Big government libertarianism?

The editorial page editor of the The Record (Hackensack, NJ), Alfred Doblin, has described himself as a libertarian on more than one occasion in essays on the editorial page.  In his latest essay, Doblin is at it again, claiming he believes in “small government” and the welfare state.  Below is my Letter to the Editor about Doblin’s essay that will not be published because my recent op-ed on the end-of-life care.

In “Reform isn’t America’s cup of coffee or tea,” (March 1), editorial page editor Alfred P. Doblin writes that he favors small government and that government “is spending tax dollars on programs on programs that should and could be offered by the private sector.” He goes on to assert that “there are certain things that, while not a constitutional right, area societal responsibility.”

Mr. Doblin then argues for government programs in the remainder of his essay to address many of the ills we face in our society.   In short, Mr. Doblin tries to square the circle by implying that there is such a thing as a “big government libertarian,” which he epitomizes.   In other word, Mr. Doblin’s essay is full of contradictions and non sequiturs.

For example, if individuals and families have special needs, the proper role in a free society is for the community through its charitable institutions to aid the downtrodden and others.  It is not necessary to tax the general public to do “good works.”  The nonprofit sector is the social service sector that is best equipped to deal with hunger, drunkardness and other ailments.  Voluntarism is the heart of a free society.

Mr. Doblin also claims that government mandates—like being taxed to pay for public education–are proper because they either protect individuals and/or promote a better society.  He uses the analogy of insurance to support his assertion that ‘singles and seniors [should] pay for public education even if they do not use it.”

People pay for insurance to avoid catastrophic losses.  In other words, people buy insurance because they want to reduce the inherent risks of life–house fires, automobile thefts and accidents, major illnesses, and death.  Education, on the other hand, is a service, a very important one, that does not have to be financed using coercion, i.e., taxes.  Education should be paid for by consumers just like we pay other goods and services in a free society, by voluntary actions.

In the final analysis, Mr. Doblin claims to be a supporter of small government, but his support of the welfare state, in all its manifestations, contradicts his claim that he is a Jeffersonian at heart.

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