March 10, 2015

Please Mr. Postman

By In Blogs, Brian Jacobson

“Mr. Postman” but what about Mr. Police Man?
(All post shall continue to start with old songs titles. Between Pink Floyd, Guns N’ Roses, and now the carpenters I’m not sure who’s next.) update: see part 2 Are the Police a Scarce Resources? here

Sacred cow tipping is good for the soul, and becoming a libertarian usually means slowly tipping your own one by one and your favorites are usually the last to go. As one who applies the law of God as much to the State as to the individual the reformed libertarian is met with hostility from conservatives and progressives towards his “radical” moral consistency. He calls unprovoked killing murder whether you wear a uniform and march in line or not.The Libertarian sees actions as wrong whether committed by one person or many persons. He opposes socialism in regards to healthcare and education.  He sees no inconsistency in opposing big government doing central planning in the economy domestically, and even bigger government centrally planned nation building abroad. The Reformed Libertarian doesn’t want the government to redefine marriage (to the chagrin of the Leftist) but neither does he want the State to define it (to the horror of the Rightist). Rather than “escaping” the cultural battle, as Al Mohler once accused reformed libertarians, they instead create enemies on all front by their fierce devotion to the non-aggression principle, property rights, and the absoluteness of God’s commands. So here’s to some cow tipping.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is the definition of a monopoly. They are not only monopolistic, as the accused “robber barons” were, they are in fact the only firm legally allowed under threat of force to deliver first-class mail. William F. Harnden started a private firm in 1839 he hoped would become a legal alternative to the post office but with no avail. The great abolitionist constitutional lawyer Lysander Spooner started the American Letter Mail Company in 1844 and was extremely successful. However he soon found himself in legal trouble and was entangled in litigations. Oddly enough the USPS is immune from U.S. antitrust laws.

Furthermore, the USPS is simply socialism. It is government ownership of the resources and means of production. In fact in The State and Revolution in 1917, Vladimir Lenin wrote the economic aim of socialism is: “To organize the whole economy on the lines of the postal service….” Hence why communism ate it so hard.The USPS suffers all the symptoms of a socialist monopoly. With no competitors to set market prices, no incentive for efficiency, and tax dollars to subsidize and hide the true price of delivering mail the USPS has run up a pretty large deficit. The GAO has put USPS on the high-risk list as its debt sky rockets. As of last August according the Wall Street Journal the USPS reported of total of $67.16 billion total unfunded liabilities and only $23.16 billion in total assets. They haven’t had a profitable year in almost 10 years. Notorious for losing mail, lagging years behind in technology in areas where legal competitors are allowed (UPS, FEDEX), and still running continual deficits year the Post Office is a hot mess.

We see how the market produces, prints, and delivers newspapers countrywide with relative ease. Grocery stores coordinate thousands of products from different locations each day. FedEx and UPS easily compete in package shipment. The Post Office is a slam dunk for privatization. It’s  a 300 year monopoly that baffles all sides. Its socialism, and socialism doesn’t work. Not only that it is immoral. It is an aggressive monopoly run on stolen money. The use of force is clearly not justified to distribute paper, especially when many are willing to do it without stealing.

If the State is this bad at unnecessary services how good are they at necessary services? Exit Mr. Postman, enter Mr. Policeman. As I made the point in my article The State and the Market, anytime you critique a “public service” it is taken as an attack on the service itself. The same objection is raised by conservatives and liberals alike in regards the State provided security services. “Sure,” the objection is raised, “you’re criticizing the police now, but wait till your home is broken into–its us you’ll be calling.” This is utter non-sense. This is like the postal worker saying “sure, you’re criticizing our total ineptitude now–but wait till you need to deliver first class mail you’ll be using the USPS.” Of course that’s true…because you will be arrested and sued if you don’t! Police do in fact provide a vital service; which is exactly why the State shouldn’t provide it! If the service you are providing is just than you should allow others to provide it as well and provide justly. If on the hand the service you are providing is unjust or unjustly provided then you shouldn’t be doing it anyways. If something is just for “government” to do it must also necessarily be just for an individual to do, and in the same manner. If it is unjust for an individual to do, it is unjust for a group individuals to do so, even if they wear uniforms and identify themselves as the State.

The police are not protected from the ill effects or the immorality of State ownership of the means of production and services. My argument is that State monopolized (or socialist) approaches to rights enforcement necessarily violates rights and  suffers all the problems, inefficiencies, and expenses of any government run service. In my next couple blog post (hopefully short but I’m not too good at that) I will apply Mises’ socialist economic calculation problem to police services, and alternatively how the market can provide moral, safe, effective, and cheaper law enforcement. I will post on how the police are in fact a scarce resource and therefore all laws of economics apply to them. This, combined with immoral oversized law code, makes their job simply impossible. I will also post on historical examples of private law enforcement as to how and why it works. Also hoping to finish a longer piece on a Reformed Libertarian approach to punishment, retribution, and courts using C.S. Lewis, Rothbard, and the general equity of Deuteronomy and Genesis.

For part 2 see here.

Written by Brian Jacobson

Brian Jacobson works as a quality technician for a manufacturing company in St. Louis, Mo where he lives with his new bride. He studied biblical and theological studies at Reformation Bible College under R.C. Sproul in Orlando, FL. He’s an Old-School Presbyterian who enjoys the simple means of grace, Machen, and living the high life on a budget. Follow him @briankjacobson on Twitter.