My newest LibertyChat article takes on Bryan Caplan’s surprising argument that Rothbardians can’t explain why government enterprises work so well. Here’s my conclusion, so you can see where I took the argument, but you should read the whole thing; I even talk about ice-pick lobotomies. (Yes, I went there.)
We see that the spirit of Rothbard’s analysis stands up, after all. There is not a sharp divide between “purely private” and “totally government” enterprise, but instead there is a spectrum. Some enterprises, like your local grocery store, are purely private–they can’t hobble their competitors and they can’t force their customers to give them money. Others, such as the Post Office, still have to convince their customers to give them money voluntarily, but they enjoy legal monopoly privileges. Still others, like a government school, receive tax funding regardless of how satisfied their “customers” are, but they can’t force parents to send their kids to that particular school, because even attendance laws can be satisfied by private schools or homeschooling (depending on the state). Finally, some enterprises–such as the NSA–can take your money and force you to enjoy their “services” with no choice on your part whatsoever.
The Rothbardian analysis, adjusting for this more nuanced spectrum, would say the grocery store is great, the Post Office and government school are a lot worse but not monstrosities, while the worst people in society will end up messing with you in the NSA and related agencies. And yep, that sounds about right, looking out at the world with open eyes.