One of the most frequent accusations levelled against libertarians in general and me in particular is that we're selfish, heartless bastards who only want to keep all our money for ourselves and everyone else should just get to fuck and starve.
I find this a particularly confusing charge, because these people inevitably argue in favour of tax as a way of making "society" better, always ignoring the fact that the poorest lose the greatest margin of their incremental income to tax. In other words, the very mechanism that they are advocating as the way to help the needy is the the exact mechanism that hurts the needy the most.
In other words, not paying taxes is the single biggest "benefit" we can give to people who are earning money on the breadline. When you're earning a hundred grand a year, paying an extra three grand or getting an three of grand a year means very little. When you're earning £1000 a month, getting a extra £250 a month is HUGE.
So yes, I would be getting more money, but the incremental benefit to me is not nearly as much to me as it is to someone who is poor. How does this make me heartless?
My biggest problem with tax is actually how it is spent. If every penny of it was spent on providing severely disabled people or the homeless or the genuinely needy with care, it would be very fair indeed to describe me as a heartless bastard if I moaned about that. But the fact of the matter is that in a very, very efficient government department, only 50p in every pound actually reaches the mythical front line. It is not uncommon for only 10p in the pound to actually reach the front line.
So, a couple of things that government does really, really wrong, that don't benefit society:
PFI: Everybody will be aware of the Private Finance Initiative, or PFI. This is a scam whereby the government pays over the odds to have services badly delivered by greedy corporate business. There is an additional bonus for the government : PFI activity can be held off the balance sheet. This means that the government can pretend that it doesn't owe as much money as it does. PFI is not the government taking our money and paying someone to have a non-job, this is the government taking our money and funnelling it straight into a business's bank account. How does this benefit anyone?
War: I have no problem with a vigorous defence of the homeland, but countless billions have been poured into utterly pointless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. No benefit has been served to the UK. And even if you accept that Iraqis and Afghanis are somehow better off, what about the extraordinary and continued cost in human life that is being paid there?
Foreign Aid: Foreign Aid is actually very rarely anything of the kind. Most of it just winds up funding various UK businesses to deliver arbitrary "services" somewhere else in the world. Most of these are, of course, ludicrously overcharged, but crucially, very little of this money actually winds up benefiting the needy abroad.
"OK, but what about the truly destitute, the homeless, the severely disabled?" Are you saying that if the other 99.5% of society wasn't threatened with the deprivation of its liberty*, not one single person would care enough to try and resolve this? Really? I mean, sure, not every one of the 99.5% in question would care, but I'm damn sure that enough people would care to sort it out.
And further, a complete lack of regulation would also make it easier for people to care and to act on their care. Got a severely-disabled person in your community? Grab a bucket and go collecting. No registering with the charities commission. No permissions to get. No health and safety hi-viz jacket required.
"Oh, but charity isn't enough and it isn't organised enough." Sure, but even with the massive state apparatus that we have now, people slip through the cracks. Do we really need to pay for everything that we currently do, to have the failures that we currently have? Is it heartless of me to say that we could still have that 0.1% of people slip through the cracks for less money? And that the remaining 99.9% of people might all be slightly happier through being wealthier? At what point do we have to justify the decrease in wealth for 99.9% of society for the 0.1% (or whatever it is) that are going to fall through the cracks whether we have a massive state or not?
In fact, I'd argue that having actual, individual people caring about other individual people would make it less likely that people would fall through the cracks than they do now, because some bureaucrat is more interested in some spurious centralised target than caring about actual, individual people.
Look at Baby P -- a massive state organisation exists specifically for situations like that. Yet Baby P was still murdered. Nobody was really accountable for it. This was after all the "lessons were learned" from Victoria Climbie as well.
Another objection I have to the state is the question of how the state should spend its (our) money. Pragmatically, I don't really have a problem with the state funding (say) basic healthcare. The problem is, my definition of basic healthcare is not the same as the next guy. Or the one next to him. And what the state delivers is also not aligned with anyone's definition of basic health care. So, everybody pays (whether they use it or not) and nobody gets what they want. So, rather than try to deliver a state that will make everyone happy (which is impossible to achieve) it's entirely simpler to argue instead that we don't need the state.
Is it heartless of me to believe that people will do the right thing, will care for those is need, without the threat of a jail sentence? I've travelled in Africa where there really is genuine poverty, not the notional "child poverty" crap that we have in the UK, but frightening, depressing, terrifying poverty. And yet those people, who have nothing, manage to take care of their disabled, their dispossessed, their even-more-unfortunates somehow. I cannot for the life of me see why other people would be any different.
"Ah yes, but we're selfish and have a different culture." Sure we do, but the truth of it is that it's in your selfish interest to care and contribute to your community, because without the safety net of a blind, money-spending state, your community is what is going to have to take care of you if things go wrong for you. It is just another case of rational self-interest making the world better for everyone.
It is not heartless to believe in the benefits of self-interest. Self-interest and caring for your own is a fundamental part of any society, it is apparent in all social animals. It does not exclude caring for others. It is folly to pretend self-interest doesn't exist, or to try and crush it under some sort of loftier "common good" ideal. It makes far more sense to let our natural behaviour work for the benefit of all of us.
I don't believe that the absence of a government would cause people to stop caring. Just as now, different people care about different things at different levels. But the absence or presence of a government has no bearing on that, and overall, people will still care just as much as they did before. In fact, I think that people would care more, because they wouldn't have the sop of "I gave at the tax office".
I don't believe that the state achieves no good for society. It would be difficult to do as many things as the state does and not get at least something right. But I don't believe that we need to pay extortion money to a bloated, overbearing, bullying thug to achieve those good things and many more beside. I also believe that we can achieve all of this more efficiently, allowing more resources to go into useful things that will cause humanity to progress and develop faster.
I believe that not having a state will not cause society to descend into Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. The overwhelming majority of us do not require a gun to our head to get along fine.
And I really don't see how any of the above makes me a heartless bastard.
* It fucks me off when I point out that the state's extortion with the menace of depriving of your liberty would be illegal if an individual behaved like that, I invariably get accused of being over-dramatic. But how is it over-dramatic? If I threatened to lock you in a 6'x4' cell for 7 years for not paying me half of your earnings, you would call me an extortionist, wouldn't you? How is it suddenly sanctified because the state is doing it?