One of the founding principles of Libertarians is that the free market solves problems more elegantly and efficiently than government. Government is force and has little incentive to satisfy the consumer (read the taxpayer) by providing innovation. This is true in the short time and long term, although it can be more evident over the long term.
Let’s look at the traffic light. Traffic lights are largely controlled and consumed by the government. The above images show traffic lights over time: the first showing a traffic light from the 1920s, the middle showing a traffic light from the 1950s, and the third image showing a contemporary traffic light. There has been little change in the technology over a century. The lights have been changed from incandescent bulbs to LED lights and there has been a limited implementation of sensors to detect the presence of an automobile at the intersection, causing the traffic light to change. For the most part, the user experience with the traffic light is unchanged.
But wait! There has been more improvement in traffic light technology. The improved traffic light system includes a camera that monitors the movement of cars approaching an intersection. It also includes processing to monitor the status of the traffic signal for the oncoming vehicle. Unfortunately, the use of the improved technology is limited to issuing traffic tickets, not improving traffic or decreasing gas usage. In fact, some cities, Dallas included, have been investigated for using the lights as a source of revenue at the expense of safety. So with automobile and gasoline taxes to fund the traffic infrastructure and during attempts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the governmental solution is increasing taxes and revenue with little advantage to the taxpaying consumer.
Compare this with the computer, which has largely been controlled by the free market. The above images show computers over semi-recent time: the first showing a computers from the 1970s, the second showing a computer from the 1990s, and the third image showing a recent laptop. In the last thirty years, the computing power available to consumers has increased exponentially. Not only has the computing power increased exponentially, the size of the devices has decreased simultaneous with price decreases. A current smartphone has more processing power than the computer of 70′s and also costs less. And we still have Google, Apple, Microsoft, Rim, and startups battling to provide more processing power, applications, and accessories in order to convince the consumer to spend their money with them. What a difference that incentive makes.
When considering government as the “solution” to issues, think of the above and ask yourself who has incentive and who has more consistently and efficiently addressed issues over time.