by Johan Rson Sjöberg
4/16/2004

So you say you’re tired of government and all its stupidity? You say you don’t like its arbitrary rules, regulations, prohibitions, tariffs, controls, et cetera? You say you don’t know what to do to get rid of it?

I’ve got some good and some bad news for you. I’ll start with the bad one: you’re not getting rid of government overnight. That won’t happen. I’m really sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

Now, the good news. Government won’t survive in the long run. It will implode, just like the Soviet Union did. It didn’t implode because Reagan told it to go away, but because the system couldn’t survive. The rules were absurd, perverse, impossible to live by. Socialism and central planning distorted the economy in major ways, creating big deficits of necessary goods and services (and surpluses of some other, like shoes). Black markets were common in the entire Eastern Bloc. In Soviet Russia, government-employed taxi drivers were cruising the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg at night, looking for western tourists to drive, for US dollars and Deutchmarks. Government employees at plants in Ukraine stole light bulbs from their workplaces, and replaced them with burned out bulbs from home. That’s why the Eastern Bloc imploded. People started living by their own rules, instead of by government’s rules.

If you’re not already a market anarchist, or at least libertarian of some kind, you may wonder what the implosion of the Soviet Union has to do with modern welfare states such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and those in Western Europe? It all has to do with government inefficiency. Like Murray N. Rothbard stated in Power & Market (and in other books), “socialism cannot calculate,” and like David D. Friedman states in the Machinery of Freedom, it costs any government twice as much as it should to produce something, and, would I like to add, there’s no guarantee anyone wants what they’re producing. Just leave me alone, I’d like to tell them.

But like I said, telling government to leave won’t make them leave. That’s not how government works. There are two ways of gaining wealth: the economic method (production and voluntary exchange) and the political method (coercion). The economic method benefits all involved parties, and leaves no third part worse off (even if one could argue competition will leave less efficient producers worse off, but they are not worse off because of what others are doing, but because what are doing themselves), while the political method only benefits one or a few special interests at a time, and leaves everyone else worse off. It would be logical to assume, that people therefore would try to use the economic method, but there is a hidden trap in the political method. You don’t have to produce, to work, neither with your hands nor your brain. The only thing you need to do is to vote, and the economic method is hampered by government rules: by regulations, taxes, tariffs, bans, licenses. It’s clearly easier to use the political method.

In the long run, this won’t work. There is a difference in degree between the so-called Western civilization and the Eastern Bloc, but there is no difference in kind. What once founded Western civilization, classical liberalism (i. e. libertarianism) have for the last century been replaced with altruism and mysticism. That is not only true for the Middle East, like the mullahs of Iran, it is also true for the Western system of today. What keeps the Western nations alive is what is still left of what once was. While the 19th century was for the most part a century of peace, trade, free banking systems and migration, the 20th century became a century of war, protectionism, Keynesianism and closed borders. The reason we’re not all starving in the Western world is because of the 19th century. The present system isn’t working. It’s killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Enjoy the fruits, but don’t kill the tree, as a group of radical Swedish entrepreneurs said a few years ago. Do I need to add they were not the voice of big business?

Then what? So what if I can’t make government go away tomorrow, and so what if it will implode in twenty years or so from now? What to do right now?

There are lots of things to do right now. It’s futile to try to sell libertarianism to society “as a whole.” That’s a waste of time and effort that could be used for better purposes. Knowing and understanding that the present system will implode, and create an even more desperate situation, gives the enlightened ones better tools to meet tomorrow than it gives the average Joe, who thinks things always stay the same. Things never stay the same! Change is human activity’s middle name.

The enlightened one needs to be selfish. You need to create your own stability, to meet the unstable times that are coming closer. It was recently calculated that the golden eggs are soon history in my home country, Sweden. By 2020, there will be no more money left in the government gold box for health care, welfare and pensions. That was big news in the beginning of this year. Somehow, there was no real debate. No politicians bothered to take these facts for serious discussion. Hard to see why? No, extremely easy: this is not what the voters want to hear. Politicians are not philosophers or scientists, they are salesmen, with the important difference that some people buy, but everyone (except for some special interest group) end up paying. It’s not hard to imagine what will happen. It has happened before, just look at Argentina and Uruguay. They were both wealthy nations a hundred years ago. Uruguay failed first, democracy was repealed, and in the 1970’s, that tiny South American nation turned into a slaughterhouse. Argentina was one of the wealthiest nations in the world in 1900. They were sending foreign aid to Sweden. Argentinean workers were drinking wine with dinner. Today they’re happy if they can find jobs, and if they actually receive pay checks. They’re happy if their savings aren’t destroyed by inflation. Uruguay and Argentina were not Soviet Russia-style socialist countries. They were welfare state-social democracies. It’s been tried, and it failed big time.

If you’ve got assets, find ways to hide it from government! There are still tax havens in the world, like Cayman Islands, Luxembourg and (so far) Estonia. If you haven’t much wealth to hide, you need to create it. It is necessary for the enlightened to create system-independent revenues. There are many ways this could be done. It all comes down to the question of supply and demand. Surely there are hampered markets where you live. Goods and services that need to be produced, but are stopped/hampered because of government intervention. That could be all kinds of things. I am not going to take a moral stand on this. Unlicensed taxi-driving, making moon-shine, smuggling cigarettes, selling marijuana, selling your services as a craftsman on the black market, et cetera. Your imagination is probably the limit of what you could do.

Of course there are risks involved. They need to be considered. Always try to consider “what if I get caught? What is the maximum punishment?”, and then decide what risk you are ready to take. I’m not going to tell you here and now where your limit is. It’s a very good idea to diversify in some way. Do several things, or have several markets. Say you’re making moon-shine, but don’t have the time to find all necessary customers. Do you have reliable friends? They probably know people who would be interested in buying from you, or via them. Also, if you’re producing a good (such as moon-shine or marijuana), try to find alternate places to do so. An urban apartment is probably not the best place for this.

My most important message, stated above, needs to be stated again: don’t play their games. Play your own games. It’s risky, but c’mon: are you a serf or a free individual? Will anyone else give you liberty, or will you take it yourself?