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What is the "Right" Government?

By       Message Alexis Campestre     Permalink
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Ever been in a car full of people and no one wants to decide where to eat, or at the very least, prefer to defer decision-making by opting not to voice an opinion? Case after case can be made to say that people desire to be led, which implies a rejection of decision-making, aside, of course, from deciding to be led or governed. Taking this into consideration, I conclude that there is no "right" or "wrong" government, as long as the relationship that exists between an individual and a government is bilateral. There are only various styles of government -- some that allow for greater degrees of individual decision-making, and others which restrict individuals from decision-making. Finally, it should be entirely up to an individual which type of governance is "right" for him or her.

For the longest time, I have convinced myself and attempted to convince the others that the right form of government is the government that does the least -- a government that interferes minimally in the lives of individuals, and at most, is a referee. Being a staunch libertarian, I have always argued fervently in favor of small, localized government and greater levels of social and economic freedoms. In this essay, I argue that the "right" government is entirely dependent on the preferences of those being governed, and that one should have the ability to align oneself with whatever flag most nearly represents the degree of governance desired. That is, there should be a market for citizenship and that the governments, or would-be governments, must compete against each other to offer a government that caters to the demands of the people.

Before continuing, it is necessary to define the word, "government." Government, as it is referred to in this essay, is decision-making by one or some, for all pertinent parties. Therefore, to be governed, according to this essay, is voluntarily allowing another entity to dictate what will be done and what will be forgone. In the case of a car full of people deciding where to eat dinner, those individuals who opt not to share their opinion on where to eat allow their actions to be governed by external forces -- to be led. Thus, it is safe to assume that some individuals prefer greater levels of government intervention in social and economic decision-making and some less.

Many libertarians, such as Robert P. Murphy in his article, "Law Without the State," argue for a complete disintegration of the state as we know it today in exchange for purely free-market solutions to the many problems that plague human action. He writes that in absence of the state, "voluntary institutions will emerge to effectively and peacefully resolve the disputes arising in everyday life. Not only will market law be more efficient, it will also be more equitable than the government alternative." Normally, I would be in full agreement with Robert Murphy. But if you continue following that train of thought, you must ask yourself: What if I desire to be governed? What if I prefer that someone else do my decision making for me?

No more do I insist that the "right" form of government is that which is limited to the role of referee -- or to take it a step further, an absence of government altogether. For why should anyone accept less government if they truly desire more? Am I to prevent those individuals wishing to be governed from satisfying that desire? If someone enjoys clogging his or her arteries with McDonald's and someone else prefers to be stupefied by the idiocy purported by the mainstream media, who am I to dictate? Just because maintaining a healthy diet and actively sifting through the noise to determine truths is the lifestyle I choose is no reason to think another individual will derive pleasure from the same activities. There is no one-size-fits-all government. Any attempt to force an individual to accept less government is contrary to libertarian philosophy.

Alternatively, I suggest that different styles of government be forced to compete for loyal citizenry. Citizenship should not be determined by your birthplace or your parents' citizenship, but rather by the decision to rally under a particular flag based upon a preference for more or less government. Governments, then, should need to compete to offer the right types of services to the right individuals at the right price. Some could argue that this is already being done, but I humbly disagree. If that were so, an individual would have the ability to move freely from one region of the world to another in hopes of finding their "right" government. That is clearly not the case.

Just take a look at the authoritarian regime of Singapore -- one of the most high-tech and wealthiest, per capita, city-states in the world. It also has one of the lowest progressive tax systems in the world, with individuals in the highest tax bracket paying 20% of their income, as opposed to the Nordic countries where, for example, in Denmark the highest tax bracket can expect to pay up to 72% of their income to the government. Despite this great deferment of decision-making by the individual, Denmark is regularly ranked as one of the best places in the world to live, based on average life span, access to healthcare and education, employment opportunities, etc. Here we have two very different preferences for the role of government. Singaporeans clearly prefer to handle the majority of their decision-making, whereas the Danes desire to defer decision-making responsibilities to elected government officials.

It would be a severe over-generalization to suggest that there is no one in Singapore who wants more government. Likewise, it would be foolish to assume that everyone in Denmark prefers a large government presence. Unfortunately, individuals who do not conform to the statist/status quo of their respective country have no choice but to cope with the circumstances. For the most part, moving to a different country which practices a style of government that is more agreeable to the dissenting individual is impractical, and in many cases, impossible.

I recently came across a novel approach to the predicament of the dissenter. The Seasteading Institute mission is to: "Further the establishment and growth of permanent, autonomous ocean communities enabling innovation with new political and social systems." Patri Friedman, former director of the Seasteading Institute, claims that there is too much stock put into debate and academic discussion in regards to what is the "right" style of government, and that it is best to lead by example. He envisions the ability of semi-mobile ocean platforms to physically join together or to separate, based on the congruency of the desire by the members of the communities for a particular style of government. Such ocean communities would allow for dissenters to select the style of government that most suits their needs. These ocean communities will be forced to cater to the demands of their communities, or else the community will simply move to a more desirable platform.

A sketch of a seastead platform
(Image by seasteading institute)
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Ultimately, what is "right" is subjective and should be determined by those affected. Therefore, the "right" form of government is the government that is demanded by those being governed. Those individuals who prefer a deferment of decision-making responsibilities and desire more government presence in their lives should have access to government options that meet those demands. If Robert P. Murphy and other libertarians wish to argue for a free-market, stateless system, they must not discount the market for government and instead accept that there are many paths to prosperity, and that it should be up to the free-market to determine which style is best. The Seasteading Institute is leading the way in this brand new market for citizenry.

Click on the link if you are interested in learning more about the Seasteading Institute .


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A recent graduate of Texas Tech University with a degree in International Economics and French, I have resisted the urge to put on a suit and tie and climb the concrete jungle and instead have pursued a variety of other interests. One of my (more...)

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