It was once said in reference to politics that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. But this is true universally: eternal vigilance will always be the price of freedom, whether from government or business. The difference is, vigilance over business can produce results, while vigilance over government is like watching a slow motion train wreck without being able to stop it.
The crux of the difference is the ability to remove funding from business, and convince others to remove their funding. This means you can completely disassociate from a business, and even from those who do business with that business. And certainly you hope this damages the business, but even if it doesn’t, at least you are not a party to that business’s destruction, immorality, or anti-freedom actions.
The problem for many is that business would still be able to exist, if enough destructive, immoral, or anti-freedom people still patronize that business. I don’t think utopia will ever exist, so why abandon improving society, just because the improvement won’t make society perfect? Ask yourself, what is more likely to happen, what will more often happen, and where would the incentives lie if business versus government handled various things.
Business serves the customers and must earn their loyalty. Business risks going under if customers are not happy. Business cannot come into your home and steal your money; for that, they require government to act on their behalf. So all the strong centralized, relatively monopolistic businesses we see now that receive bailouts, grants, and subsidies would not be so strong without stealing our money through the government. And if they attempted to steal our money without government, they would have to fund the venture themselves, and be seen for the violent thieves they really are: two things certain to threaten profits to the point that they will not happen.
When I moved to Florida, I needed to switch banks, so I researched local banks in the area, not wanting to give my money to national banks like Bank of America which received bailouts from the U.S. government (AKA stole our money when they handled their businesses poorly) and have terrible customer service. After I learned of a few local banks, I read reviews, and found that some didn’t have great reputations according to their customers. One bank that did have a good reputation offered the type of checking account I wanted, without fees. I now use a bank that has not taken my money by force, and delivers the product they said they would deliver. If they displease me for any reason, I can remove my funding from them, and go to a different bank.
Now say I want Bank of America to be held accountable for their actions of poorly investing, and giving out loans to people who could not pay them back. First, I need to wait until an election year. Then I need to research which candidate of two choices will be against bailouts, which in 90% of races will be neither candidate. In the 10% of cases where a candidate claims to be against bailouts, if he ever gets so specific, I need to then watch him over the next 2-4 years making sure he never gives a bailout, and encouraging him to investigate the fraud that has already happened. Most will end up giving another bailout, having lied during the campaign, but since most of the electorate didn’t care about that issue as much as I did, it won’t matter. But in say 1% of the cases, being generous, a candidate will introduce legislation to “hold the banks accountable”. Half of that one percent will actually be aimed at holding banks accountable, and the other half will be aimed at protecting banks like Bank of America, by only making small banks play by the new rules. But that doesn’t matter anyway, the legislation won’t pass. Bank of America will get away with stealing my money last time, and they will get away with stealing my money again. But I can try again every 2-4 years! Oh yea, and the small local bank I chose to give my business to will have to compete against Bank of America, who still exists because they used the government as a third part to steal my money.
Is it easier for me to be vigilant, and produce results with my vigilance, over my local bank, or Bank of America?
I bought a radiator for my car on Amazon last week, which turned out to be the wrong one. If I had googled the part number, I would have known it was the wrong one, but I didn’t, I simply read the description and assumed it would work. Shipping was free, and when I received the part, I realized it was the wrong radiator. The seller sent me a label so I could return the item for free, and be reimbursed completely.
My parents once tried to renew their car registration (a “product” they didn’t want) only to be told that they owed excise tax in a town in which they never lived. After explaining this to the registry, they were told they would have to resolve this at the town hall of that town. So they drove over an hour only to find out the town hall had closed early that day. So they made the trip again the next day, and were informed that they would have to pay the excise tax to the town they never lived in, and then they could file a claim that they never lived in the town, and then they could get the money back when the claim was resolved. So that’s what they did in order to pay more money to the state for the registration they were forced to acquire. Six months to a year later they were refunded the excise tax, minus filing fees.
Was is easier for me to be vigilant over Amazon who must earn my business, or for my parents to be vigilant over the state of Massachusetts (who forced them to pay for registration) and some random town (that just claimed they owed them money)?
Customers, consumers, and even protesters have far more control over business than voters and other citizens have over government. We will always need to be vigilant to prevent tyranny, but we have no way to use our vigilance to prevent government tyranny.
And all the “what if without government” scenarios already happen. Our money is stolen. People are murdered and caged over victim-less crimes. Our land may be taken by the government. Our children may be taken by the government. The government forces us to buy products. Innocent foreigners are killed on our behalf and dubbed collateral damage. Government security does not prevent crime, and solves relatively few.
We are living in a worst case scenario, and the only thing that keeps it relatively peaceful is the relatively free market. I’m convinced that public sentiment keeps complete government tyranny at bay, without regards to voting. Without government obstruction, the society we create will be even more reflective of our wishes, peaceful and prosperous.
If a business is providing security, we must make sure it is not using force unjustly. But already the incentives lie with a business to use force only justifiably, since using that force costs them money. Yet they will still have to fulfill their promises to customers of bringing actual criminals to justice. And finally, they must compete against other security companies, which serves as incentive to not overstep their bounds, or falsely accuse innocents.
So while eternal vigilance will always be the price of freedom, we can start from a place where incentives for business lie in serving the market, making it easier and more effective to be vigilant.