Over the past 24 hours, an argument took place via Twitter between Jim Harper of the Cato Institute & Matt Yglesias from ThinkProgress. An argument over the National Weather Service. Really.
Jim sparked this by way of a random quip about weather response via the government, implying this communicates the proverbial loss of sack. When people screamed at him over it — naturally, not for leaving out that people respond anyway, and government agents have either failed themselves or hindered civilian efforts many times, but merely for being Jim Harper of the Cato Institute — he brought up himself what his critics didn’t for some reason:
Note that this isn’t what he originally said, though it is much closer to accuracy than the original remark. True, there is government response when there is a particularly harsh event, but the definition of “response” is after something happens. Preparation is for before, which is why whenever a hurricane is coming you see people doing things like boarding up windows. Matt looks at this, makes a comment about federal weather monitoring, and Jim says rather innocuously that there are other ways of doing things. Result: 315 words that boil down to “you freakin’ weirdo!”.
Both actually make an error here, Jim of focus & Matt of depth. Obviously, you can’t have state-run weather monitoring and response after abolishing the state. That said, if you were to do a survey of people who self-identify as libertarian and/or anarchist, asking them to list in order of their personal priority what things government does that trouble them, I strongly doubt a measurable percentage would have “weather monitoring and response” anywhere near the top, if it made their lists at all. In fact, I’d even go further than that: if this were all that the state did, who would be offended?
Clearly, though, this isn’t all that government does. In fact, this doesn’t even come anywhere close to defining what government is: a monopoly claim on violence. What Jim is effectively saying is that there are ways other than through violence to get things done (correct), and that the monopoly violence entity occasionally saying “hey, a hurricane is coming” is a particularly worrying thing (wrong). Matt, in contrast, is asserting that weather monitoring is useful (pretty much) and that it is a package deal that can’t be broken, that anyone questioning it is out of their gourd by default (ridiculous).
“Dammit, that’s how it comes! You wanna substitute items then piss off and eat somewhere else!”
If in the future Matt quits his think tank job and opens up a diner, remind me never to eat there.