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I am a libertarian state employee

A former student asked me the other day if I was a libertarian. I told him "I lean that way". He mentioned another student who was a libertarian, and said he  pointed out that to this other student that he was attending a state-funded university.

And I of course, am an employee at a state-funded university.

I wrestle with this a lot. I take a bit of  comfort from the fact that libertarian icon Murray Rothbard, a man so pure in his anti-statism he makes me look like Leon Trotsky, taught at UNLV.  This doesn't completely resolve it for me though. Someone could just argue that Rothbard was being inconsistent too.

I'm going to have to continue to wrestle, because I don't plan on changing my political philosophy (at least not for this reason), and I'm not going to quit my job just for the sake of ideological purity. It would accomplish little. It wouldn't save the taxpayers any money because my position would still exist. Those who disagree with me would have one less piece of ammunition, but they would quickly find others. For instance, I'm pretty sure I would keep driving on state-funded roads.

State-funded roads are a good illustration of how difficult it is to avoid accepting state subsidies. Since the state  has a monopoly on roads, it's pretty hard to confine yourself to private roads.

Of course the government doesn't have a monopoly on jobs. But there is a continuum. The bigger the percentage of the economy the government controls, the more jobs it controls. There was an excellent illustration of this in my own family.

About thirty years ago, all kindergartens were private. During this time, my mother had a job at a church-run kindergarten. When public schools started offering kindergarten, the one where she worked naturally went out of business. I can't say public kindergarten was the only reason, but certainly having competitors that offer the same service for free is not good for a business.

Let me be clear. This is not a sob story about what the government did to my poor mother. She did OK after this. She soon found another job teaching public kindergarten.

And that's my point. Because of government-run kindergarten, my mother had to take a job in public schools. Maybe she didn't absolutely have to, but the range of private sector alternatives was narrowed. She had a new vested interest in government spending, and was in a position where she had to  either support it or be accused of biting the hand that feeds her.

There are other arguments I could make. For one thing, I am a state employee, not a federal one, and I make distinctions between state & local governments (which are smaller and closer to the people they serve) and federal government in most areas of my political philosophy. (That's why I support both DOMA *and* H.R 2835).

Finally, I am indebted to Walter Block, who in one of his answers to readers letters, provided wise counsel to a reader in a quandry similar to my own. (It's the response to letter II, with the heading "over the transom").


Ah, the libertarian guilt. I've felt it too...and I've felt liberal guilt back in the days I didn't know how to argue with environmentalism, or the idea that we're all guilty for starving kids in Africa. Our economies are so mixed that you can't not partake in either capitalism or big governmentism!