Take a Penny, Don’t Leave a Penny

I ran across this nifty quote in my travels today:

FiveBooks.com: Can you govern as a libertarian in America? You’ve got all these state government programs and you probably can’t get rid of a single one of them – or at least not more than one or two without a battle. Can you be a libertarian governor?

Mitch Daniels: I try to be. I mean, just to be simplistic about it, we believe that leaving the maximum number of dollars in the possession of those who earned them is an exercise in enlarging freedom.

I do this little game sometimes if I’m in a high school classroom. I walk around and ask innocently, ‘Does anyone have a dollar bill?’ – and some kid will produce one and I just stuff it in my pocket and walk on. After the consternation and the giggling stop, I say, ‘What, What?’ Then I go into a little rap and I say, ‘Oh, Jonathan wants his money back – notice that he is a dollar less free than he was a minute ago; if he had that dollar he could decide, he could choose [where and how to spend it]’.

Then I talk about how inevitably we have to coerce money out of people to do necessary and important public business. But if we believe in freedom and liberty than we ought to do that only for necessary purposes.

Then I go on to talk about competence and the fact that it becomes an equally solemn duty to never misspend a dollar. Maybe that’s not the right response but when I’m asked about governing as a libertarian, I would say that’s one way I do it.

Now, I don’t think for a minute Mitch Daniels governs like a true Libertarian, but he’s the best we’ve got. If we had it our way, you probably wouldn’t even recognize America today — particularly in the realm of healthcare, public education and mass transit. You would still have those things, in most cases, but they would be approached from the standpoint of making them affordable for everyone, not just the elite few and not just giving handouts to the poorest few, either.

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