At my Facebook page, I often banter with self-declared Libertarians. This is a comment I recently wrote, attempting to explain my disagreement with a claim that the estate tax should be repealed (and, in fact, the IRS should be abolished):
I disagree with your assumption that everything will become the land of milk and honey if only government will just get out of the way. I’m not for bad government, yet much of the federal government today is bad government. But if we dismantle government power, power will re-assert itself, one way or the other.
Government HAS gotten out of the way of Wall Street, Insurance Industry, Big Pharma, Telecoms, and they have run rampant — they are FUCKING the American public. They are like sociopathic gangsters and thugs who have filled the vacuum, thanks to the federal government having already gotten out of the way. We already HAVE libertarian government regarding many major industries, many of whom pay no tax or minimal tax. And we now see their true colors. They don’t give a shit about ordinary people–they fuel the short-sighted desires of their boards, officers and stockholders They believe that they live in a amoral oasis–a moral-free zone where commerce is simply a place to make money, despite long term damage to ordinary people or the environment. Most big industries also seek to destroy all competition and steal your money through monopolistic practicers, because the current system invites this, once the “evil” once the government steps out of the way. For instance, large monied industries are in the process of dismantling all consumer protection laws – it’s happening right now in Missouri.
I’m for smart, self-critical government that serves as a referee to keep the playing field even. I’m not for wild-eyed governmental reallocation of money from those who work hard to those who choose to not work hard. But the government involvement I seek does require funding, and the next question is where this funding should come from. Taking a tiny slice of money from extremely rich dead people does not offend me to the extent that that funding is used wisely to increase opportunities (not guaranteed outcomes) to those who need a hand and who desire to work hard to become taxpaying citizens themselves.
I was not born into poverty — I assume you were not either. Those who were born into poverty cannot be expected to magically do well, although a few of them will, despite the horrible odds against them. We can either cross our fingers and hope (or pray) that they simply somehow become productive members of society, but there are only relatively rare examples of that. To the 8 year old kid who is trapped in a crappy household, school and neighborhood, it is a moral imperative that we lend a hand, not just sit there and let him or her languish.
I try to live in the real world–I’ve avoided any form of gated community, but I need and appreciate public funding to allow good things to happen. I treasure public libraries (which allows me to volunteer to teach ESL) and public parks, which thousands of people in my neighborhood enjoy every day. One of my children goes to an amazing public performing arts school where almost 70% of the kids are on free or reduced meals. I see these kids brimming with potential every day, and thank goodness the government has offered them an incredible opportunity. Shall we yank that food from those kids and tell them to go find food in dumpsters? Should we close down the public schools and tell those families to go find private schools that will give them high quality educations pro bono? Good luck with that plan. There are millions of kids out there who need better food, shelter and schools, and for the great majority of them, no one is stepping up for them. I believe that government has a legitimate roll to play.
Can we do better than we are currently doing? Of course, and a huge reason for that is that people from all points of the political spectrum have been trying to grow government to fuel their pet projects and pet ideologies even when those programs have been shown to be counterproductive and destructive.
I understand, then, your distrust of government. It is run poorly in many respects. But completely unplugging government funding, which I understand to be your preferred approach, is an experiment I am not willing to partake in. It will turn society over to the mercy of gangsters and thugs, many of them wearing suits and ties. Note that I am not criticizing you for being “selfish.”
All of us want to keep what we work for. Most of us are wary of altruistic schemes, other than our own pet projects. My concern is that pulling the government out of the picture will lead to massive social disorder many levels of magnitude greater than our current level of social disorder.