Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cracks in the fantasy of a very small government

I have been doing debate on Facebook with conservatives and potentially libertarians who assert that if the people are left alone, they will be fine. This, of course, ignores thousands of years of history that show that when tiny minorities come to power, they almost always use that power with impunity to oppress others. This is especially true when government is smaller than the mob and/or when the mob has subverted the will of the people in government.

During debates such as these, I have suggested to the other person, that if he is looking for a nation that has fewer laws and smaller government, he might consider Somalia. Now there's a country with a very small government that is almost lawless. I think they'd welcome him with open arms.

Even in this day and age, there are still people who like to live, "off the books", a sort of modern day version of the Wild West. They do all their business in cash, have few records and often will not seek recourse when a crime is committed for fear of the authorities. Many of these people are immigrants, often illegal immigrants.

I heard a story once about a legal immigrant woman who lived with a man out of marriage while she supported her kids. She had managed to save a tidy sum and invested part of that sum with the man in some property. During their relationship, he became violent with her, so she found refuge somewhere else. But she could not get her money back. He simply refused to put her name on the deed to the property and kept the money.

The woman had a contract, but had no way to enforce it because she did not know how. She could seek help from the district attorney where her interest in the property was situated, but she was worried about reprisal by the man with violent tendencies.

For those who think that we need no laws, or very few laws, with a really small government, she might have no recourse at all. The government would be too small to help this woman, as only the wealthiest people would have access to the courts or law enforcement. The wealthiest people might have their own private police.

Because the woman conducted a large transaction in cash and had no contract, there was no third party to verify the transaction. Though she had a contract to speak for her when the other party reneged on the agreement, she could not enforce it without help. It may be that her best recourse is to inform her ethnic community and hope for vigilante justice.

For those who wish for a smaller government with fewer laws, you might consider the problem above and wonder how to solve it. Should the woman simply forget the deal and move on? Should there be no option for justice for her? Will the man who took the money be free to do it again?

In this modern age, we need government to act as an impartial arbiter of our transactions to ensure fair play. We have computers and databases to help record our transactions, root out wrong-doers and provide a record upon which a fair hearing can be heard. The Tea Party may consider this to be evidence of a surveillance state. To them, I say, "If you want your so-called 'freedom', you may need to relocated to a remote island or mountain where you will not be bothered by civilization." There, you can recreate Galt's Gulch on your own initiative, pursuant to your own imagination.

It is true that our system of government is not perfect, far from it. But it is better than it used to be. Technology has provided us with an impartial witness to assist us in our pursuit of justice and happiness.
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