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Voluntary Government Funding and Public Casinos?

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Cherring109
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By that argument, Police cannot have police cars, and armies can't own tanks, and if they did, private citizens could claim the right to use them.

If Government is funded without the use of force, thus funded morally, why can it not buy property by engaging in voluntary trade with an individual or company that wishes to sell it property?

Government can have police cars and tanks because this is the right specifically designated to them for the protection of individual rights. And they can universally reject everyones claims to use these things. However if government begins to engage in ownership of any property for any purpose then they will inevitably violate someones rights.

For example government owns some roads. Nazi party wants to have a demostration on that road. Other people around the road don't want to see that. Both nazi and other people are tax payers. Whose claim to the road is valid?

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Government can have police cars and tanks because this is the right specifically designated to them for the protection of individual rights. And they can universally reject everyones claims to use these things. However if government begins to engage in ownership of any property for any purpose then they will inevitably violate someones rights.

For example government owns some roads. Nazi party wants to have a demostration on that road. Other people around the road don't want to see that. Both nazi and other people are tax payers. Whose claim to the road is valid?

If the Government pays for the road with money obtained morally on property obtained morally, the Government does.

You didn't answer my question.

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If Government is funded without the use of force, thus funded morally, why can it not buy property by engaging in voluntary trade with an individual or company that wishes to sell it property?

It can, but only for its proper purpose the protection of rights. Government gets its rights from the people, this is the only right delegated to the government.

What you are describing is how an individual can act. An individual who obtains funds morally, can engage in voluntary trade with an individual or company that wishes to sell him property. If government could do that, it would be no different from an individual. But government and individual are different, an individual has rights, a government does not, apart from the rights delegated to it by individuals. The only right delegated to it, protection of rights.

If the Government pays for the road with money obtained morally on property obtained morally, the Government does.

You didn't answer my question.

So your saying that if I give money to the government voluntarily then the government can take any action with that money as long as that action continues not to be an initiation of force?

I would argue that even if we give money voluntarily, if the government spends it on something besides protection of rights, its automatically a initiating force on someone. Its a sort of blackmail. We depend on government for protection because we have delegated that right to them because we know that it is the only way rights can be secured. For this they get money, but they also go ahead and spend it on things that I or someone else might no approve of. Spending the money on anything else except protection of rights, automatically breaks someones right. If they spend it on roads, they break rights of people who make roads, ect. This is not really a voluntary choice, since threat of force is still hanging over peoples heads. They will be scared that if I don't fund the government it will be to weak to protect them, but funding the government also means the possibility of funding things they don't approve of, or even things that are directly against them.

This also could be a case of fraud. Where money is obtained from people under false pretenses. Government says that their next funding scheme will be building casinos. People who approve hand over their money. They decide to build power plants instead.

Edited by avgleandt
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What about procuring funding by charging fees for certain more optional "services" the government (legitimately) provides? One that comes to mind is a suggestion also made by John in his constitution write up, charge people a fee when they vote. The same can be done for other things, such as applying for public office, and possibly for recognizing certain legal contracts?

That brings me to a related question: should the legitimate functions of government necessarily be free of charge? Is there something wrong with, for example, charging a person after the fact (or even before) for making use of the courts, or in cases where the police intervenes? Would that fee, representing an economic barrier of sorts, necessarily impair a person's rights?

I don't think that the government should refuse to enforce the laws in the case where someone may not be able to pay a fee, but is there anything wrong with charging the actors involved with the costs of said action, in some way?

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I don't think that the government should refuse to enforce the laws in the case where someone may not be able to pay a fee, but is there anything wrong with charging the actors involved with the costs of said action, in some way?
Half right, I'd say. The person who is assaulted should not have to share the costs of prosecuting his assailant -- that cost should be fully born by the assailant. Similarly, the losing party in a contract dispute should bear court costs.
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It can, but only for its proper purpose the protection of rights. Government gets its rights from the people, this is the only right delegated to the government.

What you are describing is how an individual can act. An individual who obtains funds morally, can engage in voluntary trade with an individual or company that wishes to sell him property. If government could do that, it would be no different from an individual. But government and individual are different, an individual has rights, a government does not, apart from the rights delegated to it by individuals. The only right delegated to it, protection of rights.

The Government does differ from the individual in that, as Ms. Rand so perfectly put it, "A private individual may do anything except that which is legally forbidden; a government official may do nothing except that which is legally permitted." In other words - Government requires permission to initiate any function. Even for the functions of Courts, Police and Military, even though the Citizens delegate the right to use retaliatory force to Government in order to perform those functions, the Citizenry must permit and define the scope of those functions to Government to allow Government to carry them out. Our Constitution does in this country - defines what is legal for Government to do (too broadly, obviously...)

What I'm asking here is that if the citizens of a Rational nation decide to grant permission to Gov't to operate a business, then is there any *other* moral prohibition against Gov't doing so, provided of course that Gov't never attempts to engage in regulating/legislating said business.

So your saying that if I give money to the government voluntarily then the government can take any action with that money as long as that action continues not to be an initiation of force?

No - I'm saying if the Citizenry give permission, then Gov't can take actions to which power is granted.

I would argue that even if we give money voluntarily, if the government spends it on something besides protection of rights, its automatically a initiating force on someone. Its a sort of blackmail. We depend on government for protection because we have delegated that right to them because we know that it is the only way rights can be secured. For this they get money, but they also go ahead and spend it on things that I or someone else might no approve of. Spending the money on anything else except protection of rights, automatically breaks someones right. If they spend it on roads, they break rights of people who make roads, ect. This is not really a voluntary choice, since threat of force is still hanging over peoples heads. They will be scared that if I don't fund the government it will be to weak to protect them, but funding the government also means the possibility of funding things they don't approve of, or even things that are directly against them.

You seem to be making the argument that road builders have the right not to be competed against. However, the immorality behind pretty much our entire road network is not that other contractors don't get the work but that Gov't pays for those roads with stolen money, and builds them on stolen land (taxes and eminent domain).

This also could be a case of fraud. Where money is obtained from people under false pretenses. Government says that their next funding scheme will be building casinos. People who approve hand over their money. They decide to build power plants instead.

Then just like today, just like with any other business, the people would sue the government, and the autonomous court system would have the responsibility of setting things right.

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Half right, I'd say. The person who is assaulted should not have to share the costs of prosecuting his assailant -- that cost should be fully born by the assailant. Similarly, the losing party in a contract dispute should bear court costs.

Ideally, yes.

Practically, the assailant often has no ability to reimburse the people for the costs of the prosecution.

Since the assailant cannot be relied upon to pay for the costs of prosecution, the cost transfers by default to those who benefit from and pay for the service provided - and that would be the entire citizenry.

Not that the people should not seek recompense - but sometimes one simply has to absorb some losses in order to thrive.

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No - I'm saying if the Citizenry give permission, then Gov't can take actions to which power is granted.

I see, your right the government does gets its power based on what the citizen grant the government. The question is then I think, can the citizens grant the government other rights besides the protection of rights, with out initiating force on anyone? I don't think this is possible.

You seem to be making the argument that road builders have the right not to be competed against. However, the immorality behind pretty much our entire road network is not that other contractors don't get the work but that Gov't pays for those roads with stolen money, and builds them on stolen land (taxes and eminent domain).

I was saying that road builders or anyone else, shouldn't have to fund its competitors. They fund the goverment because they want protection, but if that money is also used for something else, they end up funding their competitors. Their other choice is to stop funding the government, but then they run the risk of government being to weak and not able to protect them. This doesn't seem like a voluntary choice to me.

Really I think if there is a large number of citizens who believe that government should run a certain business such as a casino to raise funds. They can just pool their donations togethere and start this casino, and then donate all the procedes to the government. This would be the same thing I think, without involving other people who don't want to fund a casino but still want to donate for protection.

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I see, your right the government does gets its power based on what the citizen grant the government. The question is then I think, can the citizens grant the government other rights besides the protection of rights, with out initiating force on anyone? I don't think this is possible.

Well, lets walk through the scenario.

We're in a nation with a rational government. The population grants Gov't permission to operate a business for profit in order to help pay for it's proper functions. Enacting the proper functions of Government involves establishing legislation concerning those areas then executing said legislation. The Gov't is limited to legislation covering defense (military, diplomacy, intelligence), defining actions that constitute criminal behavior, creating the institutions necessary to apprehend criminals, and establishing the court system.

The Gov't MAY not limit trade in any fashion (arguably an exception being when trade is with a declared enemy of the country).

So Gov't sets up a casino. It buys or rents land from a willing seller - no force there. It hires people to build the casino from workers who want the jobs (contractors or direct employees, whatever) - no force there. It hires employees to run the business - no force there. Customers can choose to go to the Gov't Casino, or to some other Casino - no force there.

So long as Gov't never tries to tell any of the other Casinos how to do business, and as long as the courts remain autonomous so that they can render impartial binding judgments about any disputes between Government Casino and Galt's Casino... where is the force?

I was saying that road builders or anyone else, shouldn't have to fund its competitors. They fund the goverment because they want protection, but if that money is also used for something else, they end up funding their competitors. Their other choice is to stop funding the government, but then they run the risk of government being to weak and not able to protect them. This doesn't seem like a voluntary choice to me.

Really I think if there is a large number of citizens who believe that government should run a certain business such as a casino to raise funds. They can just pool their donations togethere and start this casino, and then donate all the procedes to the government. This would be the same thing I think, without involving other people who don't want to fund a casino but still want to donate for protection.

I grant that I certainly would *prefer* the latter option - but wrt the other concern - Gov't *could* simply solicit separate funds for operating the casino, so that people who don't really want Gov't running a casino would be able to pay for the proper functions and know that none of their money went to the wrong cause.

After all - when you *donate* money, you can donate money with conditions - use it for child cancer - use it for single moms - etc. No reason we citizens couldn't likewise say, "Here's $1,000 for the army, $500 for the cops and $75 for the courts" when we "pay our taxes".

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Half right, I'd say. The person who is assaulted should not have to share the costs of prosecuting his assailant -- that cost should be fully born by the assailant. Similarly, the losing party in a contract dispute should bear court costs.

I agree with that. But what about non crime-related cases? Would it be a violation of an individual's rights for the government to charge them for, say, recognizing certain contracts (marriage, for example)? That's one potential source of revenue, because I think you can argue that you're not violating a person's rights per se by not automatically recognizing voluntarily entered contracts. Similarly with voting or holding office. I'm just not sure how much of a revenue stream these kinds of things could realistically provide the government. You'd probably have to charge quite a lot in order to raise a sufficient amount of revenue to fund the proper gov't functions... but then, it's also a lot cheaper with a properly limited government and without taxes and the like people would have much more money available.

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Well, lets walk through the scenario.

We're in a nation with a rational government. The population grants Gov't permission to operate a business for profit in order to help pay for it's proper functions. Enacting the proper functions of Government involves establishing legislation concerning those areas then executing said legislation. The Gov't is limited to legislation covering defense (military, diplomacy, intelligence), defining actions that constitute criminal behavior, creating the institutions necessary to apprehend criminals, and establishing the court system.

The Gov't MAY not limit trade in any fashion (arguably an exception being when trade is with a declared enemy of the country).

So Gov't sets up a casino. It buys or rents land from a willing seller - no force there. It hires people to build the casino from workers who want the jobs (contractors or direct employees, whatever) - no force there. It hires employees to run the business - no force there. Customers can choose to go to the Gov't Casino, or to some other Casino - no force there.

So long as Gov't never tries to tell any of the other Casinos how to do business, and as long as the courts remain autonomous so that they can render impartial binding judgments about any disputes between Government Casino and Galt's Casino... where is the force?

First I would like to say that an individual can always grant the government or any one else his rights. But I don't see how that can be done unanimously for everyone for any other right except self defense. The self defense right is granted to a third party by everyone unanimously because its a fact of nature that this is the only way to secure rights. This is the only reason a third party like the government is created. There is no such natural order for all individuals to grant to a third party their right to own property. Naturally property ownership belongs to an individual. Like I said before, I think that the initiation of force occurs when a person is lured to donate money for purpose of protection but it is also used for something else. You provide a solution for that below so I will comment on that there.

I grant that I certainly would *prefer* the latter option - but wrt the other concern - Gov't *could* simply solicit separate funds for operating the casino, so that people who don't really want Gov't running a casino would be able to pay for the proper functions and know that none of their money went to the wrong cause.

After all - when you *donate* money, you can donate money with conditions - use it for child cancer - use it for single moms - etc. No reason we citizens couldn't likewise say, "Here's $1,000 for the army, $500 for the cops and $75 for the courts" when we "pay our taxes".

If government solicit separate funds, and it remains illegal to that any funds can be transferred then I do not see an initiation of force anymore. But do you think that these new funds, and people controlling these funds can be really called part of the government anymore? They can also be run by people who already work for the government or not, I don't think that part really matters. They seem to me like some kind new entities that have the purpose of funding the government, the government being the entity that protects rights. I have no problem with this. I don't know how successful this type of organization would be competing with private businesses but I don't see any rights violations.

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If government solicit separate funds, and it remains illegal to that any funds can be transferred then I do not see an initiation of force anymore. But do you think that these new funds, and people controlling these funds can be really called part of the government anymore? They can also be run by people who already work for the government or not, I don't think that part really matters. They seem to me like some kind new entities that have the purpose of funding the government, the government being the entity that protects rights. I have no problem with this. I don't know how successful this type of organization would be competing with private businesses but I don't see any rights violations.

Yeah - it's not really Government at that point - it's not legislating, it's not imposing any will or using any force - it's simply a Government run business.

My point in this entire discussion, by the way, has not been to advocate FOR Government run businesses in an Objectivist society, but to argue that a perfectly moral scenario does exist where Government *could* run businesses.

Personally, because of the risk involved of Government expansion outside of it's appropriate bounds, I would not ever vote for such an operation. I would, instead, advocate that all people and businesses voluntarily increase their contributions to Government in times of need.

And from what I can tell, aside from some name calling and derision from DO, no credible argument has been posed disproving my assertion that with permission from the populace, Gov't could own/operate a business in the free market without deviating from or violating it's function of protecting individual liberty.

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However, does that create a necessity that Government cannot also seek additional funding via other, rational means?

The government produces nothing, there are no other rational means to seek funding. While obtaining restitution (to the degree possible) from people who make specific government actions necessary (offenders paying for their aprehension and incarceration, losers in civil suits paying for the proceedings) makes sense, there will always be a leftover that will have to be paid for voluntarily by the beneficiaries of individual rights protection.

With regard to the idea of governments running "businesses" for "profit", how do you keep the fact that the government owns a "business" from affecting it? Will people willingly donate to a government that may decide to "compete" with their employer on some bureaucrat's whim and push them out of a job? How does a "company" being owned by an entity which compared to private investors has unlimited money not create a distortiion in credit and risk markets? Is it realistic to think that a government will let its failing "business" fail (businesses fail, its a fact of life).

As for the more general point of masking donations to the government in lotteries or raffles or government run soap factories, the truth is that you cannot get something for nothing. If you are willing to pay more for a government cassino, raffle or bar of soap (to fund the government), you are willing to buy the private item and donate the difference. To argue otherwise is to argue that people are just too stupid to know what is good for them and have to be tricked into funding the government.

The population grants Gov't permission to operate a business for profit in order to help pay for it's proper functions.

"The population" can't grant that permission. For instance, the owners of other business already in that particular market will object. Are they not of "the population"?

The essential point in this discussion is this: the argument for monopolistic government (i.e. the monopoly on the use of force) is that one cannot legitimately object to the protection of individual rights thus any oposition to a government that exclusively protects those rights is by definition ilegitimate. If the government strays from that limited scope, its legitimacy is fataly undermined.

While explicit donation is the only means of government funding that makes sense to me, I have a particular means of implementing it that I favor. Namely, a % donation option for federal, state and municipal government on every sale to a private individual for consumption. It is not a sales tax, because it is optional. When paying you are asked whether you want to include the donation, you can choose to pay all, none or any combination of the donations. A business can choose whether to offer the system or not. A business can choose not to serve people who don't donate. A person can choose to not patronize businesses who do not offer the option to donate.

The objective of this system is that while funding of the government is voluntary, your choice to do so or not is public. If the government is legitimate and effective, this will create a strong incentive against free riding. And it violates no one's rights.

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The government produces nothing, there are no other rational means to seek funding.

The claim that "The Government produces nothing" is only necessarily true when Government uses force to acquire it's assets, in which case it's stealing, not producing. If Government were to open a mine using freely given money for that purpose, and produced coal from that mine, the Gov't would be producing something.

With regard to the idea of governments running "businesses" for "profit", how do you keep the fact that the government owns a "business" from affecting it?

You mean via legislation? If Gov't oversteps it's bounds, that's what the courts are for.

Will people willingly donate to a government that may decide to "compete" with their employer on some bureaucrat's whim and push them out of a job?

Unlikely, I agree - but if I were an investor looking to start a casino, you, an employee for another casino, wouldn't be likely to invest either. Would that mean I can't open my casino if I find other investors?

How does a "company" being owned by an entity which compared to private investors has unlimited money not create a distortiion in credit and risk markets?

Again, if the company was started with funds given specifically for that purpose, and no funds not dedicated to that purpose were used, then there is not an unlimited amount of money.

Is it realistic to think that a government will let its failing "business" fail (businesses fail, its a fact of life).

If Constitutionally prohibited from using any funds but those specifically collected for the purpose, then Gov't will have to let Business fail, OR violate the constitution of that Gov't.

These are all "something bad can happen" arguments - but we are, I think, Universally Agreed that something bad being able to happen as a result of X isn't justification for prohibiting someone from doing X. One can say, "You may not drive drunk on a public road" because it creates a direct risk to others. You cannot say, "You may not drive drunk on this private, closed course that has agreed to let you" because that's between you and the course owners. Likewise, if the law PROHIBITS the Gov't from stepping in and saving a failing business under *any* circumstances, that extends to its own businesses, and if Gov't violates that law, whether the business is its own or not, the Gov't has invalidated itself (at least to a degree) by using force.

As for the more general point of masking donations to the government in lotteries or raffles or government run soap factories, the truth is that you cannot get something for nothing. If you are willing to pay more for a government cassino, raffle or bar of soap (to fund the government), you are willing to buy the private item and donate the difference. To argue otherwise is to argue that people are just too stupid to know what is good for them and have to be tricked into funding the government.

It is true that you cannot get something for nothing - but casinos, raffles and soap manufacturers operate on a for-profit basis (generally at least). There is no certainty that you would have to pay *more* for Gov't Brand Soap or to play at Gov't Casino. If the company makes a profit, it keeps the profit. If Gov't makes a profit, it keeps the profit. Pricing is going to include profit regardless who owns the business. If Govt and Dove both make good soap, and I need soap, and I can buy Gov't soap for the same price as Dove and not only get soap but greater assurance of my Gov'ts ability to defend my rights - I see a reason to buy the Gov't soap.

"The population" can't grant that permission. For instance, the owners of other business already in that particular market will object. Are they not of "the population"?

If unanimity is required, then nobody will ever be elected either. Majority vote is still the best possible means for establishing permissions and policy, AS LONG AS said vote does not violate individual rights (like CA's Prop 8 measure...)

The essential point in this discussion is this: the argument for monopolistic government (i.e. the monopoly on the use of force) is that one cannot legitimately object to the protection of individual rights thus any oposition to a government that exclusively protects those rights is by definition ilegitimate. If the government strays from that limited scope, its legitimacy is fataly undermined.

I do not think your second statement follows from the first. I agree that one cannot legitimately object to any opposition to the protection of individual rights. I do not agree that Government engaging in other activities in addition to protecting individual rights INHERENTLY undermines that Government, so long as the protection of individual rights is not lessened or worse, outright violated.

While explicit donation is the only means of government funding that makes sense to me, I have a particular means of implementing it that I favor. Namely, a % donation option for federal, state and municipal government on every sale to a private individual for consumption. It is not a sales tax, because it is optional. When paying you are asked whether you want to include the donation, you can choose to pay all, none or any combination of the donations. A business can choose whether to offer the system or not. A business can choose not to serve people who don't donate. A person can choose to not patronize businesses who do not offer the option to donate.

The objective of this system is that while funding of the government is voluntary, your choice to do so or not is public. If the government is legitimate and effective, this will create a strong incentive against free riding. And it violates no one's rights.

I like this idea better than casinos, for the record. ;)

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If Government were to open a mine using freely given money for that purpose, and produced coal from that mine, the Gov't would be producing something.

This and all of your subsequent argument basically can be reduced to "if the government could act as if it were not the government it would be OK for it to own a business".

What would be the conditions where the government could in fact act as if it were not the government?

* Funds for the business side of "government" cannot come from donations made towards rights protection - they have to be specifically for the purpose of "government" investment in business (notice I've changed where the scare quotes go... you'll see why)

* The individuals running the "government" business cannot be in any way connected to rights protection activities (executive, legislative or judicial)

* The "government" business has to be held to the same standards as every business

* The people working for the "government" business cannot have any special job conditions or guarantees (i.e. the government is not on the hook for them if the business fails)

* On failing, the "government" business can generate no claim on the assets of the rights protecting agencies of the government (only on the business itself)

All of this is necessary to ensure that no one is defrauded (has the money he donated towards protection of his rights used for something he does not support) and no rights are violated (such as would be if there were the actual or perceived possibility of the government using its power to favor the businesses it operates).

If you achieve all that what it boils down to is this: the "government" business is just a business like any other. If government power is completely isolated from the operation of business (as it has to be, as you are proposing) there is nothing government about the business (except who receives the dividends).

It would be much simpler for the government to simply purchase stocks based on some predetermined index instead of attempting to be an entrepeneur and going through all the careful precautions to keep its business dealings isolated from its political action (precautions, incidently, which are doomed to fail at some level time and again - due to specific cases of human error or malice).

I would not oppose a system where the government purchases stock according to a predetermined index (say, the DOW) with excess revenues (and a legitimate government has to run a positive bottom line - government debt is such a moral hazard). Why go through the trouble (and run the risks) of trying to make it OK for "government" to actually run a business?

Edited by mrocktor
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*snip - all of which I agree 100% with*

It would be much simpler for the government to simply purchase stocks based on some predetermined index instead of attempting to be an entrepeneur and going through all the careful precautions to keep its business dealings isolated from its political action (precautions, incidently, which are doomed to fail at some level time and again - due to specific cases of human error or malice).

I agree completely - although since stock ownership conveys ownership the same conditions specified would apply.

I would not oppose a system where the government purchases stock according to a predetermined index (say, the DOW) with excess revenues (and a legitimate government has to run a positive bottom line - government debt is such a moral hazard). Why go through the trouble (and run the risks) of trying to make it OK for "government" to actually run a business?

I've gone to the trouble because it is important not to rationalize anything. "Because Ayn Rand Said So" is not a valid reason for prohibiting Government owned Businesses. Rand eloquently and accurately stated the reasons for what Government must do (protecting liberty via three functions), and for what it must be prohibited from doing (violating liberty, acting without permission) - but did not address either way those actions which could be accomplished while neither interfering with those two conditions.

Being aware that an option is morally on the table is an increase in knowledge. Unless a real proof can be provided why a Government cannot morally own a business, it is arbitrary to simply assert that it cannot do so.

But as said before, I *personally* would never vote to allow Government to own a business, because I agree - humans are flawed and opening the door to opportunity for abuse is something to be avoided.

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