In recent years, much has been made about the economic success of Texas and the decline of California. Many have pointed to California’s tax and regulatory burdens and the more business friendly policies of Texas as a primary reason. These certainly are a fundamental reason, and one statistic captures the essence of the difference between the nation’s two most populous states.
In California, there are 252 non-education government employees per 10,000 citizens. In Texas, that number is 22 percent lower: 196 per 10,000 citizens. The obvious impact of this is that Texans must pay far less of their income to support government workers. In California, it is $11,302 per person; in Texas, it is $7,756 per person (the national average is about $9,450). Less obvious is what these government workers are doing.
Certainly, many government workers are working in legitimate government functions: police, courts, and prisons. But what are the others doing? They are creating regulations, checking paperwork, inspecting businesses, and generally putting obstacles in the path of citizens living their lives and operating their businesses. California has substantially more people erecting these arbitrary barriers than Texas.
In short, California has more people snooping and prying into the lives of its citizens than Texas does. Not only are Texans freed from the financial burden of paying for these glorified babysitters, Texans are freer to go about their business. And since Texans have been leading the nation in job creation for more than a decade, it would appear that their business is business—producing the values that we want and need.
Government has long attempted to control what values individual may legally pursue. But outlawing a value, or making it more difficult to obtain, does not make individuals desire that value any less. In response, they find ways around the law.
For example, during Prohibition, bootleggers supplied the alcohol that Americans wanted. Today, drug smugglers supply the marijuana and cocaine that many Americans want. Prohibition did not stop the consumption of alcohol (nor does drug prohibition stop drug consumption), it only made criminals out of those who were engaged in otherwise peaceful and voluntary activities.
Or consider taxation. Government often uses taxation to encourage certain actions and discourage others. It gives tax breaks for actions it wants—such as investments in “green” energy—and raises taxes on activities it wants to discourage—such as drinking and smoking. But using the tax code to control the actions of individuals is seldom effective.
For example, in 2009, Congress increased the federal excise tax on cigarettes. At the same time, they increased the tax on tobacco used to roll-your-own cigarettes from $1.10 a pound to $24.78 a pound. The tax on pipe tobacco was increased much less dramatically—from $1.10 to $2.83 a pound. Guess what happened? Pipe tobacco sales soared from 3.2 million pounds to 30.5 million pounds a year, as smokers used that tobacco for their roll-your-own cigarettes. And numerous businesses opened to cater to those seeking cheaper smokes. These businesses allow customers to select their tobacco and then use a roll-your-own machine to quickly manufacture their cigarettes.
Not to be outsmarted, Obama is expected to soon sign a bill that will increase the taxes on products made with the roll-your-own machines. Which means, businesses will lose their competitive advantage and shut their doors. Which means, jobs are going to be destroyed. Of course, who is going to miss a few jobs in Skokie, Illinois, when Obama is “creating” thousands of “green” jobs?
Increasingly, government is making it harder and harder for individuals to pursue their values. Whether it is Big Gulps or foie gras, whether it is raw milk or trans fats, whether it is employment or health care, government is erecting more and more barriers to the voluntary exchanges between consenting adults.
These barriers treat our lives and our bodies as property of the State. They prohibit us from living as we choose. They prevent us from pursuing our happiness.
While many Americans complain about these rights-violating laws, the dominant morality in our culture—altruism—demands such laws. Altruism holds that you have a moral duty to self-sacrificially serve others, that you must place the welfare and interests of others before your own. If that means sacrificing your life, liberty, and the pursuit of your happiness, so be it.
These rights-violating laws will not stop until Americans reject altruism and proudly proclaim their moral right to their own personal self-interest—the values that bring them satisfaction, joy, and happiness. Until they can declare that they have a right to live for themselves, Americans will be forced to live for others.
If all financing of government was voluntary, would anyone volunteer? The answer is: of course, if government were limited to its proper functions—the police, the courts, and the military. And you can see ample evidence of it everyday.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 1,007,000 private security guards working in the United States in 2010. This is about 100,000 more than the number of police in 2008. According to the Department of Justice, Americans spend more than $100 billion per year on security alarms, security guards, and other security services, which is twice what is spent by federal, state, and local law enforcement departments combined. Clearly, Americans are voluntarily spending money in order to protect their property and persons. And this money is spent in addition to the taxes paid for the provision of police.
Many of the objections to the idea that government could exist without taxation arise largely because government has grown far beyond its proper purpose. Most taxpayers are rightly incensed when they hear of the many ways government wastes their money. Taxpayers understandably decry $600 toilet seats, programs that pay farmers to not grow crops, and welfare fraud. They correctly conclude that nobody would voluntarily support such wasteful spending.
With government limited to its proper purpose, all services except the police, the courts, and the military are provided by private companies. You are free to spend, invest, and donate your money as you deem best. If you believe that a business or non-profit organization is wasting your money, you are free to withdraw your support. In a capitalist society, if government officials insist on wasting your money, you are also free to withhold your financial support. Try doing that today.