My main purpose is this. I want to suggest how most of us can get closer to our heart’s political and social desire. The exceptions are those immoral persons who insist on lording it over other people against their wills, i.e., the authoritarians of any stripe.
I present an imaginary scenario. It is not meant to be a detailed photograph of a new reality. It is to suggest the concept to you as a possible new reality. I am following in the footsteps of Paul Emile de Puydt.
Suppose that local government remains as it is. Suppose that at the beginning of the year, you sign up for your preferred national government. You enroll yourself for one year. Next year you may make a different choice.
To keep matters simple, suppose that you have three choices: Republican (Red), Democrat (Blue), and Libertarian (Coral). But in the back of your minds, understand that there can be more choices. There can be Green, Red Lite, Blue Lite, Yellow, and so on.
If you choose Red, you agree to abide by Red’s national government. If you choose Blue or Coral, you agree to abide by their national governments, respectively. You may choose Red and your neighbor may choose Coral. Each of you decides to abide by your own selected national governments.
The meaning of national here is not that there is one nation, one society, and one national government. It means only that there is a government whose members live in many localities. Hereafter I’ll drop the term national and just refer to government. The Reds, Blues, and Corals live all over the place in crazy-quilt patterns. You may choose Coral and your neighbor may choose Blue. That’s the same kind of thing one finds if one maps out the religions and churches that people sign onto.
I won’t try to mimic perfectly the government preferences of existing Reds, Blues, and Corals. I will merely suggest some of their preferred policies in order to show how this system can work. Yes, there will be many details and questions that any thoughtful person can raise. But I am not trying to answer these in advance.
By consulting Republican platforms, Republican votes and the actions of Republican administrations, we build up an idea of the Red government. I suggest to you that those who sign on to Red government for themselves can have most of it for themselves without forcing those who sign on for Blue government into Red government. The same goes for the Blues (and the Corals). They can get most of what they want without forcing others into their government.
Consider health care. The Reds don’t want government-run health care. They want to maintain the existing system but with reforms. The Blues want basic security in health care for everyone. Each of you who wishes these two systems can have it without making the other belong to your system. This is a crucial point. Nothing at all prevents a Red adherent from subscribing and paying for and being regulated by the Red system’s rules, while at the same time a Blue subscribes to his system and lives with it. There can be Red Medicare (or whatever) and Blue Medicare, just as there are different insurance companies and hospitals and medical plans. The Blues don’t have to force the Reds into their system in order to get what they want, anymore than they must force those who want to patronize rock concerts into seeing the operas that they prefer. The Corals, by the way, don’t want government involved in health care, and their government won’t require any funds from them for that purpose.
Why should anyone be fighting with his neighbor over his neighbor’s choice of health care system when this alternative is feasible? At present, no one has a choice of national government. The government claims the right to regulate health care. Therefore, everyone fights and tries to get his own way. Everyone tries to make everyone else pay for what he gets. Presented with a choice of government, the fighting can cease. Each person can get what he wants.
Those who, given a choice, still insist on making everyone kowtow to his system under one government are, in my opinion, advocating an evil thing. They do not think it’s evil, however. They think it’s good to make everyone do the same thing because the government tells them to. Their reasoning usually comes down to some notion that "society" would fall apart unless everyone is made to obey. They have some notion of a collective or a unitary society or a single nation or one people, and they place this notion above that of any individual person. To my way of thinking, these ideas are all wrong.
It’s not a good thing for the government to tell everyone what to do. They abuse the power. They don’t know what’s right for everyone. They prevent people from bettering themselves. Society won’t fall apart. In fact, the notion of one society is flawed. This notion of one "society" is deeply ingrained among persons of most all political persuasions. Even the Corals frequently use it without even realizing it. I could pile up an enormous list of quotations that use this notion of society. I’ve no doubt used it myself. It’s a dangerous idea because all people supposedly in one society are not united and uniform in their social and political preferences. In that sense, society is a mythical construction. It serves to support the idea of a single government for that single society. That’s what makes it so insidiously dangerous. Finally, the idea that the collective is above the individual person is wrong too. The collective invariably comes right back to an elite few who speak for the group, and that’s nothing more than government again with all its attendant ills.
The fact of the matter is that any national government that purports to speak and act for a unitary society is actually a small group of persons who claim to be deputed to act on behalf of another group of unidentifiable persons. Any claim of government to act on behalf of everyone cannot be verified by any open and freely-made agreements. I know of no government that is annually endorsed and chosen freely by those who want to have it. All governments impose on those persons under their rule. None are instruments that arise from consent. They all lack the legitimacy of open consent by persons who voluntarily make known their choices and agree to stick by them.
I will not belabor the point that government by choice is possible by going through each and every one of the issues that divide people politically and socially. I will merely mention some more of the issues that do not require a monolithic (monopoly) national government: voting rights, economy and job creation, energy independence, open government, civil rights, abortion, retirement security, education, fair elections, science and technology, drugs, and welfare. For example, the Reds might sign on to a government that, among them, enforces no abortions, while the Blues and Corals countenance abortions. The Reds and Blues may enforce various economic rules, taxes, and subsidies among their own but not other supporters in order to achieve their versions of economic health and job creation. The Corals may engage in laissez-faire. The Blues may foster teachers’ unions and required education from age 3 onwards, while the Reds may foster curricula that they favor.
Again, the crucial point here is that there are no reasons why each group cannot choose what it prefers in these areas, and these are the areas that the major political parties list on their web sites and discuss in their platforms.
Defense is somewhat more difficult because what each government does may affect persons choosing a different government. Nothing prevents the Reds (or Blues) from raising armed forces from among themselves and stationing these forces in foreign lands and entering foreign conflicts. If war starts, their enemies might attack everyone, even those who didn’t subscribe to that government. What’s likely to happen, however, is that since the Reds or any war-making government have to pay for their wars by collecting money and soldiers from those who voluntarily subscribe to that government and that policy, they will find their capacity to gather resources and manpower for these wars to be far, far lower than under the present system of monopoly government. When people have a choice about fighting and paying for fighting because they must bear the costs, the deaths, and the injuries, they are likely to make a far different choice than when a government forcibly extracts their treasure and blood from them, while stirring them up with propaganda and concocting international incidents that lead to war.
Warfare will be a case of the "good" driving out the "bad" from the market, at least to a greater extent than we get under the present system.
Now I ask you, do you really want to be a Republican or a Democrat? Will you willingly and voluntarily pay for the kinds of government they now bring? Will you willingly submit your persons and property to their rules and regulations, which you do when you choose a government? Or will you seek out other choices in government?
I predict that given a choice, vast numbers of persons will not choose anything remotely resembling the kind of government we have today. That discrepancy between what we have and what we might have is a measure of the unhappiness that existing government causes.
Paul Emile de Puydt recommended choice in government in 1860. This was on the eve of the world going in exactly the opposite direction. Whatever progress has been made since then has been due to liberty in free markets, not to the monopoly governments that grew and grew and grew in size, strength, and power, until they brought two world wars upon mankind along with genocides, nuclear weapons, unending warfare, and vast economic instabilities. The time has come to reverse directions, to stop thinking in terms of single societies ruled by single governments that lack legitimate consent. The time has come to start thinking in terms of choice in government.