Bob Higgs is a lazer-guided libertarian rhetoric missile.
When aggrieved persons complain about the state’s actions and speak as if it were nothing more than an alien aggressor against an individual’s rights—and an impudently highhanded one at that—progressives have long replied that “we are the government.” In this instance, they steadfastly maintain that the whole is identical with the sum of its parts. Thus, no person has a firm ground on which to complain about the government because, after all, he is (a part of) the government.
This reply is so manifestly silly and transparently false that libertarians seldom pause to consider it except to mock it and to denounce the seeming foolishness or arrogance of anyone audacious enough to advance it. And rightly so, I think. I did not buy shares in the U.S. government; I simply happened to be born in a place known as Oklahoma, and by virtue of this happenstance, the gang of armed bandits who style themselves the U.S. government has claimed the right to rob and bully me at its pleasure from the day of my birth till today. Nor do they have any plans to lighten this oppression, however unwelcome I may consider it to be. I cannot escape from it by “selling my shares” or by declining to deal with it.
I don’t think I’m as much of an anti-statist as Higgs. I think he’s probably glad to have been born in Oklahoma as opposed to Port-Au-Prince. But I enjoy reading Higgs and thinking long and hard about what he writes. And his laser-guided accuracy on this point cannot be disputed. Governments are corporate, that is, they are individuals collected into one body. And their power isn’t something to trifle with. It can’t easily be denied. I gave up eating cereal on a regular basis a while ago, and no one from the Kellogg’s corporation called my house to ask why their receipts fell off. Should I discount my tax bill because I gave up using public services or because I decided not to send our yet-to-be conceived children to public schools, I would most certainly get a call from the tax collector.
It is absurd to believe that private corporations are manifestly evil while corporations of individuals known as governments are either utterly benign at the most or eminently swayable through the ballot box at the least.