American Writer, Politician, Financial Consultant and Libertarian Activist
Harry Browne, fully Harry Edson Browne
American Writer, Politician, Financial Consultant and Libertarian Activist
Voluntary association produces the free market - where each person can choose among a multitude of possibilities.
Would a transition program ease the move from today’s welfare system to a completely private, voluntary system? We have to remind ourselves over and over that government doesn’t work. So any government program to ease people off welfare--by retraining them or educating them--won’t work any better than the current welfare system works. The next President should announce to all people receiving welfare checks from the federal government: If I have my way, your federal welfare payments will end in eight months. So you have eight months to turn your life around, to find a job, to learn to take care of yourself. We expect to pay you for those eight months. So if you get a job tomorrow morning, you can get two checks each month for those eight months. Or you can wait until the last moment to change things. But even if you haven’t found a job in eight months, your checks from the federal government will end. So what are you going to do?
War is justified by blurring the distinction between foreign rulers and their subjects. Our politicians cite the sins of foreign rulers, and then ask us to join in killing their downtrodden subjects. The politicians want us to forget that wars kill innocent people. They talk about teaching a foreign dictator a lesson, but the dictator never gets hurt. Like the Founding Fathers, Libertarians know that war is the first resort of political scoundrels, but the last resort of a free people. Libertarians know that the government’s role isn’t to police the world-or even to win wars. Government’s role is to keep us out of wars-and to protect us from foreign enemies, not create them. How would a Libertarian government assure our safety? Our foreign policy would be very simple: We are always ready to defend ourselves, but we threaten no one.
You don't need an explanation for everything, Recognize that there are such things as miracles - events for which there are no ready explanations. Later knowledge may explain those events quite easily.
We don’t need a simplified income tax. We don’t need a replacement tax. Our lives will be better only when we reduce the burden of taxes by reducing dramatically the cost of government. We’ve seen that you can’t get rid of government spending so long as you try to do it one program at a time. The pressure to keep any one program will be concentrated and intense, while the incentive for eliminating the program will be dispersed and diluted among millions of people. Americans will rally to large reductions in government only when they’re offered a large reward. And that reward is the total repeal of the income tax. We will never cut federal spending by even one dollar unless we offer the American people the complete repeal of the income tax as an incentive to reduce government. And we can’t repeal the income tax without reducing federal spending dramatically. The two tasks are inseparable. To attempt to do one without the other is a formula for failure.
You might be able to imagine the perfect law that allows just the right people to own just the right types of guns, while prohibiting other citizens from owning inappropriate firearms. But remember, you’re only imagining such a law; it will never be a reality. The only valid policy is to have no laws regulating the ownership of guns, but to hold every citizen responsible for whatever harm he initiates against others-with or without a gun. As always, you really have only two choices. Either: Politicians will decide what people can own-and they will never stop their prohibitions at the point you believe best. Or: People will decide for themselves what they can own. Any apparent middle ground between the two actually gives the politicians the power to do as they please. And such decisions will be made on the basis of who has the most political influence. So attempts to limit gun ownership do more to promote the political interests of well-connected people than to reduce crime.
We have to get rid of the federal debt-the $5 trillion worth of credit card bills the politicians have charged to us. A good deal of the debt has been used to buy or build things. They may not seem valuable because of the way they’re used now. But they might become much more valuable if sold to people who knew how to use them productively. For example, the federal government owns 29% of all the land in the US, a total of 1 million square miles. As of 1991 it owned 441,000 buildings. If we shrink the government to what the Constitution permits, it won’t need most of those assets. In fact, over 90% of them could be sold-returned to the American people to be used productively. If the federal government’s unneeded assets can be sold for $12 trillion, we can achieve the following:[Pay all recipients] of Social Security a private annuity Balance the budget. Pay off the entire federal debt. Repeal all federal income taxes. Drop taxes at all levels from 49% to 28%.
You might worry that state and local governments will offset federal reductions in taxes and spending with higher state taxes and spending. That’s possible, but not probable. More likely, state income taxes will disappear shortly after the federal income tax is repealed. Today a half-dozen states don’t have an income tax. But there isn’t a large migration to those states because people still have to pay federal income tax-which is a far greater burden.
We have to understand that politicians don’t want to reduce government. And it isn’t because they think the spending cuts would hurt too many people. It’s because they know it would hurt them. Unlike families and corporations, politicians don’t feel the burden of debt-only the elation of spending. So they have no incentive to restrain themselves. They can spend your money without limit to reward their friends. No matter what they say, neither the Democrats nor Republicans want to give up the power that allows them to bestow favors and exemptions on friends. Our salvation won’t come from politicians. We need people who will go to Washington not to reform government programs or to reduce them, but to get rid of them. We need leaders who don’t want to run the country, but who want to restore our right to run our own lives. We need legislators who don’t want to be politicians, but simply want to enjoy for themselves the freedom America once knew.
You owe it to yourself to be the best person possible. Because if you are, others will want to be with you, want to provide you with the things you want in exchange for what you're giving to them.
Welfare costs us plenty. But it also destroys lives. It perverts the natural incentives of everyone who is touched by it. Here are some examples: AFDS pays money to Mom only if there’s no Dad at home, so-surprise!-Dad goes away. A teenage girl can become independent of her parents by getting pregnant; otherwise, she must live off her parents and obey their rules. Which life is more attractive to most teenagers? Federal job-training for welfare recipients circumvents the need for a teenager to stay in school and learn how to make a living. The income test for welfare makes a low-paying job seem pointless. The availability of welfare reduces the incentive to save for emergencies. And once people don’t have savings, what else can they do but go on welfare when trouble strikes? The people who have been seduced by welfare have become wards of the state, unable to fend for themselves, with no self-respect and no self-confidence. Is this compassion?
What is government? What makes it different from IBM or the Boy Scouts or a local security company? What separates government from the rest of society isn’t its size, its disregard for profit, its foresight, or its scope. The distinctive feature of government is coercion-the use of force and the threat of force to win obedience. This is how government differs from every other agency in society. The others persuade; government compels. For example, when someone demands that government help flood victims, he is saying he wants to force people to pay for flood relief. Otherwise, he’d be happy to have the Red Cross handle everything. Nothing involving government is voluntary-as it would be when a private company does something. One way or another, there is compulsion in every government activity. People seek the help of charity organizations [and so on] to urge others to support some cause. People turn to government to force others to support their cause.
What we really need is compassion of the mind - compassion for others that is directed intelligently and produces truly compassionate results.
Whatever the issue, let freedom offer us a hundred choices, instead of having government force one answer on everyone.
Whatever the price, identify it now. What will you have to go through to get where you want to be? There is a price you can pay to be free of the situation once and for all. It may be a fantastic price or a tiny one - but there is a price.
When people do things for you, it's because they want to - because you, in some way, give them something meaningful that makes them want to please you, not because anyone owes you anything.
Whenever I say that America has become an empire, someone is sure to say I'm being ridiculous.
While most people in TV, radio, and the press have treated me wonderfully, some of the most important people want to pretend I don't exist.
Why won’t politicians [exert excessive control] over private schools once they get them hooked on federal money [via vouchers]? Has government ever subsidized anything without controlling it? Look at what has happened to colleges. Since 1975, if a single student at a college-public or private-receives any kind of government grant (even if the money doesn’t pass through the college), the school must comply with a long, long list of federal rules. It might seem that any private elementary school could just drop out of a voucher program if the federal government began imposing oppressive controls. In principle, it could. And so could colleges resist controls by dropping out of aid programs. But colleges don’t drop out. Once it’s become dependent on the manna from Washington, no college will turn it down-no matter how bad the controls become. For example, VMI and the Citadel were forced to overturn their most basic policies. Either could have evaded by rejecting federal aid, but neither did.
Until 1960 the federal government had practically nothing to do with education, crime control, or welfare (except Social Security). But by 1975, Great Society programs led to the federal government dominating all three areas. In each case the pattern was the same: The federal government provided financial subsidies to state and local governments--and, once the governments became dependent on the money from Washington, the Feds imposed conditions for continuing to receive it. Although the money for a community comes from citizens in that same community, routing it through Washington allows the Feds to set the rules. Thus they began setting standards for school curricula, welfare eligibility, and police procedures and budgets. By taking control away from communities, the federal government made schools, police, and welfare systems even more remote from the people who pay for them and rely upon them--and made them more susceptible to fraud and graft, and to meddling by social reformers.
Without “free” public schooling, how would the children of poor families be educated? First, an end to the income tax and school taxes would reduce dramatically the number of poor families. Second, poor children could acquire private schooling in the same manner as so many of them do now-through tuition aid provided by religious schools and private voucher programs. Far more children attend private schools today through private voucher programs than through government voucher programs. Numerous agencies administer programs to put poor children in private schools-programs paid for by private companies. And all this is achieved while government drains 47% of the national income from us in taxes. Suppose that tax load were cut in half-by repealing the federal income tax and local school taxes. Can you imagine how much money would be available to take care of any child in need of a good education?
Until science can demonstrate otherwise, I must assume that life begins at conception. Thus I believe that abortion is wrong-very wrong. But the government that can’t win a War on Poverty or a War on Drugs isn’t going to win a War on Abortion. An unfortunate fact of life is that there always will be abortions, just as there always will be people who misuse drugs, no matter what the laws are. The only practical solution to either problem is a program of education and persuasion-undertaken by people, not government. I applaud the dedication and efforts of those who work so hard to dissuade young women from rushing into abortions, who arrange adoptions, etc. So long as we wait for government to solve this problem, the abortion clinics will operate at full speed. And, if we have any respect for the Constitution, it surely isn’t a matter in which the federal government has any role-either to facilitate or stop abortion, or to prevent state governments from stopping them.
World War II has always been of great interest to me. I've known for decades that it was just one more war the politicians suckered us into.
Each reduction in government has to be complete. Reducing an agency to a small fraction of its current size leaves intact the mechanism by which it can grow back again. Like a weed it has to be pulled out by the roots--not cut back. In each case, there are only two realistic choices: Get rid of the program and get rid of it quickly. Or resign ourselves to living with it forever. There is no middle ground.
I don’t know what’s right for you. I don’t know how you should raise your children or how to run your child’s school or how your family should approach any of the complicated challenges you face. But I respect your intelligence and your ability to choose and act on your own values, to work with other families and your community to achieve the goals you set for yourselves. I respect your ability to handle these tasks because the only alternative is to let politicians handle them for you, and they will never care as much about your future as you do yourself. Politicians claim moral authority by implying that their decisions are dictated by moral principle-and by assuming that we can’t let everyone decide for himself what is moral and what isn’t. That leaves only the politicians to decide what is right and what is wrong. So they claim a license to use government to compel us to do everything that’s right and to forbid us to do everything that’s wrong.