i used to wonder, when i stood in line at a permitting office (to understand what this is like for a Libertarian, try to imagine being a Puritan, somehow compelled to stand amid the crowd readying the sacrifice to Baal) why any eye of any official in the place remained unblackened. Or at least why such business was not conducted through bulletproof glass, to prevent every contractor or foreman from plucking every officer of interference from behind the counter and beating him senseless. Why was it possible for these officials, who had no more right to choose a wire gauge or outlet spacing for me than i have right to choose a wife for you, to get out three words of their interference or “correction” without having their interfering teeth kicked straight down their interfering throats? Why was i alone (or so nearly alone) in absolute rage?
The answer is startlingly simple. If i may speak for the worst kind of contractor, who has some skill in navigating the regulatory thicket, who knows when to pay fees, knows ahead of time which fees to pay, knows who to give donuts, knows whose boss to call…When he hears the official say, “That will be $387.00 non-refundable to check the plans for this shed.” He does not hear how unnecessarily difficult and costly his work is being made for him, he hears how impossible it is being made for others. $387.00 is a small price to pay for monopoly. His heart may well leap at the very absurdity of a regulatory requirement, as he laughs to himself, “Sure, a crew of illegal immigrants could do this job for half the price, but let’s see them perform an environmental impact study!” The more burdensome are the regulatory requirements, and the more unlike they are to production itself, the more viable competitors become non-viable.
‘”Here, I have some apples, would you like to buy them?” “Yes, thank you.” THAT’S HOW HARD IT SHOULD BE TO START A BUSINESS IN THIS COUNTRY.‘
Let us address the problem of the real misery of vast numbers of men in the modern world. I’m talking about the prevalence of despair among citizens of modern societies, particularly male, but both wealthy and poor, successful, religious, nihilist, blue-collar, white-collar, healthy, unhealthy, really of all stripes. Unhappiness is a net drawing in all kinds, remarkably, all kinds who are secure against the miseries that attended the lives of their grandfathers. Why do suicide and alcoholism prevail to such a great extent in lands where starvation and exposure are all but eradicated? How is it that men have been saved from destruction, and ushered into a paradise of luxury and ease (relative to the hardships taken for granted a few generations ago) only to be cut down instead by an epidemic of self-destruction? How is it that every misfortune that afflicted our forefathers may be avoided, and a thousand satisfactions unavailable to them may be put before us, yet it is our generation’s lives that must be escaped in hard drink or shotgun blasts?
One idea would be that ease and luxury are unmanageable for men; that hardship is our natural environment, and we are lost without it, like salmon trying to fight their way upstream but finding no resisting current. This is to some extent true, in the sense that the satisfaction of contention is unique and essential to our life, but it is not unique to the struggles of our grandfathers, nor to the kind of hardships that are forced upon us by outside circumstance. Rather, in an individual life, we often see that escaping from a struggle with starvation actually opens the way for greater and more satisfying struggles, as of creative work or some personal, well-chosen mission. Depriving men of insecurity in their food supply or their shelter has not taken away from them the satisfaction of contending against obstacles, instead, it has set before them a choice of obstacles, whose overthrow will grant generally still greater satisfaction than the bare subsistence obtained through more basic labors in the face of a harsher world. By putting the struggles of Earth under men’s feet, we only place in their hands the struggles of the stars, if struggle is the desire of their hearts. Continue reading