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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/12311/samizdat-the-libertarian-alarm-clock/

Samizdat: The Libertarian Alarm Clock

March 26, 2010 by

You might have read the story about the Socialist Alarm Clock. Here’s one version. A friend who wishes to remain anonymous sent his libertarian version and asked me to post it (cross-posted at Division of Labour and The Beacon):

“This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock built by the ingenuity of millions of individuals all working for their own gain, but whose efforts were coordinated by the prices for labor and materials and finished goods provided by the free market. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the shower head, pipes, and sanitation facilities whose construction also involved the efforts of thousands of people acting in their independent interest. After that, I turned on the TV to The Weather Channel, whose owners include one of the largest multi-national corporations and private equity companies, to see the week’s forecast presented in a clear, informative (and even entertaining) manner. I watched this while eating breakfast of General Mills’ inspected food and taking drugs whose strong brand name gives me confidence in its safety.

At the time which millions of people coordinate their activities to take advantage of each other’s knowledge and skills, I leave for work. I get into my Japanese-designed, Mexican-supplied, Michigan-assembled automobile and set out to work on the roads built by construction contracting companies and named after corrupt politicians, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel that was shipped from the Middle East by an oil company at a per gallon cost many times lower than the price of having a letter delivered across the street by the government monopoly that loses millions of dollars each year. To make the purchase there is no need to leave the pump; I am able to slide a piece of plastic into a small slot and get credit extended to me by a bank who has never met me in person. On the way out the door, I put out the Fed-Ex envelope containing the documents I need to arrive across the country tomorrow morning and drop the kids off at the public school which is attended by only the best students, thanks to the high home prices in the area.

After work, I drive my Japanese-Latino-Midwestern car back home, to a house which has not burned down in my absence because of materials developed in the research and development departments of hundreds of corporations and which has not been plundered of all is valuables thanks to the lock on the door and a sign advertising the security company whose services I employ. My piece of mind was not interrupted by the thought of these events anyway, as I have both fire and homeowners insurance through privately held insurance company.

I then log on to the internet to watch and listen to artists who don’t appeal to a broad enough audience to make it onto one of the few channels that a government monopoly allows to be broadcast. I then log onto the democraticunderground.com to post about how DEREGULATING the medical industry is BAD because low-cost, quality health care can never be provided by greedy, self-interested people.”


Tom Woods March 26, 2010 at 11:05 am

Wonderful and overdue.

Michael A. Clem March 26, 2010 at 11:45 am

Not bad, but I would add a few more things that one cannot do thanks to government regulation. After all, we’re not living in a free market society. Also, many would argue that clean water, safe drugs, etc. are the product of government regulation, even if we know differently.

Renegade Division March 26, 2010 at 11:49 am
Renegade Division March 26, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Wow people are already downvoting the story, guys give it a push.

Rick March 26, 2010 at 3:47 pm

People still use Reddit? Perhaps a good response there would be, “Did the government give you Reddit?”

Jess March 26, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Done :) And your comment there, too.

Mitchell Powell March 26, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Of course, the socialist alarm clock story fails to mention how the benefits granted, often with shocking ineptness, by the U.S. government are paid for through a combination of spending two-fifths of privately produced wealth per year, by constantly inflating the currency and therefore defrauding creditors and savers, and by selling future generations into unpayable debt with an unstable currency.

Rick March 26, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I’m tired of socialists claiming that the Internet was their success story. Yes, DARPA was military… but a “socialist” venture? Please. When socialists go around saying that the “government gave us the Internet” they’re wildly exaggerating and taking advantage of people’s general lack of tech knowledge and history. If their claim were true then I suppose socialists could also take credit for the Mises website, “The government gave you Mises and Rothbard!” or “It ‘allows’ you to dissent!”

Why people believe anything the socialists say is beyond me. I think the reason that we’re not living in a more free world is because classical liberals, libertarians, anarchos, etc., just aren’t lame enough.

Walt D. March 26, 2010 at 12:49 pm

A socialist is someone who waits in line for half an hour at the Post Office to mail a $100 check to Washington, and then is overjoyed when he/she receives $25 worth of benefits from the Federal Government.

Slim934 March 26, 2010 at 12:56 pm


This is fantastic.

Gil Guillory March 26, 2010 at 3:08 pm

This bears resemblance to Statist Joe vs. Conservative Joe: http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig3/guillory2.html

LvMIenthusiast March 26, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Did you know the government gives us goods and services that wouldn’t be provided to us by the greedy individual (sarcasm). I mean imagine if we never had highly unionized and costly road construction in the US, my Lord, the world would surely end.

Did you also know that Coca-Cola was a socialist drink?


geopark March 26, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Please . . this reads like any leftist or rightist propaganda. While I agree with most of the specific references in this story, two seem quite disingenuous. First, my shower water, and I suspect most clean water in our country is delivered by government entities. Whether private industry could deliver it as safely and for a lesser price might be an open question but my preference remains with this being a government function. And second, I believe that the true cost of gasoline has little relationship to what we pay at the pump. While I have never done the math, were one to add in the various costs associated with foreign sourced oil, most notably war and aid, the true cost we pay for each gallon of fuel would be quite different from the pump price.

Vitriol is so rampant the mainstream, I would hope that Freethinkers, Independents, and Libertarians would hold themselves to a higher standard.

Tom Rapheal March 26, 2010 at 4:56 pm

You have a preference for water to be delivered by the government. Why?

Are you suggesting, like many do, that war for oil is a realistic idea and that war costs should be associated with the gas? War is so expensive that it would be cheaper to just purchase the oil. I have enough confidence in the government to hope that they would go to war for oil… Political gain and/or believing there is a security threat seems much more likely. But then again, government can’t calculate.

Also aid… are you saying when oil companies drill for oil in poor areas that the aid necessary to keep those people alive should be associated with the oil? Living next to or above something valuable doesn’t mean you’re entitled to the benefits of the resource. Property theory says that in order to gain ownership of something you must add something which increases the value called homesteading. The people that live in those areas have not homesteaded the reserves beneath there feet, as of such they are not entitled to any of the benefits. If they have, then benefits should be given.

geopark March 26, 2010 at 8:05 pm

My preference for government delivered water might best be explained by the maxim ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. Water is so basic, and so essential and I generally trust water bureaucrats to deliver an affordable and safe product in a manner which I am not sure I would were it delivered through a ‘profit’ spigot. My thinking is about the same for the other ‘essential’ utilities of electricity, natural gas, and sewage/trash removal. It seems to me that the old model of highly regulated private utility companies worked fine and deregulation spawned all kinds of problems (e.g. ‘let’s stick it to those California grandma’s’ (Enron traders, I believe)). That said, lest you think I am a statist, let me say that this is one of the few areas of modern life where I think the government does play a proper role in my life.

It is unclear to me what you mean when you say ” . . war for oil is a realistic idea . . “. What I am saying is that I am taxed and this taxation is used to wage wars which, in Kuwait and Iraq at least, is about maintaining the flow of oil from that region to the United States and therefore the cost of these wars should be properly accounted for in the cost of gas. I agree with you that it would be cheaper to just purchase the oil and I like that idea. I accept that war is sometimes necessary but I do not put war to maintain the flow of oil in that category. Unlike public utilities I think that the private sector could do a much better job of keeping me mobil in the manner to which I have become accustomed (whether using oil or some other means) than can the government. Additionally, I think this government intervention (war for oil) has precluded private industry from engaging in developing alternative fuel sources or transportation means.

What I mean by aid is Foreign Aid which is related to keeping the flow of oil from a particular region to the United States. Again, I do not consider this a prudent use of my tax dollars.

Perhaps you know more about “Property theory” than do I but when I bought a piece of land I was told that my deed entitled me to all rights including what lies beneath as well as a certain quantity of the sky above. Also, where I live in California the oil companies whose wells were some miles away payed royalties for many years to homeowners in the area so I suspect there was an issue of homeowners “being entitled to the benefits of the resource (above which we live)”.

I understand the United States Homestead Act whereby persons gained ownership of property by virtue of “(adding) something which increase(d) the value” but I am not sure that this idea applies if one purchases a property.

Thanks for your thoughts, would love to continue the conversation . .geopark

BioTube March 26, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Where I live, trash pickup is completely private and works great – we personally use two trash cans, one of which isn’t from the company itself, yet it’s still accepted and we can also set out extra trash for pickup without waiting for bulk pickup; the city’s trash service requires you to pay ahead to get extra trash picked up. Unfortunately, we suffer city power and water, the latter of which charges for quite literally everything(even the nearby monopoly coop(which is exempted from deregulation) is cheaper). Luckily we have a septic tank, or we’d have to live with city wastewater, which charges you a gallon for every gallon of clean water you use for the first year and does yearly usage estimates afterwards(I have no doubt a private company would keep closer watch on actual level of usage). What’s so great about municipal utilities?

geopark March 27, 2010 at 4:41 am

I have experienced both private and city trash pickup and agree that private is generally better. In Rancho Mirage, CA some years ago the city decided they wanted to take over trash service from the private company which had been providing good service for years. The citizenry was not happy and the City Council People who promoted the idea were voted out of office quite quickly (“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”).

My experience with electric power is limited and I can’t remember ever having been served by municipal power, only regulated private companies about who I have no complaint. I do remember that the Los Angeles Municipal Water and Power avoided the crisis caused by deregulation in the late 1990′s primarily because of the foresight of then General Manager S. David Freeman.

As to sewer, I have lived with both septic and city sewer. While I prefer being on a city sewer I have never compared the two from a cost perspective so really can’t comment about that. If a private company were to take my sewage I suspect they would charge me about the same way the city does, water in/water out as you say, and it seems to me as a profit driven concern they would have more incentive to overcharge me than a city or municipality. Probably, private could do the job more efficiently and so maybe could charge less, but would they, especially if unregulated. Accuracy aside, it seems to me the water method is a reasonably fair way to charge for sewage.

That’s my take, trash I agree is better private, power and gas private but regulated, and sewer public or possibly regulated private. Again, this is one of the few areas of life where I think government serves a proper role in my life.

tlpalmer March 27, 2010 at 7:03 am

Anyone that prefers the gov. to perform any of these tasks has either been darn lucky in the past or confused. I have been twice poisoned by gov. water (oops, sorry people, forgot to run the water through the filters before sending it to your pipes), had my water bill increase 400% in one month (local gov. had received grant from fed. gov. about 18 years before to do some work, used money elsewhere, had also rejected the owners paying for the work for many years), had billing problems when the meter reader took a few months off (made up readings), had to deal with gov. projects taking months longer than projected, etc. A private company would have been fined out of business for the 1st 2 items alone. Also, concerning electricity, California has Arnold running the state because of Davis causing power problems. I’ll take the free market any time over the gov.

Inquisitor March 27, 2010 at 8:23 am

“especially if unregulated.”Especially if so, yes. Compared to a cost-conscious, profit-driven firm that faces competition at all levels, why would the gov’t not be the one with the incentive to overcharge when it has no idea how to price things accurately to begin with and its consumers no choice in whether it services them?

Trans March 27, 2010 at 12:11 am

Equally delusional.

Inquisitor March 27, 2010 at 8:22 am

Who is? Statists? Yes.

geopark March 27, 2010 at 10:06 am

reply to tpalmer . . Yes if “I (had) been twice poisoned by gov. water” I would likely have a different view on government water as well. I wonder how common that is and whether there are any statistics comparing poisonings by government water to the same by privately supplied water? A 400% jump in any in any utility bill would also raise my ire. Did your bill stay at that elevated rate? I ‘m guessing the phantom meter reader problem was corrected with credits given as I once had a similar problem from my private electric provider.

I agree that private industry can perform almost any function more efficiently than government. Efficiency is not the only concern however. Obviously cost to the consumer is always an issue but in the utility delivery businesses (esp. water, power, and natural gas) there are the equally important issues of safety and continuity. It is not difficult to find examples where for profit companies include calculated risks as policy or even accept fines as a cost of doing business. This returns me to the thinking that governmental oversight is a proper role for government in the utility delivery business.

As to Arnold and California . . well, his record should speak for itself, we are in a terrible financial mess and, not to say that it’s all his fault but, it has happened under his governorship. The power problems did happen under Gray Davis, that is true, but I believe the responsibility for the same can be better traced to the spirit of deregulation which grew out of the Reagan era. Again I return to the thought that government has a proper role in this area.

Read more: Samizdat: The Libertarian Alarm Clock — Mises Economics Blog http://blog.mises.org/12311/samizdat-the-libertarian-alarm-clock/#ixzz0jO4fS4Sq

tlpalmer March 27, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Very sorry, I had failed to explain that the bill increased by 400% due to changing from septic to sewer. Long story but the city had approved a small development of 4 streets in the county to hook up to the sewer system, later would not allow, so houses built with septic (1950s). The residents tried to get approval for years, as stated a fed grant was given but misused, in 1990s work had to be done due to septic problems. By then the price was way up along with the usual government project overruns. Much of the increase was a loan attached to each house to cover the sewer. I left the area, but most likely the fees continued to increase. Terrible experience, a gov. lover would have only been a liker after the process.

Something I hadn’t thought of was safety issues (besides the poisoning). It would be worth noting that many in the US do depend on private business for their drinking water (bottled water). I have wondered for years if it was the plan of the gov. to make tap water vile, as least in taste and/or smell. How much does the gov. make on bottled water (taxes, etc) each year while complaining about the waste?

Most people in the country feel that gov. has a proper role in utilities and can’t believe that private business could handle it. That will be the same with Obamacare about 5 years after it is fully in place.

geopark March 27, 2010 at 10:19 am

reply to Inquisitor (RE: “Compared to a cost-conscious, profit-driven firm that faces competition at all levels”) While I agree with your thought generally it seems to me that utility delivery is a product which by it’s nature is not subject to competition. Of course that was the argument against phone service deregulation and private industry did find a way around that monopoly which and although my phone service costs are much higher, so the service is much greater. Any thoughts on how we might provide competition in the water or electric service delivery businesses?

Peter Surda March 27, 2010 at 11:26 am
Sean Seaman March 27, 2010 at 12:30 pm

American liberals are uninterested in curtailing private enterprise, while libertarianism is defined as opposition to taxation and regulation.

Thus, this gem pertains only to Communists. I know of none. I know many libertarians.

Seattle March 27, 2010 at 1:59 pm

American liberals are uninterested in curtailing private enterprise

What America are you talking about? Can we trade Americas?

Neverfox March 27, 2010 at 11:20 pm

As a market anarchist, I appreciate the general spirit of this story. But could it have been any more vulgar? The TWC (the owners, that is), General Mills, major auto makers, Middle East oil, the banking and insurance industries, Fed-Ex…what do any of these have to do with the free market?

BioTube March 28, 2010 at 12:39 pm

As long as the government makes a certain management style artificially more profitable, it’ll be more popular than otherwise. We can’t discover the true scale of economy(which will likely, in some industries, turn out to be big corporations after all) with such meddling.

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