Sometimes it is difficult being a libertarian in the sense of having to defend the unseen. This goes along with Bastiat’s (and Hazlitt’s) theme of counting the unseen costs.
When the government does something or funds something, the proponents can point towards the seen. It is easy to say, “Look at that nice new school that was built with the fancy gymnasium.”
But it doesn’t always have to be something nice looking or involve feeding starving children. It can be something as simple as roads. If you say you are against compulsory taxation, then you can bet you will hear the objection, “But what about the roads?”
As Tom Woods has sarcastically stated, if it wasn’t for the government, we would just all be standing there staring at each other without roads wondering how to get anywhere.
I bring this up because sometimes I am asked for solutions to problems (or non-problems). My solution is liberty and a voluntary society. But people want specifics.
The problem is that I really don’t know how the market will function. If we live in a society without state-funded education, I really don’t know what kinds of schools will pop up. I can guess. There would probably be different price structures. You would have expensive schools for the rich. You would have something like Walmart schools for poorer people, which undoubtedly would be better than most of the horrendous government schools we have today. There would likely be charity schools too for the really poor.
Still, I really have no idea how things would work. Nobody does. That is why you leave it to the free market. Millions of people would decide based on how they spend their money and also how they donate their money. I don’t know how the road system would work without government because I’m really not in the road business and I probably wouldn’t be even if there were opportunities there.
I like to point out that if the government owned the grocery stores, everyone would wonder how things could function without the government. Some people would just assume that we would all starve because there would be nowhere to buy food.
I can’t even tell you how grocery stores work now. I can tell you that they exist and I know what a typical shopping experience is like. But I have little idea of how they deal with shipping, inventories, accounting etc. I really have no idea how the food is grown or processed or packaged or any number of other things.
The point about liberty is that voluntary people will find ways to make things work. It is the collection of free people acting in cooperation that makes everything flow. Nothing is perfect. It is far from perfect. But the market has a way of being the most efficient process at correcting mistakes.
I don’t know how competing courts would work. I really don’t know how the extradition process works now between countries, just as one example. I don’t know how the roads would work. I don’t know how schooling would work. I don’t know how licensing would work.
I do know that the free market would be the most efficient process in handling these things. If it is up to a few central planners to decide, then you can be sure that it will not be efficient. You can be sure it will misallocate resources. The best anyone could do is mimic the market and meet consumer demands, but this is virtually impossible for the coercive state to do.
I don’t have the solutions for most of the problems in society other than to allow liberty to flourish. No individual has the solutions because you can’t know what everyone else wants and needs. But allowing a peaceful and voluntary society will ensure that millions of people will contribute a tiny fraction of the solutions we need for a well-functioning society.