In his essay, Politics as a Vocation, Max Weber was the first to identify “monopoly” as a constitutive characteristic of statehood. Though he meant it in terms of the use of physical force within a defined territory, state monopoly on violence has surpassed its original meaning into a monopoly on choice.
Freedom to choose, explained
Freedom to choose, to the same extent as any other ‘freedom’, presupposes some kind of action, be it a mental or a physical one. Freedom to choose private healthcare, freedom to choose to bear arms, freedom to choose to take drugs, freedom to choose politicians, freedom to choose to have a different type of haircut than the ones allowed under the North Korean legislation. Unlike freedoms from, as in freedom from surveillance, for example, which aim to prevent us from unsolicited external interference, freedom to choose empowers us to act.
What Nazism and mandated healthcare have in common
Due to this inherent characteristic of the freedom to choose, it has always been the key target of every oppressive system. The first thing Hitler did when he came to power in 1933 was eliminate the opposition, or otherwise known as the freedom to choose to disagree with Nazism. When governments today establish public healthcare systems, they are employing a similar strategy, as they are depriving us of the freedom to choose not to pay for it through our taxes. By lessening the number of choices available to individuals, governments seek to prevent action and, thus, leave more space for actions on their part.
Monopolized enterprises created by governments
Obviously, every such interference with our freedom to choose will sooner or later make its way into market relations. Whether it’s an enterprise or an individual that is granted the privilege of being the sole provider of a certain product or service in a country — either way, the government claims a monopoly on our choice. It limits our options and, consequently, makes us powerless as consumers.
The free market speaks the language of profit and loss. Private enterprises need to instantly interact with their consumers as, in order for a successful exchange to happen, the interests of each party need to be taken into account. Both an independent entrepreneur and an individual bring to the table their freedom to choose and both benefit when it is realized in the course of their transaction.
At the core of the free market lies the idea of an empowered individual holding a monopoly over their choices, which is certainly something governments crave to steal and replace with their own monopoly. The worst aspect of the monopolist enterprises created by governments is that they treat the monopoly as an ideal and, thus, at some point they become uncontrollable.
Government monopolies grow gradually
Since their power comes from governments rather than from consumers, the holders of these monopolies have no incentive to be creative. The quality of their services and products falls off as quickly as does the quality of every new law and every new politician.
State monopoly on choices is never claimed overnight. It is a very long and gradual process, which starts with an assertion of being the source of legitimate force required to adjudicate coercion and secure peace. But once we allow the state to affirm any kind of monopoly, there is nothing preventing it from monopolizing every other sphere of our life.
Hence, it is either we who hold the monopoly on our choices and make governments compromise, or governments have this monopoly and then it is us who are forced to compromise.
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Edited by Russell Coates
This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.