Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

Transitioning to Liberty

by , Senior Editor , Free Liberal

Money from the government: Are you getting your fait share?

I admit it. I have given up on seeing a libertarian society in my lifetime or even a reasonable approximation thereof. I have thus redirected my efforts toward intermediate goals, to somewhere between here and the ideal state of liberty. Old news, I know, but bear with me. My plans for that intermediate state may interest some of you.

The liberty movement, even broadly defined, is too small to win nowadays. Sometimes it appears to win in the guise of a Republican takeover, but the history of the Bush Administration exposes that illusion. To have even a modicum of more liberty, those of us who want it need to ally themselves with those who want something else. Right now, economic libertarians ally themselves with neocons and social conservatives, with limited results to put it mildly. I’m toying with an even more unlikely ally: those who want free money from the government(!)

OK, maybe I’m completely corrupted by activism. Maybe I need to cut back on the caffeine and get more sleep. Maybe I need to harden my heart and stop caring about the plight of the poor or the good of society. But even if so, I am in good company. I’m joining in with the likes of Charles Murray, Thomas Paine and Robert Heinlein. Not bad company.

Our government is so monstrously complicated because it halfway wants to transfer money from the rich to the poor, while at the same time it halfway wants to pretend it isn’t in the game of gross wealth transfer, that it is only helping out the very needy. I say let’s drop the pretense and just do the wealth transfer. Tax the rich and divide the loot. But do it simply! And don’t tell people how to spend the largesse in great detail. Do this and we cut the number of non-defense government employees by an order of magnitude. We also simplify taxes, reduce teen pregnancies, cut crime and come close to eliminating poverty. I think I can sell these things easier than I can sell borderline anarchy.

Realistic politics. What a dirty business! I can just see the lily white libertarians shouting “Icky poo!” and running off to the nearest sink to wash their eyes from reading these words. Heartier spirits might be moved to leave a nasty comment.

But before you do so, realize my proposal is not as dirty as you might think on first exposure. Have a look at my rather long list of justifications for handing out free money. Some of those justifications are indeed utilitarian. But others are in fact crude approximations of libertarian justice.

Crude justice, yes. But a better approximation of justice than switching over to the libertarian ideal overnight!

Taxation, plunder, subsidy mooching, conquest, and slavery are all theft. Put an end to these things and you still have people enriched by past injustice, and others impoverished by past persecution. Today’s wealth distribution is in part the result of slavery and subsequent racial persecution. Wealth redistribution is a crude form of compensation.

But today that compensation is wasted. It goes to dysfunctional inner city schools and welfare programs which discourage marriage and encourage sloth, recklessness and criminality. A citizen’s dividend is truly free money. It adds to what you earn. It is seed capital for those who choose to use it as such and a bouncy safety net for those who need it.

It is also a safety net for those harmed by changes in the rules. Eliminate the mortgage deduction and home prices drop. Eliminate inflation and real interest rates on mortgages are retroactively increased. A rapid change to a libertarian society could bankrupt the middle class. My proposal for free money for all means a transfer not only to the poor, but also to the middle class. They will need it if we are to even go halfway to liberty. And any plan for liberty which bankrupts the middle class means no liberty at all.

So, can you stomach half measures for liberty in your lifetime or do you prefer to daydream the ideal while experiencing continued growth of the welfare state?


Dr. Carl Milsted, Jr. is a Senior Editor of Free Liberal and is a member of its founding committee. He is the author of Holistic Politics and the Enhanced Precision Political Quiz, an online version of the popular Nolan quiz.