Commentary: Should government really have any power in a crisis?

Submitted by Freedomman on Thu, 03/26/2020 - 00:18

By Allan Stevo

March 18, 2020 - Please forgive what may appear as fatalistic to some. It is quite the opposite. Fatalism would be the belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable. No events are predetermined as far as I can tell. Free will is everywhere.

Humans tend to be imperfect. To date I’ve yet to meet a perfect human. The better I know a person, the more flawed I realize he or she is. Which is okay.

What is not okay is putting so much power in the hands of someone so flawed.

To take it a step further, what is not okay is to put so much power into the hands of institutions, like government, that are so predictably net negative utilizers of the power already handed to them.

Marketplaces leave lots of room and lots of methods for competition, alternatives, meritocracy, ways of opting out or opting in, rationing, preparing, providing, predicting, and so much more.

Government has its single tool: fiat; and the demi-tool: threats; and the quasi-demi-tool: implications of threats.

So when outcomes matter most, we often seem to turn to government and get the predictably awful outcome that comes when you turn to an inefficient bureaucracy that rules by force and threat of force to do the work best suited for individuals: making decisions for themselves.

This is not fatalism. This is a tool (government) that is possibly useful for some activities, which is instead being used for many other activities that it simply isn’t equipped do well. You would never use a pair of scissor to tie your shoelaces, or a hacksaw to trim a baby’s fingernails. Those tools aren’t well equipped for that work. The outcome would be disastrous.

Government is well equipped to be a make-work program for sociopaths and to provide cover for theft, plunder and murder. It is incredibly useful for this.

It is not a well equipped tool to handle an array of other concerns, such as managing disease outbreaks or providing useful and unbiased information about said outbreaks, or ensuring high quality and affordable care for those afflicted. These matters are best left to individuals cooperating voluntarily in a marketplace.

“Oh, but their health affects others,” comments the eager statist, “How can you possibly suggest they have the right to decide for others?”

“Exactly,” would be my answer.

No one has the right to decide for others. Decide for yourself. Leave everyone else alone to decide for themselves. The outcome can’t possibly be worse than whatever government will produce.

If you understand freedom, you don’t see a need for government to coordinate coronavirus responses. If you believe in free markets, you don’t see a need for government to coordinate coronavirus responses.

You are merely grasping at straws when you turn to government. It isn’t a god. Its powers aren’t supernatural.

You’ve seen the best and brightest who run the government having a smoke break every time you pass a government building.

Have some faith in your values. There can also be utility in following your values. If one must speak about the collective and utility - time and again, we’ve seen that the worse the situation, the better freedom is at managing society’s resources.

The more minor the situation, the less government involvement is able to screw things up royally. The less damage can be done. By that, I mean turning to government to build a great dog park is probably asking too much.

Why would we trust the people who can even screw up a dog park so badly with responsibilities far more significant?

That’s exactly the kind of bad choice that is made when we foolishly pretend there is such a thing as a collective “we the people,” and that there is a collective common interest that can be satisfied by government. Needs and wants are individual. They can be satisfied by individuals. Talk of “the greater good,” merely distracts from this detail with some romanticized lie about an imaginary collective interest that does not exist. Talking in such fanciful ways brings us no closer to understanding reality. We must speak concretely about individuals and their needs and the solutions required for each individual.

The response to coronavirus should be to laugh at and ignore every political edict on the topic and to go about life as you think appropriate under the circumstances. The people making the edicts are desperate to feel relevant and are surrounded by handlers who insist to them how important they are to successful resolutions of society’s problems when in reality they aren’t. The best they can do for anyone is to say a few encouraging words and to leave everyone alone. Their moral support alone is likely to do enough damage, but some people demand government and at least allowing government officials to keep busy by offering kind words of moral support is better than letting them screw up dog parks.

If you let government mess up a dog park, it will. If you let government mess up housing, it will. If you let government mess up education, it will. If you let government mess up human health and happiness, it will.

In March of 2020, with the planet harried by talk of coronavirus, now more than ever we need to trust in the individual to decide for himself and to remember to let the mayor, governor, and president decide for no one but themselves.

They will, reliably, screw it up if we decide any other way.

That is the nature of government. To describe a tool and its known limitations is not in any way fatalistic. In sharp contrast to government, the nature of individuals is uncertain, undetermined, and has gotten us a few million years into the evolutionary process just fine. Nothing new is taking place in society that is any indication that it is time to reform that view, even with the emergence of this latest microbe that has attracted the attention of so many.

Everything looks very similar to the way it always has. Life has challenges. That is the nature of life. Humanity arranges itself in useful ways voluntarily and has done pretty well handling those challenges.

Any other way is mired in idealism and divorced from reality. With coronavirus being identified as having reached pandemic status, reality suggests that now is the right time to tell government to piss off.

Allan Stevo writes about international politics and culture from a free market perspective at 52 Weeks in Slovakia. He is the author of How to Win America, The Bitcoin Manifesto, and numerous other books. You can email him here.