By Carl Watner
(Written March 15, 2020)
Many people the world over, including politicians, scientists, and economists, have panicked because they are unsure of the future and because their day-to-day lives have changed. Government health regulators have imposed quarantines; financial values in the stock market have disappeared; oil prices have dropped; and government economists have proposed and often implemented monetary policies which will create trillions of monetary credits out of thin air. What as voluntaryists are we to make of this medical pandemonium, political idiocy, and economic lunacy?
On the medical front, we can only grieve for any loss of life caused by the coronavirus. It is hard for the lay person to determine how much danger there is from the panic created by the social media and the news, or from the pandemic itself. Regardless though, we live in a world of statism where people are forced or threatened with force to obey the government experts and authorities. They are threatened with punishment for choosing their own experts. The government’s program encompasses all people, and those who resist are made to suffer instead of getting the respect they deserve for acting according to their own best judgment.
Governments have territorial jurisdiction over the land masses which they have conquered by war; whereas individuals or associations of freely cooperating groups of individuals should be recognized as property owners of that which has been rightfully homesteaded in the past. In such a world, road owners, insurance and surety companies, homeowners associations, charitable organizations, and defense agencies would set the rules for “who could go where” in the event of a medical epidemic. People would not be forced to act against their consciences, but they might well be ostracized and isolated on their own properties because others do not want to interact with them until the emergency passes.
If the dictates of health officials are useful they are useful because they work, not because they emanate from some government officer. If the government directs us to do something that our reason and conscience opposes, then we should defy the government. If it tells us to do what our reason directs us to do anyway why do we even need a government? Coercion does not convince. It is an admission that one’s argument is weak, There is no reason to rely on violence if one’s argument is logical and persuasive.
In the political and economic fields, government officials act like they own their nations. In every country all over the world they exercise direct control over the efforts of billions of people. If there is a problem, they will try to fix it; often making it worse rather than better. Instead of letting responsibility fall on the individual, which it would naturally do, and letting the market test various possible solutions, they impose the government’s way on everybody. They do not allow competition to flower. They live in a statist world. Every one of them collects their salary from coerced collections of money from taxpayers. Most are psychopathic by nature, and attracted to the good feelings they get from ordering other people around.
Government economists are the worst because they exercise direct control over the life-blood of the economy. Nearly everyone the whole world over trades using government monies which are totally disconnected from reality. A few strokes on a computer creates trillions of these units. Over the centuries legal tender laws have forced people into using government money. Negative or very low interest rates, set by government bureaucrats, are serious evidence of economic lunacy. Even government economists would prefer an apple today over an apple in a year from now (other things being equal). It is a basic fact of life, which government employees and others lose sight of, that production must proceed consumption. If you consume your seed corn today, you will have no corn at the next harvest. And even though purchases are made with money, it is still ultimately real goods and services which pay for the things we trade for. Money, even government money, is worth only what it can be exchanged for, and if it will not buy anything, it is not worth anything.
If the government can send each American adult a check for $1000 why not $10,000 or make every American an instant millionaire? It is barely any harder to issue a check for $1,000,000 than for $1,000 (just print a few extra zeros), but we would soon learn that a million dollars will trade for very little. Nothing has been added to production – the existing supply of goods and services has not been increased by printing more money or issuing more credit. More units of money chasing the same amount of goods simply means that each unit of money will eventually buy less and less.
The stock market is a similar case of disconnect. Low interest rates have made it look financially wise to make certain investments or borrow money to buy stocks. However, when an outside catalyst such as the coronavirus hits, and herd mentality takes over, some buyers and sellers get scared. They agree on a lower price to trade their shares of stock, and if no other buyers step in, the new lower price means a change in value to all similar shares owned by other people. Those owners do nothing, yet the value of their shares is diminished. They might have thought they had a million dollars, but all they had were stock certificates (or IOU’s in the case of mortgages), which are only worth what other people will give for them. When the stock market drops precipitously, like it has recently done, those financial values, which they thought they had, disappear. It only takes a very small pin to prick a bubble, regardless of how big or long-lasting the bubble has been.
The solution: voluntaryism. Let people decide what is best for themselves and their property. Rely on spontaneous interactions and competition to solve problems. Will the perfect answers be discovered? Probably not, but they could hardly be less credible than government solutions. They would, however, be moral in the sense that they were not coerced and that not one person would be forced to contribute his labor or property to others. As in most things in this world, the practical solution follows the moral policy. For how else could one say that one solution was better than another if one of them relies on violence? Or following Gandhi we might say that if people are free to choose the means, the ends will take care of themselves.