Libertarians are often accused of not caring about the poor. People not well versed in libertarianism, and even some who are, like to portray libertarians as wanting a dog-eat-dog world, where only the strongest survive. But ironically, it is a libertarian society where the weak can survive and are most likely to prosper.
Also ironically, for those who like to support government solutions as the answer to our societal problems, you are the ones who are devastating the weak and the poor, whether intentional or not.
Big government kills. Some things are obvious. We can see direct killings when it comes to wars and other attacks, such as drone bombings. This is the government killing people directly.
There is also indirect killing. One example is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA provides false assurance for many drugs that can be quite dangerous. At the same time, the FDA will keep some drugs, sometimes potentially life-saving drugs, off of the market for years. The drugs cannot be made available to the public until the FDA approves it, making sure their own backsides are covered. Meanwhile, people die waiting for the drug to be approved.
In addition, you don’t know how many potentially life-saving drugs never come to the market because it is not worth the expense of getting FDA approval.
But I was also reminded this week of another way that government kills, although indirectly. There was a devastating typhoon (basically a hurricane to Americans) that struck the Philippines. The death toll is estimated to be at least 10,000, but it is impossible to tell right now due to the destruction. People there will probably continue to die due to dehydration, hunger, disease and all of the other related problems from the devastation.
If a similar storm hit the U.S. in an area with a similar population, there is no question that you would see death and destruction. But it is unlikely that the death toll would hit anywhere near 10,000. So what does this have to do with government?
The reason that a place like the Philippines is more devastated when a storm like this hits, is simply because it is a poorer place. The construction of houses and buildings is not nearly as good in general. In addition, it is harder for people to escape the storm when they are really poor. I do acknowledge that it is easier to go inland in the U.S. as compared to a place like the Philippines that is all islands. But still, a lack of wealth means less mobility for people.
Now some might say that the better construction in the U.S. is because of the building codes. Some would actually credit government with the better construction. But people who cite this have everything completely backwards.
The only reason the U.S. is able to have stricter building codes is because it is a wealthier country. It is a long history of relatively free markets and strong property rights that have led to the great wealth. Two centuries of savings and capital investment have led to this great wealth.
If the government in the Philippines were to enact building codes as strict as in the U.S., then either most people wouldn’t follow the law or else most people would be living without any shelter. It isn’t that people don’t want stronger houses to live in. It is just that most people simply cannot afford it.
There are any number of examples where big government leads to death and destruction. This storm that hit the Philippines, which is basically still a third-world country with some modernization in the big cities, showed a good example of how poverty can lead to death.
I contend that a libertarian society would be a very compassionate society, aside from the fact that aggressive force would not be allowed, even by government. I contend that a libertarian society, in which property rights were respected and free association was allowed, would lead to greater prosperity and far less poverty. It would mean a better life for most people and it would lessen the tragedy we see in this world.