My objection to large and onerous government comes from a moral and practical view. TLDR: a large government is wasteful and suppresses the human spirit.
Morality and Government in a Civil Society
Human being are a wonderful species. Our human spirit has helped us survive and prosper through wars, famine, floods, and droughts. There is an indomitable drive to better our life, the life of our family and our loved ones. It is this bond between us that helps us roll with the punches and make hay while the sun shines. It is innate; it is in our DNA.
When government gets involved, we as a society outsource this bond to a distant 3rd party. We do not take responsibility ourselves of society’s ills.
2 Wolves and a Sheep (or Democracy is not Majority Rule)
Some may argue that a government has legitimate moral authority by virtue of the fact that a majority (i.e. greater than 50.1%) of the population voted a government in. This does not give government a moral right to suppress the natural rights of a person to pursue their life as they see fit. Individuals must be able to live life as they see fit as long as they do not (through physical force or fraud) others from pursuing doing so. Majority rule will crush the rights of the minorities; and the ultimate minority is the individual. Not convinced? Think about 2 wolves and a sheep holding a vote on who to eat for dinner…
The heart of my argument is that we must always strive for voluntary co-operation rather than forceful coercion. Co-operation is peaceful; Coercion is violent. If we are to live in a more peaceful and tolerant world we need to minimise coercion, maximise human freedom and reduce the intrusion of government in our lives.
Practical Flaws of Government
As a society we must stride not to just provide the best for our citizens but the best for our citizens given a restrained set of resources. The “given a restrained set of resources” is crucial. Our world does not contain limitless resources. The question is “how can a society decide to allocate these resources efficiently and to the best use of its citizens?” To answer let us consider 4 ways of spending money (via Milton Friedman, which I paraphrase here):
4 ways of spending money
- Spending your own money on yourself:
- Spending your own money on others:
- Spending other people’s money on yourself:
- Spending other people’s money on others:
Government spending belongs in scenario 4. Spending other people’s money on others is the least disciplined outcome. In this scenario there are simply not enough incentives to use previous (taxpayer) resources to its full effect – this is why waste and corruption exists. (Note that waste and corruption occurs in the private sector but the profit motive is the incentive to continually look to allocate more resources to providing goods and services to customers in the most efficient manner).
Vote Them Out!
Some will counter with “but citizens can vote out a government!”. To which I respond:
- What if the major political parties (ie. Labor and Liberal) both support more spending on programmes. What real choice do you have?
- Lifetime bureaucrats out survive the election cycle(s).
- Elections are every 3-4 years – by which time citizens become dependent on the spending programmes.
- What if you like some parts of government (e.g. hospitals) but not others (e.g. foreign wars). You can’t pick and choose.
The private sector, in comparison, is being constantly judged by voting of a different kind – dollars. Consumers, customers, investors are constantly judging the performance of a private business and their offerings. Transactions are mutually beneficial.
(Real) Free Market Capitalism
So what is the alternative? Reduce the resources and power that government has to control the economy – low taxes and low spending. Allow real free market capitalism to flourish (do not confuse it with crony or corporatist market capitalism – where government controls the rules and grants monopolies of protected industries). Free market capitalism has shown throughout history to be the greatest benefit to the ordinary citizen the world has ever known. It leads to higher standard of living, more jobs and a stronger civil society.
Volunteerism and the Free Market
Having free market capitalism does not mean that volunteerism, non-profits and charities are discouraged. In fact, the charitable sector can exist very well (and most likely prosper) in a free market system. Lower individual taxes means more money in people’s pockets to distribute to various charities, non-profits, NGO’s as they see fit. These organisations are competing with each other and have the incentive to survive and flourish by providing a greater service than would otherwise be provided by a leviathan government bureaucracy. Although these non-profits would belong in scenario 4 (spending other people’s money on others) they would be far more accountable because they have extracted funds from their donors voluntarily and not through force or coercion.
Liberty is a Vector
Australia is a mostly free, open and tolerant society. We must be vigilant in resisting any law or edict from those in power to try to stifle freedom and prosperity, however small or insignificant that loss of liberty is. Think of liberty as a vector – it has direction and magnitude. I support any move that magnifies liberty and oppose any that moves it in the negative.Please share
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