The Burden of Proof

By Andrew Kern of the Principled Libertarian and Camren Carlyle

It seems for every new government regulation or intervention it’s advocates claim the free market is unable to accomplish some goal, so the government must step in for the good of all.

Or some such nonsense.

The argument usually turns into which is a better method to solve a particular issue: free markets or government regulation. This debate almost always takes place with the pretense that both sides start on equal ground. As in, whoever does a better job of showing their method will produce better results, is the method that should be pursued.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Government interference and free market capitalism are not two harmless choices we must choose between. One is the initiation of force, one is not. One is enforcing the will of the majority (best case scenario) or the political elite’s (most likely scenario) on everyone, and the other is allowing people to interact voluntarily with others.

The burden of proof is on the person who would force their views on all via government monopoly. This person is known as a statist. The capitalist does not make fanatical promises, or put guns to people’s heads and force them to participate. That is what the statist does. If the statist wishes to centrally plan everybody’s lives the burden is on them to come forth with a plan, and when that plan inevitably fails they must take responsibility for the failure. The free market supporter, on the other hand, does not centrally plan your life. They don’t make you promises of prosperity. They only tell you that prosperity is yours to take. Whether you succeed or fail, you are living your life, and nobody but you is responsible for the actions you take.

Proponents of more government may use the excuse that a certain objective is too complicated for the market to sort out. These people somehow believe a handful of people in a government office will be more adept at planning out the infinite complexities of individual’s lives.

The miraculous pencil

One can learn a lot if they look at a pencil. Leonard Read did a whole essay just about a pencil entitled “I, Pencil”. One may wonder how he can manage to write enough words about a pencil to fill up a page. We overlook the complexity of the pencil on a daily basis. You may see only four things come together to make a pencil, but an almost infinite amount of transactions must be made to make a pencil. Not one single person can make a pencil. They would have to gather the wood, graphite, rubber, and lacquer, however, to gather those resources you must have machines built of even more parts, and the machines that made those parts are built with other machines filled with other parts, and so on. No one person is orchestrating the infinite number of transactions to make a pencil. Instead, these transactions are coming together in anarchy. Voluntary transactions inspired by people pursuing their separate interests. There is no statist czar who manages all these transactions. Even a computer may have difficulties centrally planning each and every step. Thus we must conclude if the statist cannot centrally manage the production of a pencil, then how can they be qualified to centrally plan even more complex projects?

It is precisely the most important and complex industries which must be left to the free market. Some of the most government-involved industries are the biggest failures: education, health care, housing, security, etc.

I thoroughly enjoy discussing the merits of the free market and the shortfalls of central planning, but the reality is, it is not I who must prove we will be better off with more individual liberty. I am not the one who would force my views upon you. I would simply let you live.

“Without anarchy, there would be chaos.” – Jeffrey A. Tucker

This article originally appeared on Minnesotans for Liberty

The Tuttle Twins - a child's foundation of freedom
The Tuttle Twins and the Miraculous Pencil, among other books in the series

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