Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: In a conversation about reducing over-regulation or getting government out of the way of people’s free exchange of goods and services, someone trots out some “oh, I’m so clever” zinger like “move to Somalia,” “people will poison you without government around to regulate things,” or some other reductio ad absurdum fallacy.

I just recently discussed the lazy arrogance of some who dismiss libertarian ideas in “Muh Roads,” wherein I quote a fellow libertarian who ably pointed out that it’s laughable to think we haven’t already, long ago and in great detail, figured out that “issue” brought up by someone’s pro-government wisecrack.

The corollary discussion is the false conflation of libertarianism with anarchy, and today’s title tells the tale. The prompt I encountered,

Without government to keep the peace, all transactions between adults would be carried out at the tip of a spear. Do you want Mad Max, ‘cuz this is how you get Mad Max,

was in response to the attached meme, which points out that government has no right to restrict a free and voluntary exchange between adults.

A license is not “keeping the peace,” and opposing interference via licensing is not a call for anarchy.

Libertarians aren’t of a single mind on how much government is appropriate, but in general we agree that government’s role in our lives is the protection of individual and property rights. Other than as an enforcer of contracts, it has no right to involve itself in a voluntary transaction. A license is telling those two individuals that they are not permitted to freely interact without permission, which is the antithesis of protecting individual and property rights.

So, when government requires a license of someone who wants to sell goods or services to another, it is actually doing the opposite of its proper job.

As a practical matter, the Gordian-knot-chop wholesale elimination of all licensing is not a good idea (and it’s also way outside the bounds of reality). In a free and voluntary society, it’s a certainty that private entities would arise that certify products. Such already exist in our society/economy, but we’d want and need more to replace the government’s agencies. Voluntary and private, regulated by the relentlessness of market forces (especially in today’s Internet economy, reputation is everything) is vastly superior to coercive government, unresponsive as it is to evolution and subject as it is to rent-seekers and regulatory capture. And, lets face it – most licensing is, I’d dare say, either a protection racket (entrenched/connected players protected from competition) or an extortion racket (want to earn a living? Pay us first).

So, Mister Mad Max prognosticator, yes, we’ve already covered your reductio ad anarchium angle. On occupational licensing, and on every other “less government” idea or opinion we have. We’re not anarchists, we believe government has a proper (albeit much smaller) role in our and every society, and it is almost certain that we have thought far more deeply about the matter that you blithely dismiss than you have.

“Reductio Ad Anarchium” isn’t proper Latin, of course, but who cares? And, it doesn’t appear in Internet searches, so I’m going to claim it as my own. For free and unrestricted use by all y’all, at no cost to you other than perhaps a smirk of agreement.

No government license was needed for that exchange. Did the world fall apart?

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


Like this post?