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Flint

The Flint water problem makes me think a big government would be so awesome – government loves us and takes care of us, right? It’s them, they’re the parents… or the enemy, if something goes wrong. Government forever! More government, please! Yes, let’s make the government stronger and bigger! Let’s TRUST the government!

Or not. We’re Americans. What happened in Flint sounds like an absolute travesty, and it’s not US and THEM – it’s us and us, and as long as we see the government as something other than fellow citizens, it’ll never get better.

How about we say “no government” and instead we say “people who we’ve asked to administer public services,” instead?

Look, I’m a libertarian, and the thing in Flint is exactly why. It’s precisely why I don’t trust people who advocate taking our responsibilities for ourselves and handing them off to someone else – people are human, and we struggle to do well for ourselves, much less others.

“What is a libertarian?” seems to be one of the questions most likely to be answered wrong in today’s politics. A libertarian is one who believes in liberty. That’s not the same as anarchy; someone who says “no law” is not a libertarian. Someone who says “the market will decide whether something is ethical” is trying to steal something from you. The market can decide the value of something.. but there’s a rational limit. If someone says “a restaurant that serves poison is going to shut down because the market will shut it down” is an anarchist, not a libertarian; a libertarian would incarcerate someone who tried to poison you. Liberty requires peace and vigilance.

I can’t imagine looking at John Q. Politician and saying, “Well, he has to work hard to take care of his kids, surely he’ll find taking care of mine easy.”

Nope. He’s going to have a much harder time actually taking care of mine, because realistically, he doesn’t care. He’s going to put his own interests first, even as a public servant; what can be done, what can be done easily, what can be done to make people happy?

That’s not what I – or we – need.

What we need is for John Q. Politician to enable us to take care of ourselves, in our own ways, because we’re competent and human. We should trust Mr. Politician to do his job, just like we do our jobs… which means we need to be watching, and trust him about as much as we can realistically be trusted. (Which is to say: not very far, even if we’re trustworthy.)

I feel awful for the people in Flint… and I hope America is watching.

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