I think your point is the one argument that over the years of political/philosophical contemplation (which by your comments, it seems you’re really into too) that has sometimes made me question my beliefs, but then I think it out a bit. Really what I am interested in is tearing down all the barriers to entry for a human being to labor in freedom before I’d even consider leaving people high and dry without food, water, shelter, medicine, etc. What I mean by that is, it is not just important that government be as small as possible all at once; prioritization is important, and I think a harsh prioritization is the trap a lot of libertarians get into; makes them seem like they’re uncaring of people’s real needs.
If I somehow became King tomorrow, I wouldn’t go after food stamps or healthcare or housing first, or even second or third; not before all corporate welfare is abolished, not before we bring our troops home from never-ending wars, not before we took back control of our monetary policy from the Federal Reserve, not before we remove all barriers for people to help each other.
I’m furious every time I see a story of a good person who decides to feed all the homeless and poor of his community for a day and he is told by a health permit bureaucrat to stop. Just type “man feeds homeless told to stop” into your search bar and you’ll find countless stories. Churches told that they can’t let the homeless sleep in the pews because it’s a risk to them, that they can’t sleep in their car (but the cold streets are okay to sleep on??) There was a story of a man who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to build tiny houses for the homeless of his community in LA, and got shelter for the first time for many homeless people he knew personally when he himself was homeless. These people finally had a sense of privacy and dignity. But zoning regulators did not consider them as proper dwelling units, ordered them removed. Reason.com has a great interview of the guy, and his story. (https://reason.com/video/los-angeles-homeless-tiny-houses/).
I had tears watching this, where homeless people interviewed recall LA government cruelly sweeping up their possessions and shelter like trash: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhFKPZqFd3o
I can’t think of a more evil profession than working in a permit office or working on zoning codes. Zoning never gets any attention but it is the number one reason for lack of affordable housing. The government officials will usually say that they will take care of the problem, like building a state housing unit, but they take years and years to implement incomplete solutions. So we have a situation, with housing, where many people cannot afford it, the government adds regulation after regulation to increase the cost of production so that supply cannot meet demand, and then if good-willed people try to help they get punished. Then on my feed, I see some garbage media articles and hear outcries that blame free market capitalism.
You can find this in any industry. With healthcare, it’s the licensing system that creates an artificial shortage of healthcare providers, regulations on what is considered a healthcare facility, a strange third-party employer-based insurance system that only exists because of price fixing on wages in 1930s and is now enshrined by law (when healthcare could just be a product to buy like anything else, or funded by vouchers, tax credits, etc.), artificial boundaries of competition, mandates on what insurance must cover, etc. etc. This TED Talk is particularly instructive on the drastic price differences in the healthcare market, especially on cash versus insurance; price transparency could change everything: https://www.ted.com/talks/jeanne_pinder_what_if_all_us_health_care_costs_were_transparent/discussion
So again, is this because of the free market, or government interference on behalf on certain parties? The reason I relate all this to your question is, while it’s true that a person that has their basic needs met is free to pursue their ultimate happiness, I too want people’s basic needs met, but I want it done in a peaceful society that respects people’s autonomy, dignity and freedom. Rights that I respect are “negative” rights, such as those rights that require no action on your part for me to have: free speech, free religion, not to be searched without warrant, self-defense, etc. But when you proscribe a right for yourself or others that requires me to take a certain action - requiring my property, my labor or my freedom - and it is enforced by the barrel of a government’s gun, then no longer am I involved in a voluntary, consensual action. So I want to maximize people’s liberty, but yes, it should also come with a personal responsibility to help each other, but I think enough of us naturally want to do that, and are stopped by the same force that is pretending and failing to help those in need.
And I would say any serious person interested in maximizing liberty should have your same concern, which is, that they should want to first tear down the institutions that have so benefited certain classes of people unfairly for too long- the powerful and connected- who did not necessarily gain their wealth and status based on their effort, but based on government largess. Any law that would prevent a person from competing with the heights of economic power ought to be struck down. Any barrier to entry in labor, any regulation period that isn’t concerned with correcting for an externality (say, environmental damage or fraud in the market). Making sure that equality of opportunity is more than just a maxim. And in a free society, maybe people would form more worker-cooperatives, some people will form communes, others will operate exactly as before, and that’s fine. As long as we get to choose our own destiny within the maximum limit possible, I’m happy. I’m not here to tell anyone how they should live their life, as long as they aren’t hurting me.
By the way, the median household income would have been $330,000 by now if it weren’t for regulations that hampered GDP growth, according to this study I remember reading a few years ago from the Journal of Economic Growth (probably could find a more recent version): https://reason.com/2013/06/21/federal-regulations-have-made-you-75-per/
Even if those economists were off by half, that would have created a striking difference in this country, and is more than enough to take care of the poor. This study did not even consider inflation over the last 100 years, which was caused by deliberate Fed monetary policy.
Remember too, the Nordic countries that are always cited, with their more expansive welfare states, rank as freer markets than the United States. Netherlands doesn’t even have a minimum wage; it’s determined by employers, workers and unions only. Singapore doesn’t either, which I think is close to the gold standard for how to run a state.
TLDR I would want to remove all the artificial inequalities created by government first that create and enforce poverty, and remove any barriers to entry for the average person to succeed in the market, before I’d go after programs that currently meet people’s basic needs.
This has become a very long answer but I hope you read/watch some of the material there. Feel free to put your own!