Libertarianism Revisited

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I'd like to take a bit to revisit the ideals of Libertarianism. What would it mean to the average person? What would become of the "free" services we are so used to? Would it mean rampant use of drugs, guns and prostitutes? I will start with re-posting a post from the Libertarian Party of Canada's forum by Ethan Erkiletian. I am going to break up the post, as a section concludes, and put my own thoughts in there.

This is going to get pretty long, but I think you'll see where I'm coming from, in the end. I hope that you can take something out of this article, even if you don't agree with it as a whole. The article attempts to apply Libertarian ideologies to real world examples and show the possible changes that could occur. Well, here we go!

“We Live in the Real World”
It’s not uncommon for a libertarian to hear this phrase in rebuttal to some common arguments. When you hear someone say you should privatize the post office, it tends to be a little unusual right? So when a libertarian says these things, how do they say such without hesitating? How on earth could we really apply libertarian ideas to Canadian government? What are some real practical applications of libertarianism to our daily lives?

Cell Phones, Cable TV and Other Consumer Media:
Do you have a cell phone? Chances are that you are just like millions of other Canadians who carry around one of these nifty devices that keeps you in voice communication with your contacts, gets you’re your e-mail anywhere you want and makes waffles; Belgian preferably.

Many Canadians assume that small numbers of companies exist to provide services for Canadians as a result of the free market eliminating smaller companies in favour larger companies able to offer better services. Nothing could be further from the truth. Large monopolies exist in the Canadian market because government limits competition and restricts the free market. The CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission) provides a complex government framework that companies use to protect themselves from competitors under the guise of providing a simpler and less challenging marketplace for consumers. High prices, poor service and a lack of options is the result. Libertarians wish to see organizations like the CRTC vanish thereby saving tax dollars and providing Canadians with the cost effective options that a naturally competitive market provides.

I am not sure how many of you realize just how much regulation of the telephone, cable and internet industry there really is. It is extremely expensive for a new cell phone provider to start up in Canada. The reason for this is due to the Canadian government forces, by rule of law, every cellular company to buy licenses for a certain range of bandwidth. The latest example of this, cost providers, and gave the government, roughly $4.2 billion CAD (That's $4,200,000,000.00!!). If I wanted to start a competing carrier, it would effectively be out of my reach. The only people who can hope to start up in that type of market, are those that can afford to buy a license on an auction market. The large cellular companies have the distinct advantage of having large amounts of revenue from their, near monopolistic, customer base. They can, therefore, beat out smaller cellular start ups and maintain their monopoly.

Imagine if any person, who could afford to purchase the equipment necessary to transmit and receive cellular signals, could start their own cellular company and not have to worry about being out bidded by large, well established cellular companies. There would actually be competition in our markets. You'd end up with prices that are much more affordable. Currently our market is one of, if not, the most expensive markets on the planet for the end user. This includes third world countries. It has been said that, the only reason a company listens to is their bottom line. If this is the case, the only way to make a company listen and lower prices, is if it affects their bottom line. The problem is, with only 3 or 4 national cellular providers, how many choices do you really have? You can't really affect any company's bottom line because a lot of us rely on this technology and giving it up just to make a point, will likely hurt you more than them.

What if you could go to another company, one that would appreciate your business because you are helping them establish themselves? What if, by going to that company, you weren't losing out on any services and, in fact, may be getting better customer service? Wouldn't competition then become valid? Wouldn't losing customers to these smaller companies start affecting the larger provider's bottom line? Wouldn't they start listening more and appreciating the business they have more? In a truly free market, companies would be forced compete on merit, not state sanctioned monopolies. They'd be forced to listen to the end user, or risk failing.

Death and Taxes:
Believe it or not, both are not necessarily inevitable. We all know that in order to maintain the roads upon which we travel for instance, we pay taxes to government and expect government to pay for road work as well as build new infrastructure as needed. A libertarian sees this as needlessly complex and is probably led to wonder why roads are not maintained via tolls. Gas taxes and in fact any money that goes towards the payment of roads could cease to be drawn from your paycheque and could be drawn only if you decide to travel on federal/provincial highways. Heck, highways could even be owned privately and taken out of the hands of government entirely. As an added benefit, if there is more than one rout in between your point of origin and your destination, private road owners would be able to offer incentives for your travel their roads. More rest stops, added services or simply lower tolls to travel on their roads. Most any services provided by government could be fee based or privately delivered to the public. By allowing the free market to flourish, taxes could be almost completely eliminated while Canadians could choose to take full advantage of whatever service they require. Whether it is travel, health care, access to currency, preferred education or anything else a Canadian may seek; taxes need not be drawn by force from the public to make these things available.

The Canada Revenue Agency seems to go after you like flies after honey upon your passing. Libertarians would like to see them keep out of your wallet whether you’re living or dead.

I am not sure, at what point, society began to think of this tax as anything other than theft. You go to work, or create a business, and every dollar you bring in, from that point on, gets split up. The government divvies up its take of the money you worked for and, graciously, allows you to keep the rest. What would you do if Johnny Thief walks up to you on the street while you are selling newspapers. He sees a line up and says to you, "This corner, that you are selling newspapers on, is mine. I shall allow you to continue to sell newspapers here, however, I will require a percentage of the income that you make." Sounds a little like the old days of mobs and "offers that you cannot refuse".

Taxes weren't even around, in Canada, until 1917. The reason they were brought in, was to fund World War I. Sir Thomas White, then Minister of Finance, did not intend on the tax lasting for much longer than the war. The tax was meant to fund the war and then pay off whatever debts remained from the war. Due to the unpredictable nature of a war, he was unable to put a time limit on the law which enabled the tax, but to make sure that everyone remembered why the tax was there, he wanted it to be called the "War Tax Upon Income".

Which institutions, that your taxes pay for, do you actually believe in? I, for example, don't believe in the Firearms Act (Bill C-68), but I am forced to pay for it through taxes. I don't support the Human Rights Tribunals, but I am forced, through taxes, to pay for the 15 bureaucrats that are currently in their 3rd year of attacking Ezra Levant for exercising his right to free speach.

In short, I am very much opposed to taxation of any sort. It provides an inefficient bureaucracy with money for doing nothing (Do we really need 15 bureaucrats to charge one person? Does it really need to take 3 years?). In regards to competition, as I mentioned after the first quote, when it comes to government, there is none. Where is the motivation for a government to be efficient? There is none, they have money handed to them and they cannot go bankrupt. Because of this, they have no need to be efficient, with time or money. What if we, instead, replaced taxes with fee based services? Yes, the services would be a little more expensive, but with you keeping more of your money, would it really matter?

A single mother is in need of formula for her baby but is unable to provide it on her own this month. A family will not be able to keep shelter over their heads unless they find some extra cash and quick. An elderly gentleman is facing a heating bill that he cannot pay and a number of cold months ahead. Does a libertarian think welfare programs are justified for these people? Absolutely ye;s a libertarian would like to see these people assisted.

Libertarians advocate a complete elimination of government welfare programs. Whether money goes to a Canadian in need or a corporation requesting a bail out, the money should not and cannot be taken by force from one person to be given to another. Government welfare programs are paid for by our tax dollars which means they are financed through theft. While libertarians are compassionate people, they do not condone theft to help the situation of an individual or group. Libertarians fully support and advocate private groups or individuals providing help to those in need of it. While a libertarian would not support taxing the public to help single mothers in need of help with their children; many libertarians would likely go door to door seeking donations for a local food bank to help. Indeed, even today local food banks receive assistance in large part from businesses, wealthy individuals and countless others buying food hampers in the supermarket or donating to canned food drives.
While a heavily taxed population may find it difficult to reach out today, a much more prosperous and successful population would easily be able to provide help in the future.

Government Welfare programs, in my opinion, are one of our biggest failures. We give money to people for nothing and the effect is the same as it is for our government. This is yet another program that I do not support, but am forced to pay through, the state-sponsored theft we call, taxes. What motivation does that individual have for excelling? What motivation does that individual have to get up and do something? Society, at large, has removed the idea of honor from us. In many countries that have a welfare system, the people are so against having money handed to them, that they have to get out and do something. Whether it be cleaning up trash or tending state held gardens, etc, they have to do something, or they feel dishonored.

So many people these days, in our society, are more than happy to sit back and let the government give them money for doing nothing. Again, where is the motivation to do anything else? If they were forced to rely on charities, the charities would be able to deny people who were capable of working or, at the very least, limit the amount of assistance or duration of the assistance for such people. Would that not motivate people to work for their money? If you knew that you were not going to be handed money, would you not want to get out and do something to bring the necessary money in? For those of us that worked, if you weren't taxed at ridiculous rates, would you be more inclined to find a charity that you agree with and provide donations to support such policies? I, for one, would. I would love to take a look at a charity and, provided their policies agree with my ideals, provide funds for them to provide their services for those less fortunate.

National Defence, Police, Et Al:
How on earth could police be just a phone call away in a nation without taxes? How could our nation be defended against the likes of Dr. Evil and his hairless cat with no taxes to pay for a national defence? Would we stop celebrating Memorial Day? Well a libertarian has the answer. In a pure libertarian nation, police and even the military would be run by private interest and Canada would have no boarders. In fact, in order for a 100% libertarian nation to work, the rest of the world would have to adopt the same philosophy as well. As interesting as this may be to some political science professors, it’s not a realistic expectation. Bottom line is that libertarians in Canada are in favour of a strong national defence able to defend our interests here at home and protect us from threats abroad if they become apparent.

Fee based services rendered by government would most likely not be able to provide the excess funds required to maintain a military and certainly not a military like today. A 100% volunteer army that does not maintain installations or ‘peace keeping” missions around the world is also easier to maintain than what we have today. Minimal taxes may have to be collected but certainly they would be a far cry from the pick pocketing we have going on today. The same is true for police and this is generally a provincial or municipal matter.

In order to understand this one, you will need to understand that the Libertarian takes civil liberties very seriously. The only crimes a pure Libertarian believes in, are crimes with a victim. In short, you cannot commit a crime against yourself. With this in mind, we wouldn't need the massive policing organizations we have today. Police would be necessary, but, since there would be fewer crimes available to commit, they wouldn't need such large task forces. They would also be able to focus more on crime and less on paperwork. On top of this, private security agencies would be able to give their services to those individuals or companies that could afford to hire them. Whether it be private policing on the individual or company's property, bodyguards, etc, the public police force would not be as taxed in the way of labour shortages.

Police forces would be available to all, as is the status quo. However, due to some having their own private policing agency, the public police agency would be able to focus more on those who don't have the excess funds necessary to employ a private agency. Policing would be more efficient, response times would be cut and all police would be able to focus on enforcing real crimes, all while costing the country far less than imaginable today.

Believe it or not, abolishing the system we have today is the key to a good education. Canadian children are among the most literate in the world and a libertarian believes it could be even better. Among educators, you will find an incredible array of opinions as to what should be done to best teach our children. Some advocate a system almost entirely based upon rote learning while others advocate more apprenticeship based education. A libertarian will tell you that the best way to see a truly magnificent system come up is to let the free market decide.

Not only does a better system of education tend to come out of a free market system (People tend to pay for results) but it is incredibly more equal and fair as well. Today, if you wish to access public education for your children, you have only one choice and if the system does not perform to your standards as a parent, you are pretty much stuck with it no matter what. If you think that your personal values are not being taught, that your child is performing ahead of the class and is not being properly served or that the system in general does not perform in a manner that you believe is effective for your child, you’re pretty much stuck. Limited choice does exist in some markets today but it is just that, limited and exceptionally so. A free market provides true choice for the consumer and is much more equitable.

Finally, you would no longer be robbed to provide for the education of someone else. A libertarian believes in principle that it is wrong to take money by force from one person to better the life of another no matter the justification. No one should be taking money from you to pay for their child’s education.

The above quote, pretty much, says it all. Why are we in school systems and allowing our government to dictate to our children what is right, what is wrong and everything in between? Why do we allow a government, that we don't always agree with, have free reign over our children's minds? Everything that is run by government must be kept so "politically correct" as to not offend anyone. That means public schools really should not participate in Christmas or Easter holidays, unless they also want to practice Hanukkah and Lent and every other holiday or religious event practiced by so many beliefs in this country. A person should be able to choose where their child goes to school, in accordance with their ethics, morals, and belief system.

I have heard and seen so many friends, as an example, in art class back in high school. They were some of the most creative people, until they took that class. The government forced curriculum drained a large chunk of their creativity. They were told what was creative and what was not creative. They were told how to do something "right". All of this was told to them, instead of just encouraging them to develop their talents and gifts.

If you know a farmer than you know a business person. A farmer needs to keep a keen eye on the markets, ensure their product is produced properly and that they are in step with the seasons if they can’t be half a step ahead. There aren’t many more occupations that are quite as risky as farming for any budding entrepreneur. In parts of Canada, farmers are forced to sell their products to only certain markets. The Canadian Wheat board for instance forces western farmers to sell their product to the CWB at a set price no matter if the market prices are higher or lower. The Government believes it is protecting farmers but a libertarian would tell you that farmers are being forced to operate their business in a certain manner.

A libertarian believes that the CWB should be abolished and the entire department of agriculture for that matter. A farmer owns their land and no one should be able to tell them what they can and cannot do with it. Most of all, a libertarian could not abide the government telling a farmer who they can sell to. This is the worst kind of suppression of the free market and has no positive effect. Claims of such are dubious at best.

Again, this quote pretty much says it all. There are very few arguments for the CWB and the department of agriculture. They are both very coercive institutions that tells a farmer how to grow their crops and who they are allowed to sell to. This is one of those "government knows best" subjects. Just try selling your crops outside the CWB, if you are a western farmer. See how fast the "compassionate" hand of government kicks down your door and "advises" you to start listening to the policies you agreed to by daring to become a farmer.

Drug Policy:
If you have been reading about libertarians, you probably know where they stand on drugs but if you don’t, let us enlighten you...dude. All joking aside, a libertarian sees current drug policy as expensive, oppressive and counterproductive. Civil liberties are very important to a libertarian. While many libertarians don’t use illegal drugs, they all believe the same thing and that is that all drugs should be legalized for production, sale and possession. The idea comes from a core philosophy that begs the question of who has the right to tell you what you can and can not put in your own body.

This is not a “hard drug vs soft drug” issue but rather a simple issue of core civil liberties. No matter what damage something may do to you, a libertarian believes you have every right in to world to do whatever you wish to yourself. If you commit murder, engage in theft or perpetrate some other type of crime that produces a victim, you should be held to account. If however you are perpetrating harm only to yourself, you are not violating the rights of anyone and it doesn’t make much sense to be punished for that. The next time you sit down for a cup of coffee, think about how that was once outlawed by a king in England. Drug laws are very arbitrary and their authority is not easily justified.

This is one of those difficult areas of law for people to understand. To a Libertarian it all comes down to the point I highlighted in my response to the "National Defence, Police, Et Al" quote. To say it again, you cannot commit a crime against yourself. The very first of the Statement of Principles for the Libertarian Party of Canada is: "Each individual has the right to his or her own life, and this right is the source of all other rights." Essentially it comes down to us telling ourselves what is good for us. Instead of the status quo, which is, government tells us what is good for us. While I personally do not like drugs, I cannot say that what is good for me, must be good for you. In this context, what's good for the goose is not good for the gander.

Something else to think about: What would happen to a drug dealer's grip on society if drugs were no longer illegal? If you could buy, for example, recreational marijuana at a convenience store, just like you do cigarettes, would you need to pay the exorbitant prices that drug dealers charge? No, the market would get competitive. What would this do to violent crime? If it's now affordable, would you have to rob from others to provide for your habit?

Think of this like Prohibition. Back between 1900 and 1919, provinces began to prohibit the sale and consumption of alcohol. During this time, people turned to the "black market" for their alcohol. This would have mainly consisted of organized crime. Once the prohibition ended between the years of 1920 and 1948, the crime industry would have lost their hold on the market. People were free again to choose where they bought their alcohol, that they were going to get anyway, and choose what price they were willing to pay. If we legalize, then criminals lose their grip on society and will have to either begin working, like the rest of us, or find some other niche or country to infest.

Right to Non-Association:
One other topic that I will touch on, that was not covered by Ethan's article is the right of association. We currently have a right to association. For example, I am allowed to hold membership with the Libertarian Party of Canada, I am allowed to join the Alberta Motor Association, etc. There is one area of life where you are forced to associate, whether you want to or not. Your work life.

If you are employed by an employer, and there happens to be a union in force at that employer, you are forced to provide money to that union for your membership. Whether you sign a membership card, or otherwise, you are forced to associate with that union. Your right to association, according to our government, does not include a reverse right to non-association. You do not have the right to say, "this union does not speak for me". You are forced to pay union dues, whether you agree with that union or not.

The policies of the Libertarian Party of Canada state:

Unions and Collective Bargaining
We support the right of individuals voluntarily to join or to establish labour unions. We believe that an employer should have the right to recognize, or to refuse to recognize, a union as the collective bargaining agent for some or all employees.

We recognize the employer's moral right to employ substitute workers in case of strikes, and the union's moral right to organize secondary boycotts, unless there are contractual agreements to the contrary.

We oppose all government interference in the bargaining process, such as certification of unions, compulsory arbitration, or imposition of an obligation to bargain. We recognize voluntary contracts between employers and labour unions as being legally and morally binding on both parties.

In other words, you would be allowed to say, "I do not agree with this union, and do not wish to pay it to speak on my behalf". You would then enter into a private contract with the employer. You could negotiate your own terms with the employer. This would bring back rewards for merit in employment instead of the amount of time you have "hung around". This in turn would allow a company to be more competitive in the markets and allow you to negotiate a better deal with the employer if you get a better offer from another employer. You would be the object of competition instead of just settling with whatever the union gets you. If you were good at your job, you would excel. If you decided to not be a constructive employee, as your freedoms would allow, you would have to fall back on whatever "punishments" that you and the company had agreed on in your employment contract. In a labour shortage environment like Alberta, just imagine what you could negotiate for!

Please keep in mind that not all of these views are ideologically sound and may not reflect the official views of the Party. The writer stated that at the very beginning of his original post. The comments outside the quotes are wholly my own opinions and may not reflect those of any other person within the Libertarian movement. However, the article gives a very good idea of how a Libertarian society could not only succeed, but excel. Imagine if we were allowed to decide, for ourselves, how we want to live, what institutions we want to support, what we are going to learn, where we will buy services and who we decide to associate with. Just imagine all we could accomplish without government imposed restrictions!

1 comment

  1. This is brilliant Tyler. I'm a recent convert to the Libertarian movement and really appreciate your thoughts on practical application of the party ideals into society.

    Keep up the great work.

    — John Thu, 5 Feb 2009

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