Home > Uncategorized > The fight against parasitism and free-riding is a never-ending one.

The fight against parasitism and free-riding is a never-ending one.

[from a Facebook post]

The fight against parasitism and free-riding is a never-ending one. The focus should be not on imagining a world free of either, but on moving it in a direction that makes parasitism more difficult.

Randall Holcolmbe points out:

“[D]espite many theories justifying government because its activities produce benefits to its citizens, no government was ever established to produce those benefits. Governments were created by force to rule over people and extract resources from them. Thus, the argument that citizens would be better off if they replaced government activities with private arrangements and market transactions is irrelevant to the issue of whether an orderly anarchy would be a desirable—or even feasible—replacement for government. The real issue is whether a group of people with no government can prevent predators both inside and outside their group from using force to establish a government. …

“The evidence shows that anarchy, no matter how desirable in theory, does not constitute a realistic alternative in practice, and it suggests that if government ever were to be eliminated anywhere, predators would move in to establish themselves as one by force. One can debate the merits of anarchy in theory, but the real-world libertarian issue is not whether it would more be desirable to establish a limited government or to eliminate government altogether. Economist Bruce Benson notes, “When a community is at a comparative disadvantage in the use of violence it may not be able to prevent subjugation by a protection racket such as the state” (1999, 153). Libertarian philosopher Jan Narveson writes, “Why does government remain in power? Why, in fact, are there still governments? The short answer is that governments command powers to which the ordinary citizen is utterly unequal” (2002, 199–200). …

“[S]ome governments are better than others. Therein lies the libertarian argument for a limited government. People benefit from an institutional mechanism to prevent their being taken over by a predatory gang. They can provide this mechanism by preemptively establishing their own limited government, in a form they themselves determine, not on the terms forced upon them by outside predators. A government created by the people themselves can be designed to produce the protection they desire while returning to them the bulk of the surplus owing to peaceful cooperation rather than allowing the state to retain it.

“Is it really possible to design a limited government that will protect people’s liberty? Despite the challenges, it is well-known that some institutional arrangements do a better job of securing liberty and creating prosperity than others. Nations that have protected property rights and allowed markets to work have thrived, whereas nations that have not done so have remained mired in poverty. A libertarian analysis of government must go beyond the issue of whether government should exist. Some governments are more libertarian than others, and it is worth studying how government institutions can be designed to minimize their negative impact on liberty. This proposition is obviously true if one believes that government is inevitable, but even advocates of orderly anarchy should have an interest in understanding how government institutions can be designed to maximize their protection of liberty. …

“Although ideas have been advanced as to how institutions might be redesigned to lessen government’s coercive activities (for example, by Tucker 1990; Anderson and Leal 1991; Holcombe 1995; Holcombe and Staley 2001), there may be no final answer to the question of how to design the ideal government because any innovations in government designed to protect the rights of individuals may prompt offsetting innovations by those who want to use government for predatory purposes. The preservation of liberty will remain a never-ending challenge.”


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