Friday, January 28, 2011

More on Why I Only LEAN Libertarian

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post giving one reason I only lean libertarian: that the admittedly inefficient government is more likely to provide a humane safety net for the poor than if it were left to private donations.

I thus argued for replacing the government-provided safety net with a government-mandated one: Taxpayers would required to donate the tax dollars that would have gone to government-provided safety net to the charity(ies) of their choice, which could include the government.

Here I explain another perhaps more central reason why I only lean libertarian.

Many philosophies have what I call a trumping postulate: a principle so core to that philosophy that it trumps all other considerations. Libertarians' trumping postulate is freedom: if a policy infringes on human freedom, that trumps all other considerations.

My trumping postulate is what I call utilitarianism with an exception: I am in favor of any policy that results in the greatest good for the greatest number so long as that doesn't require a clearly inhumane violation of a person's freedom, e.g., excessive punishment such as putting someone in jail for smoking marijuana, let alone torturing five infants to save 100 lives.

I assert that all trumping postulates are not of equal merit. How does one ascertain merit? I believe that if we gathered the world's million most thoughtful people, the large majority would agree that my trumping postulate is wiser than the libertarian one.

Of course, a popularity contest, even among the world's wisest million, is not a perfect way to decide the wisdom of something but what I believe is a better approach is tautological: that doing the greatest good for the greatest number without clearly inhumane violations is, by definition, apriori, the benchmark by which all policies should be judged.

That said, I worry about the expansion of the U.S. government. Ever more often, when there's a problem, only government-provided solutions are given serious consideration. The result is almost invariably inefficiency, waste, fraud, and abuse, which worsens the longer a government program exists: the bureaucracy expands, overlapping agencies and new laws create labyrinthine complications and contradictions, and even if priorities change, the law doesn't sunset.

For me, a wiser approach is this: When there's a problem, first think, "Will time take care of it more cost-effectively than any intervention?" If not, might a private sector solution be first tried? And only if not, should a government-provided approach be pilot-tested.

Your thoughts?


Max Marty said...

So would you be in favor of a system where the federal government had 3 functions: courts, a police (to enforce the law) and a military, thereby reducing federal income taxes by probably 80% or so.


A 20% "mandatory charitable contribution" to a non-profit or non-profits of the individual's choice?

Marty Nemko said...

I'd have to review issues on a case-by-case basis. As I wrote, I default toward private-sector solutions, unlike our current government, which defaults to government solutions.

Lightning Bug's Butt said...

I really like the idea of your government-mandated charity(ies).

I imagine this would succeed the same way charter schools outperform public schools: charter schools compete for students and tax dollars based on merit, not politics.

Imagine how much better woven our safety net would be with the same model.