Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dreams vs Reality

Libertarianism is an ideal, a dream, like Shangri-La; an imaginary society where there are little to no problems, most of which they assign to government and over-regulation.  

The hard truth about many of today's anti-tax, anti-government pundits is that their philosophy comes down to little more than myopic selfishness.  They want smaller government, not because there is any real threat of tyranny, but so they can do whatever they wish with their property or business, regardless of the consequences to their neighbors or the shared environment.

Nobody has yet found any way of putting together a decent city transportation network without some form of government management.  The same goes for several other aspects of urban infrastructure, like water and sewers.  The greatest single step forward in improving general health in history was the construction of underground sewers.  London before 1800 was a good example of how waste disposal was handled when government stayed out of it and it was left up to individuals.  It wasn't handled.

Vaccination is another area where government involvement yields greater benefits than the "market" does.  When immunization is a matter of who decided they can afford it, the disease remains a threat to every generation.  When vaccines are made fully available to all, the total long-term cost is much lower.

Can government become too large and costly?  Of course.  But government per se is not evil.  There are more than sufficient examples of countries where the citizens are fairly satisfied with their government operations; countries that provide single-payer health care regulated by the government; such as Canada, Norway, Sweden, Japan, the UK and several others.  Are those systems "perfect?"  Of course not, but in many ways, they're a damned site better than what we have in the US.  The ACA was a step in the right direction, but we can do better.

What about education?  Private schools for all?  What about students who require more attention, time and effort?  Little profit in that.  Do we not educate them and turn them loose in society with no skills?  Oh, home school everyone?  What if the parent can barely read or do math?  Who regulates?

One of the biggest problems with Libertarianism is that humans are just not wired for it.  Human decision making is often highly irrational and selfish or lacking in compassion/benevolence.  If everyone retreats to their acre and we have nothing in common besides the military and courts, we no longer have a country.  Even the founding fathers (who were Libertarian-leaning) realized there must be something that binds us together.

Left to his own designs and motives, Man often doesn't care about his fellow man or society as a whole.  If businesses were not required to provide certain safety training, regulation, and PPE (personal protective equipment), many would not do so.

The "market" has its ups and downs, so as a society, we've created things like unemployment compensation and SNAP.  A civilized society has some sort of structured "safety net."

And then, there's the issue of guns, AS IF we don't already have enough of them with too little regulation.  The US has 88 guns per 100 people and more gun deaths than any of the other 27 "developed" countries.

Despite Libertarian illusions, none of us are entirely self-reliant.  All of us are part of a community and benefit FROM that community, rich or poor.  There are certain things that individuals cannot do for themselves.

One way or another, if the problems of a city or a nation are neglected, those problems will spread and eventually end up on everyone's doorstep.  Believe in "freedom," but grasp this hard truth:  taxes are anarchy insurance, the fee we pay to guarantee we don't lose it all.

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