Frustration and Ideology
Radley Balko “got a little more libertarian” yesterday after a frustrating experience with his income taxes. Essentially, his e-file was rejected because of an invalid Social Security number which wasn’t invalid at all, the Social Security office wouldn’t help him by phone, and the office was closed by the time he got there. And he figures he’ll wind up with a late filing penalty when all’s said and done even though it’s the government’s fault.
Frustrating as hell, to be sure. Like a typical dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Still, I’m not sure what this has to do with libertarianism, unless it’s of the extreme, anarchist variety. Most libertarians support the existence of a government to provide minimal services — courts, roads, an army, and the like — and understand that they’ll have to pay some minimal taxes for that. And, while there’s a strong libertarian argument against both the Social Security system and national identification cards, there’s nonetheless a practical reason to have some identifying code to distinguish people of the same name living in the same town.
So, in the end, Radley’s just upset about the nexus between government power and government incompetence. But that’s not an ideological position, at all. Authoritarian states can be quite competent and a very weak state (anarchy plus the barest essentials) could be quite incompetent and frustrating to deal with.