The recent turmoil in the government shutdown, has awakened many Americans to the fragility and instability of the system they live under. Apparently much of the American economy and the global economy are completely dependent on the US state operating, that huge economic cost are estimated. This article estimates the shutdown costing $40 million to $80 million per day, and the points out that it around 700,000 federal employees have been left on furloughs. Of note, I do place most of the blame for this shutdown, on congress republicans, who seem to have decided to hold the country hostage in their opposition any change in health care policy.
All this reminded me of my previous recent discussion, which spawned my piece “Defending the Libertarian Left” . In that exchange I provided a few reasons why it is preferable to develop voluntary alternatives to government solutions to the problems we face, as decentralized, voluntary networks are often harder to take away (or held hostage). I have since expanded on that idea and came up with this list of reasons why I think we should seek out more decentralized solutions to our problems, rather than rely so heavily on than government ones:
A. Governments are easily corrupted, and the people in them tend to be more than willing to sell out their constituents to powerful interest or renege on their campaign promise.
B. Governments tend to pursue the interests of powerful elites at the expense of ordinary people, they historically been the purveyors of mass land thefts, genocides, wars, wasteful spending, and a bunch of other awful things, simply the existence of entities that large and powerful is a threat to our well being, and that the alternative of having power widely diffused throughout society at the very least does not have this problem.
C. Governments are authoritarian, at the end of the day the work entirely through coercion. Minimize their role in our lives means less people being forced to do things that they otherwise do not want to do, at the threat of violence.
D. Anything large centralized authoritarian institutions give they can often do take away, as such having large populations dependent on them for subsistence is problematic. As can be seen in the current such down.
E. Large centralized authoritarian organizations be they governments or large corporations are by definition inefficient. They are tend to be characterized by red tape, an upward flow of credit and a downward flow of blame, and decision makers on top who lack the crucial knowledge that is dispersed among the population under them. As such there is reason to believe the combined results of the world’s voluntary, mutually, beneficial transactions will better reflect their shared preferences than that imposed by some distant authority (I do acknowledge that in many parts of the world this process is compromised, largely because governments have already distributed resources in the hands of favored elites).
F. If a government provides something free of charge, or paid for by all it will likely get overused, as demand will outstrip supply. Think of the urban scrawl created by the highway system and the huge traffic jams of suburban commuters driving each day to their jobs in the heart of the city.
G. Government solutions, often crowd out or are introduced with laws prohibiting non-government solutions, weakening voluntary mutual aid systems and leaving the population highly vulnerable if the government shuts down or is taken over by individuals with different leanings.
I am sure there are more points I could make along these lines. Overall I fear reliance on the government does make the population vulnerable and probably promotes the rise of a political right that is more than happy to compromise the general population’s well being for it’s political gain.