6 Ways To Fund Public Services in a Libertarian Republic

6 Ways To Fund Public Services in a Libertarian Republic

But… who would build the roads?

Keith Farrell

            Are any taxes voluntary? Certainly not the income tax. Although Senator Harry Reid believes it is. No, almost all tax schemes eventually involve some form of coercion. As Mao Zedong said, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” and there’s nothing that gives a government more power than the laying and collection of taxes. But is there a way to collect taxes for public works without doing violence?


Every libertarian has heard the question:  If not for coercive taxation, how would society ever maintain infrastructure and provide services?  In other words, “Who would build the roads?”

Click through to read six methods of taxation or revenue collection that could implemented without force.

#1. Lottery

Of course, in a libertarian republic, government would not hold a monopoly on lotteries, but nonetheless lotteries could be used to generate revenue through voluntary participation.  Government could use a specific proportion of a lottery’s revenue for funding and one or more lucky participants could win the rest. The founding fathers used this method. George Washington signed lottery tickets to raise money for public infrastructure. (pictured above)

#2. Consumption Tax

A tax on spending on goods or services.  A Value Added Tax is a tax which is based on the value added to a product at each stage of production.  For examples, if a retailer were to buy a shirt for $5 and sell it for $10, the tax would apply to the $5 difference.  Each stage of the production process would incur tax, leaving a final product with a price incorporating those taxes.  A Sales Tax is simply a tax on the consumer at the point of purchase of goods or services.  An Excise Tax applies to the sale of a specific good or service by quantity—such as a per gallon gasoline tax.  In each instance the consumer is choosing to buy the good or service.

#3. Voluntary Tax

In a community, town or city, a voluntary per person tax may be implemented.  Services provided by the town such as fire and police services could only utilized by persons who had paid the tax.  Those who choose not to would be left to fend for themselves, hire private services or depend on volunteer services.  With such a system an introductory tax rate could be implemented and, with time, as more people joined the cost per person would decline.

#4. Usage fees

Tolls on roads, parking meters, city water, sewage access and ambulance services which bill for usage are all current examples of people volunteering to use government services or infrastructure for a fee.  This is a much fairer way to generate the revenue needed to maintain and operate government infrastructure than one which taxes those who do not need or use those services.  This model can be extended to trash removal and fire services.

#5. Cooperatives

Instead of social security and Medicare taxes coming directly out of the pay of all Americans, those who wish to join together in a cooperative effort of investment or insurance purchasing would be free to, and those who didn’t would be free to not participate.  Group investment cooperatives could offer future planning for Americans.  Competing cooperatives could offer high and low risk packages with differing returns.  Group insurance packages could also be purchased by a cooperative, similar to the way which employers now participate in group packages through private insurance companies.

#6. Land Sale

Local, state and federal governments own a lot of land.  Much of it is land that is not needed.  Governments could sell this land or even hold a lottery for parcels of land or any unused government real estate.  This revenue could be used to generate revenue for one time projects, such as funding the building of a new road or courthouse.

Considering that in a Libertarian Republic the government would have a much more limited role, these are more than adequate means to generate revenue.  A Libertarian Republic’s government would provide national security, a justice system to protect people’s rights, a civil law system to enforce contracts, and the provision of infrastructure for those means.  Services and infrastructure beyond that would be provided privately whenever possible, if not left to localities and funded only through the methods above.

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  • Yourownfault
    November 19, 2013, 5:42 pm

    while a good idea, the majority of people are not “smart” enough to figure out how important Voluntary taxes would be. And while its great to let them fend for themselves, we unfortunately need them to be somewhat productive as the employees at entry level, skill-less, and labor groups.

    Land is a good thought, but I kinda like the fact that there are areas like Yosemite that i can visit and get away from reality. Not sure what kind of consequences there would be selling off some of the land.

  • Mita@Yourownfault
    December 16, 2013, 4:14 pm

    Some wilderness areas which the government has taken over (or rather taken and then emptied of any farms or ranches which have cattle, as well as driving wild mustangs off) have succumbed to desertification. In a normal ecosystem herds which migrate yearly go through, trample (till) and graze the land and then fertilize it, which results in returning vital nitrogen to the soil. When the herds of cattle replaced the bison in the last century, much of the land bison and other herding animals frequented remained fertile and productive because of the activity. Once the farmers and ranchers had to leave, the land began to turn into desert – plants which would normally come back year after year through reseeding and natural rooting from broken pieces began to disappear and following that, the smaller animals that are considered prey for larger predators also began to disappear. So, where once you had green grasslands and brush, now it’s dry and dying. And yet the government still feels they have to ‘manage’ the area.

    One gentleman in South Africa discovered this phenomenon after forcing cattle farmers to leave certain protected areas there – they even culled about 40,000 wild elephants thinking they could stop desertification. It didn’t work. It wasn’t until they began to study the natural processes in connection with migration/herd grazing rotation that they realized they were screwing it up big time.

    Now they encourage farmers to rotate their cattle in areas which were once blighted by desertification, and now they are lush and green and productive again in just a matter of a decade.

    Our government would do well to learn it is better to encourage the activities closest to what would happen naturally if they want to ‘manage’ federally owned lands – it would probably be so much better tif they would just let the citizens manage it.

    TED Talk: Allan Savory


  • Russell Wickham@Yourownfault
    December 16, 2013, 5:38 pm

    Why not sell it to conservation geoups like The Sierra Club or other like minded organizations? Also, land may be restricted for certain uses only so there is no reason it can’t be sold for the purpose only of conservation.

  • Mario Lawrence@Yourownfault
    December 24, 2013, 2:45 pm

    Sorry, to necro your post. lol Seeing as it’s been a month now.
    The voluntary tax could very well work. Even people that are not “smart” enough, are smart enough to know to pay their rent, phone, and electric bills.
    Paying the voluntary tax would simply be the smart thing to do, at least unless that individual citizen can develop his or her own private methods.
    Some areas could make it a requirement as grounds for residency, so that you don’t have the risk of people who aren’t “smart enough” being a liability and danger to others around them. 🙂
    Furthermore, there will always be people that will be willing to provide a small volunteer service to help out, or that would be willing to donate to volunteer service.
    The government wouldn’t be necessary. What would be necessary with such a system is learning to get along with your neighbors.

  • why bother@Russell Wickham
    May 10, 2014, 6:22 pm

    The Nature Conservancy is sort of like that. In the 1990s is was purely about buying up pristine land through private donations and just sitting on the land. It’s still like that but they have become far more AGW and “progressive.” I have become disappointed in them because of their politics, preaching for big government. If they just stayed quiet and used donations to buy up land I would be contributing to them these days.


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