When you decide your house needs a new roof, how do you go about getting it done? Do you either try to use your insurance policy or find a way to pay for it yourself? Or, do you go to your neighbors and demand, at gunpoint, that they pay for all or part of it on your behalf?
Only government can consistently choose the latter option and keep getting away with it.
There are a lot of things I think I really “need.” Things that would be good for me and probably be good for everyone in my life, but things that cost more than I can possibly afford. There are also things I think would be good for “the community,” which I can’t do alone.
However, I am not under the impression that just because some things would be good, and would arguably benefit a lot of people, I am justified in forcing you to pay for them, even if I can see no other way. I can describe what I want, and try to convince others to pitch in. I could even whine and plead and cry. As long as I don’t use coercion — or delegate someone else to use coercion for the cause — I am doing nothing wrong. Annoying, perhaps, but not wrong.
It is also why I would not impose a libertarian paradise on you without leaving you a simple way to opt out.
Just as soon as I use violence, or even skillfully veiled threats of violence, to get my way, I have crossed the line from right to wrong. It doesn't matter what the money was for, or how many people it might benefit. I have de-legitimized my cause by giving up on convincing others to help voluntarily and lowering myself to the level of the common crook.
So, is there something you think should be done that you can’t afford to do by yourself? Then start telling others why you believe it is important and convince them to go along with you. Don’t turn to coercion, not even through the enforced opinions of a voting majority, to accomplish your goals. That just shows you couldn’t sway enough people to voluntarily help you accomplish your goal, but were only able to convince enough who believe coercion is OK and are willing to use force against people who don't want to participate. It means you failed.
Kent McManigal is a freelance writer who sometimes offers commentary on our websites. Contact him at: