This chapter addresses the question Robert Muller posed to me in his letter. In his exact words, his question was, "Suppose you were given the task and free hand, like those in Philadelphia around Washington, to come up with the ways of the human species on this planet, and how it should achieve its fulfillment and be governed without impairing its planetary home?" Incidentally, this is the very question being deliberated by "The New Independent Council on World Cooperation and World Governance."
In his letter, he suggested I pretend that I am participating in a world constitutional convention, much like the one that happened in America in the 1770s and 1780s, and to outline what I would do in that position. This seemed like a fun project, so I wrote this book. I do not presume to be an eminent thinker such as Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin. However, in my defense, I appeal to Desiderata . Even an old farm boy has a story to tell.
Outlining what world government should look like can be a formidable task--especially, if it is assumed that no aspect of human endeavor is outside the range of government intervention.
In the last chapter, different issues regarding the UN were explored. While it was noted that the UN has chosen some worthy goals, it was also noted that many of the UN's policies are destined to have results at variance with those worthy goals (unintended consequences). This chapter will recap briefly the plusses and minuses of the UN, and then it will suggest possible alternatives for making a world government that will protect people rather than enslave them.
Worthy Goals of UN
The UN Charter speaks of many lofty goals. The two main aspirations of the UN Charter are the elimination of the oppression of humans by humans, and the elimination of the oppression of humans by nature. When we consider the magnitude of the task, the UN should not be faulted for failing to accomplish what might well be an impossible set of goals. (Unless the acceptance of impossible goals is itself a fault.)
The UN Charter and accompanying documents such as the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights promise that the individual should be free from both oppression from fellow humans and they should also be free from want.
Summary of Weaknesses of UN
As was mentioned in the last chapter, the UN is operating at a distinct disadvantage due to the nature of its funding and due to some contradictory philosophical assumptions that guide its policy.
The United Nations is based in New York City, not on land it can truly call its own. Furthermore, its funding requires the goodwill of many governments, none of which must be offended unless the UN is willing to forego funding from that government. That may be why the UN calls for the acceptance of totalitarian regimes by relatively free countries, and for tyrants not to be too upset because people in other nations are more free. (Actually, tyrants should be grateful. Without the existence of freer societies, they would have nowhere to invest their politically acquired wealth.)
The call for peaceful coexistence between freedom and tyranny implies that everything is relative--especially morality. This compromise has been advocated by all UN documents. In fact, great pains were taken to create documents that offered a compromise between individual rights and government expediency.
Another philosophical conflict suffered by the UN is the notion that "somehow" people can be free from both the oppression of government leaders and from the demands of nature. In some economic theorists' circles, the right to be left alone is defined as "negative rights" while the right to consume at a minimum level is defined as "positive rights."
Advocates for positive rights insist that people should be able to consume at a certain minimum level regardless of their level of production. However, it does not take a doctorate in logic to figure out that if one person produces less than he or she consumes, someone else must make up the difference. Were the appropriations not called taxation , we would consider such demands to be an advocacy of slavery. (Forced labor camps are less subtle and more easily recognized as slavery.)
The main problem with advocating opposing policies is that the most harmful outcome is usually the one that unfolds. This is illustrated most dramatically with the saying, "In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win."1
The doctrine of positive rights finds its justification in the poverty that still remains on the planet even though some nations have made great strides against it. Differences in development are assumed to be accidents of nature, thereby requiring a forceful redistribution of wealth in order to correct perceived inequities. Little thought seems to be directed toward answering the question of why some nations prosper while others languish. Instead, it is assumed that rich nations are the cause of the problems of the poor nations. Nevertheless, "It is odd, on the face of it, to blame the poverty of the rest of the world on democratic capitalism. Such poverty, after all, is hundreds of years older than its purported cause."2
Applying coercion to the funding and administration of charity has some predictably perverse results. First, it acts as a disincentive for productive people to work hard, knowing that they will not have control over the results of their work. Second, it acts as a disincentive for those who are not productive because they know they will be taken care of regardless. Finally, it creates a whole cadre of bureaucrats who know on some level that their career advancement depends on the expansion of the number of problems to be solved.
Nations that implement policies of coercive charity are noted for their gradual decline and for the expansion of the very problems those policies were supposed to eliminate. In America, for instance, we find that after thirty years and over three-and-a-half-trillion dollars spent on Great Society programs, every problem that was cause for concern in the 1960s has only gotten worse. Of course, people in general assume that these problems can be solved only by chanting the mantra, "more coercion, more coercion, more coercion." It appears that only a total collapse can wake people up to the truth that when people exchange "essential freedom for temporary security" they end up losing both. Because the United Nations has embraced the ideal of coercive charity, we can expect it to repeat on a world-scale what is presently being done on the national level.
There are some theorists who insist that the United Nation's goal is to institute a world dictatorship. However, it is not necessary for a conspiracy to exist in order to achieve the same result. Well-meaning people with compassion for the poor (and no compassion for productive people) can create such an outcome even though they are sincerely opposed to the inevitable result.
Social programs tend to demotivate both producers and non-producers alike, leading to reduced production. From there, the next logical step is the creation of programs like "national service." Once national service has been instituted, it is only a small step to forced labor. When forced labor finally arrives, one can deny the existence of tyranny only through the rote memorization of numerous euphemisms (until it's your turn to go through the meat grinder).
Different Possibilities for World Government
In chapters 5 and 6 , it was noted that if government is operating according to the principle of only exercising defensive force on behalf of productive people, it should enjoy as large a jurisdiction as possible--even worldwide in scope. However, if predators have co-opted government for their own purposes, the smaller the government the better, and a replacement government managed by non-predators is best.
Fortunately, the success of the United Nations is not our only
hope for the future. Any group of people, on any part of the planet,
could elect to adopt the ethics and systems that make for peace,
prosperity, and for a formidable self-defense against predators.
Let's take a look at each possibility available, starting with the United Nations.
For all the disadvantages faced by the UN, one should not discount the possibility of it becoming a viable option. Life is full of happy surprises. If by chance some UN leaders were to take on the "suicidal" quest to educate people about the requirements of life placed on us by nature, to suggest that the work necessary to maintain life is an opportunity for growth rather than a burden unjustly imposed, and to encourage people to modify nature instead of each other, the UN could be a source of hope for the future.
This, of course, would mean that the UN would immediately alienate itself from one-hundred-plus power-hungry nations who would cut off funding because the UN is not lending legitimacy to their forms of oppression (er, I mean government). For the UN to survive, it would have to align itself with people and governments who aspire to minimize the use of coercion in human relationships. That might well mean no support at all, given that even the so-called free nations promote coercive charity and deny "economic criminals" due process of law.
But, once again, miracles do happen.
Any society that decides to embrace individual freedom is a candidate. Rational and peaceful government is more a matter of principle than it is a matter of size. In fact, if a world government is formed that lacks these principles, it will only interfere with societies who seek to embrace these principles. Ultimately, it matters little whether we have one big world government using these principles, or many little governments using them. The result would be the same.
Our rational hope for the future depends on the possibility that some culture, upon emerging from a dark age, might want to embrace the principles of individual rights and minimum government. Many advocates of United States supremacy, including some people who believe the UN is part of a larger conspiracy, assume that the United States is the only place from which freedom can spring. Unfortunately, history does not bear this out.
Nations have been rising and falling since before recorded history. Recalling once again Arnold Toynbee's theory, nations are born and die in a series of nine steps: bondage, faith, courage, freedom, prosperity, selfishness, apathy, complacency, dependency and back to bondage. If this is true, the United States must descend back into bondage. Were the U.S. to reverse this trend, it would be the first culture in history to do so.
Consequently, our best hope lies in some nation or land-mass inhabited by people who know through hard experience the consequences of trading essential liberty for temporary security. However, I would not even hazard a guess as to where such a possibility will arise. Certainly the former Soviet Union is not a candidate, given that they do not want freedom, but only "socialism with a human face." If media reports are at all reliable, a large percentage of the people there apparently seem content to live a marginally comfortable life-style built on mountains of dead bodies so they don't have to learn entrepreneurial skills and how to be of service in a free market.
Of the two possibilities for principled world government, the second is the more likely scenario. It is hard to stand on principle when one cannot stand on land.
Key Principles for Ethical World Government
Earlier, it was suggested that government needs to be recognized as being in the business of predator control. Because government has been deified with an aura of mysticism, it is easy for people to overlook that basic point.
One way to look at government is to think of it as a pest control company that specializes in controlling human predators. Were insect pest control companies to have as dismal a record as governments have had, cockroaches would have staged a successful hostile takeover long ago. As an exercise in de-mystifying government, consider Figure 12-1 :
Because individuals have the right of self-defense which is inherent in the right to preserve life, groups of individuals have the right to create an agency of defensive force for the common defense. "Law is solely the organization of the individual right of self-defense which existed before law was formalized."3 Beyond that, the organized use of coercion is suspect simply because individuals are not allowed those same privileges. A basic rule is, if an individual is not allowed to use coercion for a certain purpose, the government should not be allowed to either (and vise versa).
Life is about making choices. One important question is who should make those choices. Elitists have a tendency to insist on forcing people to follow the edicts of the elite and to deny their own judgment. However, elites often do not see the full ramifications of such choices. For instance, in America the all-wise FDA (Food and Drug Administration) saw fit to keep beta-blockers off the market for ten years even though they were being used successfully in Europe. It is estimated that 100,000 people died sooner than they would have otherwise, all in the name of protecting them.
There is no question that people often make bad choices. However, there is one thing worse than making a bad choice--being forced to make a bad choice. At least if an individual makes a bad choice and suffers the consequences of it, he or she may make a different choice in the future. If a bureaucrat makes a bad choice, the people suffer, and then the bureaucrat concludes that the program needs a bigger budget.
Ultimately, if the concept of individual rights is to be taken seriously, people must be allowed to make their own decisions. With that right comes the responsibility to compensate others for any harm done as a consequence of a bad decision.
Practical Application of Principles
At this time in history, when the majority worships at the alter
of coercive relationships, anyone who suggests that individual
planning is superior to central planning is likely to be shrugged-off
as a dreamer. Peter Bauer, for instance, suggests that "Foreign aid
is taxpayers' money compulsorily collected; hence the burden of proof
should fall on the advocates of such a policy. . .
."4 Logically it would make sense
that those advocating the use of coercion would have to prove their
case, but these are not logical times.
Reality requires more from us than just sentimental feelings. "No one would argue that man eats bread rather than stones purely as a matter of 'convenience.'"5 If we use stones to grind wheat, we will get one result. If we use those same stones to bash in each other's heads, we will get a quite different result. Those interested in peace and prosperity will naturally favor the first approach, and they might even decide that, far from being dreamy, it is quite practical.
While on the subject of stones, wheat and bread, we must remember where they are found--on land. For a society based on individual rights to stand on principle, it must first have a resource base to stand on. If one is at the mercy of others who control access to resources, one must either play their tune or forget about living in a material body. "Give me control over a man's economic actions, and hence over his means of survival, and except for a few occasional heroes, I'll promise to deliver to you men who think and write and behave as you want them to."6
With these basic principles in mind, let's see how they translate into the way government coercion is to be applied to social relationships.
Thomas Jefferson summed it up: "That government governs best that governs least." As was mentioned earlier, government (or the Human Predator Control Division of a pest control company) is best used for defensive purposes only. Beyond that, we are accomplishing through law what can only be done otherwise through crime. In other words, government should be controlling crime, not legalizing it. Speaking of crime, . . .
Crime is predatory behavior. Its essential feature is that
offensive force is used against others in order to enjoy transfers of
wealth and power without their voluntary consent. Presently, the only
predators who are labeled as "criminals" are those who seek
involuntary transfers without the sanction of the
When government is serious about fighting crime, it creates an incentive structure that makes honest work more appealing. "When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor."7
Consistent Penalties Attached to Predatory Behavior
Crime is like any other occupation. Therefore, one way to lessen crime is to demonstrate that the occupational hazards attached to crime are more severe than the hazards inherent in productive occupations. While it is commonly argued that people do not rationally choose a life of crime, research has shown that many criminals do a systematic assessment of the risks.8 Although there may be some people who are pathologically drawn toward self-destruction, and they probably deserve sympathy rather than anger, it still makes little sense to engineer a society in which crime becomes one of the more risk-free occupations available.
On the other side of the equation, busybody laws such as prohibitions against drugs, gambling and prostitution need to be repealed. While the choice to purchase any of the above products or services may not be wise, people should be free to make unwise choices. Liability should only come to play when a third party has been harmed, or if force or fraud was injected into the transaction.
In America, every escalation of the "War on Drugs" has been followed by a corresponding increase in drug use and violence. Over the last 15 years this outcome has been so predictable that one is tempted to think that this is, in fact, the intended result sought by policy makers. Now that "Civil Asset Forfeiture" has come into vogue, with takings augmenting agency budgets directly, it is safe to say that the war on drugs is more dangerous than the drugs themselves.
Without the creation of artificial crimes, the amount of violence should go down markedly. Once people can provide goods and services people desire without being assaulted by the government, many entrepreneurs will no longer need to resort to violence as a necessary tool of customer service. Misrepresentation of these products or services would be handled just like any other fraud or civil liability case.
Once we stop giving violent people honest work to do, any remaining violent crime would have to be done by people who are committed to predation as a way of life. Also, if we shift our focus from catering to state vanity to compensating victims, prisons would be homes primarily for violent people. Then, our main problem might become "prison under-crowding," thereby lessening budgetary pressures to give violent offenders early releases.
Compensating Victims Should Be Primary Concern
In general, one could argue that all crime is a form of insanity because it indicates that one is stuck with a belief in separateness and alienation from the rest of the universe. Also, for the psychological health of the society, a certain compassion toward criminals can be useful. This means that instead of seeking revenge by abusing the criminal, the system would instead put the criminal to work with the primary goal of compensating the victim.
As for those who kill in cold blood, it is not out of bounds for society to say, "Congratulations on your decision to execute yourself. We are merely the agents of your will." As one cartoon said so aptly, "Why should criminals be the only ones allowed to administer the death penalty?" Of course, the death penalty should only be used in cases where there is no doubt. If an executed person is found to be innocent later, it is difficult to restore their freedom and compensate them for their lost time.
For crimes short of murder, the goal would be to assess the criminal's aptitudes and skills in order to employ them in the manner that would most quickly compensate the victim. This, of course, would imply a society committed to a free market for both business and labor. It will not do for people who want to create an artificial shortage of labor to inform judges with impunity that, "If that means prisoners must continue to be idle, ignorant, living off a welfare state behind bars--all the while plotting the next crime--then so be it. That's not a union problem."9 In a sense, a society committed to keeping people from working so that those who are working can be paid more deserves the problems it gets.
Political Crime and Private Crime Treated the Same
The notion that there is a difference between politically motivated crime and civil crime is a curious concept. Predatory behavior is predatory behavior. It makes no difference if the predator is acting on his own, or if the predator has codified the predation in law in order to render the victim defenseless. Seeking an unearned gain at the expense of others is a violation whether it is done with a bullet or with a ballot.
This concept will have further implications when issues such as immigration are addressed.
Until we allow the Red Cross and other charitable organizations, or private citizens in need, to take to the streets with guns in order to solicit donations, the government should not be allowed to do it either. As was mentioned earlier, the government should not be allowed to do what the individual citizen cannot do.
As was mentioned earlier, if everyone were allowed to take their guns around the neighborhood in order to make those with ability pay tribute to their need, it would not take long for pandemonium to erupt. By limiting coercive charity to government, one only delays the day of reckoning. In the end, the result is the same.
A government based on the principle of non-coercion would have to have faith in people's willingness to help those in need. President Grover Cleveland, when he vetoed a bill providing $10,000 to Texas farmers because of a long drought, expressed his faith in these words:
I find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and the duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevailing tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the Government the Government should not support the people.
The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.10
Even with a great deal of forced charity, there is still a lot of voluntary charity being given in America. While speaking to over one-hundred service clubs in the Denver Metro area, I was impressed by all the different causes people were promoting. (There are over 500 such clubs in the Denver Metro area alone.) One thing that is also worth noting, however, is that the membership of these clubs is primarily composed of older people. Possibly the younger generation is too busy working trying to make ends meet to have time or money to participate.
Psychologically, giving is a selfish act. When we give, we are, in effect, making a statement about our ability to create more than we need. In other words, giving provides a certain utility for the giver, which explains why people will give even at times when the gifts do more harm than good. Also, people's desire to give can be taken advantage of by people who know how to make full use of a soft heart. "The basic proposition underlying the charitable exploitation argument is that the donor of the gifts receives utility from giving to the recipient."11
Of course, whatever the utilitarian arguments might be, we must still answer the one fundamental question: Is it ethical to use force to fund and administer charity? Be careful what precedent you set. When it expands into a full system, the results might not be pretty.
Foreign Aid is simply coercive charity that is taken from working citizens in some countries and given to political leaders in other countries. Most foreign aid constitutes wealth taken from citizens in industrial nations and given to people in developing nations who are wealthier than those from whom it was expropriated. This violates not only the principles of individual rights, it even violates the principles of "distributive justice" as well. (Karl Marx and Ayn Rand would agree that this is not ethical from either an individual rights point of view or from a "from all according to ability, to all according to need" point of view.)
Furthermore, putting ethical concerns aside, foreign aid is generally given to political leaders under the misguided notion that "we can help the powerless by going through the powerful."12 Ultimately, if the money is used at all, it is usually used on ego-projects designed to enhance the stature of the political leaders--not to help the plight of the poor masses. To make matters worse, resources are often redirected from ventures that would actually help the people, a debt is built up, and the end result is the people end up with fewer resources to work with and an even larger burden to carry.
A principled government would not be in either the domestic or the foreign coercive charity business. Instead of government-to-government transfers of wealth, gifts would be made voluntarily by private individuals. If an individual believes that a government is the best way to get the money to the people, they would be free to donate to those governments directly. Otherwise, charity would be done on an individual-to-individual basis according to the desires of the donor.
In the last few years we have seen humanitarian missions to Somalia, Bosnia, and Rwanda. In each case, humanitarian aid was sent in with little or no military support. In each case, industrial nations dabbled in the mess for awhile and then left once they decided that the costs of restoring order was greater than the benefits.
What is tragic about this whole scenario is after all the political posturing, money spent and lives lost, the plight of the people is no better. In fact, it is likely to be even worse. Most of the aid ends up in the hands of those with guns while a little bit might make it to non-combatants. This means that those who are interrupting the production process are able to sustain their fighting even longer, making the suffering of the people last longer as well.
The case of Somalia was particularly instructive. The UN, with the best of intentions, took weapons from the people in the name of promoting peace. After the UN forces left, the predators enjoyed easy pickings, thanks to an unarmed population. Some of the victims then asked the UN, "if you disarm us, don't you acquire a moral duty to protect us now that we can no longer protect ourselves?" Judging by the way the international community handled Bosnia, we can all guess what the answer was.
If one truly wishes to help a nation-gone-berserk, first emphasis must be put on predator control. This means that military aid must be provided first. The military would be wise to first establish control over some rich rural land so as to have a safe place to which people can migrate in order to escape the fighting. The next step would be to fly over the country dropping leaflets explaining where people can go to escape the fighting. The leaflets would also offer some philosophical thoughts designed to undermine the propaganda of the predators by describing them in so many words. Finally, they would warn the predators that they have a limited time before "fumigation" begins.
If those wishing to help are not willing to undertake a decisive program of this nature because of practical reasons or ethical uncertainty, then their policy should be "hands off." Lacking firm intention, it is better to step back and let the people work out their own fate.
As for aid to undeveloped nations, care is needed. First, people from industrial, or so-called developed nations, need to show some respect for the cultures who have, for whatever reason, elected to remain "undeveloped." In some cases, the reason for primitive living might be conflict and chaos. In other cases, it might well be a conscious exchange of a lower material standard of living for more leisure time. In any case, government should not be involved in wealth transfer or economic planning. Citizens of donor nations should be able to choose their own charities. Likewise, people from recipient nations deserve not to be saddled with grandiose schemes that only enrich their leaders while increasing the debt burden.
As was mentioned earlier, an ethical government would notify other governments that if they wish for help, they must demonstrate that it is safe to invest within their jurisdiction. Instead of loaning money to governments to build hare-brained projects which saddle poor populations with useless debt, businesses from developed nations would provide risk capital with the rational expectation of sharing in the profit, because if the venture fails, they would have to absorb the loss. Once again, the people should not be saddled with useless debt!
Presently, it is popular for governments and the UN to give "humanitarian aid" and to eschew military aid. It is as if people who live in cultures that work should be plundered in order to subsidize people who live in cultures that do not work. One is supposed to give blindly with no thought as to what brought about the problem in the first place.
The notion that during war-time some products are peaceful while others are not is as short-sighted as the idea that some weapons are defensive while other weapons are offensive. Whether a weapon is offensive or defensive is determined more by the intent of the user than it is by the design of the weapon itself. During war-time, "humanitarian aid" frees up resources for weapons production that would otherwise have to be spent producing food and other basic life-sustaining goods.
After observing the spectacles of Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda, I have concluded that if one really wants to help, military aid should be given first to clean out the predators. In short, the United Nations (or the United States) either should have egone in militarily to stop the fighting, or should have stayed out completely. Humanitarian aid is useful only after the fighting has stopped and the people are back to planting and harvesting their crops and rebuilding in general.
Another tool of oppression being used (with the best of intentions) against developing nations is IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank loans. In this case, we have Gurdjieff's proverbial "pimple-faced momma's boys" running around the globe selling political leaders on grandiose ego-projects in the name of economic development. The deal goes something like this. "If you will agree to this project, we will loan you the money at a subsidized interest rate. Of course, if the project (which is our idea) fails, you will still be liable to pay back the loan even though you will have even fewer means with which to do it. The fact that we have helped you misdirect resources is no reason for you to not raise your people's taxes and increase their suffering so you can pay us back!"
With this kind of system in place, people in developing nations are not off-base when they charge that they are being exploited by the industrial world--which is where all these schemes come from. "Typically, more than 80 percent of all aid money distributed to the Third World is actually spent in the First World in the form of purchase orders. It is hardly surprising that many large corporations are the biggest proponents of foreign aid."13
An ethical government is not in the business of regulating business or managing trade between nations. It is also not the job of government to tell people whether or not they should trade with one another. If both parties agree, the transaction takes place. If they cannot agree, both parties must look further in the hopes of finding what they want.
Instead of writing reams of preventative law and second-guessing people, the purpose of government is to consider claims of harm done through negligence, misrepresentation or malice. If a business does harm to someone's person or property, the court's job is to determine liability and to require compensation.
Under principled government, corporations would still be formed as vehicles for issuing stock offerings and raising capital, but the corporation would not be a device for escaping liability.
It has already been mentioned that a society and government that has direct access to resources is the most likely candidate for successfully creating a world government. (If the United Nations were to find such a place, it too could be a candidate for forming a principled world government.) Controlling resources is a vital prerequisite for being able to stand on principle. Where such a government or society might arise is of little consequence, because the condition of the people is what is important.
When people are free, they create wealth at an astounding rate. The degree of wealth or poverty of any culture is a reliable measure of the degree of freedom or oppression it is experiencing, so the government that allows people to create their own destiny cannot help but become a formidable force in the world.
It was mentioned earlier that if a government is principled, the larger the jurisdiction it enjoys, the better. And if the government is not principled, then the reverse is true. While such a government might start on a piece of land of indeterminate size, if it creates freedom and unleashes the productive power of people, it will soon set an example for the rest of the world. It will not be necessary to perform breast-beating exercises to demonstrate the effectiveness of the system. (This contrasts with our current fiasco where "governments that are too big in the West are trying to tell governments in the East how to become smaller."14)
There are two ways the coming world government would expand its jurisdiction. The first is through voluntary annexation because neighboring countries wish to share in the abundance and the excitement. The second is coercive annexation because the predators are so out of control that there is no other alternative if the productive part of the population is to survive at all.
Instead of flitting about the world incurring unneeded risk and expense, annexation would be done only to countries who shared the current borders. Once again, the purpose of the military is to protect the people from invaders. It is not for chasing around the planet to beat up on countries whose systems would collapse sooner if they were ignored and allowed to suffer the full effects of their own policies. By avoiding activities that reinforce the perception of being an outside threat, the people within those countries are likely to focus more on the abuses perpetrated by their own leaders.
Of course, before any of these battles can be won, a major philosophical battle must be won first. In a world where propaganda successfully "gives to coercion the semblance of persuasion," neither the moral nor the political force can be mustered necessary to make this scenario a possibility.
The best way to sell the world on a particular system of social organization is to demonstrate its success on a daily basis. As with religion, it is best to show positive results instead of oppressively proselytizing others.
Occasionally, people in a neighboring community are going to run amuck. Actually, it is not so much the people as it is competition for power among two or more gangs of thugs seeking to fill a "power vacuum" that has developed. Cases such as Somalia, Bosnia and Rwanda are cases where fighting has escalated to such a degree that little ordinary life-supporting work is impossible. In these cases, there is no moral leadership, so anyone who steps in to restore order so productive people can get back to work will be doing a great service for the noncombatants.
As was explored earlier in Chapter 3 , when someone is being oppressed by the offensive coercion of another, any third person is ethically justified in using defensive force on behalf of the oppressed. Nevertheless, those who limit their use of force to defensive force must still exercise caution. In a world with so much predation taking place, one must choose one's battles carefully. Consequently, it is recommended that this new nation limit its concerns to bordering nations.
Some paragraphs ago, the principles of foreign aid were outlined. Instead of sending in humanitarian aid first, as is now done, military aid would be provided first. (There is no sense feeding the combatants so they can prolong the people's suffering.) The biggest problem consists of separating the combatants from the noncombatants. The problem is further compounded by the fact that in war time there really is no such thing as a nonmilitary commodity. (Food aid, for instance, frees up resources for arms production.)
Basically, this calls for using three primary strategies. The first is for citizens who are so inspired to take in people from the neighboring warring country. The second is to commandeer a fertile patch of land on the countryside for non-combatants to pour into. Throughout this venture, leaflets would be dropped on the population explaining that predatory behavior is unacceptable--even in the name of ethnic differences, race competition or political and religious ideology. Also, instructions would be given for people to escape as best they can and to go to the cordoned-off area. Finally, once as many non-combatants as possible have been removed, operation "clean sweep" would begin.
Most likely, if the predators are busy fighting it out, they will be left alone for awhile to allow them to kill as many of each other as possible. Once it appears that they have lost some of their steam, the sweep would begin. While provisions for surrender would be made, the operation would be designed to be as dangerous as possible for the predators and as safe as possible for the advancing predator-control force.
The defensive force would be made up of volunteers for the operation. They would be well-paid, which would encourage our hypothetical free nation to invest in adequate "military capital" in order to increase the effectiveness of a smaller military force. (Cheap military conscription policies motivate policies that place less emphasis on equipment and more emphasis on "expendable manpower.") Not only would military service itself be voluntary, so would participation in any particular campaign. (Of course, consistent refusals by a service member would suggest that another career is in order.)
A principled government would not be in the business of forcing elitist visions of how society should evolve, except that it should evolve peacefully. People from different cultures would compete in the production of goods and services according to their own inspiration. Even relative poverty would be considered an acceptable choice if it is done peacefully. (Free time and leisure can be enjoyed either after or before opulence has been achieved.)
In America there are many petty squabbles that arise from the government being involved in so many different things. Consequently, there are now endless arguments about how many languages government schools and publications should be using, etc. If the schools were left to the community, they would be free to teach their children any languages or customs they pleased. Not everyone in a community needs to speak the nation's dominant economic language. Oriental communities in America offers us an excellent model to consider. The business owners speak English and provide the connecting point with the larger community in order to buy and sell goods and services to the surrounding community. The employees are free to choose not to learn English, thereby insuring that they remain employees. In exchange for the luxury of not learning English, they simply accept less pay and fewer opportunities.
Oriental communities also offer us an example of people triumphing against many obstacles. They often work twenty hours a day for low pay, live on even less than they make, and in time they use their savings to start their own business. (This in turn makes them targets of envy, and for affirmative action purposes, makes them whiter than white.) In short, their cultural values have enabled them to prosper while other groups who have learned to depend on the government find themselves perennially poor.
Given the poor record of government do-gooder programs, keeping the government out of the "vision-selling" business should come as good news.
It has been said that people have two arms and one mouth. However, whether that is true is in large part due to government policies. In America, a general policy of coercive charity has been instituted which demands that anyone's misfortune, incompetence or malice automatically becomes a mortgage on everyone else's future. Because America has enough misfortune, incompetence and malice within its own borders, some people (known as taxpayers) are concerned about the costs of importing additional misfortune, incompetence and malice.
A country that elected to make charity a voluntary undertaking would have no such problem. Everyone would know that they must create what they need, or place themselves at the mercy of donors who must reach into their own pockets to help them (as opposed to reaching into other peoples' pockets). People would be free to enter, but there would be no automatic free lunch. Life would be hard and uncertain for newcomers, but on the other hand, they would know that the results of their hard work would be respected.
Instead of regulatory and police-force obstacles to entry, there would be the obstacle that would arise from most land being private property. This would mean that immigrants would have to be invited by private citizens who wished to employ them or otherwise take care of them until they can find employment. Although there no longer would be coercive charity, one would expect private charity to increase, given that people would have more resources at their disposal.
On the other side of the equation, immigrants would enjoy the same as current citizens--freedom from force or fraud perpetrated by others, including current citizens. Therefore, it would be a crime to lure in immigrants under false pretenses for the purpose of cheap labor, etc. An immigrant and the citizen-employer would be free to agree to as low a wage as is mutually acceptable, given that it sometimes takes little to make an improvement over what the immigrant is leaving. (A major reason for exploitation today is that the immigrants who need to migrate the most are declared illegal and are automatically fugitives from the law rather than being protected by the law.)
As for migrant criminals who are politically motivated, they would be treated like any other common criminal. Fights over political issues are simply fights over which form of plunder should be legalized and who should enjoy that prerogative. However, plunder is plunder, with or without the sanction of law. A government that only uses defensive force on behalf of honest and productive people is justified in obliging both the personally motivated criminal and the philosophically motivated criminal to compensate their victims. Many people will want to migrate to this new nation because freedom is maximized by keeping both private and political plunder to a minimum.
A new nation (or a self-reforming nation) that is focused on only using defensive force will be an anomaly in a world of people hell-bent on living at each other's expense. It will attract enemies like a teetotaler who, even without pretense, enters a raucous night club. Whereas now, national leaders love to have "enemies" with which to scare their subjects into submission, the enemies of a truly free nation will be genuine enemies because of how the way of life in a free society will contrast with the oppressive societies in the surrounding world. Therefore, all will not be sweetness and light, and provisions must be made for dealing with the world beyond the borders.
For a long time I agreed with the idea of not trading with other nations because much of their labor can be accurately defined as slave labor. However, especially at present, there is no place on the planet where there is no slave labor. America likes to tout itself as a free nation, yet with a government that uses at least 50% of the nation's resources, we can say that Americans are 50% slave and 50% free. Other nations might be even worse, but America has no cause for a smug sense of superiority.
In the last year, we have seen blockades erected against Haiti and Cuba in the name of Democracy. (In earlier centuries, blockades were defined as acts of war.) This approach was somehow supposed to make them kow-tow to the rest of the world. What happened was that those actions only increased their defiance and resolve to resist.
Aristede, with his opposition to the free-market, is no friend of human rights (of the hands-off variety) any more than the military leaders who ousted him. While it is conceivable that the military might be a bit worse than Aristede, starving the common people with a blockade in order to reestablish his power is a cure that is probably worse than the disease. Given that both sides have designs for using coercion for more than just defensive purposes, it should be no surprise that whichever party is in power, it will persecute and plunder the other. Since Aristede has regained power, the persecution has shifted the other direction. Of course, we hear little about it because U.S. leaders and the media apparently find Aristede's brand of persecution more acceptable.
As for Cuba, Mr. Castro has had a reputation as an other-than-nice guy for decades. Now, all of a sudden, he is supposed to step aside and make way for that noble institution called democracy. Once again, it is the people who must suffer while Mr. Castro misses no meals. To his credit, he recognized that America's welfare system is not ready to accept thousands of immigrants, so his guards started looking the other way. In the process, when the administration caviled at the thought of taking care of thousands of refugees, he revealed the hollowness of America's claim of "moral superiority." All this is not to say that Cuba is a nice place to live, but any economic embargo is, in effect, a war against the people, and can be expected to inspire increased loyalty to their leader.
Ultimately, it is not clear whether making embargoes against governments we do not agree with is really the best policy. Popular theory says that if times are bad enough the people will rebel. Eric Hoffer suggests the opposite: "Discontent is likely to be highest when misery is bearable; when conditions have so improved that an ideal state seems almost within reach. A grievance is most poignant when almost redressed. . . . A popular upheaval in Soviet Russia is hardly likely before the people get a real taste of the good life."15 Therefore, open trade and increased wealth will likely do more to create discontent than will threats of hostility.
A nation founded on these principles will also not need as much of a military as does a nation that decides it should be the world's police force. Earlier, it was noted that government-to-government charity would be ended. This would put an end to the policy of feeding our alleged enemies and then having to build gigantic arsenals to defend ourselves against them. American policy has long been to make loans to the "evil empire" so it could buy grain, machinery, etc. Of course, those loans have never been paid back--maybe a dime on the dollar at the most. As Henry Hazlitt says, "it doesn't take a genius to figure out that if you loan money so people can buy your goods and you don't get paid, you are giving your goods away."
Whereas the police is tasked with controlling domestic predators, the military's job is to control predators on the other side of the border. Neither the police nor the military would have to be as large as they are at present for the additional reason that citizens would be well armed, and they would be allowed to participate in predator control. Unlike most governments, under this government the police and the military would be provided as a support to the individual's right of self-defense--not as a substitute for that right.
Much of the encroaching despotism in America is justified by all of the external threats supposedly looming over us in a hostile political world. Since the "fall" of the former Soviet Union, American political leaders have been in a frantic search for a new enemy. Saddam Hussein failed miserably after 10 years and $50 billion of aid was invested in him. Somalia, Bosnia and Haiti have been interesting diversions, but the American public has not been convinced that foreign problems should automatically become domestic problems. Media cameras got us into Samolia with pictures of starving children, and those same media cameras got us back out with pictures of a dead GI being dragged around and desecrated by some less-than-grateful natives.
Thus far, the "war on drugs" has been the most effective ruse for concentrating political power in America. It has become the justification for substantial "civil asset forfeiture" at a rate of about 1,000 people being relieved of their possessions each week by various government agencies at all levels of government. ("In 1990, a Justice Department bulletin was sent to U.S. Attorneys, urging them to seize more property in order to meet budget projections. 'Every effort must be made to increase forfeiture income during the remaining three months of 1990.'"16) It has also been used as a reason to meddle in the affairs of other nations who have citizens who are attracted by American demand for "better living through chemistry."
A new nation focused on protecting the rights of productive people, instead of farming them like animals, would not be in a frantic search for supposed internal and external enemies. While there are some definite threats to be found around the world, they are not as big as they are made out to be.
Many of the threats that presently plague America are of its own creation. The first question that must be answered is, where do nations with social systems that sabotage wealth-creation gain the means to become a threat in the first place? In many cases, it will prove to be the very aid that was supposed to make them grateful allies that gave them that power. (I have long suspected that if we eliminated foreign aid, we could cut the military budget in half, too.)
Probably the most pressing problem is the nuclear threat. While there is no simple answer, it does not make sense to speckle the land with silos, which serves primarily to make population areas a defensive target for the enemy as well as an offensive target. Rather, as long as the former recipients of American generosity still have such lethal playthings, nuclear missiles need to be placed in submarines which are harder to track, and they would also make less damaging targets.
The problems we face in this world did not develop overnight, nor will they dissipate overnight. While some pacifists suggest that if potential victims lay down their arms predators will declare a truce, history shows the opposite. Consequently, on both domestic and international levels, predatory behavior must carry such heavy costs that going back to work becomes a rational decision.
In an earlier chapter, the wisdom of Colbert was referred to. Nevertheless, we would do well to consider it again. "The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing."17 This is a rational strategy for those who are more concerned with political power than with the well-being of the general population. For those who aspire to be more than just taxpaying animals, this should be taken as a warning.
Adam Smith offered us some good advice when he said, "What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom."18 When people buy locks to secure their possessions, they buy as little as possible to get the job done. It is counterproductive to invest more in security measures than the property we seek to defend is worth.
Even a government limited to the use of defensive coercion needs funding. This means we must ask ourselves a couple of questions. First, what is the appropriate funding level? Second, what are the least damaging methods of taxation? (Taxation is prohibition.) Although a principled government would be much smaller, and need fewer resources, it still cannot be had for free.
Amount of Taxation
Regarding the first question, we have several possibilities. In his book, The Phoenix Phenomenon , Fred Holden concluded that America showed the best economic statistics when federal, state and local taxes added up to 24% of GNP. Consequently, he advocated rolling back government spending to that level.
Later, Milton Friedman reviewed The Phoenix Phenomenon and responded, "When I am asked the question of what the appropriate size of government is, I always reply by saying that history provides considerable evidence. When Britain was at the height of its power at Queen Victoria's Jubilee at the end of the nineteenth century, total government spending in Britain--central and local--amounted to about 10 percent of the national income. In the period from our Revolution to 1929, total government spending in the United States, if we exclude the periods of active war, also averaged about 10 percent of the national income. The Bible has a tithe. I take these to indicate that 10 percent is about the right number for both federal and state and local."19
In addition to observing governments at their height of power, he referred to the tradition of tithing. At various times, the church used to do much of what governments now do. However, history shows that even at 10%, extra funding was available for crusades and other mischief (i.e., the use of offensive coercion). With this in mind, we might consider 5 percent of GNP as an appropriate investment in human predator control.
The Art of Defensive Taxation
Even if the rate of taxation is reduced to five or ten percent of GNP, those taxes must come from somewhere, somehow. Fortunately, some taxes are not as invasive as other taxes. In a nation striving to minimize coercion in social relations, it stands to reason that taxes should be reduced in invasiveness as well in absolute amounts.
In America, it has been said that there are over 150 taxes on a loaf of bread. When all the different taxes are added together, they can amount to a substantial portion of the cost of a loaf of bread. Property taxes, payroll taxes, licenses, value added taxes, transportation taxes and licenses all have to be added to the price. In the end, only people who buy bread can pay taxes. (In addition, the costs of all the mandates and regulations must also be added to the cost of a loaf of bread.)
The process of paying many of these taxes require extensive record-keeping. A self-employed person, must, in effect, provide a journal of her daily life for inspection at the whim of any passing bureaucrat. "The most complete study we have of this burden was carried out by the Arthur D. Little Company at the behest of the IRS itself (which had been forced to commission the study by the 1980 Paperwork Reduction Act). The Little study found that, in 1985, businesses and individuals were spending 5.4 billion hours on federal tax compliance activities. This corresponds to 2,900,000 people--the entire work force of the state of Indiana -- working all year long on federal tax compliance activities. The cost of this work amounts to 24 percent of all federal taxes collected."20
Earlier it was noted that a large part of what most governments do is illegal for private citizens to do. From there, it concluded that such a distinction should be minimized, if it cannot be eliminated altogether. Not only should such a policy be a guide for lawmaking, it should also be a guide for taxation strategies. Of course, taxation isn't pretty no matter how we look at it, but we can at least minimize the damage, and possibly do some good.
According to some, taxation is confiscation by force, and inflation is confiscation by fraud. Taxation is force because if you don't pay them, you lose your property, and, if you don't give up your property gracefully enough you may end up in "cross-bar hotel" where "rats and lice breed in abundance." Moreover, if you try to escape, they will shoot you. Inflation is fraud because it spirits away the purchasing power of money "in a manner which one man in a million is able to diagnose."21 Because taxation and inflation are by nature offensive, it is difficult to see how they could be used in a positive manner--even to fund a government that only requires five to ten percent of GNP. Nevertheless, we shall try.
After some contemplation on the business of taxation, I have concluded that tax strategies should meet three requirements. First, it should be a small percentage of the population's income. Second, it should not require government meddling in people's everyday affairs. Finally, the tax itself should help discourage "dog in the manger" behavior.22
The taxes I propose are, a property tax with the larger share placed on land, and an "inflation tax" which will be explained later.
The Property Tax
Around the world we see a few people sitting on large tracts of fertile land while the masses are obliged to camp out on a rock or in a ghetto somewhere. While some people can offer great ideas and in turn deserve considerable wealth, we can be sure that when a few are wealthy while the larger society languishes, wealth is being acquired through politics, not through service. (When people become wealthy through service, it means lower priced and higher quality goods and services have been made available to the community at large.)
Taxes on income tend to hinder capital formation while taxes on property say, "use it or sell it." Although a low rate of taxation will expand the number of viable ventures, and the ownership of large holdings will still be possible, it will be harder for a small group of people to acquire and control the lion's share of resources. It is one thing to control resources through military and police-state tactics, and it is yet another to control resources through offering better goods and services.
To conclude this section on property taxes, I believe it meets requirements two and three. It does not require meddling in people's daily affairs in order to determine tax liability. Also, it discourages ownership by people whose only reason to hold property is to keep others out.
The Inflation Tax
Throughout history, cultures have been collapsing themselves through inflationary monetary policies. Once the "geese" have been "plucked" to the point that rebellion is imminent, governments have resorted to "increasing the money supply" to get additional funding.
In a society where people are not hobbled by their government, one can expect the amount of goods and services created to increase dramatically. Before 1913, and the Federal Reserve Act and the Income Tax Amendment (16th Amendment), GNP doubled every ten years. Since then, increases of three-percent per year are considered good. Naturally, if these hobbles were removed, faster economic growth would return.
If the money supply were stabilized and the supply of goods and services continually increased, the general level of prices would go down. Whereas inflation means more money chasing fewer goods, less money chasing fewer goods would mean deflation--an increase in the purchasing power of money over time.
Deflation is a scary word from a political standpoint. In a sense, we can say that deflation punishes debtors and rewards creditors while inflation punishes creditors and rewards debtors. Given that the number of debtors (people who live only for the moment) greatly exceeds the number of creditors (people who plan for the future), inflation will always be more popular.
Inflation has the benefit of mesmerizing people with more monetary units even though, in fact, they have to work longer hours for the same standard of living. Few people seem to comprehend that if prices were reduced four times while their income was cut in half, they would be twice as well off.
With all these plusses and minuses in mind, I propose a modest inflation tax which would be designed to increase the money supply only enough to maintain its purchasing power, or at least slow down the increases in its purchasing power. This would be done directly by government rather than through a central bank. After all, there is no need to impose a double-penalty on the people--lost purchasing power of the monetary unit and interest on thin-air money.
One reason for implementing an inflation tax is to create a general awareness of the cause of inflation. It is a sad state of affairs when so few understand the cause of inflation. By elevating what has until now been fraud to the status of force, it will be harder for governments to use this age-old strategy.
A second reason, which is less able to withstand scrutiny, is that by increasing the money supply equal to the amount of economic growth, money will be less attractive as a speculative commodity. Of course, if government funding only requires five percent of GNP, and economic growth is eight percent, then the government would be fully funded and prices would still drop three percent. (This would also render the property tax superfluous.)
Those who are in favor of a strict gold standard have an excellent argument when they point out that prices adjust downward when new goods and services are made faster than the money supply is increased. ("Arthur Pigou first refuted the 'liquidity trap' hypothesis by demonstrating that deflation increases the real value of cash holdings, thus boosting potential demand . . ."23)
Conceivably, one could consider people who hoard their money in anticipation of greater purchasing power later to be dogs in the manger. However, it would not be fair to equate hoarding money with hoarding land and other resources. People can work around money-hoarders. Working around resource-hoarders is not so easy. If people choose to hoard rather than invest, their future anticipated gains will be reduced by slower growth in productivity.
An Overview of Defensive Taxation
Thus far it has been suggested that a property tax, placed primarily on land, and an inflation tax are the two types of taxes that can serve the function of defensive coercion. Of the two, the property tax is most useful, and therefore, should be used most heavily.
If organized predator control services take five percent of GNP, then a good ratio might be three-and-a-half percent property tax to one-and-a-half percent inflation tax . No matter what the mix is, it cannot be as harmful as our present policies of consuming fifty-percent or more of the GNP in the coercive sector of the economy.
What Type of Government Will This New Nation Have?
The type, or name, of this new government is not so important as is its job description. This government might not even be a government--at least in the deified sense of the word. For all practical purposes, it could just as well be the Human Predator Control Division of Farm Boy Pest Control Company which was shown in an earlier diagram. At least that way, it will be harder for people to forget what government is really about--applying coercion in an attempt to solve human problems.
Ultimately, a dramatic philosophical evolution is going to have to take place if we are to chart a new future. First, we need to recognize that there is a crucial difference between coercion and voluntary association. Second, if life is truly our goal, we will acknowledge that only defensive coercion has life-sustaining value. If we fail to realize these simple facts, we will keep doing what we have always done, and we will continue to get what we have always gotten.
It really doesn't matter what the size of a government's jurisdiction is so much as the principles that guide the way it injects coercion into social relationships. Of course, the bigger the portion of the planet guided by ethical government, the better. However, world government is no more a panacea than is state's rights .
In closing, is there some place on the planet that might be interested in contracting with the Predator Control Division of Farm Boy Pest Control Company ?
Footnotes for Chapter 12:
The character of John Galt in Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged (New York: Random House, 1957), p. 966.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1982), p. 273.
Frederick Bastiat, translation by Dean Russell, The Law (Irvington-On-Hudson: The Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., 1990), p. 68.
Peter T. Bauer, "The United Nations and International Development Assistance," E. Berkeley Tompkins (ed.), The United Nations in Perspective (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1972), p. 32.
Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (New York: New American Library, 1966), p. 110.
Susan Love Brown, et. al., The Incredible Bread Machine (San Diego, CA: World Research, Inc., 1974), p. 153.
Frederick Bastiat, translation by Dean Russell, Op. Cit., p .10.
David B. Kopel, "Gun Control Won't Stop Rising Violence, Policy Review #63," Heritage Foundation, Winter 1993, pp. 2-3.
Charles Colson and Jack Eckerd, Why America Doesn't Work (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1991), p. 120.
Jacob M. Hornberger, "The Real Free-Market Approach to Health Care: Part II," Freedom Daily, January 1994.
Richard B. McKenzie and Gordon Tullock, The Best of the New World of Economics (Homewood, Ill. : Irwin ,1989), p. 119.
John Lobell, The Little Green Book : A Guide to Self-Reliant Living in the 80's (Boulder CO: Shambhala, 1981), p. 378.
David Osterfield, "In order to develop, Third World countries need foreign aid.", Mark Spangler, ed. Clichés of Politics (Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: The Foundation for Economic Education, 1994), p. 253.
Milton Friedman, "Cooperation Between Capital-Rich and Labor-Rich Countries: Part II," Freedom Daily, May 1994. p. 21.
Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (New York: Harper & Row, 1951), p. 33.
Paul Craig Roberts, "The State as a Lawful Banditto?" The Washington Times, November 1, 1993.
Michael C. Thomsett, A Treasury of Business Quotations (New York: Ballantine Books, 1990), p. 41.
William E. Simon, A Time for Action (New York: Reader's Digest Press, 1980), p. 17.
Fred Holden, Total Power of One in America (Arvada, CO: Phoenix Enterprises, 1991), p. 427.
James L. Payne, "Inside the Federal Hurting Machine," The Freeman, March 1994, pp. 124-125.
John Maynard Keynes quoted in Susan Love Brown, et. al., Op. Cit., p. 57.
I thought I was the first to think of "dog in the manger" taxes until I read: ""What is the reason that men today cannot employ themselves? If you want to know the reason why people crowd into the city and work cannot be found for them, go out into the country; see, even in our far West, men tramping for miles . . . in a vain quest for a place where they can make a home without paying blackmail to some dog in the manger." Henry George in Rhoda Hellman, Henry George Reconsidered (New York: Carlton Press, Inc., 1987), p. 46.
Mark Skousen, "Will Keynes Ever Die?," The Freeman, April 1994, p. 209.