Libertarianism is the belief that privatization is wonderful, we don't need a military, that no government is the best government (even though some government is necessary), and that any public service should be fully paid for by those who use it (such as public transportation, public parks, police forces, and so on). Government should not interfere in the day to day workings of mankind, victimless crimes should be abolished, and that you should not be forced to do anything you do not want to do. These are all laudable goals. (See libertarian and libertarianism for more information, before reading the rest of this node.)

The only problem is, libertarianism won't work.

If Libertarians ran the country, then there would not be any way to maintain a currency -- there would be no taxes, therefore there would be no central monetary supply. Banks would be forced to take on the duty of creating money (this is actually their function -- loaning out money that has already been deposited, thereby making it look like there's more money in circulation), but because there would be no central bank that could regulate the value of that money, it would be difficult to maintain confidence in the money supply.

Even if this wasn't true, there would be no money to maintain public works -- water, electricity, phone -- and there would be no way to prevent the companies that took over those functions from charging more than the public could bear. (Per-minute rates on phone service, electrical service, massive per-gallon charges on water, gas, heating oil...)

Businesses exist to make money. Corporations exist to make money for their stockholders. Corporations do not exist to have a sense of ethics, and they will not use the money that they have to maintain the environment. They will not, unless forced to, share the natural resources that everyone is entitled to under current law.

As I was driving on I-5 between the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles, I saw a few signs. "Farm Water Feeds the Nation", they said... and this got me to thinking about what Libertarians would do. There would be no governmental support for maintaining the environment. There would be no governmental support or mandate for wolf reintroduction, or elk reintroduction, or any of the other habitat preservation and endangered species protection services. The environment would get more and more polluted, the car companies would go back to creating less fuel-efficient automobiles that produced more pollution, the electrical companies would end up saving too much energy in their huge batteries (since they would be charging too much for people to use the electricity in the first place), and either shut down power production at some of their plants, or overload the power grid and shut the entire thing down...

Regulation exists to protect us all. I'm all for less government, but I cannot accept the idea of no government.

There are a number of different versions of libertarianism. Some libertarians, such as Ayn Rand, believe that government has no legitimate role except to prevent the use of force, internal or external. Thus, it could fund a police force to prevent citizens from using force against each other (including indirect force, such as taking people's property even if you can do it when they're not home). A military would also be permitted to prevent the use of force corporately by other nations. Among the libertarians who agree thus far, there is disagrement as to whether protection of intellectual property from theft is permitted or a use of unprovoked force by government to protect alleged imaginary rights.

Other libertarians reject any form of government at all. Not all believers in this call themselves libertarians, but some do. Others call themselves anarco-libertarians.

The latter idea is simpler to discuss. Suppose all policemen, soldiers, and politicans and employees of state and local governement vanished tomorrow. Various gangs of drug dealers could battle for territory unchecked for awhile, looting and pillaging to their hearts content. Eventually a system of alliances would develop - and eventually it would be discovered it pays to protect people who do useful work, provided they pay taxes to the gangs. This is not so different from the beginnings of feudalism in some times and places. I personally don't like wines, but I am told wines, like governments, mellow somewhat with age. It may be just me, but I've never heard an effective answer to the argument that the primary purpose of government is to keep violent gangs of would be governments down.

The answer to the first argument is more complex, and some mainstream republicans are not far from this form of libertarianism. Is it much more expensive, on a per capita basis, to educate four children than send one of them to prison because he had no legitimate job skills? I've never heard a libertarian discussion of defense pork either. If we do not protect those who cannot afford it from disease, the plague may spread even to those who can afford health care.

On the other hand, I have heard many interesting explanations as to how money and utilities were done better without government, and some of them even seem to have merit. Nevertheless, there are states today with no true government, only fighting gangs of rival warlonds, and they do not seem to have become libertarian paradises.

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