For both libertarians and statists, it’s easy to forget that there’s a difference between believing that a thing ought to be done and believing that the State ought to be the one to do it. There’s a similar difference between an ideological opposition to a particular act (in this case, abortion or premarital sex) and a belief that the act ought to be legally, and thus forcibly and violently, prevented. The non-aggression principle means that our personal feelings on the best possible world can’t influence our decision to use force against other people, no matter how strongly we might feel.
Case in point: Politico reports that donations to Planned Parenthood have exploded 500% since a Republican budget amendment stripped the group of its federal funding. The Reddit comments on the situation recognize that this lends credence to the argument that the Federal government doesn’t need to be funding such activities, but most of them lament that fact. Talk of defunding NPR and PBS was met with a similarly vitriolic response.
I don’t see this defunding as a bad thing, for any side of the debate. The social and fiscal conservative voters “get what they want,” in that their tax dollars are no longer spent on these specific activities they might find abhorrent. The libertarians and state abolitionists and anarchists get what we want, because the government is taking less action in general. Those who support the missions of Planned Parenthood and PBS get what they want, because these organizations will no longer be bound by the fetters of government funding, and may instead pursue activities dictated by the will of their private donors.
The losers in this case are the politicians, of all stripes. These minor funding issues constitute a very small part of the Federal budget, but occupy a great deal of the debate. The two factions of our one-party system are able to focus on these minor differences, to make it seem as though they’re fighting great battles against the other faction’s evil desires to fund abortion and non-Christian sex education or to rob women of their reproductive rights and guarantee teen pregnancy. With the debate settled and the ideological elements of the community voting with their wallets, the political class will have to talk about other issues, some of which may be more substantial. That is a good thing.
The fact of the matter is that most of the government’s activities could be similarly defunded. Most social programs, most entitlements, most defense and security arrangements could be taken care of on a purely voluntary basis by willing donors without the graft and overhead imposed by the State’s bureaucracy. Agencies like the TSA may have a harder time finding funding, but that’s because the public doesn’t want the TSA to begin with.
If the government were to undergo a true shutdown and defund all “non-essential” services, the basic decency and generosity of the American public would once again become abundantly clear. Charities and churches and mosques and temples would return to the forefront of human care. Private individuals would be able to see the good their work does in the world directly, rather than griping about tax burdens.
So I rejoice that Planned Parenthood should be defunded, not because their activities will be limited, but because private donations have taken up the slack. I rejoice that we should have such a clear and direct example of the value of cooperation without coercion. I rejoice that the volunteers are winning, and that the bureaucrats are losing. It’s a good thing.