As we revamp the site again, we do need help coming up with solid questions for the FAQs page. FAQs are a great way of introducing people to our ideas. Specifically, we want to come up with questions that the typical person from the Reformed world would wonder about if they were to start looking into libertarianism. You can email/message me directly or fill out this form on the FAQ page.
In an address in 1926, J. Gresham Machen sought to answer the question “Shall we have a Federal Department of Education?” Answering in the negative, Machen addressed several themes of the day that were commonly used in defense of government intervention in the economy and society. Among them is one that can still be found in the media and academic worlds: efficiency. “We can do such and such government program efficiently!” cries the statist. But the proper response to this is to say: “so what?” Bad things done efficiently are not suddenly be made good.
The following are quotes taken from the address, which was found as chapter six of this book.
Some men seem to think that [efficiency] is admirable for its own sake. But surely efficiency involves doing something, and our attitude toward the efficiency all depends on whether the thing that is being done is good or bad.
A man does not admire efficiency very much when the efficiency is working to his disadvantage.
Men want us to be overcome by admiration for a system that is working us harm. For my part, I flatly refuse. The better it works the worse it suits me.
I am in favor of efficiency if it is directed to a good end, but I am not in favor of efficiency if it is directed to something that is bad.
As a matter of fact, federal Departments are not efficient, but probably the most inefficient things on the face of this planet. But if they were the most efficient agencies that history has ever seen, I should, in this field of education, be dead opposed to them. Efficiency in a good cause is good, but I am opposed to federal efficiency in this sphere because the result of it is a thing that I regard as bad –namely, slavery. And I am not inclined to write freedom in quotation marks as though it were a sort of joke. I believe, on the contrary, that it is something that is very real. An ounce of freedom is worth a pound of efficiency.
HL Mencken from his article More of the Same, original published in the American Mercury in 1925:
When a private citizen is robbed a worthy man is deprived of the fruits of his industry and thrift; when the government is robbed the worst that happens is that certain rogues and loafers have less money to play with than they had before. The notion that they have earned that money is never entertained; to most sensible men it would seem ludicrous. They are simply rascals who, by accidents of law, have a somewhat dubious right to a share in the earnings of their fellow men. When that share is diminished by private enterprise the business is, on the whole, far more laudable than not.
The intelligent man, when he pays taxes, certainly does not believe that he is making a prudent and productive investment of his money; on the contrary, he feels that he is being mulcted in an excessive amount for services that, in the main, are useless to him, and that, in substantial part, are downright inimical to him. He may be convinced that a police force, say, is necessary for the protection of his life and property, and that an army and navy safeguard him from being reduced to slavery by some vague foreign kaiser, but even so he views these things as extravagantly expensive – he sees in even the most essential of them an agency for making it easier for the exploiters constituting the government to rob him. In those exploiters themselves he has no confidence whatever. He sees them as purely predatory and useless; he believes that he gets no more net benefit from their vast and costly operations than he gets from the money he lends to his wife’s brother. They constitute a power that stands over him constantly, ever alert for new chances to squeeze him. If they could do so safely they would strip him to his hide. If they leave him anything at all, it is simply prudetially, as a farmer leaves a hen some of her eggs.
From Natural Elites, Intellectuals, and the State:
This seemingly unstoppable drift toward statism is illustrated by the fate of the so-called Chicago School: Milton Friedman, his predecessors, and his followers. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Chicago School was still considered left-fringe, and justly so, considering that Friedman, for instance, advocated a central bank and paper money instead of a gold standard. He wholeheartedly endorsed the principle of the welfare state with his proposal of a guaranteed minimum income (negative income tax) on which he could not set a limit. He advocated a progressive income tax to achieve his explicitly egalitarian goals (and he personally helped implement the withholding tax). Friedman endorsed the idea that the State could impose taxes to fund the production of all goods that had a positive neighborhood effect or which he thought would have such an effect. This implies, of course, that there is almost nothing that the state can not tax-fund!
In addition, Friedman and his followers were proponents of the shallowest of all shallow philosophies: ethical and epistemological relativism. There is no such thing as ultimate moral truths and all of our factual, empirical knowledge is at best only hypothetically true. Yet they never doubted that there must be a state, and that the state must be democratic.
Today, half a century later, the Chicago-Friedman school, without having essentially changed any of its positions, is regarded as right-wing and free-market. Indeed, the school defines the borderline of respectable opinion on the political Right, which only extremists cross. Such is the magnitude of the change in public opinion that public employees have brought about.