This article was published in the Summer 1994 issue of Formulations
by the Free Nation Foundation
Agreed Ground Version 0
by Bobby Yates Emory
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I. Introduction
II. Most Goods and Services
III."Government Services"
IV. Mixed Provision
V. Unagreed Ground

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I. Introduction

As libertarians, we understand that most of life's necessities and luxuries can best be provided by the free market. But as new people encounter us, they may feel that our plan is incomplete because we have not covered some area they feel is essential. To prevent this we need to outline the areas that we agree will not need to be solved by government. This is our agreed common ground.

You will notice that this is labeled as version 0, my suggestion for a starting point for developing what will be an important document when we start explaining our ideas to non-libertarians. Please give me your suggestions for the next version.

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II. Most Goods and Services

Of the astounding array of goods and services required for what we consider normal life, people in most societies are accustomed to most being provided by the free market.

A. Basic Needs

Our basic needs food, clothing, and shelter are produced in most societies by the free market and, in a libertarian society, would continue to be, but with less interference from government.

1. Food

Food will continue to be grown, processed, distributed, and retailed by the free market. The FDA and FTC would no longer be regulating production. Lack of sugar quotas and milk marketing boards would mean lower food costs.

2. Clothing

Clothing would continue to be grown or spun, woven, and tailored by the free market. The CPSC would no longer control the design of children's pajamas. Since there would no longer be import quotas, some prices would be lower.

3. Shelter

Shelter will continue to be built, sold, rented, and financed by private providers. Like a few cities today, we would enjoy faster construction at lower costs because building inspectors would not be interfering in construction. Lack of government guarantees would cause mortgage rates to go up relative to other interest rates, but interest rates in general will go back to traditional rates without government absorbing so much of the available money to loan.

4. Assurance

Where consumers need greater assurance that standards are being met, private organizations such as UL for electrical equipment and the Snell Foundation for helmets will provide this service.

B. Other Goods and Services

Likewise, most goods and services will be provided by the free market but with lower prices, more flexibility, and more rapid innovation because there will be no government interference.

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III. "Governmental Services"

We are accustomed to the government providing some goods and many services. Often many of these services are provided in part by the free market, but this section considers those that are usually thought of as being provided by the government. These vary by country. In Europe, telephone services and television broadcasts are provided by the government, and statists there probably think that we must have government if we are to have broadcast TV, whereas USA resident statists would be comfortable with competitively provided telephone service (but they would probably want to regulate it). Likewise, European statists probably could not see how competing long distance telephone companies would work, but USA statists use them routinely.

A. Courts

We are accustomed to most of our court service being provided by the government, with only a small amount being provided by mediation and arbitration services. In a libertarian society, much, if not all, of this service would be provided by the free market. And since the list of criminal laws would be greatly reduced, the case load of the courts would be drastically reduced. This is an area where we have not yet agreed on the extent to which government is needed.

B. Police

We tend to think of the police services as being provided by the government. Actually, in the USA there are more private police, security guards, etc., than there are governmental police. In a libertarian society, this trend would be accentuated. There is no agreement yet on whether a vestigial police force is necessary.

C. Parks

Today, many parks are provided by the government. Others are provided by homeowners' associations, non-profit organizations, and for-profit companies. In a libertarian society, the government would not be involved. All parks would be provided by free market and voluntary alternatives.

D. Roads

In a libertarian society, roads will be provided by private toll roads, shopping centers, developers, and others interested in a particular road being built. Without the government, costs will be lower and services better matched to users' needs. Current technologies make it convenient to meter usage of toll roads and would allow time-of-day based billing.

E. Fire Fighting

Fire fighting would be done by private companies and voluntary associations. This has been shown to provide the highest level of safety while significantly lowering costs.

F. Professional Licensing

Professionals would be licensed by professional associations and private inspection organizations.

G. Product Safety

Products would be certified for safety by private testing labs such as UL.

H. Others

Most other products and services that we normally think of as government produced (e.g., mail delivery) would be provided by the free market. See "Unagreed Ground" below for possible exceptions.

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IV. Mixed Provision

Some services are provided currently by both government and free market mechanisms.

A. Charity

While there are many private charities serving different needs, government provides welfare, the dole, AFDC, WIC, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and many others. In a libertarian society, all of these would be provided by investment plans, banks, and voluntary charities.

B. Medical

Most markets are served by urgent care facilities, for-profit hospitals, and non-profit hospitals. But there are also usually government-run facilities. In a libertarian society, the other facilities would provide all services.

C. Mental Health

There are private mental health centers in addition to the government mental hospitals. In a libertarian society, the private facilities would provide services for all.

D. Standards and Safety

While the National Bureau of Standards provides some standards, American National Standards Institute (ANSI) could take over all standards. DOT and CPSC provide some safety standards, but UL, Snell Foundation, and others would take over all safety standards.

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V. Unagreed Ground

We have not yet agreed on how a few areas would be handled in a libertarian society. Atempting to discover solutions to these problems is part of the work of the Free Nation Foundation.

A. Courts

Will courts be provided totally by the free market, or will there be courts provided by governments?

B. Police

Will all protective services be free market, or will there be governmental police?

C. Making Law

Will custom or "laws merchant" specify the law, or will the legislature?

D. National Defense

Will protective agencies, insurance compa-nies, or a government agency defend the nation?

E. International Relations

How will the nation deal with other nations? D

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Bobby Yates Emory of Raleigh, North Carolina, has worked a career as a programmer and systems analyst at IBM. A longtime libertarian activist, he has run for offices from County Commissioner to U.S. Senator, and held political party offices from Precinct Chairman to Regional Representative to the National Committee.

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