While fighting with my unruly mind to see whether I would get to sleep tonight or not it suddenly threw me a curve ball. Apparently inspired by a conversation with a relative tonight who holds some opposing views I got onto a line of thought that got too interesting to stay lying there with my face against the pillow for another two hours.
Now the catalyst, the earlier conversation, is atypical of any conversation you might hear between someone with libertarian inclinations and someone without. She suggested that the services of government were a necessity and as her supporting evidence brought up a scenario in which someone is raped. With government that person can be tried and convicted and jailed, a possible solution to this issue. Without government the victim has no recourse. My rebuttal was the standard "well without government the victim can pursue their own recourse, getting the assistance of friends/family/anyone willing to help to find the person who has committed this heinous act and punish them accordingly. She countered that that isn't what victims wanted and that jail is far more appropriate. I queried where the funding for this jail was and pointed out that stealing (taxing) money from everyone else around you to put this offender in a room they aren't allowed to leave and support them for the rest of their lives is not a real solution to this problem. I'm sure many of you have been in similar situations and like all instances of two opposing views being discussed today neither of us conceded a thing and we eventually had to change the subject to avoid a more serious debate.
But why do people think they need the government to look after them so much? Why do people feel the need for government to protect them? After all we have had government for a very long time now. Laws have been around for ages and so have prisons but people are still getting raped. We don't really have any extensive data on the occurrence of rape in societies without government (as much as I want to cite the Kalahari bushmen here the population, culture and research issues obviously make it a questionable support). So if these terrible things occur despite all those laws and jails why do people still refuse to even consider a society without them? I suspect it goes a lot deeper than it may seem.
My hypothesis: the average person does not believe they are able to provide for themselves. People work 40 hours a week, every week. Most of them know they have no real chance of ever getting to a point where they can live comfortably and not need to worry about how much they work. Deep down inside don't we all feel that futility, occasionally clawing it's way to the front of our minds, desperately screaming for us to acknowledge it so we can do something about it. But then we shove it back down and pretend it's not there because we don't want to consider that our lives aren't really our own and we were all born in a set place and haven't the strength to leave that place. These walls were built for us decades before our parents were born. In such a situation how can a person truly believe they can support themselves without an organisation like our wonderful and glorious government (picture a soviet sickle and hammer as I say this) to take care of us?
But, while we don't have useful data on rape in stateless societies, we do have data on how people survived with little to no government involvement. Picture a smaller village or hamlet anywhere in Europe in the 1400s. Sure the tax collector might come around once in a while but the government never really provided them with anything. Governments didn't build roads to places like that in those days, didn't educate the children, didn't provide medical care or affordable housing or bailout failing businesses. The townsfolk provided for themselves. They each took up trades and professions. Someone was the town smith. Someone was the carpenter. Some tended livestock or fields. They lived acceptable lives. And most importantly they hadn't a fraction of the means we do. Today a person wanting to create furniture can do so with many times the efficiency of a carpenter of the 1400s thanks to the technology at our disposal. We have better tools made from stronger materials that cost a fraction of the price. We have machines that will hew the wood for you to perfection. If you tend fields we have great machines that will turn the soil, plant the seeds and fertilise them. One person can do the work of 10 with the help of our real friend, science. And these people did it despite their governments taxing them and providing no real services aside from a fat baron or duke and maybe a local militia?
So to finish this roundabout and get back to my point. How is it that a person can have many times the productive potential of a person from 600 years ago and be less able to provide for themselves? The answer is they can't. We are all completely capable of providing for ourselves. Without government people will still develop a skill, sell that skill and have everything they need to support themselves. Further to just supporting themselves there will be an abundance.
Many people do not realise just how much is taken from them. Sure you might only pay 37% of your own income in tax. But then consider as well that businesses pay 30% corporate tax which is applied directly to the cost of their products. Then there is 10% General Services Tax added to your purchases. Then there are a plethora of sales taxes, duties, tariffs and surcharges. A couple weeks ago I was looking to purchase a board game and couldn't find it for less than $80 while it cost only $30 in the USA. Baffled at this difference I checked the tariffs and duties on board games entering Australia to find it was 15% + $48.35 surcharge. So for the $80 board game I purchased I was in fact giving ~$60 to the government in surcharges and taxes. Plus the company selling it must pay 30% of the remainder in corporate tax. Plus I had already paid my ~37% income tax on this money. So pre-tax I started with ~$110 and purchased a game made from cardboard and plastic and the government received ~$90. If only ~$20 of my $110 went to the provider of this product it is not difficult to imagine how much better off I would be if I had 5.5x the purchasing power for my labour that I currently do. Of course this is just for board games, most products will have different taxes and restrictions on them but I invite anyone who is interested to look up the duties and surcharges on a product you have purchased recently. Crunch the numbers and see how much money you would have had left over if no one were involved in your purchases but you and the seller.