The ideal free society is one in which people are living in a limited-government republic, one whose powers are limited to the three legitimate functions of government and one that is funded voluntarily — that is, funded without the coercive apparatus of taxation.
That concept sometimes befuddles people. They think that government and taxation are one and the same thing. That’s because all of us have been born and raised under a governmental system, at the federal, state, and local levels, that relies on taxation to fund its operations. Thus, because it is such an ingrained part of our lives, it becomes difficult for some people to conceive of a different concept.
In a genuinely free society, the government is limited to three roles:
1. to arrest, prosecute, and punish people who violate the rights of others, such as murderers, rapists, robbers, defrauders, and the like;
2. to provide a judicial system by which people can peacefully resolve their disputes; and
3. to defend the nation in the event of an invasion.
Of course, these functions require money. But not a lot of money. We often lose sight of that.
Let’s assume, for example, that at the federal level we dismantle and repeal all welfare-state programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, along with all welfare-state departments and agencies.
Let’s also assume that we abolish all federal economic regulations, along with all the departments and agencies relating to economic control, management, and regulation, including the drug war and America’s system of immigration controls.
Let’s also assume that we dismantle the entire national-security state (i.e., the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI), abandon all foreign military bases, and dismantle the empire of domestic military bases. Let’s assume that we restore a relatively small, basic military that comes with a limited-government republic, the type of governmental system under which Americans lived for more than 100 years.
Let’s assume we end all foreign wars, invasions, occupations, coups, wars of aggression, assassinations, sanctions, embargoes, and foreign aid.
Let’s assume that we dismantle the Federal Reserve System and establish a totally free-market monetary system.
Let’s also assume that criminal justice — i.e., murder, kidnapping, rape, burglary, etc. — falls within the purview of state and local governments.
That leaves the federal government with very few, inexpensive functions.
Why couldn’t the minuscule amount of money needed to pay for those functions be raised voluntarily? Many people believe in the importance of government, just as many Americans believe in the importance of churches. Why wouldn’t they be just as willing to fund the minimal functions of government as they are willing to fund churches?
Critics might respond: “But if the money isn’t being raised by taxation, then it really isn’t government.”
Nonsense! The government would still have the powers of government. It would still have the final say as to the use of force in society. The only difference would be how it is funded.
Consider a hypothetical. Suppose a city has an annual budget of $10 million, which it raises through taxation. One day, a resident of the city dies and leaves $100 million to the city, but only on the condition that taxation by suspended for 10 years. The city accepts the deal and receives $10 million a year from the executor of the will. No more taxation for 10 years.
Has anything changed with respect to the powers of the government? No! The powers remain the same. The only thing that has changed is the manner in which the functions of government are funded.
Is there a real-life example of voluntarily funded government? Actually there is.
According to vaticancitytours.it, the Vatican is a city-state and the smallest country in the world. It has a population of less than a 1000 people.
It has criminal laws and a judicial system in which the government prosecutes people for crimes. In fact, a Vatican court just convicted an Italian Cardinal of embezzlement and fraud and sentenced him to 5 1/2 years in prison.
Consider the following excerpt from that same website: “One key government function missing from the Vatican is taxation. The city has no taxes, no restrictions on imports or exports and there are no customs fees. Employees do not pay income tax and there is no duty tax on imports. Without taxes, how does the Vatican financially survive? You! The sales of stamps, coins, souvenirs and entry tickets fund the Vatican. With 5 million people a year visiting the Vatican, and the most basic entry tickets costing 16 euro each, that’s a cool 80 million a year they’re making. Minimum. We think they’re probably doing alright without public taxes.”
Sure, compared to the United States, the Vatican is small geographically (2 miles wide) and it has a tiny population, but the point is that when a government limits itself to very few functions, funding it voluntarily becomes a fairly easy task. While the United States is a vastly larger country geographically, its vastly larger population of 340 million could easily fund the few legitimate functions that the government would be exercising in a genuinely free society.
What about the so-called free-rider problem? How many donors to churches worry about the free riders who attend church and fail to make any donations to the church? Not very many. Wealthier people who are funding the government would have the same mindset toward those who declined to voluntarily fund the government.
What would happen if everyone failed to voluntarily support the government? The same thing that would happen if everyone failed to support churches. The government would cease to exist and the society would devolve into anarchy. But that would simply reflect the will of the people. But how likely is that, given the fact that the vast majority of Americans believe that government is important?
Finally, see my 2016 series “Why I Favor Limited Government.”