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Police, Courts and Armies

June 25, 2006

Some extremists think government should be limited to providing law enforcement, courts and armies – and nothing else. They believe every other government service is not only unconstitutional and wasteful, but that whatever needs such expenditures serve are best left to private interests anyway. (Like the way private interests served the needs of the nation’s elderly before Social Security. Like the way private interests served the needs of preserving clean water and air before the EPA. Like the way private interests served the needs of having a safe workplace before OSHA. Like… you get the idea.)

They may sometimes delude themselves into thinking that the invisible hand of Adam Smith will address all needs and make everything nirvana. But basically these folks just don’t want to be taxed for anything. Period.

But what of the police forces, court systems and the armies they are willing to pay for? Here’s my Captain Obvious insight. It occurred to me that the only reason they consent to be taxed for those things is to ensure they don’t get taxed for anything else. That’s right! Without paying for those basics, they’d actually end up paying more. It’s kind of like the bare minimum for keeping your money to yourself. Police are good for preventing people from stealing from you. Courts are good for prosecuting people who would stiff you on a contract. Armies are good for keeping away other systems of government which might seek to tax you for things beyond police, courts and an armies.

So even when these crazies are consenting to be taxed for those few paltry items, they’re really only doing so grudgingly out of an understanding that if they didn’t pay for those things they’d end up paying for a whole slew of other government services. You know, the kind of services the rest of the rational world wants to pay for.

The answer to bad government isn’t no government. It’s better government.

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