December 12, 2019

The Failure of Capitalism: Government’s Great Lie

President_George_W._Bush_bipartisan_economic_meeting_Congress,_McCain,_ObamaThe historic rip-off of the American public that has just taken place met with little resistance from the victims. Lest any inconvenient contrarians or clear thinkers rise up from the masses, the Great Rip-off comes with a Great Lie to justify it. While there has never been a shortage of factions ready to decry the evils of capitalism, it is important during a heist of this proportion that EVERYONE get on board. Therefore, virtually every politician, including the Republican nominee for president,  and the entire media are blaming the current meltdown as a failure of free market capitalism. This is government’s Great Lie.

A lie this enormous is necessary when you are stealing trillions of dollars from 300 million people who are watching your every move. To pull off a crime like that, you have to convince the victims you are really helping them out.

Despite decades of government intervention into the economy, including massive expansion of entitlements and regulation during the Bush administration, the American public seems to accept the narrative characterizing the past decade as “an experiment” with laissez faire capitalism. House majority leader Steny Hoyer told RTTNews,

“With inflation, everybody who had any investment has lost money, 401(k) savings plans, pensions, they’ve lost money,” he said. “That’s a stark failure of the economy and this administration’s laissez faire, take the referee off the field, let anyone do whatever they want to do and everything will be fine.”[1]

In an article published Saturday morning, AFP reported,

“The top Senate Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid, blamed the crisis on Bush’s laissez-faire policies, then called on the president to better explain why such a sweeping program was needed as the country prepared for a presidential vote in less than six weeks’ time.”[2]

While such rhetoric might be expected from Democratic Party leaders, especially during an election year, there is no substantive rebuttal from the other side. Quite the contrary, as John McCain’s interview with the New York Times makes clear.

“I’m a Teddy Roosevelt Republican. Teddy Roosevelt was the first one that took on the big trusts, first time we began to have regulatory agencies. He said, unfettered capitalism leads to corruption. I’ve always agreed with that.”[3]

If the Great Lie is this crisis representing a failure of capitalism, there are a lot of little lies that help support it. Congressman Hoyer’s characterization of laissez faire capitalism as letting “anyone do whatever they want to do and everything will be fine” is just such a supporting lie. It is a variation of the attack on freedom itself as if it places no limit on anyone’s actions. In both cases, the limit is harming another individual.

Laissez faire capitalism does not allow contracts to be broken, nor does it allow force or fraud to be initiated in forming them. While these limits are vital to laissez faire capitalism, Congressman Hoyer would have us believe otherwise. Take note of Hoyer’s choice of words. Even in the absence of any harm to others, Hoyer has an aversion to people doing “whatever they want to do.” He personifies statism.

The real substance of the Great Lie  is the characterization of the American economy in any recent decade as “capitalism.” It isn’t. Even our government and media establishments acknowledge we have a “mixed economy,” supposedly combining the benefits of free market capitalism with socialist central planning and redistribution. The Lie says that it has been too much “unfettered capitalism” that has caused our current crisis, rather than too much socialist central planning. How can we know which is to blame?

It’s a false dilemma. In reality, there is no such thing as a mixed economy.” We are witnessing the inevitable failure of that idea. It is doomed from the start, because the moment any central planning is introduced, capitalism ceases to exist. Once government intervention is introduced anywhere, it must eventually be introduced everywhere, resulting in all of the failures of socialism throughout history.

In truth, there is no “capitalism” at all in our mixed economy.

The proof? Let us consider what capitalism is, and whether its definition applies to the U.S. economy. Merriam-Webster defines capitalism as,

“an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”[4]

Of the three elements in this dictionary definition, private ownership of capital, voluntary exchange, and competition, it is the second that is fundamental to the other two. Why? First, as long as there is voluntary exchange of property, there will be private ownership of capital. There is no way for government to acquire property in a “voluntary exchange.” Even a revenue generating enterprise started by government has to be funded into existence by tax money, and taxes are collected under the threat of force. Therefore, in a system where all of the transactions are voluntary, all property, including capital goods, remain privately owned.

Second, when all transactions are voluntary, most buyers and sellers are going to try to act in their best interests. Sellers will constantly try to convince buyers to purchase their products or services, rather than those of others. Likewise, buyers are going to try to find the best products at the lowest prices, motivating sellers to maximize their quality and minimize their price so that their products will be chosen over those of other sellers. Therefore, voluntary exchange naturally results in competition. It is competition that motivates innovation and improvement in efficiencies, and lowers the cost of production. Thus, it is free choice that ultimately drives the wealth-creating mechanism of capitalism. Without free choice, there is no capitalism.

Investments in the U.S. economy can hardly be described as being determined by private decision when government actively steers the investment decisions of capitalists. It does so either by outright subsidization of investments it favors, or by providing tax breaks to companies that make those investments. It is ironic that government often characterizes this second method as positive action to stimulate growth. After taxing all business activity to the brink of insolvency, it then gives back a small portion of the booty to investors willing to do its bidding. By doing so it wins political support, and at the same time distorts the economy, creating new problems to solve with future interventions. Thus, the government protects the job security of its incumbents and creates the need for more government all in one fell swoop.

Neither are prices really determined by competition in a free market in the U.S. economy. Prices are routinely fixed by government intervention, such as the prices of agricultural produce by government farm subsidies or the price of healthcare by massive government subsidization through entitlement programs. The price of labor is distorted by minimum wages and massive regulation that makes employing people infinitely more expensive than it otherwise would be. Interest rates, or the price of borrowing money, are set by the central bank, which is the most harmful price fixing of all (we will look more closely at this momentarily). While some prices are set by market forces, a large percentage is affected in one way or another by government.

Similarly, the distribution of goods in the U.S. is sometimes determined by competition in a free market, but that is only after government has taken over 12 percent of all goods and services produced in the economy and redistributed them through massive welfare programs, destroying the possibility of any real, voluntary savings. For those goods that are distributed in part as a result of competition, it can hardly be described as occurring in a “free market” when employers cannot really decide for themselves who to hire, employees cannot accept any wage they wish to, massive regulation protects large companies from smaller competitors, and even imports and exports are subject to over 20,000 pages of regulation in “free trade agreements” like NAFTA.

Most harmful of all is the supreme intervention into the economy by the central bank, which not only artificially sets the interest rates that ultimately determine the cost of investment, but artificially controls the volume and purchasing power of the money supply itself. While truly free markets are characterized by a steady decrease in general price levels over time, the artificial inflation of the currency by the central bank reverses this process. While the business cycle is relatively mild in a free market, the bubble-bust cycle caused by central banking ranges from painful to castastrophic.

Thus, the economic problems facing America today are not caused by capitalism, because it doesn’t really exist in the U.S. economy. Capitalism results in a natural, economic equilibrium. Central planning disrupts this equilibrium. In fact, not only are our economic problems caused exclusively by government intervention into the marketplace, rather than capitalism, these problems are the INEVITABLE RESULT of government intervention.

Why? Central planning, by definition, precludes free choice, and therefore capitalism, but does not change human nature. Human beings will still attempt to make choices in their rational self interest. This is one of the reasons for all of the unforeseen consequences of central economic planning. When government forces buyers and sellers to make choices other than those they would make otherwise, those economic agents seek another way to pursue their rational self interest. As these alternative decisions naturally run counter to the government’s desired result, more force is needed to prohibit those choices by economic agents, or to force other economic agents to address the consequences of its intervention. That in turn causes further unforeseen results, requiring further use of force by government. Once government intervenes in the market, it is inevitable that it will have to continue to intervene until it controls every aspect of economic activity. This has been the trend in the U.S. economy for the past 100 years.

In addition, government intervention cannot change economic realities, such as the cost of production. Only innovation can do that, and innovation cannot be created by government decree. Therefore, when government intervenes into the economy, all of the economic forces that were acting upon the market before the intervention continue to act upon it. For example, as Von Mises pointed out, if the government sets a price ceiling for milk, the smaller, marginal producers of milk can no longer afford to continue producing it, and may decide to produce cheese or butter instead. By intending to make milk more available to the poor, government has actually caused a decrease in supply. It then has to fix the prices of factors of production that are necessary to produce milk, causing the same pressure on marginal suppliers in that market and a decrease in supply of those factors of production. The cycle continues to repeat until the government either ceases to intervene in the market completely or nationalizes the entire industry.[5] At that point, even private ownership of capital no longer exists.

Thus, there are some conclusions that can be drawn. One is that there is really no such thing as a “mixed economy.” Economic forces do not allow it. Allowing some economic agents to choose freely in some circumstances does not produce the same results as when all economic agents are allowed to choose freely in all circumstances. Economic events are too interrelated. If the government subsidizes ethanol production, it decreases the supply of corn for food, and drives up food prices. When it imposes a minimum wage, it causes workers that would otherwise have jobs to be unemployed. That in turn decreases supply and drives up the prices of consumer goods. Economic agents making free choices under these circumstances necessarily choose differently than they would if conditions were different. There is no such thing as controlling part of a free market. Therefore, our mixed economy really is no such thing. If the choices of all agents are not free, there is no capitalism. The economy that results simply doesn’t fit the definition.

Another conclusion that can be drawn is that attempting to achieve a mixed economy inevitably leads to complete socialism. As we have seen, the first government intervention into the economy necessitates further interventions, which in turn necessitate further interventions still. The cycle continues until government controls all of the distribution and eventually must take control of all of the capital, as there are no longer private firms that are willing or even able to continue producing under the distorted economic conditions. For those who would argue on behalf of complete control of capital and distribution by government, the plain facts of history are against them. Socialism in its purest form has consistently resulted in mass shortages, famine, starvation, and eventual death for tens of millions of people.

The solution to all of our problems is simple: FREEDOM. While that may sound like a bland platitude, it is nevertheless 100% true, for all issues, without compromise. As Thomas Jefferson said,

“Our legislators are not sufficiently apprised of the rightful limits of their powers; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.”[6]

This “Non-Aggression Principle” is often associated strictly with libertarians or objectivists, but as you can see it did not originate with either. It was a central tenet of the founding fathers, because this principle is THE VERY DEFINITION OF FREEDOM ITSELF.

While it is possible to garner wide support for this principle on many social issues, such as gay marriage, somehow the great majority of people cannot seem to apply it to economics. Despite the fact that economic freedom is the most vital to our survival, as it is the means of sustaining our existence, there are even some libertarians that would apply different rules to economic policy than to the other “civil liberties.” It is vital to recognize that not only is this principle equally applicable to economics, BUT THAT IT IS IN REGARD TO ECONOMIC POLICY THAT IT IS MOST IMPORTANT. It is the only principle that prohibits government intervention and central planning. It is the principle upon which a truly free market is built.

The move toward a truly free market cannot occur without painful side effects. When resources are misallocated on a mass scale, especially human resources, reallocating them means losses, unemployment, and economic suffering in the short term. This would have been the result of government choosing not to intervene in the market to bail out Fannie, Freddie, Bear Stearns, and AIG, to buy up the bad debt of other debt holders, and to guaranty the assets in the money market. However, that economic suffering has not been avoided by government intervention, but merely postponed. In fact, the longer that government intervention succeeds in postponing the inevitable reallocation that must occur, the more resources become misallocated and the more painful the correction will be. At present, we are facing the largest correction in economic history, and government has postponed it longer than a correction has ever been postponed before. Make no mistake. The reallocation is inevitable, and we will experience it either voluntarily or involuntarily.

However, before considering how to survive the painful consequences of this correction, we must first decide that a free market is what we want. This will never happen until the vast majority of Americans recognize the Great Lie for what it is. Doing so immediately might bring political pressure to bear on our government to reverse its present policy while the Great Rip-off can still be undone. This is unlikely to happen anytime soon. It is much more likely that the trend toward socialism will continue until it reaches the conclusion that socialism has reached throughout history: economic collapse. We are closer to that end than most people think.

At that point, Americans will have a choice. They can continue to believe the Great Lie and allow government to try to solve the problem, or they can choose to see the truth and demand their freedom. Historically, the government solution to an economic collapse has been totalitarianism. The fact that the least economically free nations of history were also the most totalitarian is no coincidence. In order to avoid this, Americans must cease to apply special rules to economics and realize that there is no freedom at all without economic freedom. The economics of freedom is laissez faire capitalism. The Great Lie says that laissez faire capitalism doesn’t work. This is merely the application to economics of an even greater lie – government’s most insidious, Greatest Lie of All: that freedom itself doesn’t work. When Americans finally recognize and reject this fallacy, they will once again find themselves on the road to prosperity and peace.

[1] House Majority Leader Slams Bush For Economic Policies RTTNews
[2] “Top Democrats skeptical of Bush bailout package” AFP September 20, 2008
[3] Transcript of an interview with Senator John McCain by John Harwood of The New York Times and CNBC, as provided by CNBC and published in the New York Times on September 21, 2008
[4] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capitalism
[5] Von Mises, Ludwig Middle-of-the-Road Policy Leads to Socialism from Two Essays by Ludwig von Mises (Auburn, Ala.: The Mises Institute, 1991, pp. 42-68). http://mises.org/midroad.asp
[6] Jefferson, Thomas Letter to Francis Walker Gilmer June 7, 1816

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

>So Many Rights…

>When looking for wisdom in the wilds of western New York, one might be surprised how often it can be found on the airwaves, listening to the legendary hockey announcer, Rick Jeanerette. Over the years, Buffalo Sabres fans have cheered while Jeanerette has boisterously called their teams triumphs with jingles like “Wowee Housley,” “This building is bedlam!” and the immortal “La-la-la-la Fontaine!” One night, after calling the action during a particularly one-sided fight, Jeanerette dryly remarked of the loser,

“He got hit with so many rights he was begging for a left.”

How prophetic.

After eight years of Republican rule (the barely noticeable change in power in Congress being largely irrelevant), most Americans have been reduced to the same circumstances. They may not love what the Democrats have to offer if they ever really take a moment to think about it, but as long as it’s not more of George Bush’s Republicans, they’ll take it. Like the hapless forward in that forgotten hockey brawl, they too have been hit with so many rights that they are begging for a left.

Left is just what they are going to get, and it’s going to hurt just as much – maybe more.
I don’t think that I’m alone in being astonished at how unabashedly socialist the rhetoric was during the Democratic presidential primary debates earlier this year. While Bill Clinton positioned himself as relatively centrist – sometimes almost Republican – while seeking to succeed what was perceived as relatively successful Republican administrations of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the shift is quite startling now that today’s Democrats smell the blood of a Republican administration with approval ratings down around parking level 3. During the primary season, Democrats have suggested nationalizing the oil industry, nationalizing the healthcare system, and have even promised to “end poverty in one generation.”

Now that the primaries are over and Barack Obama has emerged as the party’s presidential candidate, one would expect that the rhetoric might ease a bit. Normally, candidates appeal more directly to the base during primary contests, but must play to independents and even voters of the opposing party when campaigning for the general election. In a way, Obama’s rhetoric is less inflammatory. However, having taken the time to sit down and listen to his speech in Berlin on July 24, I wasn’t, annoyed, disgusted, or outraged. I was terrified. I was terrified at the things that a man that is presently being cheered wildly by crowds of tens of thousands of Americans at a time was saying. Now, granted, he was speaking to the Germans, who practically invented socialism (no offense, monsieurs). However, the words he spoke were undoubtedly HIS words. Let’s take a close look at some of them.

““…that Europeans today are bearing new burdens and taking more responsibility in critical parts of the world, and that just as American bases built in the last century still help to defend the security of this continent, so does our country still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe.”

Well, there is a mouthful. It seems that Europeans now have responsibility for critical parts of the world, which I assume are outside of Europe. They are bearing burdens. Somehow, both of these things seem good to Mr. Obama. Of course, Americans are all too aware of the SACRIFICE they are making. Whether or not that sacrifice is really for “freedom” is very open to debate.

A few moments later, Mr. Obama tells the Germans that “the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together.” Not only that, but he warns that “A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more, not less.”

Would it be paranoid to suggest that someone wants us to get used to the idea of “burdens?” Of course, the word “sacrifice” has already appeared one time. It will not be the last.

““True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy, of peace and progress, they require allies that will listen to each other, learn from each other, and most of all, trust each other.”

Now, someone will be bearing burdens AND sacrificing. Mr. Obama goes on to say, ““Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation and strong institutions and shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Ok, Ok, I get it. Burden and sacrifice. Mr. Obama obviously wants us to get used to the idea. Of course, the best way to do that is to say the words over and over again. Once people are used to hearing the words, the ideas behind them are soon to follow. Mr. Obama’s intentions seem quite clear. In HIS 21st century, there are burdens to bear and sacrifices to be made.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines sacrifice as “destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.” I think that it is safe to say that Mr. Obama is not talking here about destroying anything (although that is also part of his 21st century). No, the “sacrifice” that Mr. Obama refers to is definitely more in the “surrender” category, namely more of the fruits of your labor. However, the definition of sacrifice says that the surrender is made “for the sake of something else.” What does Mr. Obama have in mind?

Near the end of the speech, Mr. Obama tells us.

“This is our moment, this is our time. I know my country has not been perfect itself. At times, we struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality of all people.”

Here we finally have it, the age old socialist oxymoron, liberty and equality. Certainly, those producing more than they consume will have to sacrifice quite a bit if equality is to be achieved with all of those consuming more than they produce, not to mention those producing nothing at all (including Mr. Obama – although I suspect he will end up in the “more equal than others” category). However, it need not be pointed out that government cannot try to achieve equality and protect liberty at the same time. Liberty recognizes equal rights, but it NEVER results in equality. That’s one of the great things about liberty.

As the Democrats often claim to be “the party of Jefferson,” I will remind Mr. Obama of the words of his party’s patron,

“…that our wish, as well as theirs, is, that the public efforts may be directed honestly to the public good, that peace be cultivated, civil and religious liberty unassailed, law and order preserved; equality of rights maintained, and that state of property, equal or unequal, which results to every man from his own industry, or that of his fathers.”[1]

For those who might not be getting the point, or think that it will be somehow noble or civic-minded to “bear the burdens” of Mr. Obama’s quest for equality, allow me to point out Merriam-Webster’s definition of “burden.”

“the bearing of a load —usually used in the phrase beast of burden.”

How does it sound now?

I do have a question for Barack Obama. It is this: What sacrifices will you make for liberty and equality in the 21st century, Mr. Obama? What burdens will YOU and YOUR family bear?
That’s what I thought.

I know those rights have hurt over the last eight years, Mr. and Mrs. American, but watch out for that left. It may be the knockout blow.

Tom Mullen

[1] Jefferson, Thomas 2nd Inaugural Address (1805)

Home

>A Crossroads

>

Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature.”

– Samuel Adams The Rights of The Colonists (1772)[1]

Although the United States has the reputation as the most capitalist nation on earth, she is fast moving away from the principles of laissez faire capitalism, while formerly communist countries like China and Russia are moving closer to those principles. This is not surprising, given the 20th century history of China and Russia. Each rejected capitalism for communism, and each have already seen where the end of that road leads: poverty, starvation, mass murder, and totalitarianism. Russia and China have already had to face the fact that communism doesn’t work and reject it for a more free market economy, or face collapse and annihilation. To the extent that they have become freer, they have become more prosperous. To the extent that they still cling to the old ideals of communism or socialism, their progress is retarded.

The United States has not yet faced economic calamity on the scale of that faced by Russia or China, and that is due to the far lesser degree to which the United States has embraced socialism. Along with the western European countries that stood against communism throughout most of the last century, the United States has chosen the path of the “mixed economy,” attempting to mix elements of free market capitalism and socialism in an effort to more “equally” distribute the fruits of production, and to build a “social safety net” for those who at some point in their lives are unable to produce enough to meet their own needs.

However, if there is one common characteristic to the mixed economies of the west during the past century, it is economic decline. Certainly, there are temporary recoveries here and there by one country in relation to the others, but the overall quality of life for people in the mixed economies has been diminishing almost from the moment that they have decided to try to mix socialism with capitalism. Most people do not see the European Union for what it is: a temporary solution for a group of countries that became unable to sustain themselves economically on their own. This was not a result of new competition from emerging nations as much as the natural result of plundering the more productive members of society to support the less productive. Combining their economies under one currency and centrally planned economy merely allows the European Union to pool the productive capabilities of all of their societies, in order to create a larger surplus to plunder. However, the same forces that caused those nations to fail economically on their own will eventually overcome the group of nations together, as will be the result for the United States.

The United States has been able to avoid the economic collapses of the European economies largely due to the fact that it has “mixed” its economy with less outright socialism, at least in decades past. However, the compromises it did make with socialism were the cracks in America’s economic foundation, and as it has moved farther and farther toward socialism in recent decades, those cracks have begun to widen. Now America sits on the edge of the same economic precipice that overcame the economies of Europe. Those realities will become apparent within the next presidential term, possibly under dire circumstances.

Why doesn’t a mixed economy work? The answer is that even a mixed economy violates a fundamental moral and economic principle: property rights. While some might argue that a mixed economy attempts to combine a moral solution (economic equality) with a pragmatic one (productivity), a clear understanding of property rights shatters this fallacy. Violating property rights even for the purposes of achieving what some might regard as more “just” distribution of wealth is both ineffective AND immoral. If there is some transcendent justice in the world, it is that the practice of violating property rights is never successful in creating a sustainable economy.

It takes no monumental exercise of reasoning to see why capitalism has produced such enormous wealth so quickly wherever it has been practiced. In a complex society of millions of people, with each person making the most advantageous exchanges of property that they can, and with an incentive to consume less than they produce in order to realize savings for either capital or future retirement, productivity soars. Productivity in excess of what is consumed produces savings, or capital, which increases the means of production and results in even greater productivity. This was the system that made the United States the wealthiest nation on earth in one short century.

Thus, in economic terms, we have two identifiable extremes. Freedom is defined by the universal recognition of an unalienable right to the fruits of your labor. In contrast, slavery is the complete absence of ownership of the fruits of your labor. More than anything else, it is where a society falls between these two extremes that determines whether or not a society is free. The United States was once as close to the freedom extreme as may be possible for a society of flawed human beings.

Socialism does not recognize a person’s ownership over the fruits of his labor, nor his right to freely exchange those fruits with others. In a socialist system, the fruits of labor are distributed by the state as the state deems fit, not by the free exchanges between their citizens. Thus, their citizens do not enjoy the most basic right that makes them free, nor does the economy benefit from the fundamental building block of productivity.

Even in a mixed economy, where citizens retain some property rights, some of the fruits of their labor are still taken by government and redistributed without their consent. In the United States, this occurs through massive social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Public Welfare. While Social Security and Medicare are funded partially by the contributions of the beneficiaries, there is no effective controlling mechanism to distribute benefits proportionately according to contribution, although Social Security has a crude methodology attempting to do so. More importantly, these programs violate the vital principle of consent. The participants in the programs do not participate voluntarily, but under the coercive power of government. Thus, ownership of the fruits of their labor is not respected in terms of the monies taken from them to fund the programs.

The violation of property rights does not stop with providing for the poor or elderly, but for corporate welfare as well. In an attempt to “manage the economy,” public funds are also used by the government to bail out failed corporations that are deemed “too big” or “too important” to be allowed to go bankrupt. This not only violates the rights of the people whose property is confiscated in order to underwrite these bailouts, but also causes distortions in the economy.
Rather than some type of compromise between freedom and slavery, which sounds bad enough, the mixed economy makes a more fundamental break with the principles of liberty. In a mixed economy, the citizens no longer have an unalienable right to the fruits of their labor, or property rights, but rather have the privilege of keeping that property that the government does not choose to take. Changing property from a right to a privilege is a monumental change in the principles that a society is founded upon. It crosses the majority of the divide between freedom and slavery. The moral argument against socialism or even a mixed economy is that they both violate property rights: the most important, most basic right that people have.

It is also easy to see why even a mixed economy is not sustainable economically. As it violates those property rights on a regular basis, it is siphoning off the surplus productivity from those producing more than they consume and distributing those savings to those consuming more than they produce. Thus, savings and capital are diminished at first, and eventually destroyed when the incentive to save is eroded. In practical terms, the laborer of today no longer saves for his retirement, partly because he is unable to due to the sizeable portion of his property that is seized to pay the benefits of present beneficiaries, and partly because he knows (or at least believes) that future generations will pay those benefits for him.

One need look no further than the present state of the American economy to see this argument proven out. After decades of growth of socialist programs like Social Security and Medicare, the United States has gone from being the world’s largest creditor to the world’s largest debtor. Its people and its government are mired in debt, and its economy has a negative savings rate. No longer is the American worker the highest paid or most productive in the world. One by one, the United States has lost its dominance in almost every economic sector, no longer producing the majority of goods and services it consumes. While our politicians may try to lead us to believe that economic cycles “just happen,” a sober look at the departure we’ve made away from our founding principles reveal the true reason for our economic decline. The foundation of this departure has been our violation of property rights.

We are now at a crossroads. Socialism, even “diluted” in our mixed economy, has lead us to where it always leads: to the verge of economic collapse. During the next presidential term, the United States is going to face an economic crisis that will startle even the most disinterested and apathetic of its citizens. The question is not so much “what is to be done?” as it is “who will you believe?” Already, politicians and the media are framing the debate on the assumption that it was capitalism and too little regulation over “greedy speculators” that caused our problems. False prophets of freedom, like Lou Dobbs, are masquerading as champions of the people while emphatically calling for more government regulation, and not denouncing wealth redistribution, but merely criticizing the way the loot is split. A new edifice is being built in the capital of the empire of lies.

No matter who gets elected, no matter what policies are made, an economic crisis is coming, and it will be painful. The only way for America to recover from it will be to rebuild its awesome productive capacity that once made it the greatest, wealthiest nation on earth. That cannot be done without rejecting the socialism – even the mixed economy variety – that has ruined her. She must again be an example to the world that liberty and individual rights are the only sustainable economic and political system. It will not be easy for America to choose this path. The voices of liberty have grown few and those advocating socialism have the media, the politicians, and the guns. However, as difficult as it may now seem, we must convince the American people that this calamity was not a failure of capitalism, regardless of what they are told. Economic upheavals spawn revolutions. In Russia and Germany during the early 20th century, those revolutions ended badly. We must educate our neighbors so that we choose a wiser path. Make no mistake; the danger is real. Lies and ignorance in the midst of this crisis can enslave us for generations, but the truth can surely set us free.

Tom Mullen

[1] Samuel Adams The Rights of the Colonists (1772) The Report of the Committee of Correspondence to the Boston Town Meeting, Nov. 20, 1772 Old South Leaflets no. 173 (Boston: Directors of the Old South Work, 1906) 7: 417-428.

Home