Aug 20, 2006

Government Is Bad Medicine For What Ails Us

Whenever I discuss politics with statists, the argument eventually ends up with the statist asking me when libertarianism has ever worked historically. My first answer is usually, "The US shortly after the revolution."

Statists don't like that answer. Their view is that people cannot be responsible for themselves. The libertarian/anarchist point of view is that they can and generally are responsible and are capable of governing themselves. But like me, ancaps and libertarians are always asked to provide examples of "civilized" people governing themselves. The question is a logical fallacy akin to "When did you stop beating your wife?" A circular argument that assumes government is itself the dividing line between civilized and uncivilized people.

It is time for libertarians to stop resorting to defense. Our position can be defended, but it is becoming clear that this is hardly necessary given history and recent events.


Take the recent dust up between Hezbollah and Israel for example. For at least 24 years, Israel has been occupying Lebanon. July 12th was not the beginning - nor will it likely be the end - of the dispute between the two countries. It is the aftermath of the latest hostilities that gives us a view of the vast differences between the libertarian and the statist.

Those who claim that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and that it has some sort of stranglehold over Lebanese government do so with an obvious agenda. This point of view also demonstrates a severe ignorance on the part of the claimant, a fact if we provide superlative generosity as to their motivations.

As Lebanon attempts to return itself to "normal", we find it is the private sector, namely Hezbollah, which has turned out to repair the various communities inside Lebanon devastated by US-made planes, guns, artillary and bombs.

"There is no government here," said an agitated Abdul Muhsen Husseini, president of the Union of Municipalities in the Tyre region — the man who is supposed to be in charge — as he handled requests from a stream of petitioners asking for money to buy medicine and what to do with the dead.

"We asked the government in Beirut to accompany the returning people to their villages, to repair water and prepare the roads," he said. "They said to me, 'God willing, we will come.' And they didn't come."

The intent here is not to argue that the government should be responsible for medical care, housing or damage control. Libertarians don't think that the government should do any of those things. Even when governments claim that they are the rightful parents of the oppressed masses, they do little or nothing to eliminate these problems since by actually solving such problems, they would put themselves out of "business."

For Bush and Olmert (and their underlings), the only concern is to avoid a public relations problem. They need to publicly excoriate Hezbollah and question its legitimacy. Unfortunately for the US and Israeli governments, Hezbollah is making this virtually impossible.

Even as government officials complain that they are expected to clear shattered towns with nothing but shovels and a few bulldozers, Hezbollah already owns or is in the process of renting the required machinery.

Most important, Hezbollah can draw on the manpower needed to begin the massive reconstruction.

Those factors present a serious challenge to the central government in Beirut and the Bush administration, which is scrambling to launch its own rebuilding effort and deny Hezbollah a public relations dividend.

The US

Those who live in New Orleans and Missippi are intimate with government's ineffectiveness and government's tendency to make excuses. A year ago, Michael Chertoff was plopped in front of reporters to defend FEMA's response to the crisis:
"That 'perfect storm' of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody's foresight," Chertoff said.

He called the disaster "breathtaking in its surprise."

But engineers say the levees preventing this below-sea-level city from being turned into a swamp were built to withstand only Category 3 hurricanes. And officials have warned for years that a Category 4 could cause the levees to fail.

Similarly to what is occurring in Lebanon, the US government had one goal in the aftermath of Katrina, and that was to hinder local efforts to rescue and rebuild. The casual observer, if basing his opinion of events on main stream press accounts, would simply think that FEMA officials were inept. The reality is that they were protecting their jobs. FEMA routinely shut down all private and foreign rescue and relief efforts under color of law, cutting off local emergency phone lines and misleading local officials.

If this doesn't convince the statists that formal government is a farce, then what the statist needs to do is show us where it has worked rather than demand proof that an absence of "government", or individuals governing themselves, have ever been effective at fending off life's catastrophes.

Recent events expose the statist's ideas as intellectually, morally and logically bankrupt. It's time the notion of democracy, republicanism, communism, nationalism and all other nannyisms be de-legitimized since none have done anything to improve the human condition. It is only the individuals and private organizations they have created which have been able to do this, the State isn't interested.

In his office in Tyre, Husseini, the regional government official, begrudgingly credited Hezbollah and its Shiite allies in the Amal militia.

"At least they are on the ground helping," he said. "If you call them at midnight, they come out to help. They are the government."


1 comment:

A Muser said...

Good to see you blogging again!

Funny you posted this today. I had a relatively libertarian slant on airline security I posted today as well.

The smell of libertarianism in the air...reminds me of...Vernor Vinge.