One of the primary principles of libertarianism, and also capitalism, is the idea of self regulation: people will naturally want to find a way to co-exist that is peaceful and cooperative. One of the more interesting aspects of self regulation is how this can occur, automatically, without law or law enforcement.
Both Democrats and Republicans are for big government. Do not be fooled by the Republican rhetoric — they are not for small government. Never have been, and never will be. And how can I say that? Quite simple: they do not like the way people self regulate.
The one example that is commonly used about why we need laws is actually the clearest example of why we do not: traffic.
For anyone who commutes on a regular basis, such as to work every morning and night, it becomes quite easy to see how the people can and do regulate themselves. This regulation on the road can be called a traffic pattern. The drivers of the individual cars will adjust their speed and driving behavior in such a way that people can get to their destination without being killed.
It is actually those who try to evade this self regulation that end up in car accidents, and it is the possibility of this consequence that brings people into regulation. Again all of this happens relatively automatically and without any signals or communication between the drivers on the road, and more importantly without law enforcement trying to regulate traffic.
When you introduce law enforcement into the mix, you interrupt this regulation in surprising ways because now instead of getting into a car accident, the drivers have a secondary fear that is more immediately conscious: the traffic citation. Introduce law enforcement into a well and self-regulated traffic pattern and you see a disruption of that regulation.
It is actually for this reason that, contrary to what many people believe, law enforcement will only look for outliers when it comes to traffic violations: people trying to speed through traffic or those driving erratically. Those who are trying to evade that self-regulation, or actively inhibit or impede it, are the ones who get pulled over, or worse.
On a grander scale with capitalism we have the idea of self-regulating markets. Yes markets can, and often do, regulate themselves without the "help" of the government. And like with law enforcement and the traffic pattern, when government tries to regulate a market beyond the normal definition of regulation, those markets are impeded, and at times in striking ways.
Now I said "beyond the normal definition of regulation", so what do I mean? Regulation in its natural sense means one thing only: to make regular. What many people have come to believe "regulate" means includes not only making regular, but restriction.
Proper government regulation is little more than the establishment of standards and processes: defining the monetary unit along with standard units of weights and measures, defining certain kinds of bank accounts, and establishing processes. The original idea of regulation at the Federal level was to establish minimum or uniform standards of trade and operation between the several States.
The idea that regulation includes restriction is a little far fetched. Let’s take one example: purchasing a handgun.
To purchase a handgun, there are certain legal restrictions you must meet: must be 21 years old or older, cannot have been convicted of a felony, and various other restrictions. As part of the need to enforce these restrictions, the Federal government has established various regulations on the process of purchasing a firearm. You cannot just walk in and buy a gun. There’s a process to follow first, just like there are processes for purchasing other items like cars and houses.
The minimum standard established by the Federal government requires only one thing: a background check performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This process is regulated as well, but not heavily. Unlike your taxes, purchasing a firearm requires only one form: ATF Form 4473. And on that form the purchaser only fills out the first page. The seller fills out the rest.
It’s not a painful process either. I went through it myself about 5 months ago when I purchased my handgun. My resident State of Missouri follows only the minimum Federal standard and does not enact any additional regulations or restrictions on the purchase and sale of firearms. Your State may differ, so check with local gun shops or local law enforcement for details.
Now regulation can be, and often is, a product of restriction. The restriction implies the regulation of verifying the restriction is not applicable. For alcohol, ammunition, and tobacco purchases, there is an age restriction, implying a regulation on the sale for checking the age of the purchaser.
But let’s say there were no restrictions or regulations on the purchase of a firearm. You could freely walk into any gun store and walk out with a handgun (after laying down several hundred dollars, mind you). Would this result in a populace armed to the teeth where people will be killing others in cold blood just for sport, as some gun control advocates seem to imply?
This goes back to the notion of self regulation. Even before massive regulations and restrictions were enacted on the purchase and sale of firearms, people weren’t killing others for sport. There were a couple reasons for this, with the primary reason being that guns were (and still are) expensive items, so they weren’t being bought up to the point where the entire populace could fight an intergalactic war and win.
But there’s another reason that is far more fundamental: all actions have consequences. And consequences have one hell of a way of keeping people in line.
Those who do use firearms to rack up a huge frag count are not the norm, something that people seem to conveniently forget when there is a mass shooting, such as the recent assassination attempt of Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords that resulted in the death of a Federal court judge and a 9 year-old girl.
Virtually all of society is self-regulating and not in need of government and law enforcement. The fact that people follow the law voluntarily without cops swarming the streets and invading every aspect of your life to ensure you’re complying with arcane and mundane laws you didn’t realize exist proves that people are self-regulating. And when government intervenes in such a way that interferes with this self regulation, it causes strife within the community.
Less regulation from the government is always best because self regulation is always better than government regulation. Self regulation is blind, unconscious. Government regulation is direct, focused, conscious and deliberate, with questionable motivations that always impedes on personal liberty and individual freedom.