Archive | May 10, 2010

Everybody Run, Uncle Grady Has a Gun

The following letter appeared in today’s Opelika-Auburn News. (I’ve restored my original paragraphing, which was altered seemingly at random.)

To the Editor:

Bob Sanders wonders (May 8th) why we would fear Uncle Grady the tax assessor. Surely the answer is: because Uncle Grady’s edicts are ultimately backed up by threats of violence from Uncle Sam.

crazy old coot with a gun

Sanders favours the forcible extraction of money from innocent people (i.e. taxation) because he doesn’t see any other way to pay for, as he puts it, “roads and police and help for people who need it.”

Well, sure, we all want those things. The question is, is governmental violence the best way to get them? Monopolistic providers, since they don’t face competition, tend to provide inferior service at higher prices. Since they have a captive customer base, they also tend to abuse power. So why on earth would we want any important service to be supplied by a monopolistic government?

All the services that Sanders mentions can be, and historically have been, provided more fairly and efficiently by private competition. (Read Edward Stringham’s book Anarchy and the Law.)

corporate capitalist chairlift

The idea of government as a source of “help for people who need it” is particularly ironic. Historically, governments always get captured by concentrated interests (the wealthy) at the expense of dispersed interests (the poor). That’s why big business is so terrified of a genuinely freed market and always supports privileges and subsidies (wrapped of course in either free-market rhetoric or progressive rhetoric, depending on who’s in power).

Government policies – even, indeed especially, those touted as intended to protect the poor or to rein in big business – have had the actual (and largely intended, given who turns out to have lobbied for them) effect of destroying poor people’s livelihood and protecting the corporate elite from competition. Read, for example, Gabriel Kolko’s book The Triumph of Conservatism, Butler Shaffer’s In Restraint of Trade, David Beito’s From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State, and Kevin Carson’s Studies in Mutualist Political Economy.

Obama, Palin

As for the tax-subsidized roads that Sanders champions, their chief beneficiaries are big corporations like Wal-Mart, whose heavy trucks for long-distance shipping cause the majority of wear and tear on the highway system, but who don’t bear a proportionate share of the tax burden. Like most government policies, highway subsidies redistribute money from the less to the more affluent, not vice versa.

Sanders’ worries about Sarah Palin’s anti-government rhetoric are unfounded. Palin poses as an enemy of big government, just as Obama poses as an enemy of big business; but if one looks past the rhetoric at the actual policies favoured by each, they’re both firm supporters of the big-government/big-business partnership that so thoughtfully manages our lives.

Roderick T. Long

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes