I came across a blog post by Dale Husband who claims to have “completely debunked” Libertarianism once and for all. (I don’t care to link to his page, but if you Google “dale husband the-ultimate-discrediting-of-libertarianism“, you will find his post.)
Dale’s proof? — this “jaw dropping” transformation in McAllen, TX of an old, abandoned Walmart building into a public library
Dale’s claim is that the Walmart was a product of free-market capitalism and that it failed (as a profitable business). And as a result, the city of McAllen did “something that libertarian dogmas said was impossible, because private industries were by nature better than public agencies. When something has been proven to be a lie, it should be abandoned, period.”
I asked why he thought Libertarians believed it impossible for government to create something beautiful from the ashes of private industry.
Dale’s response? (my apologies for the language)
“My point is that government created that incredible library, Wal-Mart did not. Why did that Wal-Mart location fail? Because it was not profitable enough. That failure no doubt threw many people out of work. But local, state, and federal governments create jobs just as much as private industry does, and they do NOT need to make a profit to function. As a result, they can accomplish more than private industry can with the same financial and material resources. The city of Allen did not just sit by and wait for another private company to buy that former Wal-Mart property and use it, but took taxpayers’ money and did something extremely useful with the place. So next time some Libertarian extremist claims that “taxation is theft”, I will just tell that idiot to fuk off!”
I know. I know. There’s so much awesome failure here that I don’t even know where to begin.
I don’t know any of the background concerning this Walmart building. Is it still owned by the company? Was it rented? Did they sell it to the city of McAllen? What was the total price that was paid by Walmart (including all the structure, utilities and land preparation that the new owners benefited from) and how much of that was recouped? It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that Walmart Corp took a loss on the transaction, meaning the McAllen City Government benefited and got a deal because Walmart just wanted to walk away.
Regardless, let’s look at Dale’s thought process.
I’ve yet to hear any Libertarian claim that anyone (whether an authoritarian state official or a non-profit charity or an individual) is incapable of creating anything of beauty simply because they’re not private industry. If you have bottomless coffers, of course you can use some of those funds to build libraries, parks, arbors, or even Mount Rushmore.
(I don’t know why beauty requires money to be created in the first place. Some of the most beautiful things in God’s creation simply exist in nature.)
I believe Libertarians would assert that governments are NOT THE ONLY ones capable of creating beautiful structures, parks, or educational facilities to be enjoyed by members of the community. The Art Institute of Chicago enjoys corporate sponsorship from the likes of Bank of America, Target, the Terra Foundation For American Art, the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, to name just a few.
But even more impressive than “Private Industry” supporting neighborhood beautification are examples of Voluntary participation or beautification in the midst of Anarchy.
This series by Reason.TV shows how the once great city of Detroit, killed off by government corruption and overregulation, is starting to rise from the ashes thanks, in some part, to Free Association / Voluntary Exchange.
Another curious series of mental backflips that Dale makes are that 1) Walmart’s closure cost some of their employees their jobs and 2) governments create just as many jobs as private industry does but isn’t burdened with the requirement to make a profit.
“As a result, [government] can accomplish more than private industry can with the same financial and material resources.”
Let’s move quickly past the fact that any lost jobs that resulted in Walmart’s closure wouldn’t have existed in the first place if Walmart was never in McAllen. Is it possible / likely that overregulation and taxation caused Walmart to pull out of McAllen? It wouldn’t be the first time.
Instead, let’s focus on the jobs the government “created” without having the burden of profit. I’ve written numerous times about government job “creation”. Here and here are couple recent examples.
What exactly is Profit? When a business sells a product or a service, it’s just the amount left over above their cost to produce. It could be a very thin profit as is the case with most Food Service businesses. Or it could be a very large margin of profit as is the case with most luxury items.
Profit is not a dirty word. It’s a sign that your good or service is worth enough to the consumer that they’re willing to pay for what you are providing. The more in demand your service, the wider your customer base, the more profit you are likely to enjoy. In an Open Market, if a competitor can do it better, faster, cheaper, or with better results, your product or service isn’t going to last.
What about government services or goods? The problem is that they usually have a monopoly and, by law, are not subject to competition. There’s no incentive then for any improvement or accountability. Some would argue that you can’t put a price on some of the services that government provides like Law Enforcement, Courts, or Muh Roads. I would argue EVERYTHING can be priced in the market. Watch Reason’s second installment on Private Security, for example.
When governments have no incentive to cut spending because they can just raise taxes / fees to increase revenues, are not subject to competition because they have a monopoly, and they are not held accountable for any results / return on their spending . . . well then yes, you might get some pretty libraries and parks to be built, using your money, to keep you content and pacified. Did everyone that was taxed want that library? Are there citizens in McAllen that would have rather seen the money used for schools or health care or more border patrol? What if (gasp!) some of the citizens of McAllen just wanted their tax burden lowered so that they could decide how to spend their own money?
See, government beautification programs are a smoke screen used to pacify the subjugated. Many people love the idea of having a beautiful library for the public, but what they don’t see are the other things that could have been purchased / saved as a result of less government spending.
Finally, I know Dale has already made up his mind that Taxation isn’t Theft, but I’ve clearly laid out previously how it is, in fact, the very definition of theft. He’s justifying the theft, as all Statists do. But it’s still Theft. From Dale’s own words – “The city … took taxpayers’ money and did something extremely useful with the place.”