Government should leave us alone. That is the cry of libertarians and Republicans. Government should leave us alone. It’s one of those statements that, in my mind, is almost meaningless because all of us, libertarians and Republicans included, see the need for government. The political conflict that we have is because people see the need for government in different areas and at different times.
It’s Republicans, of course, that piss me off the most. They try to spin liberals as wanting a nanny-state where the government does everything for everybody, forcing legislation and regulation down our throats. Yet they are so quick to call upon government intervention where they want it. People shouldn’t be allowed to be gay married! Abortions should be illegal! We need half of our budget to go to the military! People shouldn’t be allowed to grow pot! Hell, if you drive your car into an affluent Republican neighborhood you can’t even park on the street without a permit. They love government, but only when it directly benefits themselves. With Republicans it is a politics of convenience — “I’m a socialist when it is your stuff and a capitalist when it’s my stuff”. Thus, Republicans, when they use the “government should leave us alone” argument, are complete hypocrites.
Libertarians, on the other hand, think that government has one role — protect personal property. They think the only good laws are laws that protect personal property. All other laws are just government interference in our lives.
I think libertarians are not hypocrites but they are much too willing to allow the tyranny of the majority and much too unwilling to use government cooperatively for the common good. Libertarians seem to think that, if you get sick from mishandled food at a restaurant, you should not patronize that restaurant anymore. If you don’t want to work in a dangerous mine or a smoke-filled bar, don’t apply for the job. If you can’t afford health care, too bad so sad.
While I am certainly more sympathetic to the libertarian viewpoint than the Republican viewpoint, I think it’s impractical and wasteful to not band together for the common good, it guts our economical potential and it abandons our humanitarian ideals.
My favorite Paul Wellstone quote is “We all do better when we all do better.” Our greatest economic potential is moving people out of poverty. We should do this for humanitarian reasons alone, but the economic reasons cause the initiative to pay for itself! Welfare programs that get people on a track towards economic independence are fiscally conservative. The health care “crisis” is another example where, if we increase the size of the risk pool and use our dollars more wisely, everyone benefits. A pure free-market approach to health care leaves behind the poor and costs us much more money in the end. Free markets cannot be trusted to do the right thing in the long term for the population as a whole. Free markets benefit those who are savvy and have means. They brutalize the poor.
Thus, we should abandon empty platitudes like “government should leave us alone”. In the best case its naive and in the worst its hypocritical bullshit. I agree entirely with the notion that we must be wise about what we choose to do with government. Government is the wrong tool for many, many jobs. But, on the whole, government is a force for equality, opportunity, fairness and justice. The anti-government rhetoric of libertarians and Republicans is just plain wrong and, in the latter case, is just a shallow attempt to deceive people with a campaign slogan.