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.
- On the title, libertarians oppose both Republican and Democratic ideologies, whom they group as "statists." On the term, see Mises (here called étatism).
- I have focused on a positive libertarian vision, rather than criticizing the original, which I could easily have done.
- 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