The Occupy movement is, among other things and a little paradoxically, another experiment with libertarian ideas. One crucial question is this; Who performs services we have come to consider necessary when no one has taxing authority?
The Occupy encampment in Santa Cruz displays about forty tents. As I have said before, it would be foolish to deduce any sort of precise estimate of the actual population of campers from this figure. (“Woman’s Mind; The Mysteries of Occupy….”). You can’t even assume that there is one camper per tent. Some campers go home and leave their tent behind when it gets cold at night.
Whatever the case may be, in the course, of twenty-four hours, there is enough human traffic to necessitate access to a toilet. The county authorities may have discouraged the use of country building toilets or else, the campers took it to heart to demonstrate that they are responsible and self-sufficient. At any rate, there is, or there was, on the camping site a Porta-Pottie-type booth sitting (so to speak ) on a trailer. The trailer itself is, or was, hooked to a pick-up truck. For five days, there was a big hand-painted sign on the booth saying, “Dump ride needed.” I think five days is too long to wait unlike someone had the foresight to make th request well in advance of objective need. I am not expert but I don’t think the capacity of the contraption much exceeds five days even of light use. Are you with me?
To go back to my original question about libertarianism, of course, I believe that in time someone would offer the dumping service for pay. With a multiplication of sites in need, the service delivery would become more efficient and cheaper. Competition would arise, insuring a fair price (There is no other definition of “fair,” I think.) However this non-authoritarian, market response would require that someone, or some ones, pay the honey-dippers’ bill. And if you passed the hat around, there would be a chance that only the richest, or only the individuals with the most sensitive noses, or with the greatest concern for hygiene, would contribute.
And, here you go, with the “free rider problem,” the single most common justification for the existence of coerced payments that is, for taxes. Note that the last sentence in the last paragraph above points to an especially vexing implication of the free rider problem. It’s the likelihood that the virtuous would end paying the fare of the moral swines that oink among us.
[Editor's note: this essay first appeared on Dr. Delacroix's blog, Facts Matter, on December 2nd 2011]