One of the regular knocks on libertarians is that we are cruel bastards who want children, the poor and aged to just go away and die. According to our detractors, this view is “proved” by our seeking dramatic reductions in taxes because we are greedy and just want to keep our money to ourselves.
Unfortunately, many times we (libertarians) take the bait and launch into a diatribe on how it is our money in the first place and our right to keep the fruits of our labor should be protected, blah, blah, blah. This seals the deal for the naysayer and libertarianism is further vilified by the person raising the argument.
In this post I wish to explore another, more subtle side of the argument that I think may win some converts as opposed to reinforcing the aforementioned belief. I believe that if more libertarians use this argument, we might be able to shift the thinking of some folks who have genuine concern for their fellow man. In short, the argument boils down to this – society and the state (government) are not the same thing.
Let’s take education as an example. Do I think society should provide a basic education to all of its members? Of course! This makes sense for many reasons, some of them clearly of self-interest. I want all members of society to be able to pursue their own goals and dreams to the best of their ability. It benefits me if they do! But, do I want this to be funded by the state? A resounding, “NO!”
State funding of education is a mistake, because it allows people in society to think, “Well that is taken care of” when nothing could be further from the truth. If society funded education, and by society here I mean the voluntary contributions of the people who are members, children would be better educated because there would be a natural check on its effectiveness, namely the parents of the students.
If a school was not properly educating the kids, the parents would let the donors know about it. This in turn would put pressure on the school to get better or go out of business.
This is why I advocate for a system that is completely in alignment with the Texas Constitution which calls for a “public free education.” Notice it is not a “free public education.” A system of vouchers, or better yet tax credits, would be a bridge to this idea. If we give the parents control over the flow of money and not the politicians and bureaucrats the system would improve dramatically.
I do believe that society can, should and would have a huge impact of many of the social welfare problems that plague us. The trouble is that the state (government) has usurped the authority of society to the detriment of all.