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Imagine There Was No Government (Apologies to John Lennon)


In the spirit of fellow AG columnist Fred Glick, this will be a short one.

It seems from my last post (and I may be wrong) that there are a lot of people who think that the best type of Government is No Government at all or one so limited as to be close to No Government.

So, class, this week’s assignment is to think about what No Government looks like (footnotes, bibliography and index are optional).

To all the folks out there shouting for the Government to stay out of the way and get off our backs, I ask:

Who would:

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  • take care of those born with profound physical or mental challenges
  • care for the aged
  • care for those involved in catastrophic accidents
  • those maimed by war or crime

Would we:

  • have police and fire fighters
  • trash collection and snow removal
  • public hospitals for the very poor

What happens with:

  • roads and bridges
  • schools and libraries

Does the check out clerk at Wal-Mart or the barista at Starbucks negotiate wages for themselves without regard for a “minimum wage”?

In short, what does a society look like when all the Government does is maintain a standing army to defend itself against direct attack? What does every man for himself look like?

Written By

“Loves sunrise walks on the beach, quaint B & Bs, former Barbie® boyfriend..." Ken is a sole practitioner and Realtor Extraordinaire in the beautiful MD Suburbs of DC. When he's not spouting off on Agent Genius he holds court from his home office in Glenn Dale, MD or the office for RE/MAX Advantage Realty in Fulton, MD...and always on the MD Suburbs of DC Blog



  1. Missy Caulk

    March 14, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Section 7 of the U. S. Constitution: All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

    Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it.

    Article 4:The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

    Government in the U.S. was to limit their powers to the consent of the governed. Limited government must be enforced if we are to maintain individual liberty.

    As Jefferson warned many times in his writings limited FEDERAL government is essential for the protection of a persons limited liberties.

    George Washington warned in his farewell address, that “usurpation is the customary means by which free governments are destroyed.

    • Ken Montville

      March 14, 2010 at 9:43 am

      All well and good. I support the Constitution. I would gently suggest when it was written both total population and geographic boundaries were significantly smaller. This is not to say we should scrap it and start over (like the health care bill). It is to say that engaging in civil society for a country so large requires some additional input.

      My understanding of history is that the outcome of the Civil War/War Between the States/War of Northern Aggression (take your pick) settled the questions regarding the Federal Government’s role. (note: I am not a professional historian and do not have academic citations to provide)

  2. Terry McDonald

    March 14, 2010 at 10:20 am

    It did settle the question- but some just never give up. Winston Churchill said it best- “Democracy is the worst form of government, EXCEPT EVERY OTHER ONE THAT HAS BEEN TRIED.”

    Face it- there is 1/3 of this country who don’t believe in our country any more. And they work from a different set of “facts.”

    The Tea Party movement has one thing right- the “fix” is in. One year and a few months after the biggest (and most necessary) financial bailout in US history, one year after Alan Greenspan said in public that his ideas of “free markets” in financial markets was, er, wrong, financial reform is all but dead in the US Senate because the very same big banks have bought off the majority of the Senate, R and D alike.

    I asked an NFL player client of mine- a Democrat by nature, a Republican by tax bracket, “why they needed 5 officals in each game? Wasn’t that a wast of money? Why not just play with one?”
    “Because there would be cheating on every play,” he said. Exactly.

    Wall Street is less competitive the NFL- I doubt it.

    Worse than the bailout is that the big problems remain unfixed, because of the corporate “fix.”

    We need government to set the rules of rules of the road, adjust them when they don’t make sense, enforce the rules, and enforce justice… a land without government is a land with out justice. Not in my country.

  3. Carole ODell

    March 14, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    We have a representative republic not a democracy. There would be no House of Representatives in a democracy and we would be voting directly on bills ourselves. Our democratic voice is heard when we cast our votes.

    People who want “no government” are anarchists. They are few in number and generally are not a political force. Conservatives/Libertarians are not anarchists but want limited government. The kind that does only what’s in the Constitution. Local governments provide emergency rescue personnel and no one wants that to go away, but it is a local government responsibility. There are no conservatives that advocate the abandonment of roads, bridges, emergency responders, trash collectors and the like. All of those things are basic government services.

    The kind of things conservatives are concerned with are for example the “Paycheck Fairness Act” which is currently in the Senate. This act has a goal to collect data to control gender based payroll discrimination. However, the goal is not the issue. The issue is about the government collecting data on a private company’s payroll even WITHOUT any allegation of discrimination. My concern also is that my CPA friends may become a “policeman” for the collection and reporting of the data and there will likely be fines etc. My CPA friends have enough to keep them busy without this added task. And if there is an allegation of discrimination then the court system can require any data it needs and get it.

    My credibility? I have a degree in Political Science – we study this stuff.

    • Nick Bostic

      March 15, 2010 at 11:53 am

      “…no conservatives that advocate the abandonment of roads, bridges, emergency responders, trash collectors…”

      I’m going to have to disagree, they don’t want them abandoned, they just want to privatize them, effectively removing them from the responsibility of the government. The extreme case that has recently shown up on Facebook ( makes people realize that privatizing everything WOULD NOT work and that calling things “socialist” is just fear mongering.

  4. BawldGuy

    March 14, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I could make a list including where would America be today if:

    We’d fought every war since WWII to crush our enemies…win.

    Those found guilty in our judicial system of capital crimes had been executed.

    Regulators of industry had been diligent and…regulated.

    The list is nearly infinite, but the big one might just be, where would America be today if the #1 core belief was equality of opportunity instead of trying in vain to create equality of results, which is the errand of ignoramuses and fools.

    Your questions are solid food for thought, Ken. I’m hoping my plan ‘B’ for exit never has to be implemented.

  5. Steve Nicewarner

    March 14, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    To answer your direct questions;

    “Who would:
    * take care of those born with profound physical or mental challenges
    * care for the aged
    * care for those involved in catastrophic accidents
    * those maimed by war or crime”

    For most of our nation’s history, charity was taken care of by local organizations — churches, fraternal organizations and to a limited extent city and county governments. Moreover, most professionals had a highly developed sense of charity, which meant lawyers would do pro bono work, hospitals would take a few charity cases, doctors would work in free clinics, and so on. It was only with the implementation of the Great Society fifty years ago that we began to see government, and particularly the Federal government as the answer to these issues.

    “Would we:
    * have police and fire fighters
    * trash collection and snow removal
    * public hospitals for the very poor

    What happens with:
    * roads and bridges
    * schools and libraries”

    Of course we would have all of these. Those issues, however, would be dealt with at the local level. This is a bit of a strawman in a discussion about Federal power.

    [As an aside, the school system was largely run by the local towns until the 1930s. We seemed to get along fairly well]

    My personal belief is that government should abide by two overarching principles;

    1. Governmental decisions should be made as close to the local level as possible. The Feds shouldn’t regulate something the individual States can handle, the States should pass as many things as possible to the counties and so on.

    2. The main role of government is to ensure that citizens have the knowledge, and the skills to use that knowledge, needed to make their own decisions. Government does not need to make decisions for us — just give us the opportunity to make good decisions ourselves. Moreover, when we make bad decisions, government should largely allow us to suffer the consequences of those decisions.

    If we could get our government to do these two things consistently, we would be in much better shape than we are now.

  6. Dunes

    March 14, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Yeah, there should be no Gov. involvement or interference cause everything works so well that way….until you’re the victim…

    Like the smashing success of self-policing in the Real Estate Industry….

    We can all make a list of “how things would be if”….it’s called fiction, fantasy, science fiction, a wish list and by me….more blah blah about it’s someone Else’s fault…

  7. Rob Hahn

    March 14, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Ken — you seem like a nice enough guy. Your heart’s in the right place. I suspect that you and I could have some long, fun civil conversations about real estate, the nation, and the like in person.

    But seriously, do yourself a favor and stop writing this “column” on politics and real estate. It’s embarrassing, and does discredit to your side of the political divide. If you are going to continue, you owe it to yourself and to the readers to educate yourself some on government and politics.

    The Civil War settled the question of the role of the Federal Government? Really? Did we repeal the 10th Amendment when I wasn’t looking?

    You support the Constitution, but the times have outgrown it? Good — then presumably, you support this section as well:

    The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress.

    Amend the Constitution if you think it’s outdated; don’t push policies down the throats of the American people via the courts and unconstitutional legislation spawned out of your bleeding heart. The road to perdition is paved with such intentions.

    Your list of questions itself displays profound ignorance about the power of government. What makes government different from every other organization or institution is its monopoly on violence. In civil society, only the government may legitimately use force.

    So ask yourself this: which policies require the use of force to implement?

    National defense does. Justice system does. Very few other things do.

    Taking care of the disadvantaged requires the use of force? Public hospitals requires the use of force? Caring for people in accidents requires use of force? No wonder most sane Americans look at that and think, hey, you guys are actually socialists just paying lip service to the Constitution.

    Roads and bridges? Schools and libraries? Seriously? Did the United States not have these things before the almighty, all-seeing, all-wise Federal Government came into being? You might want to go re-read (or read for the first time) Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. It might surprise you to learn that somehow, our forefathers managed to take care of the poor, educate their children, and have roads without Washington or Sacramento or Albany telling them to do it, how to do it, or funding them to do it.

    Finally, if you’re going to make economic arguments about politics, you’re going to need some new facts. Are you defending the minimum wage? For real?

    Start here:

    The first federal minimum wage law, the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, was passed in part explicitly to prevent black construction workers from “taking jobs” from white construction workers by working for lower wages. It was not meant to protect black workers from “exploitation” but to protect white workers from competition.

    In addition:

    The net economic effect of minimum wage laws is to make less skilled, less experienced, or otherwise less desired workers more expensive — thereby pricing many of them out of jobs. Large disparities in unemployment rates between the young and the mature, the skilled and the unskilled, and between different racial groups have been common consequences of minimum wage laws.

    I thought you progressives cared about racial equality and helping the disadvantaged. You should be arguing vigorously against the minimum wage, or rent control laws, or zoning regulations — all of which protect the entrenched powers from competition.

    And that’s just ONE example.

    Oh, I know, we heartless conservatives and libertarians, who don’t care about the poor and the unfortunate, and all that. Repeat a lie enough and it takes on the veneer of truth. Fact is, progressive/liberal policies might all start with a twinge in the heart for some unfortunate situation, but when one looks at the actual impact of those policies, we find poverty, destruction of the family, and dependence on government handouts.

    But then, that might be the real point: make a free people dependent on the government. Well, thanks and all, but I’ll pass, and most Americans would too as evidenced by the Tea Party movement. Oops! I forgot, the Tea Partiers are just a fringe violent white supremacist theocrat movement — by all means, keep on thinking that and ignoring us, at least through 2010 and 2012.

    As entertaining as talking about real estate and politics is, I think this is my last comment on these generalized topics. AG could and should be discussing rather more specific real-estate related issues: home buyer tax credits, mortgage deductions, regulation of the mortgage industry, state licensing schemes, and so on. These general meditations on politics can — and should — be had at any number of politics-focused sites.


  8. Fred Glick

    March 14, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Thanks, Ken.

    For all those Anti-Goverment sorts, start in your own state and get rid of all the government you can stand. After 6 months, you let us all know how it’s going.

    It’s easy to say, but hard to live through.

    For an example, ask everyone over 65 in your state to drop their Medicare benefits and then pay cash or sign up for health insurance with your pre-existing conditions.

  9. Fred Glick

    March 14, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    One other thing….let’s get rid of HUD and the SEC and put back 200% no-docs with a 420 score and no appraisals too!

  10. Fred Glick

    March 14, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Oh, and no military…can’t have a government militia.

    Nukes for sale! Nukes for sale!

  11. Fred Glick

    March 15, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything.

    We don’t need little changes. We need gigantic revolutionary changes.

    Schools should be palaces. Competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be getting six-figure salaries.

    Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge for its citizens, just like national defense.

  12. Terry McDonald

    March 17, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I agree with the above comments that this discussion should be left for Fair and Balanced Fox News and their affiliated websites–

    Lets get back to real estate- Anyone notice a change in attitude in 2010 of local banks regarding short sales? they are a might bit more understanding here, and willing to make deals.
    has the first home buyer tax credit added to your spring business? or has it run out of gas?

  13. Missy

    March 17, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    No one is required to read these Sunday morning political posts. 🙂

    I appreciate Benn and Lani for opening it up and allowing some of us to debate, disagree or agree.

    Even though Ken and I are miles apart politically, I have a new appreciation for him and his views. Regardless how we much we disagree.

    Robb, beautifully said.

  14. Brian Brady

    March 19, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I can only disagree with Rob Hahn’s final paragraph.

  15. Teri Lussier

    March 21, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    >In short, what does a society look like when all the Government does is maintain a standing army to defend itself against direct attack?


  16. sheepleeducator

    April 9, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    I think you all have been sold a bill of goods without line item specifics.

    First of all, it is apparent most of you live in cities, where services such as “trash removal” and “snow removal” are government services – in rural areas, these are not government services – these are private services one pays for if/when they need such services.

    Besides that, here are the answers to the rest of your questions:

    Who would:

    * take care of those born with profound physical or mental challenges
    A: Private healthcare + Their families.
    * care for the aged
    A: Their families.
    * care for those involved in catastrophic accidents
    A: Private health care, individual’s families and/or individuals and groups in the communities.
    * those maimed by war or crime
    A: Private health care, families,

    Would we:

    * have police and fire fighters
    Of course. There are already private, cooperative or volunteer agencies that do this.
    * trash collection and snow removal
    We already do (see my comment above) – private industries
    * public hospitals for the very poor
    No, there are no “public hospitals” without a government – and that is a GOOD thing, since without having to pay 60% of a low wage, these “very poor” would have a higher dispensable income in which to pay for services.

    What happens with:

    * roads and bridges
    A: Same thing as what happens now, except instead of a “government” you simply use an cooperative agreement to pay for roads and bridges with a percentage of fuel revenue – the actual costs of fuel would drop dramatically because of this since there would be no additional costs of corporate taxes built into the price of the fuel as there are now-
    * schools and libraries
    A: Private schools paid for by parents of children. Libraries paid for through use.

    Does the check out clerk at Wal-Mart or the barista at Starbucks negotiate wages for themselves without regard for a “minimum wage”?
    A: Wal-mart sells products made in China and other countries with overseas forced labor practices under communist leadership – why don’t you ask your government why they don’t get a minimum wage? A minimum wage is unnecessary anyway, since market forces will moderate the “real” minimum wage over time. Neither of those jobs pays minimum wage anymore – they are all paid higher wages than “minimum wage”. Minimum wage is a joke.

    In short, what does a society look like when all the Government does is maintain a standing army to defend itself against direct attack? What does every man for himself look like

    A: Anarchy is not chaos. It does not automatically turn a community into an unstructured individualist society. It does not turn humans (who are by default a social species) into a non-socially functioning species. All it does is allow for a different structure that doesn’t require individuals to pay huge bureaucracies to “legally” extort large amounts of money from them so they can waste on unnecessary projects to pad quarterly budgets with – or (as an example) maintain nearly 1,000 military bases throughout the world to ensure impoverished people are exploited optimally so that it’s citizenry can live higher standard lives than the exploited nations.

    Once you stop your bias for the absolute need for a government and understand the human condition and economics a little better, you would realize that in fact there is no question that can’t be answered through humanity – but plenty that cannot be answered through the dramatic reduction of the continuation of our species that governments continue to support.

    Have a nice day.

    Don’t forget that the institutions you were taught at produced a biased education for you. If you want to learn something new, you must start with an empty cup. Hard to put fresh tea in a cup that is already full.

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