Get Rid of Government – But First Make Me President! … I consider all Republican debates time-fillers until New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie jumps in, but Monday night's debate did crystallize for me why I dislike libertarians. (Except one, who is a friend of mine and not crazy.) They lure you in with talk of small government and then immediately start babbling about drug legalization or gay marriage. "Get the government out of it" is a good and constitutionally correct answer to many questions, but it's not a one-size-fits-all answer to all questions. – Ann Coulter, column
Dominant Social Theme: Libertarians are wacky … and Ron Paul is wackiest.
Free-Market Analysis: Famous US conservative writer Ann Coulter has joined the fight against libertarianism with her recent column, Get Rid of Government – But First Make Me President! The proximate cause of the column was the Republican presidently debate that just took place and "crystallize[d] for me why I dislike libertarians."
The column is very revealing because it shows again how profound the divide is between those who believe in free markets and those who do not. Ms. Coulter and others like her represent the conservative intelligentsia that dominates the US political conversation.
While conservative proponents do support the workings of the Invisible Hand, the Internet itself has managed to tease out differences between them and those who truly believe in the workings of a free market. More and more the debate has crystalized. And as it has, conservatives in irritation or desperation have taken to presenting arguments meant to buttress their positions.
This is what Ms. Coulter has begun to do lately. She has made a career of attacking democrats, but as the libertarian ideology surges to the fore as a result of the socio-political education provided by the Internet, she no doubt feels compelled to confront it as an ideological proponent of conservatism.
What is her complaint? Libertarians "lure you in with talk of small government and then immediately start babbling about drug legalization or gay marriage." She goes on in the column to grant that "get the government out of it" is a good response to many problems but certainly not to all.
Such solutions are helpful when one is speaking, say, of government assistance to private enterprise and government involvement in the housing market. But it is definitely NOT a good answer when it comes gay marriage, she explains. She uses the debate commentary of libertarian-conservative congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) to illustrate her point. She writes:
Asked about gay marriage, Paul said, in full: "The federal government shouldn't be involved. I wouldn't support an amendment (prohibiting gay marriage). But let me suggest – one of the ways to solve this ongoing debate about marriage, look up in the dictionary. We know what marriage is all about. But then, get the government out of it. … Why doesn't it go to the church? And why doesn't it go to the individuals? I don't think government should give us a license to get married. It should be in the church."
If state governments stop officially registering marriages, then who gets to adopt? How are child support and child custody issues determined if the government doesn't recognize marriage? How about a private company's health care plans – whom will those cover? Who has legal authority to issue "do not resuscitate" orders to doctors? (Of course, under Obamacare we won't be resuscitating anyone.)
Who inherits in the absence of a will? Who is entitled to a person's Social Security and Medicare benefits? How do you know if you're divorced and able to remarry? Where would liberals get their phony statistics about most marriages ending in divorce?
Paul can't even scratch Social Security and Medicare off that list by taking the libertarian position that there should be no Social Security or Medicare, because he also said during the debate: "We don't want to cut any of the medical benefits for children or the elderly, because we have drawn so many in and got them so dependent on the government."
… So Rep. Paul is a swashbuckling individualist when it comes to civilization's most crucial building block for raising children, but willing to be a run-of-the-mill government statist when it comes to the Ponzi-scheme entitlements bankrupting the country. He's like a vegetarian who says, "I'm not a fanatic – I still eat meat."
We have read this excerpt several times and we're still not sure we understand it. She asks a lot of questions about children and wills and health care and makes it clear that if government does not handle these issues, then the world will fall into mass confusion. Why should this be so?
Ms. Coulter has spent decades dissecting government incompetence with her rapier wit. Yet in this article, she makes the case that government is absolutely necessary for life's basic relationships. She even makes the case that if state governments don't keep track of marriages then adoption will become unfeasible along with custody and child support issues.
In fact, as we have pointed out previously, the reverse is true. The Shakers (Shaking Quakers) provided much of the adoption in the 1700s and 1800s in the US because Shakers, while living together in beautiful and innovative communities, did not cohabit and did not have children. In order to stock the faith with believers, the Shakers adopted children and took them into their vast, cloistered, New England farms. Upon reaching the age of 18, the children were given the option of going, if they wished. Many left, sooner or later. Some stayed.
Whether they eventually left or remained, the children were educated, fed and housed in a nurturing, spiritual environment. But eventually the US government began to mandate that orphans reside in orphanages and the Shakers ability to provide shelter to homeless children was much affected; it contributed eventually to the end of the religion and the emptying out of Shaker communities. Instead of growing up in these self-sufficient villages, orphans were remanded to US-operated orphanages with a gamut (as can be imagined) of grim consequences.
There is little in our view that the government can do better than private enterprise. But bureaucrats generally are happy to hide behind the law. And often that law, when applied on an ongoing basis becomes almost too much to bear. Feedbacker Iddy sent us a link to a remarkable article posted at the website of New Hampshire's Sentinal Source and entitled, "Last statement sent to Sentinel from self-immolation victim." An introduction reads as follows:
On Thursday morning, June 16, The Sentinel received a "last statement" via mail from a man who insinuated that he planned to set himself on fire in front of the Cheshire County Court House, and an explanation of why he intended to do so. Through further reporting, The Sentinel is confident this is from the victim of Wednesday afternoon's fire, although police have not yet received confirmation of his identity. The 15-page statement is printed in full, except for two redacted items: The names of the man's mother and his three children. Details will be posted as they become available.
The man who burned himself to death, Tom Ball, left behind a long last statement that some, no doubt, will label "rambling" or even unbalanced; others will maintain it casts blame elsewhere when he should take responsibility. It is nonetheless a cri-de-couer as regards the US system of justice and its treatment of parents (male) in terms of divorce, child custody and payment (and non-payment) of child support.
Ball recites his history in this statement and it seems that the prospect of being remanded to prison over US$3,000 in child support non-payments were what stirred his determination to self-immolate. He could afford to make the payments, he writes, but he had decided to challenge the system. Finally he set himself on fire. it is too bad Ann Coulter did not have the chance to read Tom Ball's suicide statement before writing that she cannot image what facility could replace the state when it comes to these matters.
We often write about these issues. We call the concept "private" or tribal justice. It is the idea that even violent crime should be adjudicated privately between the people involved and their families. Third parties may be involved as well if both of the involved parties agree to them. In fact, the threat of violence is likely a necessary evil; if people were unwilling to settle, vendettas could spring up "unto the seventh generation."
Such consequences mightily concentrated the mind. it is one reason, for instance, that the Pakistanis refuse to attack the Afghan Pashtun/Talibans despite US pressure. The Punjabi Pakistanis have to live with the Pashtuns; living with 40 million Pashtuns that have decided to revenge themselves for seven generations is bound to be uncomfortable, even dangerous.
Such "primitive" judicial solutions are criticized today by Western jurisprudence. Apparently the preferred methodology in the US is to imprison at any one time up to five million people for a variety of infractions including victimless crimes, casting families into poverty and assuring that children have no access to one and sometimes both parents. This is justice in "civilized countries." It is a basic dominant social theme, one of the most important of elite concepts: only the state can provide justice; only the state can do so impartially and fairly.
Ms. Coulter would consider anything as ludicrous, no doubt. Perhaps she would write an article lampooning the idea of private justice remedies (though they worked for thousands of years). In fact, she has written a new book entitled Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America, and at the end of her column she lumps libertarians in with liberals. "Liberals [never conservatives] appeal to irrational mobs to attain power. There is, I now recall, one group of people who look like conservatives, but also appeal to the mob. They're called 'libertarians.'"
Ms. Coulter, a former lawyer, is sure of herself when it comes to the areas that the state MUST involve itself with. Tom Ball might have been able to provide her with another side to the story. He did leave behind a 15-page statement, but he will never be able to go further than that.