Debate Forum: Right 3/8/11

Stop the looting

By Mark Luedtke

Mark Luedtke

Wouldn’t it be great to run a business that never had to turn a profit because government stole money from taxpayers and dumped it on you? You could produce anything you wanted without ever worrying about pleasing customers, while getting rich off taxpayer money. The only people you would have to please would be the ruling class. If you didn’t please them, they’d funnel those stolen tax dollars to another one of their cronies instead of you. But as long as your product pleased the ruling class, the government would keep funding you and freeloaders would declare how valuable your product was. What a joke.

As any small business owner will tell you, succeeding at business is hard. Entrepreneurial resource, Gaebler.com, reports, “According to a study by the U.S. Small Business Association, only 2/3 of all small business start-ups survive the first two years and less than half make it to four years. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder so many would-be entrepreneurs think twice before taking the plunge.” No wonder people prefer funding from taxes to competing for a profit.

Entrepreneurs perform economic calculations to manage their businesses. They calculate the cost of their inputs based on market prices, and they calculate their expected revenues based on market prices. Market prices guide them to efficiently allocate resources to meet the demands of their customers. Those that do it well, profit. Those who do it better, profit more. Those that do it poorly go bankrupt. Their capital and labor are freed up, purchased by more successful entrepreneurs and put to better use meeting people’s demands. This is how economies grow and the human condition improves.

In his essay “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth”, Ludwig von Mises showed that governments cannot perform economic calculation because they obtain their funding through confiscation of wealth, not voluntary exchange. Government agents have no price information to guide the efficient allocation of resources. So even services provided by a hypothetical government run by super-benevolent people would be lower quality and more expensive than comparable services provided by the private sector. This is true for all services including defense, intelligence gathering and justice to charity and providing a clean environment. And broadcasting.

But governments aren’t run by super-benevolent individuals. They’re run by people who want bigger houses in better neighborhoods, better schools for their children, minivans and sports cars, an early, cushy retirement, etc. just like everybody else, but unlike in the private sector, they obtain those things by confiscating the property of others. And because every action government takes is an act of violence against the people, either forcing them to do something against their will or forbidding them from doing something they want to do, government also attracts the worst liars and thugs to work for it. The most effective liars and thugs rise to the top, creating the most corrupt institution ever invented and leaving those with good intentions powerless at the bottom.

Governments don’t exist to provide services for people. Mises showed that’s impossible for governments to do as effectively as free markets. Governments exist as a tool for the ruling class and special interests to loot tax payers without violent resistance. This is an immutable law of nature like gravity. All government programs are designed primarily to loot the people and secondarily to provide an illusion of legitimacy for the looters via a pseudo-service. That’s why every time some government agency fails, the ruling class uses the failure as an excuse to loot us more, and the government agents who failed get more of our money and power. This is how economies collapse and the human condition devolves. Like all government programs, government funds NPR and PBS to loot the people and promote the illusion of legitimacy of the looters. That funding should be abolished.

Proponents of this funding say it is valuable but without prices or profits, it’s impossible to measure value. Besides, this claim of value is immaterial because any way you look at it, government should not fund these programs. Government shouldn’t fund any programs valuable enough to survive the marketplace, nor should it fund any programs not valuable enough to survive the marketplace. But NPR defenders know liberal radio has never survived the marketplace so they fear NPR’s liberal programming would die without government funding. They also fear the changes the marketplace would force on PBS. But liberals don’t want to pay for the programming themselves. They prefer government steal the money from others.

The Founding Fathers didn’t know about radio and no amendment gave government the power to broadcast, so funding NPR and PBS is unconstitutional. Of course Republicans don’t care about the Constitution or looting any more than Democrats. They only dislike these programs because they promote the left wing of the ruling class, not the right wing of the ruling class. Democrats support them for the same reason. But regardless of political motivations, stopping the looting is the right thing to do. But I’m not holding my breath. Republicans didn’t abolish them during the Bush years. It’s more likely Republicans will try to modify them to share in the looting.


Mark Luedtke is an electrical engineer with a degree from the University of Cincinnati and currently works for a Dayton attorney. He can be reached at contactus@daytoncitypaper.com

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