Friday, May 18, 2007

Advocates for Self-Government on KPFA, Berkeley

Former Advocates president, Marshall Fritz, was interviewed by Aaron Dorfman, a reporter for Berkeley's KPFA:

Aaron: What's the core idea of libertarianism?

Marshall: Libertarianism is a combination of the best of left and right. Liberals believe in freedom of expression, conservatives believe in freedom of enterprise. There are some people who are against both these ideas, free enterprise and freedom of expression – we call them Marxists, fascists. And there are people who are in favor of both those ideas, free enterprise and freedom of expression. We call those libertarians.

Aaron: Are you with an organization?

Marshall: There are 50 or 60 major libertarian organizations. I'm with the Advocates for Self-Government. We specialize in teaching people who believe in the freedom philosophy how to be more effective communicators.

Aaron: You talk about "communicating with to the left." A lot of our audience would be considered "left." So how would you communicate with them?

Marshall: It's important for libertarians, when communicating to the left, to understand that intentions are of paramount importance to a person on the left. And libertarians, for better or worse, are often more concerned with the results of a political action rather than the food intentions of the people who are perpetuating those actions.

So one of the things I teach libertarians is to become sensitive to the left and to the left's need to know the good intentions of libertarians. The left, for example, needs to know that libertarians want to help the poor. That it's not just the process of justice that we're interested in, but the results, too.

Aaron: What do you mean by "intentions" versus the "process"?

Marshall: Frequently if you point out to someone on the left that an idea has failed – for instance, helping the poor through government force – they will reply that their intentions were good and that they meant well. So they get away from the actual solution of the problem into, "Yes, but we're trying so hard. We really want to do good." Libertarians need to be sensitive to that desire on the left to help, and not just be chiding them because the ideas don't work out.

Aaron: Why is free enterprise so central to the libertarian philosophy?

Marshall: First of all, all of us could agree that no man is an island. Each of us needs to produce or make something of value. One of might be a teacher, one a farmer, one a poet. And then we must enter into economic exchanges, because the poet needs food, and he wants his kids taught and so on.

Those exchanges can take place with or without the presence of a gun. If they're taking place with a gun, then we're talking about socialism, fascism, mercantilism, or just plain authoritarianism. What I believe in, and all libertarians believe in, is a pacifist exchange system – that is, when human beings come together to make those economic exchanges, no one brings a gun to the exchange table.

That is what we mean when we talk about "capitalism." We don't mean state capitalism. where big businesses go to the government and get them to help out with all kinds of subsidies, or by repressing competing new entrepreneurs. That's state capitalism, and no libertarian is in favor of that.

But unfortunately, the word "capitalism" has been sullied by people who don't really understand it, who don't see it as a peaceful or a pacifist exchange system.

Aaron: Should we have public education in this country?

Marshall: For sure! We've already got schools that are open to the public. I mean if you look at restaurants, and Disneyland, are they open to the public? Of course they are!

Aaron: You know what I mean. I mean, "public education."

Marshall: I think we need a separation between school and state. We need to get compulsion out of the equation.

Today we have compulsory attendance. That's just the same as slavery. Slaves don't work. They just give you rebellion, resentment. And that's what we're getting out of the kids today

We've got compulsory financing. It's not necessary. Schools should be 1/3 the cost of government schools today. People can afford good schools at 1/3 today's price.

And we've got compulsory curriculum. You know, you don't let piggly wiggly tell you what to put in your kids stomach. Why should you let the educationalists tell you what to put in your kids mind? It's none of their business.

Aaron: But what would you say to people in need of affordable housing, good education, health care – any of those? Because you don't want the state involved. Who's going to do it?

Marshall: Benjamin Franklin warned us, 200 years ago, that people seemed to be willing to trade their liberty for security – and they end up with neither. And that's what's been happening to us. In fact, the last several generations have not been very vigilant in the protection of our liberties.

Instead they've said: "Government, I will give up my independence if you will just make me secure. I certainly wouldn't be able to spend my own money on catastrophic insurance policy – I'd probably spend the money going to club med, or buying a catamaran, or something silly like that."

"So government, please, I can't run my own life, and I'm sure other people can't govern their own lives, either. So, give us national health insurance so everyone is required to do what I can't make myself do."

And that's real unfortunate because you end up with something as important as health eventually being treated like the Post Office or the Department of Motor Vehicles. I ask people all the time: "Hey, come on, get real! Who would you want to deliver your oxygen supply – the Post Office, or UPS?"

Aaron: But there are people who need health care now who can't afford it.

Marshall: There's a huge problem in health care. One, the cost has been driven up so high by the government being involved. Two, the demand has been driven up because the government has been funding it. So the cost has escalated.

If you get rid of the monopoly that the AMA has; if you got rid of the many laws that constrict the drug companies; if you opened the provision of healthcare up to midwives and paramedics of various levels, and took away the state restrictions that give doctors a monopoly; if you allowed the free market to flourish; then, you would see a broad spectrum of health care. Everyone – the rich, middle class, and the poor – would have better health care.

I do think there is a "health imperialism" that is rooted in some sort of elitism. There are people who say: "I know what the right health standards are, and I am going to force my idea of health standards on the rest of the population. And even though some of these people would rather spend their money [in some other way], I don't think they should do that. I think they should be forced to pay for expensive health care [regardless of their wishes] (brackets original in article)."

[Editors note: I would add – Prohibitive regulations prevent poor people from starting home-based businesses, i.e. a single mother who wants to sell her own home-baked cookies as a way to make ends meet, or maybe just to earn some extra cash, so she doesn't have to pay a fortune to a daycare center while being forced to seek outside employment. Maybe she also wants to spend more time with her children, raising them herself.

Or, what if there is an elderly black, handicapped woman who says, "I don't want any part of your paternalistic domestic imperialism (i.e. National Health Care System)! I go to the curandera, herbalist, or shaman down the street and they let me pay through work-trade answering the phones a few hours per month." Do you really want to force her to pay into a government monopoly, or worse coerce someone (under the threat of jail or death) to do it for her? - BETH]

Marshall: I don't really understand why some people want to force their standards of health care, or education, or other things, on other people – regardless of whether or not those other people want it.

Aaron: Any point you'd like to add?

Marshall: I want to thank KPFA and all the supporters of KPFA for keeping this station on the air. I think you guys are doing something marvelous.

The Liberator, page 8, Winter 1993

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