I am a philosophical anarchist. The idea of a group of people coming together and imposing their will on others is morally abhorrent to me. It is probably morally abhorrent to most people. However, public opinion changes when that majority claims to be working towards the common good, when they are acting on behalf of the state.
In this case, most people think that their actions are automatically justified. I disagree. Innumerable atrocities have been committed on behalf of the state. In China, a “one-child policy” led to the murder of countless baby girls. In Zimbabwe, land redistribution led to famine. In Iraq, the government murdered its own populous. Yes, people led all of these atrocities, but government justified them. Government is dangerous.
Early in the development of my political philosophy, however, I became aware of a barrier to anarchism - practicality. Apparently, the vast majority of people like to impose their will on others. With the state, at least in theory, minority rights can be protected. Anarchy does not allow for this possibility. Given this unfortunate reality, the state appears to be the lesser of two evils.
Our task is thus to find a political system in which the state has enough power to protect us, but not enough to harm us. This is impossible. The moment we grant the state enough power to protect us, it can break us. The best we can do is fight for a system in which the state has the minimum power necessary for protection, and pray that it doesn’t grow.
The role of the state is to protect us from those that would force their own belief systems, values and judgments upon us. This provides individuals the opportunity to exercise their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is the only reason that the state is necessary, and it is the only legitimate reason to grant such a potentially harmful entity power. This is a philosophical approach to the role of the state. This is how I came to my political beliefs. However, upon further examination of the ramifications of libertarianism, I found that it is also a practical philosophy. Social and economic policies based upon the philosophy of freedom are generally better for society than policies based upon other philosophies.
Social freedom is a dying concept. Western countries tell people what they can eat, drink and smoke. They dictate whom we can marry and how we raise our children. “Nanny state” policies are generally justified using the following argument: we know what is best for society and we know what is best for you. The things is, no one really does. At the end of the day, be it health or morality that fuels a do-gooder’s reasoning, it is impossible for someone to correctly evaluate what is “best” for another because people value things differently.
Furthermore, regulation is expensive. In 2003, the federal government spent over $19 million on the war on drugs. Since 1995, about 25 percent of all convictions in the United States were drug charges. So, there is $19 million spent on catching drug users and then all the additional costs associated with keeping them locked up. Let’s not forget that drug use in and of itself is a victimless crime. Perhaps our country’s resources could be better spent.
Economic freedom is just as important as social freedom. Without economic freedom the incentives for production become skewed and economic development suffers. Even seemingly small policies aimed at promoting equality have unintended consequences. Labor laws that prohibit firing workers in Europe have created an atmosphere where no one wants to hire anyone. Unemployment has resulted.
In the United States, rent control has made it virtually impossible to find housing in many areas. Worse, once the government has the apparatus to affect economic policy, companies have an interest in the government. Even those who are sympathetic to government attempts to tilt economics in favor of the poor are opposed to the idea of corporations making the rules. Few seem to recognize that the two come hand in hand. Agricultural subsidies in the Western world reduce the market price of agricultural goods, harming third world producers. This may have something to do with campaign donations from major corn and sugar producers.
Neither the market nor people are perfect. Market failures exist. People make mistakes. However, government failures exist, too. The government makes mistakes, too. Often, government mistakes are worse. It was a government that instituted Japanese internment, a government that backed the holocaust and a government that rallied the people to genocide in Rwanda. Governments should be used wisely, which means that they should be tasked with doing the bare minimum of what they are needed for in order to lesson the possibility of them becoming tyrannical.