A recent business innovation that has seen wide market acceptance is the bundling of goods and services. For example, telecommunications providers such as Bell and Rogers often bundle their phone and Internet services. Such bundling provides substantial benefits for both businesses and customers. Firstly, it lowers the prices of products compared to purchasing the items individually. Secondly, it dissuades customers from purchasing the same products from competitors. In the private sector, purchasing a bundle is voluntary. In fact, purchasing any products offered by Bell and Rogers is optional for everyone. Not purchasing products or services is called freedom and is not a crime.
The government bundles its products, too. However, unlike private businesses, the government gives us no choice but to purchase its one “mega-bundle”. From the viewpoint of the state, to not purchase its bundle is considered a crime rather than freedom and comes with punishments that can be extreme. Consider the case of Ontario optometrist Jack Klundert who attempted to avoid the costs of the government bundle on constitutional grounds and as a result was relentlessly pursued by the Canadian Revenue Agency through the courts. He won his first two jury trials, but lost his third. After seizing almost $900,000 of Klundert’s hard-earned money, the court attempted a coup de grâce by hitting him with a $522,000 fine and a one year jail sentence. In the eyes of the person who values freedom, Klundert is a hero. In the eyes of the state, he is a villain. The government likes to give us the illusion that we are free, but practically we are not.
Unlike the bundles offered by private businesses, the government bundle does not lower the prices of its products, nor does it dissuade customers from purchasing the products from competitors. The reason is that the government monopolizes the industries which it controls and makes it illegal to purchase its products from anyone else. Whenever an individual attempts to compete with state-run monopolies, the result is fines and imprisonment. For example, Dr. Karen Dockrill left Canada after being prosecuted for offering medical services to customers outside of the government’s monopoly hhttps://mises.ca/posts/articles/where-have-the-entrepreneurial-doctors-gone/ealth care system.
Because of its monopoly, the government never knows how to price its bundle. One need only look at the failed socialist states of the USSR and Cuba to realize that when price signals are broken, then the economy and society breaks down. Because the concept of profit makes no sense relative to the state’s provision of monopolized goods and services, the government has no way of knowing whether it is doing a good job satisfying its “customers”. It can only guess by responding to bribes and the wishes of corporate sponsors and well-funded special interest groups.
If the government was small then its bundle would be limited in expense and scope. A small bundle of products might include a basic court system that applies a few known laws equally to everyone (unlike our current system that applies a corrupt pile of laws unequally). A small bundle might include limited border protection. For example, the people of Iceland do not pay for a standing army because they are fully protected by their coast guard.
The government bundle has grown significantly over the decades because politicians have come to believe that their most important role is to deliver all sorts of “stuff” to Canadians and to nudge society into becoming a modern-day Utopia. The consequence of this growth and philosophy is the fact that bureaucrats and their regulations now intrude into almost all aspects of Canadian economic and social life.
Another aspect to consider is that the larger the bundle, the more likely the unwitting taxpayer is to receive goods and services that he does not want. It is like going into Walmart and being given the choice of only one product: the Walmart Bundle. Such a bundle might include diapers even though one does not have children or tickets for bus service even though one never takes the bus.
Other aspects of the government bundle are downright criminal. For example, I abhor being legally compelled to purchase the bundle’s army services because they are being used primarily to execute unjust wars abroad (such as the Canadian army’s unjust wars against the people of the Balkans, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and possibly Ukraine, Iran and Russia). Unjust wars are criminal wars and those who perpetrate them are war criminals – and I detest having to fund war criminals.
I am also not fond of the bundle’s corporate welfare services that siphon millions of dollars from the pockets of the poor, middle class and those on fixed incomes to the pockets of state-connected businesses and special interest groups.
Nor am I fond of the bundle’s medical services that have, according to Dr. Jeff Turnbull, past president of the Canadian Medical Association, placed Canada “below Slovenia and last or second last in terms of value for money”.
I am also not pleased with the bundle’s central bank services that manipulate the Canadian dollar and interest rates (with the commensurate suffering brought on by bigger and bigger business cycles).
The list goes on.
Every four or five years we are given the illusion that we can decide on the content of the government bundle by voting in a democratic election. However, are there any real choices once the state becomes extraordinarily expansive and intrusive? This is the reason that all mainstream political parties promise the same basic bundle: lots of goodies, big spending, big debt, big war and lots of bureaucracy, rules and regulations.
Being forced to purchase the government bundle is decidedly not freedom. Freedom is the ability to reject any bundle be it that offered by Rogers, Bell or the state. The tyranny and inequality created by the government bundle have driven individuals to conduct private business outside of the state’s system of regulation, control and taxes. The rise of Bitcoin is an example of private society’s answer to corrupt government money. Secessionist movements are also becoming more commonplace and mainstream. Alternatively, if the government bundle becomes too onerous then emigration can be an appealing option.
When it comes to the government bundle, wouldn’t you rather leave it than take it?