2007-02-16

Libertarian Questions and Answers

These are some good questions from a message board, I'm answering them here to reach a wider audience. See another take on these questions here
1. Should the federal government protect the environment? Should there be national parks or endangered species laws?
The federal (or more likely, state) governments should enforce property rights through the civil courts. If someone has damaged your property through pollution, it is a form or trespass. Trespass is force. So yes, to that extent, government should protect the environment. Also, government should protect the government by selling the national parks to the highest bidder. The highest bidder, having invested a great deal of money in his new land, is likely to do a MUCH better job of protecting it than the government ever has or will. For example, the Feds sell logging rights in national forests at a fraction of the price that any (sane) owner would require. People will only damage their own land if what they gain by doing so is more valuable than the land itself.
2. Should food companies be required to list the ingredients on the package? If not, should there be a punishment for printing false information on food product packages, or would the only determent be how customers would react if they found out they were lied to.
I don't believe there is a need to force food companies to print ingredients on the package. I believe they would do so, because I believe that most people want to know what they're putting in their bodies, and therefore would be more likely to buy food with such information provided. If a company printed false information (intentionally) on packaging (or anything else), that would be an act of fraud. Such fraud could be handled by either criminal or civil courts.
3. I’ve gained enough info to understand that libertarians are against federal drug laws, but what about state or city drug laws? Also, are federal drug laws unconstitutional?
Libertarians oppose all laws concerning "victimless crime". "Victimless crime" is a contradiction in terms. And yes, the federal drug laws are unconstitutional. When congress passed prohibition, they had to amend the constitution in order to give themselves the power, first. There is no such amendment to justify the "war on drugs" or the existence of the FDA, or mandatory prescriptions. When drugs are legal, I look forward to being able to make my medical decisions with (at my option) the advice of a doctor who knows that I am paying him, not for his privileged position as a prescriber, but because I actually value his advice. I suspect he'll make sure that I continue to value his advice by making it good.
4. Should there be a post office?
Yes. There are several that would do: FedEx, UPS, and there will be many more when the government is out of the business. BTW, before you assume that we would be paying the prices we pay such companies now, keep in mind that they are currently delivering a much more sophisticated service (rapid delivery) and I think it quite likely that they will end up offering more choice AND lower prices.
5. Should interstate highways even exist? Furthermore, should there be state-funded roads, or should all roads be ran by companies? Companies provide us with electricity we have to pay for, so why don’t companies provide us with roads we have to pay for.
Again, they should exist as private entities. This would have been technically difficult (but possible) in 1789, but would not be nearly as hard now. This is about my last priority, though. If, after the revolution, we end up with a government that builds roads and does very little else, it will not break my heart. It's such a simple thing that even they can't screw it up TOO badly.
6. Should there be anti-monopoly laws, or should the market take care of itself?
The market should take care of itself. Harmful monopolies can only be created/maintained by government intervention. There are some kinds of monopoly that can exist in a free market (for example a failure monopoly, where if a business builds a railroad to a small town, finds it can't support his debt payments and goes bankrupt, someone else can buy the old railroad at a fraction of the price and run it at a profit. But this sort of monopoly does harm not it's customers, as if they did not do what they did, the town would just have to live without rail service.)

That said, there is a possibility of collusion raising prices in the short run. I would like to see one or more non-governmental companies that made a business of finding businesses where this was going on, and either buying or building a new company in those industries to break the cartel. But governmental anti-monopoly practice does far more harm than good.

One issue that is open in my mind is copyright and patent. These are monopolies enforced by government. There are good arguments for and against them. Again, I could probably live with just about any solution to these problems a sane (libertarian) society came up with. I think that current copyright law gives too much away.

7. Should any government entity prevent restaurants from serving food or items that are known to be bad for us? A lot of libertarians disagree with the upcoming trans fat ban in NYC, but trans fat is pretty much just bad for us. What if restaurants still served our food on plates with lead paint? It’s bad, but people could chose not to eat there.
No. I like food that is bad for me. I like cheeseburgers, I like McDonalds fries. How much of these things I consume and how much of a price I pay to do so is an intimate decision that I am unwilling to delegate.
8. I’ve gathered that libertarians don’t like seatbelt laws, but should there be laws requiring parents to make their children under 18 wear seatbelts? With that said, should it still be illegal for parents to give children alcohol?
There is a law requiring that parents take care of their kids. It is the law of evolution. If they do not do a reasonable job, their bloodline will die out.
9. Should there be laws that say where guns are allowed, or should it be up to the owner of the place?
It should be up to the owner.
10. Should there be public education systems, or should all schools be private? I’m sure some charity would open free schools, but they wouldn’t be ran by any sort of government.
It should be private, and charity and/or financing should be fine for those few would could not afford the (much cheaper) price of education in a libertarian society.
11. Should it be illegal for an employer to discriminate by race when hiring?
No. That said, it would generally be in the employer's best interest not to discriminate, as if he does so, he is cutting himself off from part of the talent pool, and thereby costing himself money. Not to mention alienation of potential customers. Who wants to deal with a person like that?
12. Libertarians seem to hold private property in high value. Should people be allowed to own airspace?
I would say that everything which can be owned should be owned. Otherwise it has to struggle by defended only by an incompetent government. (Is there another kind?)
13. If our society were truly libertarian, what type of legislation would congress work on?
In a libertarian society, it is very likely that congress would almost never actually meet. Most of the laws could be written very quickly after the founding of the republic and left alone for long periods of time.

2 comments:

BoneDaddy64 said...

Hey Rich...good answers as well. I noticed the poster at digg made the stretch to imply that I wanted world government. The depth of irrationality in the anarchists ranks I find fundamentally flawed. Good to see your head on straight.

cxx_guy said...

If there were spaceships leaving for a minarchist planet and an anarcho-capitalist planet, I would choose the minarchist ship. But then again, I might feel differently if I read the news from each. I understand the concept of anarcho-capitalist competing courts, but the problem is where would they get an objective body of laws to interpret?