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You don't coerce or injure others. Why can politicians do it?

Do externalities justify initiated force?

The State is the ultimate negative externality

When you get something for nothing a statist might call you a “free rider.” Economists call “getting something for nothing” a positive externality.

When you must pay a cost you didn’t willingly incur economists call that a negative externality. Examples include…

  • You burn something and the smoke harms your neighbors lungs
  • You open a new grocery store and the old grocery store across the street loses business

Statists believe The State must initiate force to eliminate negative externalities. But please notice something about the two examples provided above…

  1. The air pollution example involves aggression (initiated force). Your pollution trespassed on someone else’s lungs, causing harm. Legitimate government can address this aggression, using defensive force. But…
  2. The grocery store example involves no aggression and cannot legitimately be addressed by government. In fact, any action to prevent a new store from opening will only create new negative externalities. It will harm the people who wanted to open the store, and the consumers who would have shopped there

In other words…

  • It’s appropriate to use defensive force to correct negative externalities that involve aggression (as with pollution).
  • It’s self-refuting to initiate force to stop negative externalities that involve no aggression. This is because initiated force is itself a negative externality — that is, it forces people to pay a cost they didn’t willingly incur..

The logic should be clear — you cannot eliminate negative externalities by creating new negative externalities.

Consider this real-world example. In many places you must receive a “certificate of need” in order to open a new hospital. Such regulations…

  • Create state-sanctioned cartels or monopolies
  • Harm would-be business owners and consumers
  • Require threats of initiated force
  • Are themselves negative externalities

In short…

  • Negative externalities do not justify initiated force
  • Initiated force is itself a negative externality
  • The State uses initiated force for nearly everything it does. Therefore…
  • The State cannot cure negative externalities. Instead…
  • The State is the ultimate negative externality

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