Wednesday, March 16, 2011

First Blog Comment

Firsts are often memorable—and I got my first comment yesterday, on my post from March 8, on the Role of Government. I’m excited, because it’s a good comment and really making me think. I happen to know Brett, who made the comment, and am aware of his Libertarian viewpoint. He’s young and extremely bright, as well as what I describe as civilized. I’ve said in “The Political World Is Round” that we’d be better off if the debate were actually between conservative Republicans and Libertarians.

It’s like the debate during our founding between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. I tend to identify with Jefferson, among the Federalists (more often Jefferson than Hamilton), but the Anti-Federalists were often (maybe always) right in their concerns about granting any power to a central entity. We owe them the Bill of Rights. The Federalists had thought these basic rights were so well understood by the people that listing them in the document was unnecessary. But, however well the people understood them in the 1780s, it’s amazing how difficult they are for some people to understand today, even with them written out.

So (I hope Brett doesn’t mind) I’m including Brett’s response below, which is enough hard thinking for one day. Tomorrow—assuming I am up to the challenge—I will respond. (If you want to read the post he’s responding to, it’s here.)

BRETT: If I have a right to tend to personal illnesses and do my best to maintain my personal health, then surely I have a right to bank together with my neighbors and if one of us is especially good at taking care of others then we can appoint him/her a doctor to protect us all of illness to his/her best ability. In that sense we have a right to defending our selves against not only human aggression of our life and property, but also bacterial and viral aggression. In what way is this different from getting together to appoint a sheriff for protection of property. Getting together with my neighbors to appointing an electrician or any other person to perform a service or provide a good.

In short, arising from a right to property is the right to contract.

If it is unjust for say 60% of the population to create a system of healthcare for all of the population, requiring all (or certain people based on ability) to pay for it since all will receive it. How is it just for a portion of the population to appoint a sheriff to defend property for all of the population and require all to pay since the service is being provided for all?

In short, if it is unjust to steal from others or to coerce them to pay for services they do not wish to receive or have not contracted for (Medical Care, Education, Municipal Waste Collection, etc.). Then is it not incumbent upon you to be consistent with military spending? For unless there is voluntary contract with ALL that is involved, force and coercion is used, which is something no person has a right to use against another. Only completely voluntary military spending is legitimate, otherwise, it too is a form of income redistribution.


  1. Here's a simple rebuttal to that comment. Medical care protects and helps me, but me having medical care doesn't usually help anyone around me. However, if I choose to defend myself, the people around me will also be defended. In short, aggregate medical care is still individual, singular police or military is collective.

  2. Response to Perth and thoughts on Brett’s comment
    I would be careful when claiming a certain right is collective whereas another can only be individual. You claim that medical care for you rarely does anything to help those around you, but I must point out that this is inaccurate. If you come down with most diseases than others around you are at risk of coming down with that disease, as you see every year during flu season. Another example rests in the 1970’s, when world governments got together to eradicate Smallpox. In this case the vast majority, if not all, the world population received immunizations protecting them from the virus, resulting in the virus’ inability to find a host.
    I have to say that I generally agree with Brett that it is a right which can be transferred to government. I take issue with his use of the word “appoint” when talking about a doctor or a sheriff, I would instead use “hire” but I am sure this is a matter of semantics. What I have to disagree with in his argument is that “all” people in a given governmental jurisdiction must agree with any action of government. I do not know what the exact percentage of a population should be required to agree in order to grant a level of government a power, but a 100% agreement can rarely be achieved, because an individual who chooses to murder his neighbor would necessarily disagree with a governmental ban on murder. Likewise, a speeder has shown his disagreement with allowing the government to set a speed limit on that stretch of road. This is why a constitution limiting the powers that governments can assume is so necessary, so that a limit is set upon a mere majority of one level of government usurping a power that previously had been left to another level of government while a small minority cannot prevent a level of order necessary to induce a civil society.
    I believe that the contract between the people, the states, and the federal government, known as the Constitution of the United States, provided a specific list of powers which a supermajority of us are in agreement of having shared in common. Any powers not explicitly granted to the federal government are then reserved for the states and the people thereof unless and until they amend the Constitution (contract) to grant the federal government a new power (such as the amendment I intend to propose soon allowing for the creation and maintenance of an air force). This means that while the federal government should not provide health care, this does not mean that the state of Oregon cannot choose to provide universal health care, or Massachusetts cannot require its residents to obtain a mandatory level of health insurance. We could even choose to amend the constitution to allow the federal government to take on the responsibility of dealing with health care, but I doubt that we could get the majority of the population in 40 of the states to agree to grant them that power.