November 12, 2008
Every form of government that exists today can be described very simply as a “territorial monopoly of coercion”. Let’s break that down. Each government lays claim to a particular clearly-defined territory (though this claim is sometimes in dispute with other governments). Territories may exist within a hierarchy, such as municipalities, within counties, within states or provinces, within nations. Each government within the hierarchy negotiates in some way the matters that they have ownership of, exclusive in whole or in part, from the other levels of government. Generally speaking, these matters are dealt with in an exclusive way, leading to a monopoly of control. The monopoly of control is appropriate if the government has an ownership of the matter. But that begs the questions: does it have ownership, and, if so, how did that right of ownership come about?
Let’s look at a municipality as an example. It claims the right of ownership over all land and natural resources not privately-owned. It also claims the right to oversee much about the privately held properties, as with building codes and zoning. It claims to have ownership rights over public services such as police, courts, fire, rescue, education (all compulsory levels), waste removal, streets, vital records, etc. It claims rights over licensing of various kinds, such as marriage, pet, and many others that relate to various businesses and forms of recreation. In reality, there appear to be no limits to what a government can lay claim. Insofar as you reside within the territory, you are subject to any and all rules and regulations that issue from the monopoly municipal government, and this of course holds true for county, state, and federal governments. In short, you may think you are your own person, but you are in fact owned by all the governments of the territories in which you reside. If you have any true freedoms, these are graciously bestowed on you by the governments who own you. If you feel I have gone too far in this description, that you truly own yourself, then willfully disobey any government who claims to own you and see how long your self-ownership lasts.
But surely, this is all for our good, right? Without government we would have chaos. You can’t just let everyone do what they want.
I am certainly not encouraging chaos. Neither am I saying that monopoly government is necessary. So what is the alternative. Well, non-monopoly government, of course. And that comes about by making government a business, where you choose your government rather than have government choose you.
How could this be done? Presently, municipalities collect various taxes and fees. Most collect some sort of property tax, a graduated tax based roughly on the value of the real estate you own within the territory. These funds get lumped together into a common fund that the mayor and municipal council distributes to various departments.
But consider this alternative of a non-monopolistic municipal government. Taxes are still collected, but allocated to political parties in the municipality according to the choice of the taxpayer made once a year. Here is the key to non-monopoly government: the taxpayer votes with cash. The departments of government become non-profit organizations, funded by the parties. The mayor becomes a figurehead, who represents the municipality at parades and the opening of shopping centers. The council, no longer needed, disappears entirely.
How is this better? There is no better way to get responsive government than to pay for it directly. This finally makes government Darwinian: if they fail, they die. If the particular party that has been receiving your taxes fails to satisfy you, they will know that they cannot count on having your tax dollars in their fund next year. And if there is disagreement within a party, a split occurs, and the money follows the party based on the choice of the taxpayer.
Some of the departments will remain much as they are, but others, with less need to exist (Darwin again) will cease to exist. And some, most certainly the schools, will be auctioned off to the various parties to be managed by them individually rather than as a single unit. They will find ways to cooperate to keep costs down (joint purchasing, for example), but will be independent for the most part, working for the interests of students and their parents — or else.
Non-monopolistic government is long overdue. But once it arrives, it will change everything. Can we actually create a non-monopolistic form of government? Yes we can! You betcha!