Thursday, April 15, 2010

Statism vs. Capitalism

For the first time in the history of civilization, one government recognized that all people, regardless of the conditions of their birth or wealth were equal under the law, that each has unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It was from these principles that our Founding Fathers’ framework guaranteed that neither race nor sex could exclude a man from his natural rights. The United States of America was and remains the best experiment in government—one founded on the recognition of individual rights.

Such individual freedom to act, free from coercion, was the springboard for tremendous advances in every sector of the economy and the major driver of prosperity in this nation. It ingrained a can-do attitude and rooted self-sufficiency as a major component in the culture of our country. As a result of being able to direct the way we live as individuals, we, as a whole, have prospered.

Because men were able to make their own way based on voluntary exchanges with others in their own best interests and to their best abilities, many people were able to become extremely wealthy. The entire nation, including the poorest of the poor, became wealthier as these medical, technical, and scientific advances became part of the fabric of our lives. Being poor in this country rarely means having nothing to eat. Being poor now seems to mean having fewer or lower-quality benefits than the guy next door. This disparity is a natural consequence of having the freedom to choose. It is a manifestation of the fact that men differ in ability, inclination, and effort.

Injustice arises not in the disparity itself, but in employing the force of government as a “fix” of that disparity.

statism (n):  The practice or doctrine of giving a centralized government control over economic planning and policy.

Statists admire the political power of elected officials and appointed bureaucrats to level personal gains. That some people have so much while others have so little seems to be so large an injustice that the circumstances for the disparity need not be considered: that a disparity in wealth exists is reason enough for a large swath of Americans to claim not only foul against the companies and people that make money, but further, a duty upon them to share their earnings.

What seems oddest to me is that statists are often relatively wealthy and intelligent. This is perplexing because it means that they must deeply discount if not completely evade recognition of their own life-sustaining actions in order to make claims upon the wealthy on behalf of those less fortunate (deemed so, as if fortune, or luck alone has caused that disparity). In other words, in order to claim that anyone has a right to any else’s earnings, those statists are ignoring the very efforts which contributed to, maintained, or increased their own wealth.  But why would they discount their own efforts?

For what possible reason could someone, whose life-sustaining decisions have helped him achieve happiness, assume that others who are less successful do not have the very same capabilities? This implies that statists think that poor people are too stupid to make decisions for themselves – a dim view of mankind to say the least.  Or, is it really, as their less-condescending and more “champion of rights” stance suggests, that the rich get richer at the expense of the poor?  Have the poor been taken advantage of by the very existence of corporations and rich people, constituting an injustice for which they must be compensated? 

Violation of individual rights in the form of force and fraud is against the law and should be pursued to the highest court, if necessary, each and every time it arises.  Happily, the individual, the smallest minority, has rights, protected by the government, against the use of force and fraud. Here, everyone may be in complete agreement. So it can’t be that. 

The fundamental support for statism comes from those who, for whatever reason – which, if I had to guess, comes from a religious underpinning despite their tendency to be atheists – feel that we are all our brother’s keepers. If you feel that way, you have (but certainly do not need) my blessings to divide your earnings among those known and unknown to you. But why do you seek the force of government to compel me to comply with your feelings?

That the less wealthy are entitled to a forced redistribution of the earnings of others implies not only unearned guilt for the sin of success, but more so, a bitter and malevolent strike against those who are unapologetic producers and traders.  Furthermore, when feelings inform the force of government, not only are individual rights violated, but also the incredible achievement of the unprecedented premises of the limited role of government in the United States, the law of the land, is turned on its head.

That a person is poor is a regrettable situation. That a person is indebted to others because he is wealthy, is a morally depraved proposition. 

Where is the justice in that?

capitalism (n): An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.

Capitalists admire the economic power that they are able to build by voluntarily trading with other men.   Capitalists seek, by voluntary means, to increase their own wealth, success, and happiness. 

Capitalists are not to be confused with the “pull peddlers” who use the force of government to insure the viability of their businesses.  Pull peddlers are the worst kind of people – they are statists in capitalists’ clothing.

I think where many smart and well-meaning people get confused is with the difference between political power and economic power. The first system uses force against the individual, the second relies upon the ability of the individual to choose for himself.

Which system values the individual more?

While I have had no trouble in concluding that those who hold the idea that our government grants, as opposed to protects, rights don’t understand the proper function of government, I have only recently grasped the rather startling nature of their dismissal of individual rights in general: a contempt and derision for the rights of man to use his mind in order to live his life.

At this point, you may be wondering how I can possibly say that capitalists respect people more, when many statists are only making claims on behalf of the sick and destitute.  Because the government operates on taxpayer funds, using government force in order to control goods and services, products of the minds of men, violates the very rights of everyone who has worked to produce, or trade, for those goods and services in an effort to gain happiness for themselves. Statists decry capitalism while simultaneously making claims on its achievements.  This is obviously an untenable position.

Instead of an additional trillion dollars of national debt for a mismanaged government boondoggle, I recommend that everyone who feels badly about some people’s lack of access to health care or health care insurance contributes directly to them or to their favorite health care charities now. Who knows? Since I can’t predict the future, I may one day need to rely upon your charitable contributions. If you find the idea that your charitable donations may one day support my health care discomforting, I’d ask you to consider why. Why are you so happy to volunteer my money to care for people I don’t know, but not as excited to contribute to my health care? Is it possibly because you think that I should be able to make those decisions for myself? In insisting that the government must control our health care decisions, you are granting that real people, like me, are unfit to make our own choices – that you know better how to run my life – a point which I am unwilling to concede.

Strong feelings about the plight of the poor and sick are completely understandable and upsetting; it is a very bad situation to have to choose between paying for medical care and other vital needs. However, translating those feelings into a law designed to take from the rich to give to the poor is not only reprehensible, it is helping to increase the role of government in making decisions for all of us.  It is helping to further blur the lines between economic power, gained through voluntary exchanges of men, and political power, derived from subjugation of men to the state.  Above all, as government intervenes into more aspects of our lives, it strangles the very freedom that makes our prosperity possible in the first place.

We have each been given front row seats to the recent battle over health care reform.  Those of us not seduced by the alleged windfall of government largesse understand and appreciate what is truly being lost; we see the long-term impacts of this administration’s agenda in which the claims of society take precedence over the rights of the individual (i.e. socialism).  As a result of our collective decision to rely upon the government to forcibly equalize our earnings rather than secure equal protection of our individual rights, we get to watch the fiery, essentially American “can-do” spirit be incrementally and tragically replaced by the meek and effete consideration, “May I?”


Sandi Trixx said...

Excellent post, Lynne!

Lynne said...

Thanks, Sandi. I've been sitting on it for a while and thought today was an appropriate day to let it go.

Roger said...

I wish someone had read this post as a speech at the Washington, DC, Tea Party.

HaynesBE said...

Well written Lynne.
Some real gems within this thoughtful essay:
"a contempt..for the rights of man to use his mind..."
"government control [grants] that real people...are unfit to make our own choices..."
"this administration's agenda in which the claims of society take precedence over the rights of the individual (i.e. socialism)."
"can-do" vs. "May I?"

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Incredible post - and so well said. I was nodding my head all of the way through wondering why so many people in this country don't get this!
Capitalism, and the incentive of people/corporations to try to make a profit (what statists would term "greedy") is what has built this country to what it is today and all of the benefits of all of those businesses who have bettered our lives because they had a motivation that meant something to them! If you take away the motivation to make a profit because you think those people are greedy, those businesses that have continued to improve our lives and increased the wealth of the society as a whole, will disappear. And then where will we find jobs to support our family - from the government? It didn't work in the Soviet block, or in Europe!

Nicely done!

Lynne said...

Thank you for the compliment and your thoughtful elaboration. I don't know why so few of us seem to understand the different between economic and political power, but understanding it and voting in leaders who understand it is, I believe, critical to the future of this country.