Statist Joe1 A Libertarian Response2 to Conservative Joe3

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

Joe
gets up at 6:00am to prepare his morning coffee. He makes it with
a machine he could not possibly have made himself. He does not know
where it was made, or how it works, and may not care. He does not
know the people that planted, cultivated, harvested, dried, roasted,
packaged, freighted, warehoused, distributed, marketed, or retailed
his coffee, and may not care. The company that insures the manufacturer
of the coffee machine required that it meet certain safety guidelines,
as established by the private insurance-company-funded Underwriters
Laboratory. Joe has seen the UL mark, but is not really sure what
it's for or how it protects him. He doesn't clearly understand why
greedy businessmen might be interested in a safe product. All of
this was made possible by libertarians who fought for and won the
legal right to free trade.

He
fills his pot full of good clean drinking water which he bought
from Ozarka, because the local government monopoly of water supply
bears the comforting designation of "accepted" and also
tastes funny.

He
thinks back to going to church on Sunday. He is happy to have a
community where he can participate with other like-minded people
in ceremony. This was made possible by the long struggle to disentangle
church and state, and his church enjoys the absence of taxation.
He wishes other aspects of his life could be so free.

He
takes his daily medication with his first swallow of coffee, and
then he takes a long drag on a cigarette. He bought his medication
while on a trip to Mexico, where, thanks to less regulation and
looser enforcement of IP laws, they were much cheaper. His medications
are safe to take because he bought them from a reputable dealer.
He can still afford cigarettes and can still legally purchase them,
because of those who continue to fight for his rights, even if his
exercise of those rights might harm him or his family.

Joe
takes his morning shower reaching for his shampoo; it is fragranced
with some sort of exotic flower and there are strange chemicals
in it — god knows what — and he bought it, well, because he liked
the picture of the kangaroo on the bottle. He luxuriates in his
bourgeois moment in the shower, a luxury unavailable to even the
most wealthy of only 200 years ago. He is able to have many of such
seemingly simple luxuries because some greedy businessmen sought
enormous profits in the only way they could: satisfying consumer
demand.

Joe
begins his work day; he has a good job with excellent pay, medicals
benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because the accumulation
of capital over centuries has now brought the discounted marginal
value product of a schmuck like Joe to unimaginable heights. Joe
doesn't know anything about economics because he doesn't have to.
He is no smarter than his forbears, and he works less. Nonetheless,
because he participates in a world-embracing division of labor where
his specialized work on a growing capital base is greatly valued,
he is richer.

Joe’s
employer pays these standards because if they don't, his employer's
competitors will.

It's
noon time. Joe doesn't need to make a Bank Deposit so he can pay
some bills — he uses online banking and direct deposit. He has no
idea how these systems work, or what a banking clearinghouse is,
but he is able to use these services at the lowest cost practicable
because banks compete for his business. Notwithstanding the massive
interventions to the business of banking, such as the creation of
central banking and the Federal Reserve system and the repudiation
of the gold standard, he is able to weather the government-induced
business cycles and inflation by investing in mutual funds, annuities,
stocks, bonds, REITs, real estate, precious metals, and other investment
vehicles. He is able to do this because of greedy entrepreneurs
and libertarians who fought against usury laws.

The
online banking leaves him free to take a moment to browse amazon.com
for his favorite books, movies, and music.

Joe
is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at
his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive to
dad's; his car is not among the safest in the world because he chose
not to buy a Volvo. His brother has a Volvo, but he has a gas-guzzling
muscle car. He has this choice because nationalization of the auto
industry was prevented.

He
arrives at his rural boyhood home. The house didn’t have any good
programming choices until DirecTV offered an array of programming
and high-speed Internet, too. His dad uses a VCR, which only became
affordable to him after lots of rich people bought the early, expensive
versions and the manufacturers improved the designs and cut costs.
In fact, his dad has a cell phone, TiVo, refrigerator, microwave
oven, and a CD player — all of which became affordable to him because
they were first the toys of the super-rich, and the crackpot schemes
financed by the wealthy entrepreneurs willing and able to risk their
money in such endeavors.

He
is happy to see his dad who is now retired. His dad lives on a reverse
mortgage — a recent market innovation. After his visit with dad
he gets back in his car for the ride home. He turns on a radio talk
show. The host keeps saying that libertarians are kooks and anarchists
and thank God for continual market intervention and government protection.
Government intervention and taxation improves and will continue
to improve the standards of living of Americans. (He doesn’t tell
Joe that his beloved Democrats/Republicans have fought to destroy
every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day.)

Joe
agrees, and puts his support behind protectionism, taxation, monopolies,
interventionism, and war: these are obviously the things upon which
civilization is built.

Notes

  1. On the title,
    libertarians oppose both Republican and Democratic ideologies,
    whom they group as "statists." On the term, see
    Mises
    (here called étatism).
  2. I have
    focused on a positive libertarian vision, rather than criticizing
    the original, which I could easily have done.
  3. Conservative
    Joe is the sometime title of a recently widely circulating
    email. It was forwarded to me by a friend first back in July,
    and then by others twice since then. The full text of the version
    I received is:

    u201CJoe gets
    up at 6:00am to prepare his morning coffee. He fills his pot
    full of good clean drinking water because some liberal fought
    for minimum water quality standards. He takes his daily medication
    with his first swallow of coffee. His medications are safe to
    take because some liberal fought to insure their safety and
    work as advertised.

    u201CAll but
    $10.00 of his medications are paid for by his employers medical
    plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers
    for paid medical insurance, now Joe gets it too. He prepares
    his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs this day. Joe’s bacon
    is safe to eat because some liberal fought for laws to regulate
    the meat packing industry.

    u201CJoe takes
    his morning shower reaching for his shampoo; His bottle is properly
    labeled with every ingredient and the amount of its contents
    because some liberal fought for his right to know what he was
    putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses,
    walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is
    clean because some tree hugging liberal fought for laws to stop
    industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station
    for his government subsidized ride to work; it saves him considerable
    money in parking and transportation fees. You see, some liberal
    fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone
    the opportunity to be a contributor.

    u201CJoe begins
    his work day; he has a good job with excellent pay, medicals
    benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some
    liberal union members fought and died for these working standards.
    Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t
    want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the
    job or becomes unemployed he’ll get a worker compensation or
    unemployment check because some liberal didn’t think he should
    loose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

    u201CIts noon
    time, Joe needs to make a Bank Deposit so he can pay some bills.
    Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some
    liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers
    who ruined the banking system before the depression.

    u201CJoe has
    to pay his Fannie Mae underwritten Mortgage and his below market
    federal student loan because some stupid liberal decided that
    Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated
    and earned more money over his life-time.

    u201CJoe is
    home from work, he plans to visit his father this evening at
    his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive
    to dads; his car is among the safest in the world because some
    liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood
    home. He was the third generation to live in the house financed
    by Farmers Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to
    make rural loans. The house didn’t have electric until some
    big government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong
    and demanded rural electrification. (Those rural Republican’s
    would still be sitting in the dark.)

    u201CHe is
    happy to see his dad who is now retired. His dad lives on Social
    Security and his union pension because some liberal made sure
    he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to. After
    his visit with dad he gets back in his car for the ride home.
    He turns on a radio talk show, the host’s keeps saying that
    liberals are bad and conservatives are good. (He doesn’t tell
    Joe that his beloved Republicans have fought against every protection
    and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day) Joe agrees, u2018We don’t
    need those big government liberals ruining our lives; after
    all, I’m a self made man who believes everyone should take care
    of themselves, just like I have'.u201D

October
1, 2004

Gil
Guillory [send him
mail
] is an engineer in Houston.

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare
  • LRC Blog

  • LRC Podcasts