The McDonald’s Standard: A Guide for Determining The Legitimate Role of Government

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Kristopher Morgan, May 23, 2017

We all have things we would like to see humanity do, whether we want to feed the poor, move towards clean energy, protect endangered species, scientific research, or setting floors on wages.  We all like to believe that passing a law is akin to waving some magic wand that simply makes things better. We get ourselves into trouble when we consider the reality of the situation;  there is no wand.  When we realize passing and enforcing new laws means making criminals out of more and more people, we have to choose responsibly.

Coming to a balanced belief system as to what the proper place of government in society takes an immense amount of study into the social sciences, history, political economy, ethics, philosophy, etc.  This can be extremely time-consuming… fortunately there are shortcuts to answering most questions pertaining to the proper role of government.  I call one of them the ‘McDonald’s Standard.’  The method is very simple: Clarify what action the government is taking and ask yourself “how would I feel if McDonald’s were doing this?”  Here are a few examples to demonstrate how it works.

  1. Taxation.  On one hand, we are threatened with fines and jail time if we do not pay taxes.  On the other hand, those taxes pay for services such as roads.  Let’s imagine that McDonald’s decided to use the same business model.  McDonald’s decides to provide every resident within a 1mi radius with a Big Mac.  McDonald’s then decides that they will collect money from all residents, and those who decline simply get locked in a room on McDonald’s property.  Is food not a vital service?
  2. Welfare programs.  On one hand, they are paid for through taxation, on the other hand poor people benefit from them.  So, let’s imagine McDonald’s decides that they’re going to send their employees in a neighborhood, armed with tasers, guns, and clubs, and they collect money from some residents to give to others (while keeping about 80% for themselves!).  What would we think about McDonald’s?
  3. War.  On one hand, evil do-ers really should be taken out of power.  On the other hand, innocent people die in government wars.  So, let’s imagine a McDonald’s employee tracks a criminal into a Burger King bathroom, right after taking from the BK cashier’s drawer.  The McDonald’s employee then proceeds to blow up the entire Burger King restaurant to get this criminal.  Does this person get to claim all the other people inside the Burger King were simply collateral damage?

Now I know someone out there is going to say something along the lines of: “of course we don’t expect McDonald’s to take on the same role as the government ya dope!  McDonald’s doesn’t have a Constitution, and we don’t elect politicians to operate McDonald’s like we do the government.  We don’t expect these things from them because they’re not the government!”

This line of reason is exactly why I am writing this article.  What we are actually talking about is government legitimacy, so let’s examine the reasons people believe government has it.

1. The government represents the people through voting.  Their job is to carry out the will of the people they represent.

  • False.  All governments operate via law and enforcement thereof.  So what that means is the first thing politicians assume is that they do not have your consent.  If they had your consent, there would be no need to use law enforcement measures.  Also, the idea that some bureaucrat you have never met before can accurately take your conscience and values into account when making decisions… come on…

2. The government is an entity on its own charged with the task of running society.

  • False.  The government is a collection of human beings.  Society is not a machine that needs an operator, but rather a collection of people.  If no human being has the moral right to use force against another, then the government can’t possibly have it.  Morality for McDonald’s doesn’t change if they change their name to McGovernment!

3. The government derived its power to use force from the consent of the people.

  • False.  If nobody has the power to use force against others to begin with, nobody could have possibly given that power to the government.  Giving one’s consent to others to use force against themself is a contradiction in terms.

This list could grow exponentially, but I hope the point is clear.  Governments are nothing more than groups of people, same as any other, whether it’s a business, a family, a charity, a community watch group, etc.  It doesn’t have to be McDonald’s necessarily, but before you support anything any government does, ask yourself “what if someone else in society were doing the same thing? How would that make me feel?”  Because let’s face it:  most of us spent our formative years pledging allegiance to the flag and learning politically correct/tainted history.  By projecting government actions onto parties we feel neutral about, we can overcome these biases.

 

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Are Libertarians Against Helping the Poor and Underprivileged?

is4slfgDonnie Davis, Feb 26, 2017

A common argument used against libertarianism or libertarian ideas, this particular topic is one that is based in the false notion that we as a political party do not care for the little guy or those who are living in poor economic conditions. Many a times we scoff at this approach to discredit our political viewpoints and simply state that the freedom to fail is just that and that we are not fiscally responsible for other people’s misfortune. As that is the main reasoning for our ideas, a lot of people will still see this as a heartless approach to dealing with this issue.

So, to throw some intellectual reasoning with no emotions involved:

Fiscally conservative = less government spending = minimal taxes = more money in “poor people’s” pockets.

Socially liberal = personal freedom = everyone is free to do as they will unless they violate someone else’s life, liberty, or property = no jail/criminalization for people living their lives = more freedom for “poor people”.

Free markets = no government hoops = more businesses = more competition = lower costs = more opportunity = more jobs and lower cost for “poor people”.

Libertarianism and free markets are the best systems for the poor and wealthy as everyone keeps more of their money and has less restrictions on how they want to live their lives.

Socialism, or more specifically socialist programs, rob from Peter to pay Paul for services provided to Sally. Theft is theft and should be treated as such. Taxation is legalized theft and is a necessary evil that needs to be minimized and recognized as such.

Any regulation, law, or requirement by any governing body may not be permitted to violate rights of any citizen to benefit others; as this is tyranny and should be met with opposition. The same goes with any unchecked corruption of governing bodies, monopolized marketplaces and corporations, and etc. The second amendment is a guarantee to the people that they may use deadly force to protect themselves, their rights, and anyone who they choose to assist that is being victimized.

Proper venues currently exist for providing care and welfare for those who are impoverished. Charities, homeless shelters (if approved by the community), food drives/banks, clothing donations, and many other forms of donations exist nationwide and are completely voluntary forms of social welfare. We as libertarians urge everyone to care for their fellow citizens but WILL NOT FORCE you to pay for their care by means of legalized extortion also known as taxation.

Large, powerful, and over reaching government is never the resolution. An open heart, compassion, and empathy is what is needed and passing laws to force people to open their pockets to fund federal welfare programs is wrong. Allow the people to choose whether or not they wish to donate or be charitable. Freedom of choice is a necessary requirement in the idea of a free nation.

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UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME

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Melissa Davis, 11/17/16

The discussion on Universal Basic Income (UBI) is becoming more prevalent across the globe. Countries including Canada, the Netherlands, as well as the Dutch city of Utrecht are developing pilot programs to test its effectiveness. FinlandIndia, and France are considering UBI as an option to streamline government welfare programs. Though there are still many unknown variables, an incremental approach may prove to be a viable solution to resolving the disastrous mess that is our welfare system here in the United States.

According to an article posted by FiveThirtyEight: What Would Happen If We Just Gave People Money?  The “U.S. government spends nearly $1 trillion across dozens of separate programs at the state and federal level…This all requires enormous administrative oversight on the part of the government, and it requires the ability to navigate multiple agencies on the part of recipients.” “In the U.S., we’re left with a patchwork benefits system, an indecipherable alphabet soup of programs: SNAP, TANF, CHIP, Section 8, EITC, WIC, SSDI.” “The problems with this system go beyond its complicated structure. Because eligibility for most social assistance is based on income (or is “means-tested”), recipients lose their benefits as they earn more income — this is often labeled the “welfare trap” or “poverty trap.”

We are all aware of the “poverty trap” where recipients on such programs cannot earn income in addition to the assistance they receive from the government, discouraging work even if one is capable in slight capacity. This leads to either hiding extra income through “under the table” cash payments or non-efforts by the recipient to seek extra income elsewhere. With UBI, these limitations would not be relevant. Therefore, if one chose to seek extra income, to better their life through education, and so on, they would not be penalized by losing the safety net their families rely on for basic living expenses.

Switzerland rejected the idea of UBI earlier this year citing fears that “disconnecting the link between work done and money earned would have been bad for society.” However, so far, studies have shown the opposite to be the case. One Study led by Johannes Haushofer (Princeton) and Jeremy Shapiro (Princeton) “documented large, positive, and sustainable impacts across a wide range of outcomes including assets, earnings (from sources other than our transfers), food security, mental health, and domestic violence, after on average four months. The study found no evidence of impacts on alcohol or tobacco use, crime, or inflation.”  Another U.K. based program, the Universal Credit Pathfinder Evaluation, cited by Cato Institute claims that “recipients of the cash payment were more likely to look for work and believed that the program offered a “better reward for small amounts of work“.

In an interview with CNBC Elon Musk of Tesla Motors says “there is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation. He based his assessment on the prospect of increased automation in society. Given that his companies use robots and automation extensively in their products and that he has started a non-profit to explore judicious uses for artificial intelligence, Musk should know a thing or two about such matters.”

Silicon Valley agrees, “If technology eliminates jobs or jobs continue to become less secure, an increasing number of people will be unable to make ends meet with earnings from employment. UBI becomes a consolation prize for those whose lives are disrupted. Benefits still accrue to the designers and owners of the technologies, but now with less guilt and pushback about the collateral damage.”

While factors still need to be considered, including the counter argument from a libertarian perspective that it would be a form of socialism, perpetuating the “slave to the system” mentality, a slippery slope to communism; the overall concept of providing a universal basic income implementation gets complicated. How would it be distributed fairly across states with varying costs of living?

While It would eliminate the current complex government welfare system which has proven to be a dramatic failure, it would provide opportunity to those who wish to better themselves sans penalty for their efforts.

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