Sunday, May 5, 2013

What if the Federal Government Just Went Away?

Here's a thought experiment: What if the federal government were suddenly dissolved?  What would happen then?  What would we actually lose?

All the hand-wringing and crocodile tears being shed over the federal "sequester" (with its draconian "cuts" into projected increases in bloated federal spending) would lead one to believe that without the federal government, society would immediately descend into lawlessness, anarchy and chaos - after all what would we do without a government?

But wait a minute... if the federal government closed its doors tomorrow, we would still have, (according to the 2010 census,) 90,740 state and local governments in this country!  And, each of these governments has its own laws and public safety infrastructure.  So would there be lawlessness, anarchy and chaos?  Nope, not at all - far from it actually.  How much "order" does the federal government keep anyway?  We would lose the FBI and Homeland Security, but the 50 states and all the local law enforcement apparatus would stay in place.  They could still share information and extradite prisoners.  So what would we really lose?

Well, what about national security?  Surely we would immediately be vulnerable to attack!  Would we?  Wouldn't we still have National Guard units in all 50 states?  And couldn't these 50 states come to some kind of agreement to jointly fund a combined military if they so desired?  We may lose the capability to strike anywhere in the world at any time - but do we really need that to be safe?  Isn't it more important to protect our own borders and our own shores rather than policing the world for democracy?  Of course we would no longer have the TSA so travel would be more pleasant!  The airlines themselves could go back to providing passenger security.  Other than that, what do we lose?

Yeah but what about the terrorists who "hate us for our freedom"?  Won't they be emboldened and run amok causing untold chaos?  Well, first off, when the federal government goes away, all the troops come home, the CIA closes its doors (and stops overthrowing other people's governments), and the tentacles of US government intervention into foreign affairs are permanently withdrawn.  So the terrorists, who don't really "hate us for our freedoms" but actually hate us for all the crap we do, would have less reason to hate us at all.  Do they hate Switzerland?  Does Switzerland need a leviathan Homeland Security Department aggressively encroaching upon the civil liberties of the Swiss people in order to "protect" them?  Do they need drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan?  No.  If we weren't constantly meddling in the middle east, the terrorists would have little reason to think about America.

But, you ask, what about immigration?  Seriously?  Does anyone think the federal government does a good job with immigration?  Every state and local jurisdiction has its own immigration policy anyway, - many in direct opposition to federal laws - so what would change?  The illegal immigrant population in Arizona might go down, but California will gladly absorb it!

But what about the war on drugs?  Who will stop drugs from permeating society if not the feds?  Again - seriously?  Each state would have its own drug policy.  Maybe - once some states lifted the prohibition and gave us concrete figures to work with - we'd get some definitive answers as to the effectiveness of the war on drugs.

But what about the poor?  What about the safety net?  Well, for one, you mean "the enslaved" not "the poor".  Government programs subsidize and perpetuate a permanent lower class.  But, that notwithstanding, even if the people decide they want to continue government "aid" to the poor - again we'd have 50 states - 50 laboratories - through which to try different approaches to the age old problem of poverty.   All we lose when the federal government goes away is one way of doing things.  The states handle the majority of the actual workings of welfare, medicaid, medicare, etc. anyway.

Which brings me to healthcare.  What would happen if Obamacare, medicaid, medicare, etc. go away?  Well, the hospitals and other healthcare providers would be free to negotiate prices.  That's right: before the federal government asserted its domination over the healthcare industry - with all of its regulations and payment plans - hospitals, doctors and other healthcare professionals were negotiable as to price.  I'm sure you've heard the stories how, in the old days, doctors actually made house calls and were often paid in livestock!  Well, that can't happen today because the government has stepped in to "save" you!  (Imagine if they got out of the way!)

But what about our money?  Who's going to make all the dollar bills?  Well that's another interesting story.  While the federal government still technically coins money (they run the mints and the printing presses) they no longer set its value or determine how much of it there is.  You see, in 1913, our illustrious federal government proved that they have our best interests at heart when they handed that responsibility over to the banking industry!  Yeah that's right, the banking industry (in the form of the Federal Reserve) is in control of the money supply in this country.  What's most interesting about that is: from 1813 to 1913, a US dollar bought exactly the same amount of goods and services.  But, from 1913 to 2013, that same dollar has gone down in value like a Himalayan avalanche!  So, in 1913, if grandma said, "I remember when a loaf of bread was a nickel," all her grandkids would laugh and say, "grandma, a loaf of bread is still a nickel!"  Needless to say, that conversation can't happen today.  Maybe, just maybe, 50 competing currencies would be better.  Heaven knows it couldn't be worse!

What about education?  Who's going to teach our kids if not the feds?  Well, the feds don't teach our kids - they just mandate what we teach them.  The actual teaching is all local (that's what school districts are for).   Sure, we would lose some federal funding, but we would gain local control over what our kids are learning.  In other words, local communities would be free to teach the kids as they see fit - as opposed to how the Department of Education mandates.  Which is more important in the end - money or freedom?

But what about higher education?  Students can't get a college degree without student loans!  Blatantly false.  Student loans, i.e. government regulation of tuition, has only made college more expensive.  Tuition levels are through the roof precisely because institutions of higher learning have a big pot of federal money at the end of the rainbow - not some poor student.   Like with healthcare, if the government were to butt out, the prices would level off via the mechanisms of the market. 

Now I've only covered a few of the bases here.  There's much more to be said and thought about in this thought experiment.  But let me ask the question again: what would we actually lose if the federal government were dissolved tomorrow?  I'm sure someone out there can think of something!