Transistors, Fire, and Love

Who do we thank for:

stars, planets, gravity
evolution, people, sex
love, family, friends
tradition, culture, commons
language, writing, trade
freedom, property, self defense
hope, tolerance, progress

memory, thought, emotion
curiosity, imagination, dreams
games, sports, fiction
art, music, theater
religion, science, philosophy

Let me be more to the point. That which made life worth living, we had before government got involved.

Some of the greatest innovations that have made life much better may seem to have come from government, but they were actually innovations by the people to restrain, control, and limit government. For example:

revolution, individual rights, militias
limited government, rule of law, equality under the law
voting, democracy, constitutions

Now, let’s continue with all those things we had before government got involved.

doctors, teachers, firemen
charity, mutual aid, brotherhoods
cooperation, contracts, arbitration
insurance, investigators, unions
money, banks, loans

protons, electrons, neutrons
atoms, molecules, compounds
liquids, gases, solids
time, mass, volume
light, color, sound

fire, water, soil
plants, animals, minerals
gold, iron, aluminum
wood, coal, oil
the sun, moon, and sky
ice, steam, snow
rain, wind, clouds
lightning, rainbows, auroras
oceans, mountains, plains
currents, waves, tides
rivers, lakes, waterfalls
trees, flowers, fruit
nectar, sugar, honey

hunting, fishing, farming
knives, forks, spoons
jewelry, clothes, the wheel
the saddle, the plow, the bow and arrow
the clock, the scale, the fence
electricity, money, medicine
soap, boats, navigation
dams, windmills, mirrors
math, physics, astronomy
biology, chemistry, genetics
glass, steel, plastic
beer, wine, liquor
cigarettes, ice cubes, canned food
bread, sandwiches, pizza
glue, mail, movies
pens, pencils, paper

interchangeable parts

the printing press
the telescope
the microscope
the phonograph
the loom
the bicycle
the steam engine
the train
the camera
the electric motor
the car
the airplane
the radio
the telegraph
the telephone
the vaccine
the refrigerator
the television
the vacuum cleaner
the rocket
the transistor

For computers, and the Internet, we could thank government for inventing the tcp/ip protocol, which is unremarkable and which crowded out dozens of potential and better protocols, or we could thank the guy at AT&T who had already invented the transistor, which was truly brilliant, absolutely necessary, and for which there is no alternative.

Wow! We were doing really well before government took over. Just about everything that makes life worth living was created and/or would exist, independently of government.

Although government does occasionally produce innovation, when we consider that government crowds out private innovation both by diverting research into other directions and by inefficiently using the confiscated fruits of our labor, then one could argue how everything that makes life worth living, even when created by government, has been created in spite of government.

Since the transistor, government has taken a much larger share of the fruits of our labor and thus has crowed out much private innovation that would have taken place. Since then, private innovation has produced:

the laser
the dish washer
MS Windows
the digital camera
the iPhone

Whereas, since the transistor, government has given us the following innovations – again, possibly after they would have been developed privately if government had not confiscated the fruits of our labor:

the atomic bomb
the thermonuclear bomb
nuclear power
the welfare state – thus creating a culture of dependency and entitlement
satellites – didn’t accelerate civilian availability much
supersonic flight – not practical for civilian use unless subsidized
high speed trains – not practical for civilian use unless subsidized
GPS – but only after banning its private use for 30 years
tcp/ip – an unremarkable communication protocol
Unix – an unremarkable operating system

If we also consider the first half of the 20th century, government has also given us the following innovations:

big dams – monuments that didn’t bring us out of the great depression
the jet engine – didn’t accelerate civilian availability much
The Great Depression
biological warfare

If we go back to the beginning of time, government has given us these additional innovations.

paved roads – private roads aren’t allowed now that they are practical
guns – didn’t accelerate civilian availability much

Obviously, those innovations that we like and that resulted from government spending the confiscated fruits of our labor would have occurred without government, and in many cases would have become available to us sooner without government bans and government inefficiency.

If it isn’t obvious, the only thing that government does well is coercing large numbers of people to work towards a common goal that they would never have voluntarily worked towards, and thus government is really good at building monuments, waging war, and redistributing the fruits of our labor.

I would sum up the choice between private vs. government as … transistors, fire, and love vs. monuments, war, and genocide.


  • Hal Horvath says:

    Well, government arose stictly in response to force, raids.

    Organized raids required organized defense.

    As the defenses became more effective, the warlords (pirates, you name it) then proceeded to create larger forces. In turn this required larger alliances to resist and defend. Soon enough, you have organized warfare, then kingdoms, then nations.

    So "government" arises for defense, and then gradually over time takes on more and more functions of society that people find hard to do effectively on small scales, for themselves, such as…maintaining public roads. Crime becomes a problem for which people want a mutual solution.

    There is a natural (inevitable) expansion.

    Then fundamental issues arise:


  • Jim says:

    Although you are promoting Progressivism (government rightly has the power to implement any good idea), you are at least disagreeing somewhat with most progressives who are certain regulation is a wonderful solution for just about everything. You actually agree more with me when I say that property rights protect the environment better than regulation at
    and how the free market is self regulating at

    However, you are not consistent. You are claiming, at least to some extent, that we collectively own each other, that one man has a right to the fruits of another man's labor, and that we need global government, all of which tell me that you don't REALLY support property rights. Yes, I know you did not explicitly say exactly these things, but if you're being honest, isn't this the gist of where you're at and where you headed?

    I understand that you think it is all a matter of degrees, and that you are more reasonable and have better ideas than other progressives, but you still need the same omnipotent federal government to implement your good ideas.

    Since you are engaging in more independent thought than other progressives, please consider that cooperation does not have to come from government:

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