Freedom as in Free Beer

Rare Japanese Busch bush
Rare Japanese Busch bush
The rare Japanese Busch bush.

For many many years I pitched the idea of more freedom. Friends, family members, coworkers and complete strangers heard my spiels. I worked fair booths; I put up yard signs; I bought radio spots; I knocked on doors.

I failed.

OK, I failed in part because I was pitching a radical amount of freedom. Our electoral system is inherently conservative (in the sense of slow to change). Older now, I realize this is a good thing. Some of the ideas I pitched seem a bit iffy today.

But that was not the real reason I failed. Marx was radical and his ideas were worse than iffy, yet his followers took over close to half the planet. Maybe people hate freedom.

Or maybe, many people don’t associate smaller government with more freedom. As Bob Black pointed out in The Abolition of Work, the average person gets more direct orders from their boss than from any agent of the government. For those of us with some money — or at least the means to earn it — high taxes equals less freedom because it equals less money.

For someone on public assistance the story is rather different. More taxes = more money = more freedom.

But the government ties a lot of strings to that public assistance. It is not free money. And nowadays, the government is tying strings to the money it allows taxpayers to keep as well. Here is a call for more freedom that might appeal to poor and well off at the same time: keep the wealth transfers but get rid of the strings.

I realize that this does mean a lot of money running through the government’s ledgers. And some will fear that this will create a giant class of hippies or worse. Fear not! Free money for everybody will give the poor more incentive to work than the current system. I’ll explain in greater detail in the future.

Other people worry that giving straight cash to today’s welfare recipients will allow them to misspend. I have news for you: the current system encourages bad behavior. Spend some time at a public housing project if you dare. Yes, a few mentally ill alcoholics will drink the benefits instead of drinking the rewards from a day’s begging. This is a valid concern, but surely we can find a better special solution for these outliers than crushing the economy with red tape, breaking up marriages, discouraging work and thrift and creating a permanent underclass.

Free beer!