Friday, July 22, 2005

Incremental Liberty

This started out as a response to another blog, but it began to take the shape of a full-sized blog. So I've expanded it, and posted it here.

I think the sales analogy used by the reform movement is an excellent analogy. We want to sell them a constitutionally limited government. They may well benefit by it, but they are afraid that the cost will be too high. Now, when a salesman has a product that he really thinks is good enough it can sell itself, he gives out either a free sample, or offers a test drive.

So it is with what some libertarians might call “half-measures.” Take medicinal marajuanna. Some libertarians might say that doesn’t go far enough, and fear that if we go for that, many for whom that’s “far enough” will jump ship, and then we’re stuck with medicinal marajuanna, and don’t have total freedom where drugs are concerned. The belief is that if we get a compromise solution, the pressure the real world facts give for legalization will be allieviated, and people will no longer be looking for a solution. Good theory, but its obvious that strategy simply does not work. This is proven by the fact that drugs are still illegal, and almost nobody is calling for the repeal of drug prohibition--and those that do are labeled crackpots.

Government itself is like a drug. While some can quit cold turkey, many, if not most, need a more gradual cutoff. What I think more likely is that, if we support, and successfuly implement medicinal marajuanna policies, there will be two effects. First off, there will NOT be that amazing increase in crime and delinquincy that the hardcore anti-drug crowd predict. While they will try to say that’s because of the medical restrictions, most people will know better. The second effect is that, because of our involvement, others in the medicinal movement who were not previously libertarians will be exposed to our thinking on it in a friendly setting. They may consider that there are benefits beyond the medical uses of marajuanna to ending prohibition outright.

Another example is taxes. Many libertarians consider any and all forms of taxation to be "theft." Therefore, any policy that falls short of the complete repeal of all taxation (or, for the "lesser extremists" simply the outright repeal of the income tax) is sacreligious and must be vigerously opposed... even if the proposal is to lower taxes! This is what turned me off of the Libertarian Party for years. I remember reading the policy statement of a libertarian cantidate for some state office. This woman actually advocated the repeal of the income tax IN HER CAMPAIGN STATEMENT! Given that the office she was running for was executive, not legislative, how does that have anything to do with her election? What can that do but turn off someone who is not a raving extremist?

Now, understand that I, too, would like to see the repeal of the income tax... some day. There is much that must be done *before* that can happen, if ever. I, for one, favor replacing the income tax with a carbon tax. Such a tax could pay for government at current levels for quite some time, would reduce significantly the intrusion of government into people's personal lives, lower significantly the minimum business size necessary to do business effectively (benefiting small businesses), and have the added benefit of making tax evasion and conservation of fossil fuels (and lower pollution emissions) one and the same, meaning we automatically turn tax dodgers into fully legitimate environmentalists!

But, a hardcore libertarian would say, "NO! That's an increase in government power! The government does NOT have the authority to tax AT ALL!!!" Well, sorry folks, but 99% of the electorate and the very Constitution of the United States of America disagree with you. And furthermore, were we to somehow repeal all taxes TODAY, we'd destroy our credit rating completely. Our economy, so dependent on government cash flows, would collapse. Such a collapse would be temporary... assuming the masses of unemployed don't turn to violence to fill their bellies... assuming foreign governments don't use our failure to repay our debts as a pretext for invasion (and with no money to pay a military, they will win)... assuming a lot of things that just plain wouldn't be true. No taxation whatsoever is a great goal, but it will only be reached slowly. There are debts to be paid, and segments of the economy that need to be weaned off government money. A sudden ceassation will throw millions into joblessness, including soldiers. A slow weaning is not only actually politically feasable, it'll give these segments time to "see which way the wind is blowing" and find other options.

The statists have been nickeling and diming us to death for years. This was a natural phenomenon, since the big government people were split between the two major parties. Most who were involved in that practice really did believe they were doing the right thing (whether it be big-military Republicans or big-welfare Democrats), and though they opposed one another, because it is easier to create a law than it is to roll it back they took turns increasing every aspect of the government. Bi-partisan legislation also always seems to be aimed at increasing the power of government.

We need to nickel and dime them back. Extreme measures will never catch on. But if we manage to roll back the power of government a little bit, in an area that will benefit the largest number of voters, they’ll say, “Hmm… I like that. A little more, please?” The generation that reaches its age of influence under a smaller government will support smaller government still, so long as we’re not stupid about it. Even if we don't reach the dream of worldwide libertarian utopia, wouldn't you rather live under a smaller government than we have today? Or are you so accustomed to victim-thinking that even you are dependent on our current level of government?

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