"Wherefore We must interrupt a silence which it would be criminal to prolong, that We may point out...as they really are, men who are badly disguised." Pope St. Pius X, September 8, 1907, Pascendi Dominici Gregis

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Re: May a Libertarian Take Money From the Government?

This is a reply to Professor Walter Block's article "May a Libertarian Take Money From the Government?"

Dear Professor Block:

While I agree with the arguments you put forth in your recent
LewRockwell.com article “May a Libertarian Take Money From the
Government?” it seems that such arguments might apply most aptly only
in the cases of the most committed and consistent of libertarians.
Indeed, if all of my actions are directed towards undermining the
state, taking resources the state would otherwise use moves us in the
direction that a libertarian would want to move society. However, is
there not a legitimate concern that such a readiness (as you express
here, “it is a virtue to take money away from this illicit
organization, and way more than a penny too.”) in perhaps the most
recent of libertarian converts, or one of the less logically
consistent or intellectually mature (a young, Randian Greenspan comes
to mind) might prove too great a temptation to overcome in the long

Could it be possible in some instances that a readiness to accept a
government handout could incentivize laziness and an acclamation to
system of plunder one, in this particular case, would be better off to
avoid in the first place. There is a limit to the ability to avoid
benefiting from state expenditure and still live a modern life, as you
say, not be a martyr. However, I am thinking more along the lines of
social security, for example. As a twenty-something I am planning my
finances to save for retirement with the assumption that social
security will not be available when I retire. If by some highly
improbable chain of events it remains functioning, leaving aside the
question of the level of my own ideological commitment, is it really
wise to advise the new generation of young libertarians to readily
avail themselves of such government handouts that most libertarians
will point out as at the margin a means by which government buys votes
and consent? Taking into consideration the overall effect on culture,
wouldn’t it be a better use of time to attempt to build functioning,
voluntary institutions outside the state to fund things like academic
research or retirement, such efforts serving themselves as real-world
examples of libertarian viability, instead of inculcating a readiness
to take what the government offers?

Most humans are mere creatures of habit and have not proven themselves
capable of long-term prudence in terms of accepting government
provided retirement income while maintaining libertarian consistency.
I suppose you can argue that, indeed, the libertarian Nuremberg courts
could sort this all out, but are you not afraid your recommendation
could in a marginal situation incentivize a less-rigid libertarian to
take a course of action that will ultimately undermine his dedication
to liberty?

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