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Various Justifications for Government

March 24, 2004

Here is an email I received from Scott Flaherty. It includes a range of interesting objections to the idea of getting rid of the state monopoly on law. Maybe Rothbardian-Misesians of the world would like to have a crack at them. "During our advocacy for the privatization of law, we have come across several objections which I would like to share with you. I think you'll find they're not the typical 'What if someone builds a wall across the country?'"

The Runway Objection

After talking to one neoconservative resident for some time, we had finally convinced him that private roads would be feasible. Although he admitted this, he expressed doubts that the roads would ever meet. He felt the need for central planning in intersections. Of course, we know there would be a huge demand for intersections, this resident insisted that the privatization of roads would lead to a series of long but non-crossing strips of pavement. Hence, runways everywhere.

The Dinner Bundle Objection

One Long Island liberal brought up the hypothetical where one corporation controlled all of the world's food supply. He asserted that all foods would be sold for very high prices. When we explained that if people had to pay a fortune for all types of food, everyone would be living on caviar and champagne. He then modified the scenario so that small varieties of food would be sold only in expensive, indivisible, meal-for-one “dinner bundles.”

The Psychic Objection

The same resident also claimed the most important reason for government was that people needed the psychological stability of a national leader in times of crises, even if that leader didn't really do anything. This was the first time I have ever heard government legitimacy justified in terms of flood- and hurricane-relief.

The Blaze-of-Glory Objection

A moderate Republican from the Midwest, had another novel justification for government. A businessman, at the end of a long and successful career, might take a giant loan out from a bank, and then retreat to a prebuilt well-defended fortress where he would never live out his life with impunity. His retirement would be a fiscal “Blaze-of-Glory.”

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