The government shutdown continues and pervades the American media. The airwaves and fiber optic cables relay the cries of both Democrats and Republicans. Some bemoan strife and tension, while others rally around the seemingly impending doom presented by “Obamacare.”
This isn’t to attack the media as a whole. After all, this is what one expects from them. Rather, anyone concerned with the cause of liberty must step back from the political fighting for a moment and ask some questions. Simply put, we must ask ourselves to what degree the government’s services are actually necessary.
Obviously, we cannot cover every area in which the government now plays a role. The American government has grown to such a large position in so many areas of life that tackling every aspect, including the philosophical and practical implications, would be a book-length task. Consequently, we can only cover a selection of governmental meddling.
Government intervention in the economy looms as one of the bleakest aspects of our examination. But even viewing economic intervention as a whole still appears too broad and general for our analysis. Upon closer examination, we find the Federal Reserve to be one of the most problematic areas of economic intervention.
When the Federal Reserve was created in 1913, the government intended “the Fed” to act as a means of preventing additional economic and monetary instability. Currently, the Federal Reserve system exerts a level of monopolistic control over the American financial system. Such control completely contradicts any idea of liberty, for who gives a bank power over regulating others’ property and decisions? This is certainly not a part of the natural rights doctrine that the philosophies of liberty founded themselves on. There also exists the practical case against the Federal Reserve. The answer to this question lies not in complex mathematical models, but in an economic philosophy grounded on solid axioms. Although vilified by essentially all other economic schools of thought, the Austrian School provided wholly logical answers to economic conundrums.
The economic “meltdowns” and problems our nation, along with many others, experienced over the past decade were not unexpected. This isn’t to imply there was some sort of plot or conspiracy, but that a thinking person with the proper tools possessed the ability to see the problem coming. Using their logical “business cycle,” the Austrian School economists saw the effects of the Federal Reserve’s policies regarding money and interest rates. Simply, they saw consequences equated to the economic “meltdown” and depression.
Additional thought regarding the Federal Reserve shows that it’s an unnecessary entity. Apart from its philosophical problems, the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policies initiate economic cycles that usher more collapse and depressions. Government control isn’t necessary. If left alone, the free market would supply the needs for banking and currency without the coercive government regulation. Such would be done in a manner that allowed for continual improvement and efficiency. But it does more. A complete absence of government control in banking and money prevents horrific and catastrophic collapse. Free market entities would not on their own make policy with a Keynesian model of shaping and molding the economy in mind. In stark contrast, they would concern themselves with staying in business. While no one argues that a totally free market financial model averts all economic problems, it alleviates many of the current problems.
Another area we see government involving itself in is education. As I noted in my earlier article, “The Education Problem’s Core,” there are numerous issues with government schools. Apart from the moral problem of building themselves upon tax dollars, they are not effective at providing students with proper educations. Rather than sharpening a student’s reasoning and mental prowess, the public education system teaches him to live as a cog in society’s great machinery.
Beyond the ethical implications of purposefully creating loyal pawns of the government, the public school model also assumes that it is the only effective model of education. If every person is truly an individual, and therefore different, postulating that a certain educational model works best for everyone seems absurd. But the government takes this further by making school attendance compulsory.
True, parents generally still possess the freedom in sending their child to a private institution or homeschooling their children, but there must rationally exist some effects. If the government both has “free” schools (supported from taxes), then it must affect the rest of the educational market. We often hear of families who shoulder massive sacrifices in sending their children to private schools. Wouldn’t the cost be considerably less if education was wholly private? Logically speaking, it must be the case. Again, we see the power of free choice (i.e. the free market), if allowed, triumphing over pillage and plunder (i.e. government).
As I stated earlier, we cannot engage in a comprehensive questioning of government intervention here, but we can whet our appetite. Considering that we have addressed the areas of economics and education, perhaps it is fitting for us to end with an overview of our dinner.
With a budget of over four billion dollars and slightly under ten thousand employees, the Food and Drug Administration exerts more influence that its name suggests. It is safe to suggest that every American indirectly experienced some sort of contact with the FDA at some point. For this is the federal agency that regulates food safety. I realize that decrying the entity supposedly preventing us from consuming unsafe products appears asinine. But the issues we see with the FDA are the same as those related to both the Federal Reserve and public schools. There are fundamental philosophical issues related to the FDA’s regulating powers. What really gives them the authority to force themselves upon the market? If one believes in natural rights (i.e. life, liberty, and property), then no legitimate authority rests with the FDA.
Then, there are the practical concerns. Thinking logically, we see one great concern before evaluating the other aspects. Although economics and education are just as important, food safety seems closer to us. Perhaps this traces itself to a base need of the human experience—food. If the FDA fails in keeping us safe from rotten meat, tainted vegetables, and other hazards, what are the consequences? Is the entity fired and replaced by a worthier competitor? No, the government merely presses on. As the Mises Institute notes, some safety and quality regulation systems already exist in a free market (i.e. voluntary) context. If these exist and continue to do so, it is illogical that they would not increase and become more efficient in a completely free market.
The reader likely noticed a theme throughout the remedies: the free market. Completely free from government intrusion and regulation, the markets can provide us with better services that beat their governmental counterparts in every area. There is a simple reason for this. The markets found themselves on human action and free choice. Through this philosophically elegant and valid idea, we find the best solution possible to our problems. So, while the “shutdown” grinds on, the beautiful free market continues full of possibilities and promise.
Christian Lopac | Wabash College | @CLopac