A problem comes up in society. No matter your political persuasion, it is almost certain that your solution will be “the government can/should/will fix it.” We have arrived at yet another area in which the government has robbed us – our creativity. When the state is the answer to every question, entrepreneurial exploits become increasingly difficult to come by. The average citizen does not need to occupy herself thinking about a single solution to a problem, because she can push it to a bureaucrat to do it for her. Meanwhile, people who already have money lobby for a certain way to approach a problem. Bureaucrats, who have a difficult enough time coordinating the masses, no matter how intelligent or expert they are in the area in which the problem has arisen, come up with a shoddy solution that costs a great amount of money. This is the problem with a monopoly, as all economists agree. But there are solutions to public goods, and they are not the singular umbrella of the state that we resort to instantly since we have been bred out of creativity…
In looking at this country, this out-of-control spending and taxation, as well as the general dependency of society on the State, libertarians like myself see a long and tedious fight ahead. If freedom from force is to be held supreme, it is most everything else that the State does which must be fought in the process. This undoubtedly includes any form of coerced State-intervention in the lives of individuals who should themselves be sovereign. Libertarians, while holding the sanctity of the individual above the myth of the collective, are not an island. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a libertarian who wants to scurry off to Stateless Somalia and be devoid of both the State and rule of law. Libertarians, generally speaking, do not consent to be governed. It’s simply that we believe that Government is too oppressive and influential in the private affairs of individuals.
In a few words, being a libertarian tells you nothing about my religion, my economics, nor my personal values. When voluntaryists argue, on principle, that they wish to abolish a particular Federal Department, the cries against well-intentioned libertarians grow louder and louder as if on cue — often to the point of ridicule. To say such things is blasphemous against the State; it is to remove all State-operated social safety nets, and to somehow require (except not by force) a sentiment of compassion and empathy for the poor and needy. On the flip side, it is likewise argued by statists that it is precisely in this Hobbsean human nature that libertarianism finds its flaw. The two views of human nature fight back at each other, and this war inevitably permits the Statist’s claim to prevail. They decry that businesses are profit-driven, and it is not in the interests of hospitals to care for the uninsured, or that it is in human nature to be greedy or unsympathetic to another in need. Leave it to Bastiat to explain this phenomenon:
“Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”
And so libertarians, to re-demand their respect and legitimacy, must answer to the following question: “What do you do about the (fill in the blank!) poor, the needy, the uninsured, the sick, the psychotic, and everybody attended to by the State once the State is removed?” And if no answer is given, the shouts of “Let ‘em all die!” reign in from the audience at large. Free riders are a problem, eh? Somehow this constitutes a silver bullet for all libertarian ideas, for you as an individual are immediately deprived of respect and humanity by society if you do not tend to the needy. There is no answer but the State, they argue, and that much is final. Much in the same vein, it is the single fault of libertarians that they cannot answer this question effectively. Jeremy Wieland, an important member of the Libertarian Left, pinpoints this as follows:
I don’t claim to possess any extraordinarily superior spark of insight, but I do think many libertarians suffer from a failure of imagination when applying libertarian principles thoroughly to these issues…So why shouldn’t we oppose them [supporters of free markets] on the same grounds that we oppose other side-effects of central planning and top-down command? What are the alternatives to the institutions, practices, and concepts that have created these problems?
Libertarians, much like statists, suffer from a lack of imagination. These questions are difficult, but as the State is already in charge, it is not enough to call for its abolition. Since many refuse to do without these social safety-nets, what is to finance these services in a free market society? To libertarians, I wish to provide you in this article a resource which may spark your insights and revamp your imaginations. To Statists, I ask that you take note to these suggestions, and realize that they come not from a selfish view of civilization, but of a multi-variable and perhaps empathetic one. I believe modern psychology gives us good reason to believe that human beings are primarily social creatures, with a need to belong, an attachment to others, and an evolving capacity for love.
Consider the following two lists (about roads and healthcare) of specific and imaginative solutions to financing of public goods in a free market economy. For more general solutions, see this list by Roderick Long. Consider the relationships between the listed entity and the private company, and see if you can decide how each of these serves as a possibility for financing that particular “public good”. I will continue to work on future articles to explicitly show this benefit, but here’s my ideas for the mean time. Profitable opportunities for these private companies exist in each item listed, allowing for revenue to be raised to pay for “public goods”.
Possible Free Market Solutions:
15 Ways to Finance Private Roads in a Free Market Society
1. Charging Tolls
2. Selling Advertising Space
3. Providing Auto-Insurance Packages
4. AAA/Car Accident/Auto-Repair Response Services
5. License Plates/Vehicle Registration Services
6. Charity and Private Donations
7. Gas and Fuel Stations Fees
8. Buses and Transportation Services
9. Charging Trucking/Commercial Use Fees
10. Rest Areas/Attractions/Gift Shops
11. Parking Garage Services
12. Investment/Stock Market Opportunities
13. Radio/News/Traffic Reporting Services
14. Police Forces/Law Enforcement Agreements
15. Rental Car Services
15 Ways to Finance Healthcare in a Free Market Society
1. Providing Health-Insurance Packages
2. Drug/Pharmacy Testing Services (like the FDA)
3. Selling Gym memberships
4. Providing Spa/daycare services
5. Pool/recreation facilities
6. Offering Expert Fitness/Dietary Regimes
7. Medical Research and Development Grants
8. Investment/Stock Market Opportunities
9. Charity/Private Donations
10. Medical Licensing/Certification Programs
11. Offering First-hand Continuing Education Programs
12. Integration of Black-market – Organ Trade/Donations
13. Future Contractual/Work Agreements for Uninsured
14. Biomedical/Robotic Machines Leases
15. Medical Database/Diagnosis Sales
These specific suggestions all follow a general guideline that the free market is not one-dimensional. This means that a restaurant’s purpose isn’t just to serve food. Indeed successful restaurants may also offer entertainment and sell merchandise. Consider the relationships between different types of businesses and how each one may provide a service which is valuable to another. In the end, at the bottom of everything, you will find out the definition of trade. That is the following: trade is a mutually beneficial exchange of value. When businesses become multi-dimensional, the questions of how its ‘characterizing services’ (healthcare, roads, etc.) are funded, even in the wake of free riders, become laughable at best. Really, is forced redistribution and taxation the best you can come up with?
There is no free rider ‘problem’ to be dealt with. Besides, the free-rider problem is entirely caused by the State. It is just as absurd for me to consider a public, State-funded road system as it is for me to consider a public, State-funded hotel chain. For shouldn’t everybody who drives a car be granted a hotel room for shelter? Imagine if the public demanded free access to public hotel rooms, and the State nationalized the hotel industry. Now libertarians would call for its denationalization, and the question would be: “How do you give everybody free access to hotels?” But nobody wonders how hotels can possibly afford free continental breakfasts every single morning. Further, what difference exists in thought between a public, State-funded restaurant wing, and a public, State-funded healthcare company? Alas, both food and medicine are both important and necessary to man’s health! In the end, I am astonished by this sense of entitlement held by many statists. I am also taken aback by libertarians who see charity as the only option. Considering that resources are scarce, I would still say that the free market could do a pretty damn good job at reducing the cost of these services.
The point I am trying to make is that the State is just one solution to these difficult problems, and an inefficient one at that. Free market solutions, whether capitalistic or socialistic in nature, open up several avenues of possibilities that even the most staunch libertarians cannot conceive. Let’s be imaginative, and possibly as costs decline exponentially and as innovation increases, it may soon be said “FREE-RIDERS WELCOME” on the windows of all hospitals. I feel there is a potential for value in everybody – no matter the view of human nature you take. To libertarians and statists alike, let’s solve these problems by providing creative alternatives and without being dismissive. It is equally Utopian in my eyes for libertarians to say that “a Stateless society is best” as it is for statists to say “the State is necessary” for order and progress! . . . .
Intuitively, I know the above to be true. In the beginning of all of the lectures and readings about libertarianism, I was shocked by the creativity of some of the solutions – right or wrong. It takes great creativity to think outside the mechanisms and “solutions” of the state. Be creative. Don’t be a statist.