be answered by those who are very much willing to intervene and form or join a militia who mission is to provide military assistance to said foreign population. The foreign legion is a great example of volunteers who enlist in a foreign military, not because of conscription laws but because they truly wish to do so.
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.
Again, Jon assumes the only way to build an army or militia is through government, by forcing everyone to pay for the alleged defense of life, liberty and property. Forcing someone to financially support something they do not morally support is inherently evil. If they support the cause, there is no need to force them to support it.
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.
How didn’t the Articles of Confederation work? In what ways? The truth is, the Founding Fathers were divided between those who wanted a strong central government and those who wanted a loose confederation of sovereign states. Add the fact that the federal government was having trouble paying off its war debt to France, and the argument in favor of a central government that could levy taxes on its citizens won, and the Constitution was born. Furthermore, the Constitution sets more rules about what the federal government cannot do than what it can do, which is why many libertarians regard themselves as Constitutionalists.
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.
Talk about not knowing your ass from your elbow. The IRS collects revenue for the federal government, and I’ve never heard of a federal fire department. I’m guessing Jon is attempting to incoherently make the old, really feeble statist argument that people pay taxes in order to have fire protection. If protective services like these were the only thing our government spent money on, taxes would not be as high as they are now. A private (nonprofit with volunteer firefighters or for-profit) fire department could establish a service area and require property owners within that area to directly subscribe to their fire protection services in advance if they wanted those services in the future. Anyone not willing to pay the fee in advance but whose property catches fire would be obligated to pay a higher fee per response.
If the fire department is a nonprofit, the firefighters will put out the fire first and bill the client later because the volunteers have donated their time and effort to the department for the explicit purpose of helping their community. If the fire department is a business the firefighters will still put out the fire first and bill the client later because the fire department cannot bill someone for a service that was not given. Since the goal of the business is to make as much money as possible, it will be in the company’s best interest to provide the service and have the client indebted to them financially.
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.
Your first mistake is the concept that politicians are accountable to their voters. Does Barack Obama seem accountable to the people who voted him in because they wanted the war in Iraq and Afghanistan to end, or who wanted the Guantanamo Naval base shut down? If politicians were accountable to their constituents, the United States probably wouldn’t have troops stationed in dozens of countries, fighting several wars at a time, wouldn’t have given big fat bailouts to multinational corporations, and so on. In the free market, corporations are only accountable to their investors, their employees and their customers. It is in the corporation’s best interest to be accountable all three of the aforementioned groups, and even if they are not, eventually they will have to compete with another company that will. If you feel a corporation is not accountable to you in some way, you can withdraw your investment in it, stop working for that company or stop buying whatever that company is selling. If government proves to be unaccountable, you must wait until the next election cycle to vote out your representative, but you cannot choose to stop supporting the government financially.
In what way would you give up your liberty to an insurance company? The fact that you are willing to give up your liberty to a politician, or anyone for that matter, is truly insane.
12 . Why is it that with competition, we have such difficulty with our health care system? ..and there are choices within the educational system.
Because of regulation. Healthcare is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the nation, from medicine to medical services to the healthcare professionals themselves. Every level of government has some kind of regulation, license/permit requirements and restrictions in the healthcare industry. The notion that there is some kind of competition in healthcare is a joke. If you wish to legally practice medicine, you must pass an exam for a state license to be allowed to write prescriptions, purchase malpractice insurance just to be able to see any patients and adhere to a web of federal, state and local regulations if you don’t want your license revoked. The same goes for medical support staff. The law can restrict how a doctor can treat their patient and what medicine can be prescribed. Peoples’ choices of what health insurance they can purchase is largely based on where they reside, forcing them to buy insurance from a local monopoly which has the sole legal authority to provide coverage for residents in said area, or choose between a local duopoly of providers granted the same privilege by the state.
And yes, there are choices within the educational system, but in many states, you are still forced to pay for the local public school system even if you choose an alternative. Some states have very rigid restrictions regarding home schooling, and the demand for publicly-funded charter schools staffed by non-union teachers and administrators is so much greater than the supply that admission is often determined by lottery. Depending on where you live, how lucky you may be in a lottery and how much money you make, parents have choices of how and where their child shall be educated and since education is legally compulsory in every state, the option of not giving your child access to a state-approved education is considered parental neglect and be used by the state to justify taking the child away from the parent.
13. Would you go back to 1890?
Is there something significant about that year that would make me want to return to it? How about going back to 1954? 1762? 1688? 1278? 420? 35 B.C.? See, I can be stupid, too.
14. If we didn’t have government, we’d all be in hovercrafts, and nobody would have cancer, and broccoli would be ice-cream?
Ah yes, the utopia argument. The favorite debate tool of the intellectually lazy. The absence of government would not automatically translate to the formation of a perfect world. As for hovercrafts, the absence of FAA regulations and other industry rules that stifle competition might potentially lead to an entrepreneur that would design and market a hovercraft. Federal control of scientific research may actually prohibit a cancer cure, since the pharmaceutical industry, with literally hundreds of lobbyists in Washington, would find more money to be made in treating cancer than in curing cancer. Lots of research is funded by government grants, and research not approved by the government would lose its funding so scientists get the message that one should confine the scope of their research to what the government approves if they wish to remain employed. Without government, the funds to control research would not be there and would instead be in the hands of taxpayers. Those who are eager to find a cure for cancer would donate their money to research facilities searching for a cure. As for broccoli, it by definition can never be ice cream.
Smaller government would not create a perfect world, but a fairer one where people do not have to financially support that which they do not morally support. A world where government is afraid of the citizens, and not the other way around. Where the government, if it exists, does not have a legal monopoly on aggression and the initiation of force and where money is not stolen from one group of people and given to another.
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.
Unregulated markets have never been tried, at least If the 80s and 90s were the robber baron age, it was because of government regulation, not because no regulations existed. Most of history’s robber barons, such as Standard Oil in the early 20th Century, enjoyed special monopoly privileges in several states and thanks to protectionism, were sheltered from foreign competition that might have offered lower prices or higher wages. Commercial regulations are often drafted by industry lobbyists and handed down to the politicians they bribe. Regulations victimize more people than they help.
16. Why do you think workers that worked in the mines unionized?
Because they felt they were working under unfair conditions. There’s nothing wrong with voluntary labor unions, but forcing prospective employees to join a union is. Also, union tactics like threats and intimidation to “scabs” who may try to work during a strike is also morally wrong. Workers should have the right to negotiate the terms of their employment and not have to be forced to accept terms set by a third party, including the payment of union dues. In one of my first union jobs, my salary was $5 a week higher after my probation period ended thanks to the union I was forced to join. Of course, I had to pay $12 in weekly union dues to be paid that extra $5, a net loss of $7. Who benefits from that, except the union presidents who earns a six-figure salary from the dues of employees forced to join the union if they wish to work at a particular company?
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.
Let’s re-examine that statement: without the government there are no labor unions, because they would be smashed by the government. Does that make any sense at all? Does that include the unionized workers employed by the government as well? You have to ask a coherent question to get a coherent answer.
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 actually wrote an entry about this very subject. Since miscegenation has to do with race-mixing on the most intimate level, the government played a much larger role in keeping whites and blacks apart than the free market ever did. Imagine all the young white kids who grew up attending segregated public schools,drinking from segregated public fountains, and going to the white entrances of public courthouses and other public institutions. Wouldn’t it make sense that once grown up, these white people would have a preference to eat at restaurants and stay in hotels that were just as segregated as the institutions they’ve known their entire lives? Then there were the miscegenation laws banning interracial marriage and practically making interracial sense a crime. When government sets the standard for citizens of different races are allowed to do, it’s easy to imagine that these same citizens would reflect the same attitudes towards black people in other aspects of their everyday lives.
For a white entrepreneur, turning down business from black customers wouldn’t be financial suicide, as blacks in the early 20th Century were still mostly poor. But as time progressed and the wealth of black Americans increased, bigoted business owners had to compete with competitors who accommodated all customers, regardless of skin color. Then there were the black entrepreneurs who capitalized on private sector racism by manufacturing products for black customers. Considering how wealthy the African-American community has grown over the last 50 years, even the biggest of bigots would be foolish to turn down a customer simply because of the color of his skin.
19. Government is necessary but must be held accountable for its decisions.
Only the last part is correct; everyone must be held accountable for their decisions. This applies to government as well it is a fictional entity created and operated by people. One cannot hide behind a word on paper like a government or a corporation and shield themselves from liability. Given the level of unaccountability by those in government, one has to question just how necessary government really is.