By Josh Hughes | United States
Most libertarians believe that, to an extent, the “free market” is superior to the government. But is this really true? Can private enterprises and consumers completely and voluntarily fund the services that are enjoyed today? If so, are they capable of producing such services at a more efficient and cost-effective rate? The answer, in theory, is always yes.
Can the Market Do Everything That Government Can?
Think of any service that is offered by the government. There are dozens, ranging from something as simple as the post office and sanitation services, to more complex and serious things such as domestic and foreign defense. Simple, everyday tasks that people are accustomed to being carried out by government employees can just as easily be done in the private sector. Private schools, for example, perform the same job as public schools but are done through completely voluntary means. In many instances, the quality of education is higher as well.
But some services just can’t be provided by the free market, right? Many cite defense and legal dilemmas as areas that need government control or interference. This simply just is never necessary. An example that many are fond of is illustrated by Llewellyn Rockwell, Jr. in his anarcho-capitalist manifesto, Against the State. In it, one is asked to consider for a moment that shoes have been provided to children until the age of 18 by the government for as long as anyone can remember. Since society has become so used to this, and the market has never had the ability to compete, one naturally finds it foolish to question the government’s provision here. It can be assumed that many people would actually become quite defensive when the question of “Can the market do it better?” arises.
This is the case with every single service society enjoys. People don’t consider how the market and private individuals can better provide a service because it’s never been attempted.
“But Who Will Build the Roads?”
This is a challenge often brought up when taxation or government abolition is brought up. The answer is simple. The same individuals that politicians contract will build the roads. Your neighbors and peers who are civil engineers and construction workers will still build the roads. “But who will pay for it?” Private citizens will still fund the projects, just as they already do now. Instead of the violent coercion the government forces, however, it will be in the form of voluntary transactions such as tolls or user fees. Domestic defense will still be provided by private individuals, except now instead of an all-powerful police force, it will be a subscription to a privately regulated enterprise. This is true for everything. It will all be paid for and provided by the same individuals that pay for and provide it now, only this time it will be done voluntarily in the form of subscriptions, user fees, and tolls. No more will you be forced to give your hard-earned money to an agency of men in Washington, D.C. that decide where they feel it will be best spent. In the ideal society, you the individual know where to spend your money best.
Another question often raised is “What happens when a company establishes a monopoly over a service, then proceeds to extort its users?” This is a very tough, but solvable, dilemma. An answer would be responsibility of the market. Individuals must not be put in the situation where they can be exploited and must provide competing services themselves. If this is unavailable, then the market must pressure the monopoly and force them to either break up or not extort consumers by refusing the monopoly and its workers service. The market will always regulate itself.
“What happens when a business decides to discriminate against a group of people, whether on the basis of race, religion, gender, or orientation?” In this instance, individuals and the market will again regulate itself. Minorities are more empowered today than they have ever been before. Through advances in technology, avenues such as social media and sites like Yelp will spread the decisions of businesses. Say, for example, a restaurant refuses service to an African-American woman because of her race. She can then go to Instagram or Twitter and share her experience, where it can then be seen by thousands of people. The business will suffer the consequences, as now people will refuse to go there and instead opt to go to a restaurant that serves all people.
Another main issue is environmental regulations. The EPA currently sets the standards for businesses to follow when it comes to regulations, but without a government, who will do that for us? Again, the answer is the market. Similar to the case of monopolies, other businesses and individuals will set sanctions against or boycott companies that practice in ways that are detrimental to the environment. This pressure will force the companies to change their ways or to shut down.
The Market Will Prevail
If you’ve paid attention, you have noticed that the same phrase has been repeated many times. “The free market will solve the issue.” This is the main philosophy behind most libertarian thought. The free market will solve any and every issue, and can better perform every service offered by the government. The untouched market has competition whereas the government is a monopoly. The market has drive and incentives while the government is lazy and incompetent. The market is voluntary and free, a stark contrast against the government who is coercive and aggressive. The market can and will solve every problem presented to society without the need of the government.
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