Last Valentine's Day I bought each of my grandchildren a teddy bear. They were fairly simple teddy bears, claiming to contain no toxic chemicals or choking hazards. And they weren't very expensive, and I thought the kids might enjoy them when they came over to spend the night at Grandma and Papaw's.
When I gave the bears to them, my oldest granddaughter, Hannah, who is 4, said, "Thanks, Papaw. What does it do?" I proceeded to tell her that it was a teddy bear, and that it didn't do anything. She gave me that same look of disbelief that I get when I tell her we're out of popsicles.
I get that same look a lot when somebody asks me about the Libertarian plan for funding some of their favorite existing government programs, and I tell them Libertarians don't have any plans on funding some of their favorite existing government programs.
That's not to say that Libertarians believe that government shouldn't do anything. Libertarians believe that government should protect peoples' rights, and protect them from force and fraud. And if the government is going to collect taxes to build and maintain roads, they think that money ought to be spent building and maintaining roads. And if the government is going to collect taxes for education, then that money ought to spent on education. It's not very good at doing much more than that.
Anytime the government tries to do more than that, it ends up costing the taxpayers a lot of money. The government recently decided it was going to do something to create some jobs. It didn't do very well. It spent about $160 billion to create about 640,000 jobs, or about $250,000.00 per job. It could do better. If it really wanted to help create jobs, the best thing government could do to is to get out of the way of the private sector and let it create the jobs. That's where the real jobs come from anyway, and as long as no one is being subjected to force or fraud, the government should just sit there out of the way, and don't do anything. Kind of like a teddy bear.
I get a lot of questions from people about what Libertarians would have the government do about retirement. I think one of the best things we can do is consider what the government has already done about retirement.
The government, at the federal, state, and local level, has borrowed and spent from Social Security and pension funds, leaving trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities, and is depending on the generosity or submission of future generations of taxpayers to cover the shortfalls and make the payments when they come due. Some of those payments will fund the retirements of government employees who can draw payments for 50 years after working only 30. How much better off would current and future generations be if people looked after their own retirement, instead of expecting the government to do it for them?
Some things the government does ought to last forever. The natural rights government should protect transcend generations. The debt it incurs shouldn't.
We have a lot to do when it comes to fixing how our government operates. Some of those solutions involve getting government to do what it should do, better. And some of those solutions involve getting government to stop doing things it shouldn't.
Over the next couple of months I'll be offering up some ideas on how we can make government do more of what it should do and less of what it shouldn't do.
That's what Libertarians do.
Labels: role of government