An Article on Libertarianism
By Arnold Kling
Libertarian minarchy is an elegant idea in the abstract. But the moment you get specific, the foundation starts to crumble. Say we started from scratch and created a society in which government covered only the bare essentials of an army, police, and a courts system. I’m a farmer, and I want to sell my crops. In Libertopia, I can sell them in exchange for money. Where does the money come from? Easy, a private bank. Who prints the money? Well, for that we’d need a central bank–otherwise you’d have a thousand banks with a thousand different types of currency. (Some libertarians advocate this.) Okay, fine, we’ll create a central bank. But there’s another problem: Some people don’t have jobs. So we create charities to feed and clothe them. What if there isn’t enough charity money to help them? Well, we don’t want them to start stealing, so we’d better create a welfare system to cover their basic necessities. We’d need education, of course, so a few entrepreneurs would start private schools. Some would be excellent. Others would be mediocre. The poorest students would receive vouchers that allowed them to attend school. Where would those vouchers come from? Charity. Again, what if that doesn’t suffice? Perhaps the government would have to set up a school or two after all.
I think it’s foolish to speculate on whether or not minarchism would work. Instead, we should try to get to minarchism gradually, starting from where we are today. Just keeping taking away government functions until you reach a point where everyone agrees that you took something away that you shouldn’t have.
I think that Beam is fairly confident that his readers will nod their head in agreement when he says that libertarianism obviously cannot work. He takes the view that government programs exist because markets fail. But the fact that markets fail does not mean that government solutions work.