Can Government Do Anything Well?

No one can be trusted to manage the economy.

I’m suspicious of superstitions, like astrology or the belief that “green jobs will fix the environment and the economy.” I understand the appeal of such beliefs. People crave simple answers and want to believe that some higher power determines our fates.

The most socially destructive superstition of all is the intuitively appealing belief that problems are best solved by government.

Opinion polls suggest that Americans are dissatisfied with government. Yet whenever another crisis hits, the natural human instinct is to say, “Why doesn’t the government do something?”

And politicians appear to be problem-solvers. We believe them when they say, “Yes, we can!”

In 2008, when Barack Obama’s supporters shouted, “Yes, we can!” they expressed faith in the power of government to solve problems. Some acted as if Obama were a magical politician whose election would end poverty and inequality and bring us to “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

At least now people have come to understand that presidents—including this president—can’t perform miracles.

In other words: No, they can’t!—which happens to be the title of my new book.

Free people, however, do perform miracles, which is why "No’s" subtitle is: “Why Government Fails—But Individuals Succeed.”

Those who believe an elite group of central planners can accomplish more than free people need some economics. I hope my book helps.

People vastly overestimate the ability of central planners to improve on the independent action of diverse individuals. What I’ve learned watching regulators is that they almost always make things worse. If regulators did nothing, the self-correcting mechanisms of the market would mitigate most problems with more finesse. And less cost.

But people don’t get that. People instinctively say, “There ought to be a law.”

If Americans keep voting for politicians who want to spend more money and pass more laws, the result will not be a country with fewer problems but a country that is governed by piecemeal socialism. We can debate the meaning of the word “socialism,” but there’s no doubt that we’d be less prosperous and less free.

Economists tend to focus on the “prosperous” part of that statement. But the “free” part, which sounds vague, is just as important. Individuals and their freedom matter. Objecting to restrictions on individual choice is not just an arbitrary cultural attitude, it’s a moral objection. If control over our own lives is diminished—if we cannot tell the mob, or even just our neighbors, to leave us alone—something changes in our character.

Every time we call for the government to fix some problem, we accelerate the growth of government. If we do not change the way we think, we will end up socialists by default, even if no one calls us that.

Pity us poor humans. Our brains really weren’t designed to do economic reasoning any more than they were designed to do particle physics. We evolved to hunt, seek mates, and keep track of our allies and enemies. Your ancestors must have been pretty good at those activities, or you would not be alive to read this.

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  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, it's good from taking money from some and giving it to others. Also, got to concede that nothing kills like government.

    Must grudging admire the government's ability to slow down economic growth.

  • PantsFan||

    Some companies are both taxed to subsidize other industries while receiving back other subsidies!

  • Drake||

    Actually, government is really bad at that too. They keep much of the money to pay themselves for their "service".

  • Chupacabra||

    Yes, but even the Mafia admires the government's ability to steal. And commit fraud.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    People, for some reason, think of the Government as an infinitely large toolbox, full of tools for all occasions.

    Government is a large spiked mace. Occasionally - such as when there is an outbreak of German Fascism in Europe - a large spiked mace can be very useful. More often it just gets in the way.

  • Surly Chef||

    Also that spiked mace can and will be swung by said German Fascist as their primary tool.

  • ant1sthenes||

    This. Government is a weapon -- it can be used to kill enemies, or to scare them away, or to threaten people into handing over their wallets.

    Libertarians support gov control.

  • ||

    Elegant analogy.

  • some guy666||

    "Despite the obstacles created by governments, voluntary networks of private individuals—through voluntary exchange—solve all sorts of challenges." Will John Stossel be a part of this voluntary network? Im sure he wont.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    Will John Stossel be a part of this voluntary network? Im sure he wont.

    Part of which voluntary network? I'm sure every day he does something that he isn't forced to do he's participating in a voluntary network.

  • ||

    Will John Stossel be a part of this voluntary network? Im sure he wont.

    You have no idea of what you're talking, do you?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: some guy666,

    Will John Stossel be a part of this voluntary network? Im sure he wont.


    EVERYBODY is already part of a voluntary network, S. Unless you seriously want to argue that we all steal from each other instead of engaging in trade.

  • Chupacabra||

    I think you misunderstood it, OM.

    The troll is upset because Stossel might not be forced into the "voluntary network" of his/her/its choice.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Kind of like the "voluntary" income tax.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nX-03Sf1wDo

  • Tonio||

    Will John Stossel be a part of this voluntary network? Im sure he wont.

    So what? The point is that if you want something to happen, put down the keyboard and get to work.

    If you can't assemble enough people and money to solve a particular problem, that means that it's just not that big a problem.

  • AlmightyJB||

    What i force Alex? Force is what the government does well.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Weather is an extremely dynamic and chaotic system with almost innumerable variables. At best, with our current understanding of meteorology, we can accurately predict the weather for, maybe 3 days? To change the weather is, for the most part, beyond our current ability.

    Yet, many of us have the hubris to believe that we can some how accurately predict and control the economy, an equally dynamic and chaotic system involving billions of individual transactions, wants, and motives that change every second.

    We'd be better off throwing virgins into volcanoes.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    We'd be better off throwing virgins into volcanoes.

    Absolutely! One more reason for women to be eager to have sex!

  • gaoxiaen||

    I could just imagine an annual volcano orgy in Hawaii.

  • Chupacabra||

    "We'd be better off throwing virgins into volcanoes."

    Don't give up hope. Obama's term isn't over yet.

  • T o n y||

    Yet somehow the desire for police protection of private property is universal and immutable. Education and healthcare? Just arbitrary and totally unpredictable whims.

  • WTF||

    At least now, writes John Stossel, people have come to understand that presidents—including this president—can’t perform miracles

    'Tony' still thinks he can.

  • ||

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

  • Ramjet||

    I love that book.

  • Colonel Slanders||

    Don't Fuck with the Wizard, man. \m/

  • Lucretio||

    I believe that any huge feat that government accomplishes, like develop the atomic bomb and land a man on the moon, is a circumstantial thrust of momentary desperation, life and death enthusiasm that diminishes quickly. Markets work far better over the long term, but government monopolies don't fail overnight and certainly have never done anything right ever. They're merely a backwards and inferior mode of production lacking the creative destruction necessary to sustain that momentary enthusiasm of actors that defeated Hitler. The Soviet economy never worked as brilliantly as when they had a gun to their heads in Tankograd.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I would actually argue, in spite of my previous post, that there is a historical case for government being good for spreading networks that would otherwise be unable to collect in fees what they are worth to society at large. The examples I know of are all in the United States; canals, railroads, rural electrification, the interstate highways, and the internet spring to mind. The problem being that once the government has involved itself with such a network it is often loath to let it fail when it is time to.

    More work needs to be done on this idea, though, and I'm not the one to do it. It needs somebody with a background in the history of economics.

    That said, the government is so bad at everything else that I am willing to forego whatever networks it might have fostered in the future.....

  • Lucretio||

    I would agree with this, actually. Enormous swathes of Alaska are perfectly habitable and ready for the plucking, but extremely hard to access because of the lack of paved roads, bridges etc. When you have the dole to accomplish such access, and you run out of things to build, then the politicians raking in the revenues have to find something to spend that money on so they can still feel important.

  • anon||

    Enormous swathes of Alaska are perfectly habitable...

    Uh, just because somewhere is "habitable" doesn't mean anyone wants to live there.

    Because I know you couldn't pay me enough to put up with -40f temps on a nightly basis.

  • Lucretio||

    "Anyone"? Speak for yourself. Alaska is pretty goddamn huge, -40F temps are only certain parts of it. A large part of it has weather like Seattle.

  • anon||

    A large part of it has weather like Seattle.

    Yeah, the inhabited part.

    There's a reason that Alaska has roughly the same amount of people in the entire state as Seattle.

  • gaoxiaen||

    More than one. Cost of living, lack of utilities, and limited employment opportunities immediately come to mind.

  • gaoxiaen||

    From what I've read, cabin fever is worse than the temperature. Unless, of course, you freeze to death or suffer frostbite.

  • RickC||

    For me it was the long, long nights even more than the cold.

  • GW||

    Many "public works" type projects were originally undertaken by private enterprise. Many railroads were built by private companies (they lobbied the government for monopolies later). Significant portions of the NYC subway system were built by private companies and operated privately for about 40 years.

    I don't understand why you included the internet in your list. The ones I mention above may not be common knowledge, but the internet is almost all private. Yes, the birth of it was government, but it took off under private companies. You can't draw many parallels between the interstate highway system and the internet.

    Also, you have to see what is unseen: people think if the government didn't build roads, we would have no roads. Hogwash. If the government had not built the interstate highway system, I'm sure private enterprise would have met the demand one way or another.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Acknowledging that this post is rather tardy.

    The railroads were, in many cases, built with generous land-grants from the government. In fact those grants are at the center of the supposed "Scandal" associated with the railroads; most of the money made by investors in the railroads was made on land speculation rather than on the profitability of the railroads themselves. The internet is the descendent of the ARPAnet, which was certainly a government project.

    The Interstate Highway system was built, at least at first, to facilitate the movement of military hardware. It created a reliable system of heavy-use roads from sea to sea far sooner than it might have been created otherwise, and gave a big boost to the 1950's economic boom.

  • Loki||

    Part of the problem though is that even when the government does create something postive, often times it doesn't have the good sense to step aside.

    Take the internet for example. Instead of just letting the "good jenie" out of its bottle some politicians seem hellbent on forcing it back in the bottle with idiotic shit like SOPA and PIPA*.

    *I realize those efforts failed, but they will try again, and keep trying until they get their wish.

  • Loki||

    To clarify, while DARPA created the backbone of the internet, for the most part the internet as we know it today is private. The real problem is that while the government stepped aside initially (mainly, I suspect, because DARPA isn't a regulatory agency and has a relatively small budget), they seem to be determined to step in and stifle it with stupid regulations now.

    It's almost as if they saw what people were doing with it and said "Oh no, people are engaging in spontaneous economic activity that we have no control over! Can't have that, we shall smite thee, internet!" What a bunch of dipshits.

  • ||

    Government abhors a power vacuum.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Lucretio,

    Markets work far better over the long term,


    You will notice that many leftists and anti-market dullards think the exact opposite thing: That markets are only good in the short term because of individual self-interest, but central planners always think of the long term because everybody knows that bureaucrats are veritable clones of Prometheus.

    Never mind how individuals save for the future and how bureaucrats spend as if money burned their hands. Never mind reality. No, governments act always for the greater good/long term/man's ascension to heaven.

  • J_L_B||

    That markets are only good in the short term because of individual self-interest, but central planners always think of the long term because everybody knows that bureaucrats are veritable clones of Prometheus.

    What they fail to understand is that they can only offer one solution. It may even work for a swath of people, but there will inevitably be cases where the solution will not work. Private transactions, however, allow a level of customization that fits individual solutions more appropriately.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: J_L_B,

    What they fail to understand is that they [bureaucrats] can only offer one solution.


    Indeed. However, some folks hold on to the notion that acting on self-interest only results in immoral outcomes. Obivously, they engage in question-begging a they aleady consider self-interest immoral in itself.

    I always find it laughable that people entertain the above notion only because self-interested poiticians convince people that they act in a selfless, altruistic fashion. Which they can't - nobody can and nobody does. Even heroes act expecting a higher reward, be it in the next life or in the history books: Vanity fits Occam's razor better than altruism.

  • ||

    Since I refuse to let my essay in response to Tony go unnoticed as new articles pop up: here's this

  • ||

    You know Tony's not real, right?

  • ||

    ...

    Dammit. Clearly, I have not been here long enough. Well, what's done is done.

  • ||

    Test time, new guy. Which Planet of the Apes movie do you like best? Also, describe your ideal pizza and provide a chili recipe.

  • anon||

    Can I play?

    Question 1: Original, duh.

    Question 2: As long as it has beer with it, does it matter what kind of pizza it is?

    Question 3: Hah! Yeah right.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Anon almost passes Warty's modified V-K Empathy Test. Almost.

  • ||

    Close, but no cigar. To the horrormines with him.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Not the Whore-O-Mines like last time. That's not really that much of a punishment, it turns out.

  • ||

    That's not really that much of a punishment, it turns out.

    Au contraire, Pro'L Dib...

  • Pro Libertate||

    Still stuck in the Whore-O-Mines? Really, you need to move on.

  • ||

    1: None of them. I refuse to watch movies where the glory of mankind's pursuit of power is questioned.

    2: Pizza is the food of the proletariat, designed to clog their arteries before they can mount an offensive. I do not partake in its consumption.

    3: If I share the secrets of my chili recipe before it is patented, I will lose out on my totally legitimate claim to the profits derived from its commercial use. Nice try, saboteur.

  • Pro Libertate||

    We need a ruling here. Answer #3 is acceptable. However, Answer #2 is just disturbing, and Answer #1 is Hit & Run heresy.

  • anon||

    Yeah, #1 indicates that he's only watched the piece of trash that poses as a film released in 2001.

    #2 fully disqualifies though.

  • tarran||

    I vote that we blackball him; he might prove more popular than me.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I just can't talk to someone who doesn't love the original Planet of the Apes and isn't conversant in the Hestonian Apocalyptic Trilogy. And anti-pizza? That's just wrong.

  • tarran||

    Pro - turn in your decoder ring. He's not denying the right to eat pizza.

    He just won't eat one, which is nobody's fault, not even the Romans.

  • Pro Libertate||

    This issue transcends politics. We're talking the Central Mystery.

  • ||

    My experience with (the original) PotA was, as a small child, being subjected to the entire series in one sitting by my uncle, an ordained minister. My experience with the remake was mocking the film MST3K-style; seriously, how did the fucking chimp land the pod when a trained astronaut couldn't?

    As for pizza, I live in fucking MA. Where the hell do you expect me to find a slice? Domino's?

  • ||

    I vote that we blackball him; he might prove more popular than me.

    I may be confusing you with someone else, but I believe we're both located in MA. If that is the case, the only proper judge for this is the Thunderdome.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Don't try to kiss up now with Thunderdome references. Unless you actually do fight tarran in a dome. Then we accept!

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    I may be confusing you with someone else, but I believe we're both located in MA. If that is the case, the only proper judge for this is the Thunderdome.

    Well, that's three of us. I'll tell you what, if you and tarran get in the dome I'll be the "ref".

  • ||

    If there's three of us, we have to forget our difference and rule the Galaxy with an iron fist. The Sith Triumvirate demands it.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    If there's three of us, we have to forget our difference and rule the Galaxy with an iron fist. The Sith Triumvirate demands it.

    I think I could live with this.

  • tarran||

    I like this idea better than thunderdome.

    The women of bartertown are pretty awful looking. On the other hand when we rule the galaxy, we will have access to a much wider pool of comely lasses.

  • tarran||

    I accept!

    With my encylopedic knowledge of every Dr Who Episode up through the Colin Baker years will lead me to victory.

    And, I will bake your flesh into a calzone.

  • ||

    Answer #1 lacks a suitable Dr. Zaius joke. Answer #2 lacks hatred toward the horrible pizza styles of the Chicago morons or the New York sodomites. Answer #3 is a lie designed to cover up his chili's many flaws.

    HE FAILS THE TEST

  • anon||

    See, I can respect #3, because nobody gives out their chili recipe unless the person they're giving it to is about to die.

    Of course, if I give out my chili recipe, a heart attack may be imminent, so I'll have to reconsider this.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I was thinking that the ideal answer for #1 would be the Dr. Zaius song from the Simpsons.

    #2 is really any answer, provided that it's fanatically pro-something that is at least arguably pizza, allows for no argument, and trashes the idea of eating any other kind of pizza. Or skips the above in preference for a totally callous and inappropriate insult of Episiarch.

    #3 requires a readily supplied recipe, though I do like the bold assertion of IP rights among people who largely oppose IP. Not me, but you other people.

  • anon||

    PL, your post suggests that your chili sucks, and you're looking for better ideas.

  • Pro Libertate||

    My chili is made from hand-killed alligators, tenderized by plutonium, and includes black beans grown on Pitcairn's Island. I'd reveal it here, only it's classified as munitions under federal law.

  • ||

    "Can I play the piano anymore?" Of course you can! "Well, I couldn't before".

  • Lord Humungus||

    1) Get your hands off of me, you damn dirty ape!

    2) Too many carbs

    3) it involves beef... lots and lots of beef.

  • ||

    These are all the correct answers.

  • Lord Humungus||

    do I finally get the secret password? And the diamond-encrusted monocle?

  • T||

    You get your diamond encrusted monocle when you go buy one, heathen.

  • ||

    The password is rectal.

    No, not "rectal", you moron. I mean you need to dig around in my ass to find it. Look for the brass plaque.

  • Pro Libertate||

    No pork? Come man, are you mad?

    Cloned human would also be an acceptable alternative.

  • T||

    Pork? In chili? Jesus god, what do you reprobates in Florida eat?

  • ||

    A couple brats cut up and added to a cauldron of beef-based chili can be acceptable, sometimes. Same for bacon.

  • anon||

    wait, you DON'T use pork in your chili?

    You, sir, have not eaten Chili.

  • Pro Libertate||

    This is correct. In chili, and in chili alone, may beef and pork meet.

  • T||

    Chili is venison and beef. This is one of the few native feuds of my adopted homeland I will participate in vigorously. Bacon is acceptable, but ground pork makes it other.

    However, I'm sure we all agree that when you have stooped to including fowl you are making some kind of bird stew.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Is that legal? What kind of bird would someone try to put in chili? Pterodactyl?

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    Any decent chili has to willingly accept the introduction of Velveeta should the need arise.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The Cheese that Cannot Die?

  • ||

    Do cowbirds taste like cow? That might work in chili, I guess.

  • T||

    Technically, I don't think it is in this state. But some of you live elsewhere and I can't speak to the laws there.

  • ||

    Test time, new guy. Which Planet of the Apes movie do you like best? Also, describe your ideal pizza and provide a chili recipe.

    You forgot the favorite beer question, doucheweasel. Also, microbrewing. To say nothing the favorite Samuel Clemens quote.

    Your sloppiness disgusts me, Philistine.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I chastised him for his curious omission of beer under separate cover, doc.

  • sloopyinca||

    Hi, guys! What's all this talk about chili? And can I join in?

  • Pro Libertate||

    As you are well aware, Ohioans aren't even allowed to say the word "chilly" due to the possibility that they'll produce another abomination that is nominally referred to as chili.

  • sloopyinca||

    Says the man from the foodie hotbed known as Tampa/St. Pete.

    What cuisine are you guys known for, Pro Lib? (And don't say seafood. It's just a cliche for any town without a food heritage that is near a large body of water.)

  • ||

    What cuisine are you guys known for, Pro Lib?

    Darden Restaurants, Inc.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Darden is Orlando, silly.

  • ||

    The taint of Darden looms large, Pro'L Dib. Naturally, as you are a Floridian, I blame you.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Your food is so bad, your citizens leave the planet to avoid it.

  • ||

    Your food is so bad, your citizens leave the planet to avoid it.

    Which also brings up the abomination conglomeration known as Brinker, Int'l.

    FOR THE SAKE OF SOD...CHILI'S????

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's Texas. They do some things okay. Unlike Ohio. What's their specialty, Potted Meat Product?

  • ||

    That's Texas.

    Where did I claim otherwise? I think we are talking past each other.

    They do some things okay.

    Name one.

  • sloopyinca||

  • Pro Libertate||

    Steak. I had good steak in Dallas once.

  • sloopyinca||

    You can get a better steak in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming and most certainly California.

    Texas is to steak what Florida is to surfing. Second-rate.

  • sloopyinca||

    Only a couple of them. And only one of them was from the Cinci-tucky area.

  • ||

    Ohioans aren't even allowed to say the word "chilly" due to the possibility that they'll produce another abomination that is nominally referred to as chili.

    This is why they must not be permitted to breed. I suggest a slow attrition as the final solution.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think that's happening already.

  • ||

    I saw no such chastisment. Who's the Canuckistanian now?

  • ||

    Is some asshole talking to me? I could swear I heard something annoying.

  • ||

    Nothing of consequence, Your Flatulence. That sound you hear is of your one fart escaping.

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's one hand fapping. You're really not very Zen, are you?

  • gaoxiaen||

    With a sphincter stretched that much, it's a Zen fart.

  • ||

    I made this chili just yesterday. Good stuff, but needs a bit of "Stairway to Hell" to liven it up.

  • ||

    Bell pepper? Brown sugar? Ground beef? Only 1.5 pounds of it. I hope you enjoyed your pot of failure.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yeah, I'm with Warty. What's clogging my digestive system in that recipe? Ha!

  • ||

    When I make chili, I usually start with around 6 pounds of chuck roast. You can figure the rest of the recipe out on your own. It follows naturally.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The rule of thumb is a 1:1 ratio of meat to the amount of ass each person you're serving has.

  • ||

    When I make chili, I usually start with around 6 pounds of chuck roast.

    Needs moar bison and venison. Yummy!

  • ||

    Shit. I may be an oblivious code monkey, but even I know better than to increase the meat in proportion to my wife's ass.

  • sloopyinca||

    Shit. I may be an oblivious code monkey, but even I know better than to increase the meat in proportion to my wife's ass.

    We'll need pictures to assess that comment.

  • gaoxiaen||

    You never ate mt after-hours chicken gut spaghetti.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Damn y-t problem again.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Do you mean physically or metaphorically? He could be made of straw and still serve a valuable service here as a contrary viewpoint, so... who cares. Strictly speaking, he's not a troll.

  • Old Mexican||

    People vastly overestimate the ability of central planners to improve on the independent action of diverse individuals.


    They overestimate it because they were taught to do so for a couple of generations by unionized, semi-illiterate dolts some call (with a very sick sense of humor) "public school teachers."

    What I’ve learned watching regulators is that they almost always make things worse.


    They don't make things worse. They make things bad: They're the originators of the problem as they conjure problems out of thin air to then purport to fix them.

  • ||

    Misleading headline. Article, while largely correct, is nothing new for anyone who regularly reads libertarian thought, hence probably of little use to the audience here.

    As for "Yes we can" being some rallying cry for government meddling, perhaps. Though I think that phrase had as many meanings of what "we can" as people shouting it. Onto it was everything from "end the wars" to "engineer a recovery" to simply get rid of Bush and his ilk and allies or even "elect a black president".

  • ||

    Can Government Do Anything Well?

    Stossel used a lot of words to say "no".

  • Surly Chef||

    On the contrary it does all the things it is immoral for an individual to do quite well: steal, perpetrate assault & murder, and commit fraud. It does none of these particularly efficiently, but it does so perpetually via any aura of legitimacy. So, it's excellent at marathon rape, essentially.

  • anon||

    So, are you advocating for no law?

    If so, count me out.

    The violations of liberty (even under our current governance) are nothing compared to not having any law.

  • ||

    So, are you advocating for no law?

    So, are you saying that if a government does not do something essential, like law, then there will be no law?

    I believe Bastiat had something to say about this and socialists in "The Law":

    "Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”

  • anon||

    So, are you saying that if a government does not do something essential, like law, then there will be no law?

    And you have no idea why we give government the monopoly of force in the first place.

    Tell me; would it be just for me to take your property because under my understanding of the law it belongs to me?

    Would you rather have an arbiter decide who the property belongs to?

    Please, re-read The Law and understand that Bastiat was not arguing for anarchy, merely just laws rather than socialism.

  • anon||

    er, merely Just laws.

  • John||

    So, are you saying that if a government does not do something essential, like law, then there will be no law?

    There will be some kind of law. People will figure out ways to settle disputes without the government. But I doubt you would like it very much.

    If private law was so great, black markets wouldn't be a problem. Think about it, the Mexican drug cartels, since they are in an illegal business, can't go to the cops. They really don't have public law. But they do have law. Things have to get done. Disputes have to be settled and business deals made. So they make their own private law to do these things. Their law doesn't sound very good to me.

  • Juice||

    The reason their law is more violent (just a bit more) than public law is because those in charge of public law seek to obliterate them. They have to stay hidden. They can't have open courts where a defendant can face an accuser.

    But if "law" were open yet "privately run", I don't see it being very different than it is today, and it would quickly evolve into something very similar to what we have. Some things might seem better, but some things would be worse. I'd elaborate, but there's a character limit.

  • Surly Chef||

    From any of my limited posting it should be clear I'm an ancap, but how you can read that into the post in question is beyond me. Even the minarchist concession is that government is a necessary evil; less bad than anarchy does not mean "not bad at all."

  • anon||

    I'm good at spotting anarchists; the pure disdain for any governance without any more suitable alternative irritates me. Mostly because it lets those that aren't libertarians equivocate anarchy with libertarianism.

  • John||

    Anarchy is just as bad and just as utopian as communism. Communism depended upon the assumption that we could produce a new socialist man who worked for the collective and never exploited people by owning capital. That is why communist killed so many people. It was hard to convert people into the new soviet man, so they just killed the ones who wouldn't go along.

    Anarchism is similar. It depends upon the idea that man can somehow be transformed into something different. That he will stop joining together into groups and impose their will on others.

    If we got rid of all government tomorrow, the only way another one in some form wouldn't rise is if everyone became something different than what they are and resisted the urge form groups and control others.

  • anon||

    You're just about exactly right, John.

    As long as resources are scarce (which they always will be), people will have to compete for the use of those resources. As long as there's competition, there will always be people that cheat via murder, fraud, etc. Always.

    The part of government I like is the part that prevents/corrects those that would impose their will onto me.

  • John||

    As long as there are scarce resources, there will always be disputes over resources. And there has to be some way to settle those disputes.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    The part of government I like is the part that prevents/corrects those that would impose their will onto me.

    By imposing your will onto them. That's a nice touch.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: John,

    Anarchy is just as bad and just as utopian as communism.


    You sure do not let an opportunity pass to show your misunderstanding of concepts, John. Communism is based on common ownership of property, whereas anarchy only means "no government." They're entirely different concepts and not simply extremes of the same concept.

    Anarchism is similar. It depends upon the idea that man can somehow be transformed into something different.


    Where did you get this from? This is total nonsense. Anarchy simply means people are not bound by institutionalized criminality (what you may call with a very twisted sense of humor "government.")

    If we got rid of all government tomorrow, the only way another one in some form wouldn't rise is if everyone became something different than what they are and resisted the urge form groups and control others.


    You mean the only way not to have government is for people to control their urge to form political parties?

  • John||

    Old Mexican, you totally misunderstand the point.

    Lets say tomorrow we got rid of the government and had anarchy. What would immediately happen is people would form gangs and enforce their own law. We would immediately have government again. It just would be more decentralized. But it would be only a matter of time before one gang one out and obtained a monopoly of force and we would be right back to where we started. The only way for that not to happen is for people to stop forming gangs and stop exploiting each other via superior force. And thinking that will happen is no different than when communist dream of people giving up working for themselves and only working for the collective. Both are Utopian dreams of perfecting man.

    And that is why anarchist are just as Utopian and just as foolish as communists. They have different methods. But they both share a belief that man can somehow be perfected.

  • Surly Chef||

    Yes, because pigeon holing an entire group of people based on your own perception of their beliefs, without regard for their individuality, makes you the god of libertarianism.

    The original post in question is a value judgement not a solution. Yes, anarchy may in many instances, be worse for liberty of many than minarchy. None of us are really given that option though. If there is a net gain in liberty, by the existence of gov, that's fine, there will always be some sort of tyranny by someone. The stance that I hold is that even those most basic functions of government should be allowed to be tried privately, if the do not work that's fine too, but they should not be barred from exploration by someone with a gun say "fuck you that's why."

  • John||

    "The stance that I hold is that even those most basic functions of government should be allowed to be tried privately, "

    That is where you are mistaken. You think that a private entity doing government functions is not a government. It is. If I form a company that say settles contract disputes and I have the ability to use force to enforce my judgments, I am for a practical purposes a government.

  • anon||

    Goddamnit, exactly what I was about to post.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    If I form a company that say settles contract disputes and I have the ability to use force to enforce my judgments, I am for a practical purposes a government.

    You might call yourself a government, but you are not, in fact, a government. There may be other companies that perform the same function and if I don't like the way yours works I'll just go to one of the others.

  • John||

    If you don't believe I am a government Sparky, see what happens when you blow off one of my judgments. How do you think I will collect? With force just like a government.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    With force just like a government.

    Being just like a government does not make you a government.

  • Surly Chef||

    And that may be an entirely semantic discussion. The distinction I make is that I nor anyone is allowed to associate or disassociate with said service provider.

    So really it comes down to property rights. Governments claim a geographical area under which land is owned privately. This shouldn't be the case, but alas it is.

    Again how this got here I don't really know. If I'm given the choice between slow marathon rape, and repeated vigorous sprint rapes with a possible snuff finish, I'm going to pick the one where I don't die (maybe), if I can find a way to remove myself from the rape I shouldn't get nuked from orbit for being able to escape. The value judgement that "rape is bad" controversy free.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: John,

    That is where you are mistaken. You think that a private entity doing government functions is not a government.


    As long as the private entity operates in a voluntary fashion, then it is defintively NOT a government, John.

    Government IS violence, aggression, force, murder, theft, raping and pillaging. A private entity that acts that way we call a gang, the mob, a criminal enterprise. When government does it, people call it "law enforcement," "tax collection," "eminent domain," " collateral damage" and all other sorts of euphemisms.

  • John||

    As long as the private entity operates in a voluntary fashion, then it is defintively NOT a government, John.

    IF it is operating in a voluntary fashion, then it is not doing government functions. Sure I will play along with your little private government, until it decides against me, then fuck you. What are you going to do about it? Use force? If so, then you are a government. If not, then you are not functioning as one.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: John,

    IF it is operating in a voluntary fashion, then it is not doing government functions.


    Then it is not. This is your tacit acceptance of the fact that government acts immoraly, i.e. aggressively, not voluntarily.

    WHY then would it's non-existance be worse? I fail to understand your argument, John.

    Sure I will play along with your little private government, until it decides against me, then fuck you.


    Then I won't play with you anymore. Then you starve - or you try to steal from me, then I shoot you dead.

    Case closed - we don't need government for that.

  • John||

    "Then I won't play with you anymore. Then you starve - or you try to steal from me, then I shoot you dead."

    LOL. But you are not a government. And when I want to steal, I won't come alone. I will come with my gang and larger force and take everything you have and enslave you. What are you going to do about?

    Form your own group with rules and coordination enforced by violence? Sure you will. And that Old Mexican is called a government.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    But you are not a government. And when I want to steal, I won't come alone. I will come with my gang and larger force and take everything you have and enslave you. What are you going to do about?

    Form your own group with rules and coordination enforced by violence? Sure you will. And that Old Mexican is called a government.

    So what you're saying is that any time a group of people voluntarily get together to accomplish a task that they couldn't have individually they have become a government.

  • John||

    When the rules inside that group are enforced by a monopoly of violence, which in a world with no government filled with organized groups looking to victimize you it would have to be that way, yes, it is effectively a government. It pretty much defeats the whole purpose of anarchy.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    When the rules inside that group are enforced by a monopoly of violence

    Then it isn't voluntary.

    which in a world with no government filled with organized groups looking to victimize you

    As soon as government goes away every person goes on a violent rampage suddenly for no apparent reason.

    It pretty much defeats the whole purpose of anarchy.

    The ability of individuals to voluntarily work together to accomplish specific tasks then go back to working individually is completely destroyed by wandering gangs of thugs. As soon as people voluntarily form a group they gain mob mentality and start looking for other smaller groups to victimize.

    It's a bleak world you live in John.

  • John||

    As soon as government goes away every person goes on a violent rampage suddenly for no apparent reason.

    No they just form gangs and go around stealing and such from outsiders.

    Here is my whole point. You assume that if there was no government people would be peaceful. They wouldn't be. That is not human nature. People are nasty and violent and believe foolish things. And worse still they are social. They love to form gangs, tribes and nations which then become vehicles upon which to enforce their will upon others. That is human nature.

    And when you advocate anarchy, you are pretending that human nature can somehow be changed.

  • sloopyinca||

    This is total bullshit, John. People, by nature, tend to be introverted and engage with others when needed or desired, almost exclusively for mutual benefit. It's nations (i.e.: the state) that tend to be belligerent in its dealings with other nations.

    If your theory held true, the more free areas like rural Idaho and Texas would have dramatically higher crime rates than the states where government plays a heavy-handed role, namely Chicago, New York and Oakland.

  • T o n y||

    There's higher crime in more densely populated areas. The same is true in red states and blue.

    The closer people live to each other, the more value they see in government, as there will be more disputes to resolve.

  • sloopyinca||

    There's not just more crime, there is a dramatically higher rate of crime. So your statement is fucking retarded.

  • T o n y||

    Yeah there's a higher crime rate in more densely populated areas. Even talking about rate this would seem to be bordering on trivial truth.

    What's not quite so manifest is the link you've drawn to "heavy-handed government" and crime rates. Link.

  • sloopyinca||

    Haha. I used that the other day to prove just this point. Click almost every category and sort in descending order. If you don't see a trend that the cities at the top are overwhelmingly big government cities, then you are being disingenuous or you are mentally retarded.

  • T o n y||

    Well that list only includes cities of pop. 250,000+ but I'm not sure what criteria you're using to distinguish big government cities from small government cities. What's an example of a small government city?

  • sloopyinca||

    Well, since the overwhelming majority of laws a city enforces are state laws, it would be fair to say that the states with large governments would be large government cities. Cities in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California and Massholeachussets would immediately come to mind. So would Ohio for that matter.

    Small government cities would be places in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado (but that's changing) and Montana would pop into my head.

  • T o n y||

    I happen to live in one of the reddest states in one of the cities with the highest crime rates. I think a large number of factors go into crime rates.

    The point is that more densely populated areas need and want more government for obvious reasons. And this reflects voting patterns on pretty much a global scale. It's why among democracies the US (a large, spread-out country) has more conservative governance than smaller, more densely packed countries, which tend toward more socialism.

    Of course, your theory blows up once you look at the US's crime rates vs. other countries.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: anon,

    The violations of liberty (even under our current governance) are nothing compared to not having any law.


    Government =/= having law.

    They're not the same thing. You can have law and government; NO law and governent, and then law and NO government.

  • anon||

    They're not the same thing. You can have law and government; NO law and governent, and then law and NO government.

    Please provide an example of law without government; also, note how effective the "law" is.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    Laws that do not require government:

    1. If two systems are in thermal equilibrium with a third system, they must be in thermal equilibrium with each other.

    2. Heat and work are forms of energy transfer.

    3. The entropy of any closed system not in thermal equilibrium almost always increases.

    4. The entropy of a system approaches a constant value as the temperature approaches zero.

  • John||

    Those are not laws. Those are descriptions you call laws. All you can say about them is every time they have been tested in the past, they have been true. You can't say they with logical certainty they will be true in the future.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    Those are not laws. Those are descriptions you call laws. All you can say about them is every time they have been tested in the past, they have been true. You can't say they with logical certainty they will be true in the future.

    If this is true then there are no laws, there are only things you call "laws". In that case, instead of calling them "laws" they should just be called "rules".

  • John||

    It is true. See David Hume.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    See David Hume

    So you philosophically don't believe in scientific laws. Fair enough. I think David Hume is an idiot and his beliefs don't trump my own.

  • John||

    He wasn't an idiot. He was right. He never denied that scientific laws were not really useful. He just denied that they were logically imperative.

  • ||

    Plus, he could out-consume Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    He wasn't an idiot

    OK, he wasn't an idiot. That was a bit of hyperbole on my part.

    He was right

    In your, and his, opinion.

    The Laws of Thermodynamics are called laws because:
    Law differs from a scientific theory in that it does not posit a mechanism or explanation of phenomena: it is merely a distillation of the results of repeated observation. As such, a law is limited in applicability to circumstances resembling those already observed, and is often found to be false when extrapolated. Laws can become obsolete if they are found in contradiction with new data, as with Bode's law or the biogenetic law.

  • anon||

    I deserved that Sparky.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: anon,

    Please provide an example of law without government


    You don't watch much of Judge Judy, do you?

    As well, if you live in a community where the only restraint on people's barbaric appetites is a government, then I pity you.

  • gaoxiaen||

    @anon below: What I'd really like is for you to count me out, but authoritarians like you are pretty pushy.

  • anon||

    This was a really long advertisement for Stossel's new book.

  • John||

    My wife and I went to the Stossel thing last night. And in person his stache is a force of nature. And interestingly enough the Jacket was not there. I guess there just isn't enough space time continuum for the Stache and the Jacket to be in the same room.

  • anon||

    They're scared heads would explode from trying to comprehend the magnificence.

  • John||

    Interesting how different people look in person versus in photographs or films. Stossell and Matt Welch both look they came out of a 3D laser printer. They look exactly like they do on film. Ron Bailey and Mangu Ward look nothing like their pictures on Reason.

  • T||

    Which way does KMW work out? Better or worse in person?

  • ||

    It's widely known the camera adds ten pounds. Depends on how full of figure you like your lasses.

  • John||

    She is the one of the thinnest people I have ever met in person. I am not going to venture an opinion that. I will say that she is perfectly lovely in person.

  • 16th amendment||

    > but Republicans may be little better

    What? Remember Bush? He increased our debt by about $5T or 100% in 8 years. He started a ridiculous war, increased federal education spending over 50%, doubled food stamps, started Medicare Part D. Seriously, apart from the 1st item, liberals ought to be kissing, no making out with, the very ground he walks on!

    Small government republicans will be a little better. They keyword here is "small".

    As for Mitt Romney, I have no idea what we are going to get. As long as he doesn't start world war III, that's good enough for me (with low expectations of cutting government spending). Frankly, I'd eliminate the department of education and HUD (over time), EPA, department of Agriculture, and I don't remember the other 100 agencies :). And I'd privatize homeland security, the post office.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: 16th Amendment,

    Learn to read. Being "little better" is a figure of speech to say one is not.

  • Soc Indv Sparky||

    I think you misread that statement. Either that or you don't understand the meaning of "may be little better".

  • Old Mexican||

    Economists tend to focus on the “prosperous” part of that statement. But the “free” part, which sounds vague, is just as important.


    Depends on which economists, John. Those from the Austrian School focus on both things, which is why they're always critical of interventionist, busybody policies.

  • T||

    Government excels at pissing off libertarians.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: T,

    Government excels at pissing off libertarians.


    Yes, because slaves can't really complain.

  • Jake W||

    *terrorists

  • Jake W||

    Central planning doesn't work.

    /article

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...but we didn't.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You know what you call a non-functional escalator? Stairs, you lazy bastards.

  • Bee Tagger||

    "An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You would never see an Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order sign, just Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience."

    RIP Mitch Hedberg.

  • Bee Tagger||

    That book he's holding up looks nothing like the copy of Declaration of Independents I have.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Stoss is hawking a book? The only thing worse than that is the return of the studio audience.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I wouldn't hold O'Reilly up as your bar.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Sarah puts the blame directly on your shoulders, John.

  • Bee Tagger||

    Giant mural or unimaginative green screen behind Palin, right now?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    That's Russia.

  • Bee Tagger||

    ah, the "don't worry, we won't enforce it" argument.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Palin budges a little on the WoD? Prioritization away from marijuana enforcement?

  • Bee Tagger||

    It's a shame that the only word I understood in Palin's jargon-laden discussion about the fishing industry was "raping."

  • Bee Tagger||

    The crowd applauded that Palin read a book.

  • Bee Tagger||

    The laughing gas pumping through the air ducts is working, John! We just got a shot of the audience.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    David "Knock Me Over With a Feather" Boaz.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Fish need to come up with a plan to deal with overfishing.

  • Bee Tagger||

    Lazy and sloppy American companies is not exactly the best argument against protectionist economic policies.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "If the government set a minimum price of $100, you wouldn't sell many books."

    The commerce clause disagrees.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Van Jones understands what the straw man wants.

  • Bee Tagger||

    THEY'RE TRYING TO FIX ELECTIONS

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Those districts who can't be bothered to look at the other party or another comer deserve the fuckwad they vote in.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Who in the hell reads this junk mail? And is swayed by it?

  • Bee Tagger||

    I'll get back to you in a second after I answer this nice young man's questions, on the phone, about my voting habits.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The doctor sporting a tan.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    No, it's not mostly about the wars, John, you cynical bastard. It's about the mary jane.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    EDIT! I saw that.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I don't want an under-exercised President Paul with his finger on the button.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Stossel, you cheap bastard, hand out the c-notes.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Dead escalators are part of the "Let's Move" campaign, isn't it?

  • Bee Tagger||

    I'll be honest, I don't know which way I'm supposed to be shocked about 1 mechanic supporting 4 escalators.

  • Bee Tagger||

    Nick deadpanning jokes works a little better on Red Eye.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    With Ann Coulter on his arm.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The internet spending too much time on homeless people...

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Passing legislation for resume-padding is malicious.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Must. Buy. Stossel. Book.

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