by Benjamin Marks, Economics.org.au editor-n-chief
There is no such thing as government transparency. WikiLeaks recent heroic and justifiable releases has not struck at the root of the problem. In fact, most of the time making things available to the public, far from resulting in a more open and straightforward government, actually results in demagoguery. The fundamental problem for those who value liberty and property is not how to make public government actions, but how to communicate that government itself is the problem, that there is absolutely no evidence that anyone ever consented to it, and that there is absolutely no way of showing that taxation ever results in a superior outcome than if taxpayers were allowed to spend their money as they wish. No secret documents are necessary to find this out; only basic legal and economic investigation.
Secrets and lack of accountability — not real demonstrated consent, but tacit consent that cannot be shown to demonstrably differ from forced submission or acquiescence — is what government relies on to declare itself legitimate. Government is unable to show any evidence of demonstrated consent. There are no written, signed and witnessed contracts.
Government is unable to show any evidence that anyone prefers it over the market. The disadvantage that each taxpayer necessarily experiences in being forced to put their money to somewhere other than where they most want to put it (through taxation), cannot possibly be shown to be outweighed by any advantage that government expenditure may bring him later, because utility cannot be calculated or compared, and it is impossible to calculate what advantage he would have got by keeping his tax-money and putting it to a use he chose.
Furthermore, any attempt by government to cater to those who want or might want its services is necessarily at a disadvantage compared to the market, because with government, as Murray Rothbard said, “provision of the service is completely separated from its collection of payment.”1 It is not consumers-choose and user-pays; it is, every few years vote indirectly on infinite issues at exactly the same time, as represented by some celebrity who knows how to talk, and if you’re part of the largest voting bloc, the person you voted for gets in, and almost certainly does nothing you want.
Government services must rely on hearsay, rumour and guesswork in order to know if it is satisfying recipients. The game of Chinese Whispers shows how easy it is for errors to be introduced and the perpetrator of error, whether intentional or not, to get away with it. This, by the way, is Ludwig von Mises’s argument proving the impossibility of economic calculation in the socialist commonwealth. There is no way to gauge supply and demand, and if consent is claimed, there is no way it can be proven.2
The secret ballot is an obvious example of government not being able to identify which individuals want what. As Lysander Spooner observed:
As all the different votes are given secretly (by secret ballot), there is no legal means of knowing, from the votes themselves, who votes for, and who votes against … Therefore voting affords no legal evidence that any particular individual supports [anything]. And where there can be no legal evidence that any particular individual supports the [thing], it cannot legally be said that anybody supports it. It is clearly impossible to have any legal proof of the intentions of large numbers of men, where there can be no legal proof of the intentions of any particular one of them.3
What legal theory allows for a secret ballot to a binding agreement where participants are all anonymous and therefore unknown? How can you identify, for the purposes of accusation, conviction and punishment, the parties of the contract in case of fraud, misrepresentation and what not, when disagreeing anonymous people are only considered in aggregate?
Supporters of secret ballots claim that it stops voters from being pressured into supporting certain candidates. According to this logic, those who govern should also be unknown, for they might be pressured too. In any case, hiding those who support government and eliminating any pretence of accountability hardly seems a solution for the better.
In conclusion, we already have all the facts needed to show that government is criminal and destructive. WikiLeaks is doing great work and getting wonderful attention, but if it is to go further and make a productive difference, the basic legal and economic insights we have just discussed are what our primary focus should be. Otherwise, we’ll just replace one gang of criminals with another, and increase the involvement of even more kinds of uneducated people in the policy-making process.
Economics.org.au had the world exclusive scoop on scandal in politics long ago. We are still waiting for its ramifications to filter through and the media to catch wind of it. Our website hosts have been warned.
- Murray N. Rothbard, “Toward a Reconstruction of Utility and Welfare Economics,” in his The Logic of Action One (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 1997), p. 249. ↩
- Ludwig von Mises, Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth, trans. S. Adler (Auburn, Ala.: Mises Institute, 1990), p. 28. ↩
- Lysander Spooner, The Lysander Spooner Reader (San Francisco: Fox & Wilkes, 1992), p. 82. ↩
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