Friday, November 11, 2011

A libertarian metaphor: Government is like

I've noticed the phrase "antipathy for government" being used a few times, specifically in reference to a particular Republican sideshow candidate. And I think we should take a moment to discuss what exactly libertarian-ey folks--and the politicians trying to court them--think about government and its proper role.

I don't hate government. If I did, I'd be an anarchist, not a libertarian. I'm about ninety percent sure we need some amount of government, and about ninety percent sure we need taxes to support that government.

The thing is, a government is like a rifle: there are certain tasks for which no other tool will do. There are certain tasks you can do with other tools, but the rifle does them better if used with care, so using it is wise. But there's a world of tasks out there that it's terrible for, and trying to use it for those purposes will end up breaking the thing you want to fix and catching your neighbors in the stray fire. So you keep careful track of where you point the thing, and keep your finger off the damn trigger.

So I don't hate government any more than I hate rifles, but I respect the damage both can do, and insist on keeping strict muzzle and trigger discipline. When you've built a government with a hundred-thousand employee strong bureau dedicated to regulating every aspect of agriculture and food, with an attitude of such pervasive, granular control that it thinks nothing of creating a "Christmas Tree Checkoff Task Force" to "strengthen the position of fresh cut Christmas trees in the marketplace and maintain and expand markets for Christmas trees within the United States", you're waving your damn rifle around with your booger-hook on the bang-switch, and other people on the firing line are right to be concerned.


  1. We're in agreement:

    "Government is necessary. It's not a necessary evil, it has no moral value, any more than any other tool.

    If we didn't believe in its necessity, we would be anarchists, not libertarians. To believe government is evil then is to believe -humanity- is evil; that which is good or even morally neutral does not -need- an evil thing.

    Government is the potential for, the use of, the threat of, overwhelming force; in short, it's a gun. Never let your muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy, and government is all muzzles and triggers."

  2. Quite. And I'm, like, eighty percent sure we need government. At least. ;)

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