What Would a Free Society Look Like?
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Given the enormous role that the welfare-warfare state plays in American life, it is always easy for libertarians to find deprivations of liberty, such as coerced charity, drug-war incarcerations, the IRS, torture, surveillance, and assassination. Infringements on fundamental rights and liberties have become such an integral part of daily life that many Americans have even come to believe that they are all part and parcel of a free society.
But there is another way to look at libertarianism, one that focuses on what a free society would actually look like.
While a genuinely free society necessarily depends on a dismantling both the welfare-state apparatus and the warfare-state apparatus, let’s focus only on the welfare state side of things.
A free society necessarily entails the right to engage in economic transactions with others, even people in foreign lands. If you have a nice voice and I wish to pay you to sing and if you agree to the deal, that’s our business and no one else’s. It is our right to enter into a mutually beneficial exchanges. It is the right of everyone else to do so too. That’s how we sustain and improve our lives. It’s how we pursue happiness, which, along with freedom of trade, freedom of contract, and freedom of association, is another fundamental right.
A free society also entails the right to keep the fruits of one’s earnings from economic transactions. The money belongs to the person who earns it, not to society and not to the government. Freedom also entails the right to do whatever a person wants with his own money. No coerced charity. It also means that people have the right to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth.
The result of such a society would be one in which hundreds of millions of people would be pursuing happiness, each in his own way, by dovetailing his pursuits with others. The marketplace would be filled with hundreds of millions of people, in their roles as suppliers, providing goods and services to other people, in their roles as consumers. It would be an exciting, dynamic, peaceful, mutually beneficial society, one that would be filled with all sorts of economic enterprise.
It would also be a tremendously prosperous society, one in which people’s standard of living would constantly be soaring, owing to the massive amount of savings that would be going into capital, which is what makes people more productive. There would be ever growing quantities of high-quality goods and services being offered to people, as people, in their role as suppliers, tried to improve their lives by providing goods and services that other people wanted and were willing to pay for.
There would be no unemployment, unless it was self-imposed. There would be plenty of jobs for anyone who wanted to work. That’s because there would no longer be any legal impediments, such as minimum-wage laws, to impede the hiring of people at mutually agreed upon wage rates. The dynamics of an ever-growing prosperous society would inure to the benefit of everyone, especially those at the bottom of the economic ladder.
Charity? That would be an individual decision. Some people would say “no,” preferring to retain all their money. But their savings would help people even if that’s not their intention because savings is the key to capital, which is the key to higher standards of living. Other people would donate to help people in need. So, a free society would have a complex and intricate system of capital and charity, both of which would benefit those at the bottom of the economic ladder.
Drug abuse? Of course. Some people would be ingesting harmful substances, just as they do today with tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. But as long as they didn’t infringe on the rights of others, they would be free to live their lives the way they want. Some people would ingest harmful substances. Others wouldn’t. That’s what a free society is all about.
A free society would necessarily entail a free market monetary system, one in which the marketplace would decide the best money. That might be gold or silver coins. It might be private bank notes. Or it might be something that no one has even considered yet. Inevitably, the free market, especially through entrepreneurship and competition, would bring into existence the best possible monetary units.
Education? Each family would be free to choose the best educational vehicle for each of his children. No more public schools or other state involvement in education. Instead, a total free market in education, one in which myriad people are offering educational services to families, be they schools, homeschooling, tutors, private schools, workplace schools, or some other educational device that no one has thought of before. Again, charity to help the poor would be voluntary, not coerced. The result would be an exciting, dynamic educational arena, one in which consumers would have an ever-growing array of educational vehicles from which to choose and in which the better off people would be helping the less fortunate to attain an education.
Thus, a free society would be exciting, dynamic, peaceful, harmonious, and prosperous, one where standards of living would constantly be rising. Those few who violate people’s rights with stealing, murder, burglarizing, fraud, and so forth would be prosecuted and, if convicted, punished. But otherwise everyone else would be left alone to pursue happiness in his own way.
A genuinely free society, one in which people are free to exercise not only such fundamental rights as freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion, but also freedom of enterprise, would be the greatest thing that could ever happen to the American people. It’s actually the greatest thing that could happen to everyone else in the world.