48. How Do We Promote Good Behavior Without Force?

For those who believe in a very limited government, there is a belief that government should not be telling us what to do or how to live our lives. But that doesn’t mean society would be lawless and chaotic where everyone just does what they please at the expense of others.


Here is the transcript of our conversation:


Brittany: Hi Connor.

Connor: Hey Brittany.

Brittany: I firmly believe that people are generally good and they want to do good to other people, and they are capable of behaving well without a government constantly breathing down their necks and telling them what to do. But a lot of people don’t agree with me. And a lot of people worry that in a truly free society where we might have less government, and fewer police officers, people would naturally be inclined to maybe treat others poorly or even commit crimes of stealing things from each other. So today I wanna talk a little bit about ways we can encourage people to behave well in a world where maybe we don’t have as much government or what we would do in maybe a world where we didn’t have the kind of police officers were thinking about today, or we had just a different kind of accountability system. So I thought that would be a fun conversation.

Connor: Yeah, I think that’s interesting because police, their, one kind of term for them I think we talked about before is peace officer keep the peace. And then the other is law enforcement officers like Robocop

Brittany: Sounds Scary.

Connor: Yeah. I have to enforce the law. So yeah, that’s kinda interesting. What are ways that we can make sure by the way, I think it’s funny when you say you think people are good the thought in the back of my mind was she must not be on social media very much. Now, I just only a little but okay, this is interesting. So in a world, let’s say you and I form a new island. Yes. And we invite a bunch of friends, and so we have this new government that we can set up how we want. What kind of thoughts come to mind is how we can build that society in a way that would be better.

Brittany: Well, one time we talked about this, I think it waves in the Declaration of Independence episode, but we talked about how in the beginning before or as we were becoming a country, a lot of the colonies had compacts or contracts with each other where they kind of said, We agreed to do this and this, and if we decide, or if you don’t abide by this or you decide not to follow this, then we can kick you out of our city. Or you can do something like that. And I think that that has always made a lot of sense. So right now we don’t live in cities where everybody agrees to follow the same laws. We kind of move wherever we have to move and then make do right. But what if we all lived in a city where even as we were forming it, let’s say this island we’re forming, we all agreed to our laws up front? That would be a whole different way of thinking,

Connor: Like consent for the government, right? Yes. And so I have a book that for the teenagers out there, and then the adults as well is very interesting. I may have mentioned it before, but lessons from a Lemonade stand is written specifically for that audience. And in there we go through and break down what consent looks like. The fact that you live in a certain area, Does that mean you’ve consented to the government that kind of has the jurisdiction or the control over that area? Or the fact that you pay your taxes to that government, does that mean you’re consenting to it? Or if you vote in the election, does that mean that you are consenting to whatever the outcome is? There are some really interesting questions there to tease out, to try and understand what that actually looks like. We talk about this a little bit in The Tuttle Twins and the Fate of the Future, which was based on Anatomy of the State by Murray Rothbard. Very interesting book talking about these kinds of things because yeah, consent is so important. Consent is important. When you’re getting married and you’re in a relationship with someone, it’s important when you’re getting a job, right? We’re not slaves. No. Yeah, we consent to work. And so consent should totally matter when it comes to, I think our government too.

Brittany: So how would it work then? And this one is always interesting to me. Let’s say the police force. So a lot of people have this idea that if we lived in a free society, there would be no more police. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Now, obviously, every new city would come up with its own way of doing things, but it’s not that we wouldn’t have the police. It would be first of all, who the police are following, what orders they’re following, and whose laws they’re enforcing. So it would be a little bit different. It would be a little bit different if we had a free society. What do you think that might look like?

Connor: That’s a great question. I wanna suggest a couple of things. One is the law based on or by Frederic Bastiat We based our Tuttle Twins Learn About the Law on that one. So that essay covers what I’m about to say. And also there’s an essay by a gentleman named Ezra Taft Benson called The Proper Role of Government, which you can find online that kinda walks you through the same argument. And in there he explains it a little bit more concisely. He actually references Bastiat several times. Now in there, it talks about, and this is very a Thomas Jefferson-esque John Locke kind of argument that the government is us of the people by the for the people. We hear that sometimes. But really the government in our island example, it’s basically some people who get together and say, All right, here’s how we want to be governed.

Now again, we talk about this in the fate of the future. Murray Rothbart talks about this in his book. The Government is not this independent entity. It’s not this creature that preexisted our decision to bring it into existence. So what that means is we created it. We created this institution and we delegated to it and to its enforcement officers, which are the police, we’ve delegated certain powers. We’ve said, Okay, hey, we want you to help protect us ’cause there are bad guys on the island or whatever. Or if someone murders someone else or steals from someone else, we need someone to help enforce the laws and make sure that bad behavior is punished. And so that is the authority that we ourselves have. I can defend my little island hut and I can stop someone using force if they’re trying to steal my, I don’t know what my bananas are for my banana trees or whatever. I can use force in defense of myself and my property. Those are rights that I just inherently have. I have the right to self-defense. And so I can then go to the police, the government, I can say, Hey, this right of self-defense that I have and the right same that all my neighbors have, cuz all individuals have this, right? We can delegate to you, the government, the police, that same power. So now you can kind of defend us

Brittany: On our behalf.

Connor: On our behalf. You’re kind of delegating, you’re asking this person to use this on your behalf much. I’m a boss, I’m an employer. And so I can delegate power to my employee. I can say, Hey, you can go sign this contract for me, or I want you to attend this meeting for me on my behalf. You’re representing me. You’re kind of my delegate, but you can use my power. And so it’s that way with police in all reality that the government is an extension of us and we’ve delegated certain powers. Now, if the police officer said, Aha, civil asset forfeiture, give me your bananas because I think that you illegally planted too many trees. Well, wait a minute. Now when the police officer is turning from the good guy and the protector into the, as we say in The Tuttle Twins learn about The Law, kind of the plunder Bastiat talked about that too.

When it’s kinda the pirate plundering and stealing things, that’s wrong. And it feels like a lot of the problems people have with police and with the government is that they’ve kind of gone beyond where the law should be. The law should just be the power that we have. We delegate, we say, Hey, defend us on our behalf, and let’s keep the peace. But then when they start getting into bossing people around or when they let the majority, the 51% of voters boss around the 49% and just control them in whatever ways they want, that’s when I think we start to get into a lot of problems.

Brittany: Well, you bring up an interesting point. You brought up civil asset forfeiture, but I’m gonna bring up another thing which is occupational licensing. We’ve also talked about that quite a bit. Yeah. So there are actually cities, There is one city in Atlanta that has or one little suburb of Atlanta that actually has they don’t use the Atlanta Police Department, they use their own private police force. And it’s interesting because you have things like occupational licensing. For example, I watched once, there was a guy who was trying to sell a vendor, a street vendor, I don’t know if you know what that is, but people who wanna sell their items just on the street, they don’t have a storefront, they’ll just kinda set up shop In New York, you see a lot of this. Well, so I saw a guy setting up a shop and he got yelled at and totally had to stop.

But here’s the difference between what would’ve happened if it was a police officer give versus a private police officer. If it had been a public police officer, they would’ve been given a ticket and possibly arrested and told to leave with the private police force. They were just given a warning. They said That’s not the rule here. We don’t do that here. So we’re gonna ask you to leave and pick up your stuff. So had he not left, he probably would’ve gotten in trouble. But there were these different motives, this different incentive where instead of writing tickets or making sure that somebody didn’t have or had this occupational license, the only real thing this officer was worried about was making sure that the public was safe. And if the public was safe, there was no need to write this guy a ticket. He just asked him to leave. So I thought that was a really interesting kind of experiment in the difference of policing.

Connor: Yeah, that’s super interesting. And as we talk about these things, it’s so important to do these thought experiments. I feel like this because especially in The Fate of the Future book, it’s very much about helping kids envision what the future looks like. If we had to create our own government, our own society, Yeah, what would that look like? And what are the problems that we need to solve or do a little bit differently? I wanna get under social pressure, right? Because if people are doing things that we don’t like others, I’ll give you an example. I once lived down the road from a woman who called the police on her neighbor because she felt like her neighbor’s weeds were too tall,

Brittany: <laugh>.

Connor: And it’s crazy when you think about it because when the police show up, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong. Cause if that person resists or they’re having a bad day or they’re given a little bit of a foul mouth to the cop or things like that, that can go very poorly very quickly. And it has, There are examples all around the country where this simple little thing like the George Floyd that everyone was protesting about months ago all stemmed from just a counterfeit $20 bill. Now, in that case, that’s wrong. That if it was really a counterfeit bill, then someone’s being defrauded or whatever. But when these little things turn into these explosive big things because of the police, that’s I think where a lot of people get upset. So when my neighbor calls the other neighbor or the police on the other neighbor and it’s for weeds, what are some things that people could do to try and model society and the way that they want without just saying, calling the cops on everyone?

Brittany: That’s a really good point. And one thing I think we don’t do anymore is talking to our neighbors. And I’m guilty of this too. How many problems or how much contention would we avoid if maybe that neighbor would’ve just walked over and said, Hey, would you mind trimming the weeds? I pay property taxes. I care about the way my house looks too. Even just something like that seems like it would be a better idea than immediately resorting to calling the police. Because as we just talked about, sometimes when you call the police, it ends in violence and you don’t wanna hurt your neighbor. I would hope that you wouldn’t wanna hurt your neighbor. So it seems like there are just better ways of talking to each other. It would be one of them.

Connor: Yeah, I think that’s really interesting. I also think back, it’s been a few years, but when Chick-fil-A was the subject of some protests by people who wanted same-sex marriage, I believe that was the issue at the time. And the owners of Chick-fil-A are evangelical Christian and they had some concerns about that and didn’t support it. So then there was this boycott of Chick-fil-A by a bunch of people and they’d kind of do protests in front of some of their stores. And then there were people who agreed with the other point of view who formed counter-protests and what would you call ’em, organized days to go eat at Chick-fil-A. Right. Okay, you’re gonna boycott them. We’re gonna go eat at them, double the amount we otherwise would. And that’s the free market way of pushing for issues that you believe in. Let’s use free speech, let’s use debate.

You’re welcome to vote with your feet and say, I’m not gonna support this business with your wallet. Yeah. Or with your wallet. The hard part, I feel like, with the way the government works is you could say what you just said, Brittany, vote with your wallet or vote with your feet is what some people will say. And just leave and say, Oh, in my state of California, and frankly, a lot of people are doing this in California, they’re leaving cause they’re including my whole family. And so there are some people who can do that, but it’s hard because you’ve got roots. It’s your family there, your property, your business, your network, and your friends. And so the likelihood of someone leaving their state or even their country, I mean you and I know Bob Higgs and there are some others who just kind of leave America cuz they’re so fed up with it.

But that’s so hard. The costs are so high to just vote with your feet and say, Oh, I don’t like this government. I’m because then the government you move to, they can maybe do the same thing and maybe five years later they do. And so it seems very difficult for people to apply pressure on the government because they just control so much and there are not a lot of good options for people to just social pressure that seems good for business. The Chick-fil-A example I mentioned, or even the cake baker guy, rather than using the cake baker and saying, You need to bake me a cake that has a message of my choosing or whatever. Why are we making the government force someone to support something they don’t like or do something they don’t want? Can’t we just let business owners just do whatever they want? To find a different cake baker, but exactly or you or protest them. Write a negative review on Google or Yelp if you want. Big deal. But when we talk about the government doing something wrong, if the government’s going to war with Libya or Syria or whatever, and we don’t like that, we don’t really have a lot of good options to apply that pressure and protest.

Brittany: No, same with police officers. That one town in Atlanta was a small exception, but for the most part, you have to use your city’s police force or you have to. And we’ve talked about the word monopoly before, and that’s because the government has kind of a monopoly on law enforcement right now or on the way that we enact these laws. So it would be great if we lived in a world like we were saying, to imagine these scenarios where we could live in a world where we could start from scratch and what that would look like and how we would keep people’s behavior good in those circumstances. So I think it’s a really interesting conversation.

Connor: I think it is too. And as I said, I think the thought exercise is really important. Perhaps this is a reminder and an opportunity for you guys to go reread The Tuttle Twins and The Fate of the Future and think a little bit more about these topics. Because it’s one thing to kind of hack at the leaves right in the branches and kind of say, Oh, let’s do this little reform, or what about this minor idea? But there are some people who wanna strike at the root. I’m referencing a quote by Henry David Thoreau for all the people who are hacking at the branches. I think he says something like, There are a thousand people hacking at the branches for everyone trying to strike at the root. And a lot of people just think about and pursue these changes that are minor and so forth. But I think it’s a lot more fun, especially for our Tuttle Twins readers. I think they’re very like-minded to try and think about the big picture, the big ideas. And so a fun topic today. Thanks are always Brittany, and we’ll chat with you next time.

Brittany: Talk to you next time

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