April 24, 2014

How the Fed Steals for the 1% (Tom Mullen on the Huffington Post)

It is ironic that Occupy Wall Street is reportedly very low on cash. This is something that Wall Street itself never has to worry about. They have ready access at all times to as much cash as they need. The Occupiers mistakenly blame capitalism, but it is not capitalism that is behind this inequity. It is the completely anti-capitalist Federal Reserve System.

The Fed purports to stimulate economic growth by expanding the volume of money and credit. This forces down interest rates and makes more money available to start new businesses or expand existing ones. However, while the currency units are created out of thin air, the purchasing power is not. The purchasing power has to come from somewhere.

As I’ve explained before, the expansion of money and credit really redistributes wealth from the holders of existing currency units to whoever receives the new money. When an individual “redistributes wealth” without the consent of its current owner, most people call it “stealing.” Now, the Occupy movement may not have a problem with that if it results in less disparity between rich and poor. However, that’s not what the Federal Reserve System is all about. The Fed steals for the 1%.

Read the rest of the article at The Huffington Post…

Gilligan, The Skipper, and the Federal Reserve

Now here’s another tale of our castaways.

Imagine if life on the island were different. Instead of seven stranded castaways, there were only four: Gilligan, the Skipper, Mr. Howell, and Ben Bernanke.

Besides non-existent ratings without Ginger and Mary Ann, some other things would be different. Imagine that there was only one thing to buy on the island, coconuts. Now, of course, this takes a willing suspension of disbelief, because we know that these four people would need more than just coconuts to survive. They would need clothing and shelter and might want other comforts that the island might conceivably provide. They would all provide different services to each other and trade them for the services of their fellow castaways. But in this example, the only thing that they trade for are coconuts.

Mr. Howell owns the coconut orchard, which produces 100 coconuts per year. Mr. Bernanke is in charge of the currency, the Island Reserve Notes (IRNs). In order to purchase the only available product for sale on the island, one must use IRNs. Barter or the use of other commodities to make this purchase is prohibited. Each coconut costs 1 IRN.

Gilligan and the The Skipper each perform different services for each other and the other two which they trade for these paper notes in order to buy coconuts. At a given point in time, Gilligan and The Skipper each have 50 IRNs.

There are a few things that are true. The first is  that the IRNs held by Gilligan and the Skipper have no value of their own. Their value is wholly derived from the coconuts that they can buy with the IRNs. Neither do the ISNs have any value off the island. Back in civilization, the currency is not recognized, although if a mainlander were to acquire some IRNs, he would be able to purchase coconuts with them if he ever found himself stranded on the island.

Secondly, Gillligan and the Skipper are equally wealthy, not because they both have the same amount of IRNs, which don’t have any intrinsic value, but because they are both able to buy an equal quantity of the available products. They are each able to buy one half of all coconuts produced in one year in Mr. Howell’s orchard. In other words, each has the same purchasing power in the island economy.

Now, suppose Mr. Bernanke decided to print 5 additional IRNs and give them to the Skipper. The Skipper would immediately be wealthier, as his  purchasing power has now increased by 10 percent. He can now buy 55 coconuts instead of 50. But where did this new purchasing power come from? Was it really created out of thin air just by printing additional IRNs?

Mr. Bernanke might say yes. However, there are still only 100 coconuts available to purchase. Since there is no way for Mr. Howell’s orchard to produce more than 100 coconuts during the current year, it would seem that Gilligan can still buy 50 coconuts, the Skipper can likewise buy 50 and his 5 additional IRNs are worthless until there are more coconuts available to purchase. How can the Skipper take advantage of the additional IRNs?

Obviously, there is only one way. Rather than trading 1 IRN for each coconut, the Skipper will now offer Mr. Howell more than $1.00 IRN per coconut. While he may offer different prices at different times, depending upon how hungry he is, let’s say that the average price he offers Mr. Howell over the year is $1.05. This is the new market price, which Gilligan has to pay as well. Mr. Howell certainly isn’t going to sell coconuts to Gilligan at 1 IRN apiece when he can get 1.05 from the Skipper. So, with Gilligan and the Skipper each paying on average 1.05 per coconut, the Skipper is now able to buy 52.4 coconuts, while Gilligan can only buy 47.6.

What we have seen is a transfer of wealth. The Skipper is now 2.4 coconuts wealthier. However, this new purchasing power was not magically created simply by printing the 5 extra IRNs. It was transferred from Gilligan, who can now afford only 47.6 coconuts, even though he has the same amount of IRNs that he had before. No one snuck into Gilligan’s hut and removed any of his money. He still has the exact same amount. But he has been robbed nonetheless. Regardless of how laudable the reasons given for printing the new IRNs and giving them to the Skipper – to stimulate the economy, create new jobs, etc. – it was nevertheless accomplished through theft.

It should also be noted that no additional wealth has been created. The total number of coconuts that Gilligan and the Skipper are able to purchase is still 100. The wealth has simply been redistributed from Gilligan to the Skipper. Imagine if this were to go on for decades. At some point, the Skipper would be fabulously wealthy and Gilligan would be destitute.

Now, the only reason that this theft is possible is the law that forces Gilligan to use the IRNs. If he were able to pick bananas and offer them in trade for the coconuts, he might be able to produce enough in bananas to buy more coconuts than the Skipper. Only the power invested in Mr. Bernanke allows him to transfer wealth and it is the only power he has. He doesn’t produce a single coconut himself. He simply decides how those coconuts are going to be distributed.

One might also argue that the Skipper might invest the extra 5 IRNs in capital goods and thus expand production on the island. It is possible. However, it is less likely that the Skipper is going to make wise decisions on what capital goods to invest in with purchasing power that was stolen from someone else than with money he saved himself. After all, if he decides to invest in a scheme that doesn’t pan out, he can go back to Mr. Bernanke and get more IRNs. In reality, these funds are loaned to the Skipper and he must pay them back with interest. However, he is really getting an involuntary loan from Gilligan and using Gilligan’s purchasing power to acquire capital goods. Each time he does, he becomes wealthier and Gilligan becomes poorer. Adding insult to injury, the Skipper gets to retain ownership of the new capital goods and keep all of the profits from the investment – with the cost of the investment provided by Gilligan!

Eventually, production might expand, but it will have expanded far less than if the Skipper had been forced to accumulate his capital by consuming less coconuts. This would put downward pressure on the price of coconuts, making Gilligan wealthier while the Skipper became wealthier still once he realized a return on his investment.

Of course, no economy is this simple. There is never only one product or service to purchase in any economy. Neither have we accounted for the coconuts that Mr. Howell consumes, nor for the presence of Ginger, Mary Ann, the professor, or Mrs. Howell, who could all conceivably produce other products or services to offer each other in the island economy.

However, even if there were seven castaways – or 300 million – the principle would remain the same. There would be some finite amount of wealth that all of their efforts combined could produce. All other factors being equal, printing new IRNs and distributing them unequally among the inhabitants would produce the same increase in prices and the same redistribution of wealth.

The only honest way to expand production would be for some of the islanders to save some of their earnings and invest them in capital goods. This would have the effect of raising the overall wealth of the island and any disparity in individual wealth would be the result of those individuals producing more for the other islanders to consume, not from redistribution through the production of new paper currency.  Moreover, since production could only be expanded by real savings, instead of by a privilege granted by Mr. Bernanke, they would all have an equal opportunity to save themselves and compete with those producing more. All of these factors would tend to make income disparity decrease, instead of increase as it does under the IRN System.

There is only one question that remains. Why does Gilligan allow the IRN System to continue?

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

But I Paid Into It…

Critics on the left have quite correctly pointed out that Tea Party activists who oppose President Obama’s “socialism” are hypocritical in that they do not oppose Social Security for themselves. The most common rebuttal to this criticism is usually something along the lines of Social Security being fundamentally different because the recipients pay into it. However, this argument is no different than arguing for a right to steal your younger neighbor’s car because an older neighbor has stolen yours. Allow me to explain.

Most people are aware that Social Security has begun paying out more in benefits than it collects in payroll taxes. However, it had run surpluses for decades that most beneficiaries honestly believe is funding the shortfall until the demographic imbalance caused by the baby boom evens out. Since they “paid into it all of their lives,” supporters of Social Security distinguish it from Aid to Dependent Children or other wealth transfer programs. Inherent in this thinking is both factual inaccuracy and flawed logic.

First, even if those surpluses had gone into a “trust fund,” no one disputes that Social Security has always been a predominantly “pay-as-you-go” program. In other words, the overwhelming majority of the money collected from payroll taxes went to fund benefits for current beneficiaries. Thus, payroll taxes were taken from one group of people and paid out to another, just like public welfare.

One might argue that the surpluses generated previously meant that at least part of the money being paid to current beneficiaries was their own money, held in trust for their retirement. However, this is also completely untrue. The surpluses have not been held in cash since 1939. Instead, when the program runs a surplus, the government is legally obligated to use the money to purchase U.S. Treasury bonds, which are nothing more than securities documenting that you have loaned the federal government money. So, by law, any surplus collected in payroll taxes for Social Security must be lent to the federal government (which immediately spends it on operating expenses). In return, Treasury Bonds are put into the trust fund.

For those who remember and decry this change in 1939 as a betrayal, remember that the FDR administration had also taken the U.S. off the gold standard (domestically). Had the government continued to merely hold reserves in cash, the reserves would have been outstripped by inflation by the time the benefits were payable to most beneficiaries.

Most people think of the treasury bond arrangement as the government putting their money into a “secure investment” that will pay them interest with very little risk. However, this is logically absurd. Treasury bonds are not “an investment.” An investment is a loan or advance of capital made in the hopes of earning interest from a producer of goods or services. The fundamental question anyone asks before risking their money with a bond issued by a private business is “How are you going to pay me back?”

The answer that would be given by a private sector business would be, “By using the capital that you have loaned us, we are going to expand our productive capacity. With the new products that we will produce and sell, we will be able to pay back your investment with interest and still make a profit.” Thus, if you purchase a bond issued by a computer manufacturer (i.e. lend it money), then the computer manufacturer is able to repay you with interest out of the new computers it was able to produce with the money it borrowed from you.

However, the federal government does not produce computers. The federal government does not produce anything. So, how does it answer the question, “How will you pay me back?” There is only one answer: “We will tax people in the future to pay back your loan principle and interest.”

Thus, even the so-called “trust fund” does not represent a store of your own money, held in trust for your retirement. 100% of your money was spent the moment that it was received by the government. Most went to underwrite the benefits of current beneficiaries. The rest was spent on other government boondoggles and replaced by promises to repay you by taxing other people. Not one dime of current benefits represents a “payback” of one’s own money. Social Security is every bit as “socialist” as Aid to Dependent Children, Medicaid, Medicare, or any other government transfer of wealth. Where do you think it got its name?

There is a bit of irony here that probably also escapes most Americans. While the federal government’s modus operandi for many years now has been to merely pay off the interest on its debt and issue new debt to cover the principal as bonds come due, let’s consider what would happen if they actually started repaying the principal on their bonds.

The longest term bond is a 30-year Treasury note, which means that you loan the government the money for 30 years. Suppose that in 1970, you were a 34-year-old, dutifully paying your Social Security taxes. Most of your money went to pay current beneficiaries, but a small portion (your share of the surplus) went into 30-year Treasury notes. In 2010, you are one year from retirement and ask the government, “Where are you going to get the money to pay back the principal and interest on that 30-year Treasury bond?” As bizarre as the answer might seem, the answer would be, “Why, from you, of course.”

However, the most socialist aspect of Social Security is not that it represents a transfer of wealth. It is that the program is mandatory. The only way for the government to accomplish a transfer of wealth from one party to another is to force people to participate. This is why George W. Bush’s proposal to “privatize” Social Security would not have made it any less “socialist.” People would still have been forced to participate; only they would now have the option of handing their money over to W’s tax-subsidized buddies on Wall Street rather than to the federal government. Imagine if he had been successful in implementing this in 2004.

Free market capitalism and socialism truly are opposites, but the fundamental difference is one of rights, not economics. True free market capitalism recognizes every individual’s right to keep the product of his labor and dispose of it as he sees fit. Social Security denies this right. It must be responsibly phased out, without cutting off present beneficiaries, and replaced with nothing. That prospect should scare no one at this point. With a government that is $14 trillion in debt and planning to borrow more every year for the foreseeable future, I would trust the most irresponsible individual that I know before the federal government – with his retirement money and mine.

Check out Tom Mullen’s book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!


© Thomas Mullen 2011

Progressives Should Target the Real Robber Barons

The political winds have shifted wildly over the past four years. After decisive defeats in both the 2006 and 2008 elections, the Republican Party’s prospects seemed dreary.  There was widespread talk of how the party needed to “remake itself.”  There was even speculation from some quarters that it would fade from influence permanently, as had its predecessors, the Whigs and Federalists. Certainly, the conservative movement needed a rallying point in order to regain a foothold upon public sentiment.

That rallying point was public aversion to the radically socialist agenda of Barack Obama and the Pelosi Congress. Regardless of whether the Republicans had any new ideas to offer, they were able to remake their image quickly by jumping aboard and partially co-opting the Tea Party phenomenon. Somehow, they have again established themselves in the minds of most Americans as the party of small government, free markets, and individual liberty, their consistent behavior while in power notwithstanding.

Now, it is the Democrats who find themselves on the wrong end of a one-sided mid-term election defeat, with more of the same looming over the 2012 presidential elections. As much as the 2008 elections were a repudiation of George W. Bush and all associated with his philosophy, 2012 will be a repudiation of Obama and all associated with his. If the modern “conservative” philosophy had been thoroughly discredited two years ago, the modern “liberal” philosophy has been annihilated this year. Nothing that Democrats won on in 2006 and 2008 is going to fly with voters right now. The left needs a rallying point that will resonate with voters and make them forget why they voted them out of office just two years earlier, just as those same voters forgot why they had voted the Republicans out merely two years before the 2010 mid-terms.

If they are not to completely abandon their image as champions of the poor, disadvantaged, and working class against the power of the wealthy elite, they must find a way to restore that perception in the minds of voters without associating themselves at all with socialism, which average Americans have quite obviously choked on and spit out over the past two years. They need their own avenue to tap into the Tea Party phenomenon, or a grass roots movement like it, and appear as the party fighting for the people against a federal government run amok. Their traditional anti-corporate, pro-welfare platform won’t work. For better or worse, Americans right now associate corporatism with the free market and aversion to welfare programs has never been more ascendant. However, there is a rallying point available to the left that is completely consistent with the modern progressive philosophy and which conservatives are completely ignoring.

The left’s political dominance during the 20th century all began with the early progressive movement, which was given its first life under Republican presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. However, it was the “new freedom” promised by Woodrow Wilson which established and defined the progressive platform, subsequently advanced in great strides by FDR and Lyndon B. Johnson. A core tenet of this philosophy was the need to protect “the little guy” against the robber barons of capitalism – which the progressives successfully defined in the minds of voters as anyone of great wealth, whether they have achieved that wealth legitimately or not.

Indeed, the tragic aspect of the early progressive movement was that they lumped together all successful business people as plunderers and exploiters of the working class, thus discrediting free market capitalism along with the crony capitalism that was as rampant at the time as it is now. Along with corrupt railroad companies that soaked the people for corporate welfare, only to deliver shoddily constructed railroads that all went bankrupt, the early progressives also targeted companies whose success was due to superior products and lower prices, with their profits earned from consumers voluntarily choosing to buy their products.

John D. Rockerfeller’s Standard Oil was one such example. His company was dismantled by the government after more than two decades of offering the public higher quality oil at lower and lower prices. Instead of holding him up as an example of what a truly free market could achieve for the common man, the left attacked Rockerfeller as the definitive robber baron, regardless of facts to the contrary. With his company dismantled by the government, Rockerfeller abandoned the free market and became the robber baron he was wrongly accused of being. He decided to get into banking.

This is not to repeat the mistake of early progressives. All bankers in the 19th and early 20th century were not robber barons, nor is banking a de facto dishonest profession. Like any other business, it offers a service of great value to the public when that service is voluntarily purchased by consumers. When consumers choose to store their savings in a bank or allow the bank to invest their savings by loaning it out at interest, the banks that most conscientiously and wisely protect their depositors’ interests will prosper the most. Those that make good loan decisions will be able to pay higher interest rates to depositors and provide more stability. In a truly free market, they will win, because they benefit average Americans – the political base of the progressives – the most.

However, this is not the banking model that John D. Rockerfeller helped found in 1913. Rockerfeller was no longer interested in competing on a level playing field and relying on talent and hard work to make his fortune. He had already done that successfully and had been plundered by the government for his trouble.  He was not interested in being victimized again. This time, he would be the plunderer. Along with J.P. Morgan, Rockerfeller sent a delegation of men to Jekyll Island in 1913 to devise the mother of all robber baron schemes – the Federal Reserve System.

The Federal Reserve System is the most ingenious fraud in human history. It appeals to the right because it is seen as an institution of capitalism. It appeals to the left because it is seen as a regulator of the financial system that protects the little guy from the supposedly violent machinations of unregulated capitalism. In the meantime, it funnels trillions of dollars of plundered wealth to politically-connected corporations at the expense of average Americans and those corporations which still actually prosper because they offer superior benefits to the public.

Without getting into what really goes on behind the scenes at the Fed, let us consider what the Fed purports to try to do. Ninety-seven years of results notwithstanding, the Fed supposedly regulates the market by maintaining both full employment and price stability. The left supports this agenda because its constituency depends upon jobs and affordable consumer goods in order to survive. They never stop to think about how the Fed attempts to accomplish these goals.

The Fed attempts to maintain full employment through inflation. Inflation is properly defined as an increase in the supply of money and credit, not an increase in consumer prices (more on that in a moment). During periods when unemployment is higher and overall economic growth is lower, the Fed attempts to stimulate investment in new business ventures or expansion of existing ventures by “lowering interest rates.”

However, Mr. Bernanke cannot lower interest rates with a fiat command. Instead, the Fed manipulates the interest rate by buying large quantities of U.S. Treasury bonds from its member banks. This artificially increases the demand and lowers the supply of U.S. Treasuries. It also artificially increases the supply of money available to be lent in the market. With more money available to be lent, banks offer loans at lower rates than they would if money were in shorter supply. With lower rates, more businesses take out loans with which to expand or start new ventures. At the end of this chain of events, more average Americans supposedly get hired in order to support the new business activity that has been “stimulated” by the Fed’s monetary expansion.

Taking the Fed at its word, there is still a rub to this story. The magic described above and in the Fed’s press releases does not come without a cost. The money and credit infused into the economy during this process does not come from any “reserve” that is held by the public or by the privately-owned Federal Reserve. It is created out of thin air by the Fed, which enjoys this privilege as a result of legal tender laws and the Federal Reserve Act. By increasing the overall supply of dollars in the economy, this monetary inflation drives up the price of consumer goods.

It also causes capital to be misallocated, meaning that working people are hired for projects that are not ultimately going to succeed. This inevitably happens much more frequently when banks are able to loan “free money.” When they must convince depositors to invest their own money in loans the bank wishes to make, they are forced to make much wiser choices with that capital than when the money is simply created out of thin air and handed to them, with more fiat money forthcoming if they should make a mistake. In fact, a true understanding of the economics behind monetary inflation reveals that misallocation – economic booms and busts – are inevitable when monetary inflation is allowed to take place.

Progressives should automatically be suspicious of this whole charade simply because Wall Street loves it. Whenever the Fed makes an announcement that it will attempt to lower interest rates, the stock market immediately goes up. Of course it does. Cheap money hitting the market allows investors to get in on ground floor companies and pump up their stock value with newly-created money, subsequently bailing out long before the bust occurs. When the reality hits the market that half of these new companies had no viable business plan, the stock prices collapse and the ventures go out of business and lay off their employees. This is a recession. Average Americans are unemployed while the sharks who gobbled up the cheap money to pump and dump the stocks are sitting on a beach, enjoying the fruits of their heist.

Furthermore, while monetary inflation causes prices of consumer goods to rise for everyone, it is really average Americans and the poor who are most affected by it. When the price of gasoline rises to seven dollars per gallon, the Wall Street elite have lost purchasing power in terms of the dollars they hold, but they more than make up for it during the economic booms. Millionaires become billionaires, negating the effects of a further devalued money supply, while average Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck start looking for second jobs just to pay their rent and fill up their gas tanks to get to work.

However, the most compelling reason for progressives to oppose the Federal Reserve System is because of what it openly admits it represents. Taking the Fed and its supporters at their word, the Fed is nothing more than a subtler, more devious version of “trickle-down economics,” whereby large corporations receive huge sums of money in the hopes that they will then create jobs for the little guys. There is absolutely no difference between this argument and the “Reaganomics” of the 1980’s. Any self-respecting progressive who opposed Reaganomics must oppose the Federal Reserve System. If they are not strictly opposed to government redistribution of wealth, they certainly are opposed to redistributing from the middle class and poor to Wall Street. That was the whole principle upon which the movement was founded.

There is no reason that the left should concede the Tea Party movement to conservatives. It is not fundamentally a Republican phenomenon. It is just that the Republicans are the only party that has been able to adapt their rhetoric to what the Tea Party demands to hear. The Tea Party is rediscovering America’s founding principles. However, their perceptions are being skewed toward the conservative founding philosophy that advocated corporate welfare, a large military establishment, and a central bank to provide the necessary capital – plundered from average Americans. They quote Jefferson but are deceived into supporting policies consistent with his political arch-enemy, Hamilton. They need to hear from the left on what they are missing, instead of being vilified by the left as kooks.

The true American philosophy of free enterprise as expressed by the liberal Jefferson was completely opposed to the central bank of the time, recognizing it as incompatible with the free market and wholly a vehicle for big business to plunder the people. These ideas have been dead and buried for an entire century while the Fed has been allowed to wreak its havoc with impunity. They are ripe for rebirth within the Tea Party, which would embrace Jefferson’s ideas about the dangers of central banking as readily as they do his warnings about big government. There is a strong populist undercurrent in the Tea Party. Progressives are ignoring it at their peril.

Never in its existence has the Fed been under such scrutiny in the media as it is now, nor the subject of so much public opposition. It is a grassroots fire smoldering beneath the surface, waiting for someone to strike a match. To liberals and progressives everywhere, don’t let the conservatives snatch this opportunity out from under your noses. Take up your fight against the real robber barons – the Federal Reserve System and all of its beneficiaries.

Check out Tom Mullen’s new book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!


© Thomas Mullen 2010

>A Nation of Hyenas

>One never knows where one will find profound metaphors for human existence and society, and I certainly wasn’t looking for one while channel surfing last weekend after a morning of yard and house work. However, I had the good fortune to flip on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and observe a perfect analogy to what our once-great society has become.

That episode was about the cheetah, the fastest land animal on earth. The cheetah is a beautiful creature. As the show pointed out, it is literally built for speed at the expense of brute strength, of which it has relatively little compared to other predators in its habitat. While unfortunate for the antelope, it was nonetheless quite inspiring to watch a high-speed pursuit of that animal by the cheetah, exhibiting gracefulness which rose to the level of poetry. Having made her kill, the cheetah brought the antelope back to feed herself and her young.

However, the story was not to end so happily for this family. The smell of blood in the air had attracted a pack of one of the cheetah’s competitors, the hyena. While the aforementioned lack of brute strength would probably not allow the cheetah to fight off even one hyena, that fact was irrelevant in that it was ten or twelve hyenas which now threatened her. Why? They were after the antelope – the fruits of the cheetah’s labor – and were going to use their greater numbers to take it from her by force. They weren’t intent upon killing the cheetah or her young, but were willing to do so, if necessary, to obtain her property without her consent. The cheetah weighed the risks to herself and her cubs and retreated, left to try to make up the loss elsewhere to provide for her family.

A few nights later I broke an embargo of sorts and actually watched a “news” program. I tuned in Cavuto on Fox News[1], which is one of the few shows where actual journalism seems to occur occasionally, despite its network affiliation with right wing propagandists Hannity and O’Reilly.

Cavuto’s regular panel of guests is arguably the most libertarian one can find anywhere in the “mainstream media,” regularly featuring Jonathan Hoenig, Peter Schiff, and even Yaron Brook, President of the Ayn Rand Institute.

That night, the auto company bailouts were again on the docket, and familiar arguments were made by Hoenig and the other panelists about why the results would be worse if the government took control of the auto industry. Cavuto’s token panelist from the left[2] (a female panelist whose identity I have been unable to verify), made the now also-familiar argument that “we bailed out Wall Street and now Main Street is demanding that the government do something for them.” Most of the panelists answered correctly that they were against the Wall Street bailouts as well, a point that was left unemphasized due to several people talking at once. However, the real chance for a meaningful debate still lay ahead. The boisterous Cody Willard set the stage when he said, “if you want to help them, send them your money, but don’t hold a gun to my head.”

The reply from the panelist arguing the liberal perspective was monumental:

“That’s why we have a democratically-elected government and the people want the government to do something.”

When she gave that answer, it was time to stop the quips, the witticisms, and even delay going to a commercial, if necessary. Despite the fact that the host trivialized the exchange by talking over part of both her and Willard’s comments, the exchange between the two was enormous beyond what most viewers probably realized.

There are many who would probably consider Willard’s statement a half-facetious exaggeration for effect. It was not. It is the horrifying reality of what any government bailout or other redistribution of wealth represents. We as Americans have forgotten that all government action is exercised under exactly these circumstances: at gunpoint. That is the purpose of government, to exercise brute force on behalf of its constituents when it becomes necessary to do so. That is why our government was originally so limited. The founders of our nation believed that brute force was only justified in self defense. Therefore, government action was limited to protecting its constituents from harm by other people, whether it was harm by a fellow citizen or a foreign army.

However, when the government undertakes to “do something” about a failed bank or auto company, it really means that We the People have decided to apply brute force to the problem, even though it is not a matter of self defense. Willard was completely accurate: a government bailout of a distressed auto company, whether it saves jobs or not, is really the people using their collective means of brute force (the government) to take property from one group of people and give it to another. This exchange is done at gunpoint – there is no consent by the party being taken from. Had the managers or the employees of the auto company armed themselves and sought to raise the funds themselves by stealing them at gunpoint from the people directly, they would have been arrested and prosecuted for armed robbery. However, Willard’s opponent in the debate argues that there is some ethical difference because a “democratically-elected government” acts as the armed robber in their stead. What can the difference possibly be?

This is the fundamental question that we as a society must answer if we are ever going to reverse the downward spiral we find ourselves in. Do we believe that individuals have inalienable rights or do we believe that a majority vote can take those rights away?

If one takes an objective look at our society as it has evolved over the past century, one must conclude that we have already answered it. Stripped of euphemism, almost every government institution in our society amounts to us using the brute force of government to violate the inalienable rights of our neighbors. Let us consider just a few examples.

Government involvement in healthcare has driven the price so high (through the artificial demand it creates) that the poor and elderly cannot afford it. Our answer is to apply the brute force of government to steal the money at gunpoint from one group of people to provide healthcare to another. In a truly bizarre development, that practice has now resulted in such high prices that almost no one can afford healthcare. So, we will now steal from everyone to provide healthcare for everyone. Lewis Carroll couldn’t have dreamed of anything quite so mad.

In order to be able to stop working but still enjoy the quality of life we feel we deserve after a certain age, we use the brute force of government to steal from those who are still productive to support those who are not. We could save for our retirement, but we choose instead to steal. We call this “Social Security.” It should be called, “Anti-Social Insecurity.”

Similarly, in order to afford to buy a house without saving the necessary down payment and establishing superior credit, we use the brute force of government to compel our neighbors to guarantee our mortgage loans with their money. When the inevitable tsunami of defaults occurred last summer, some objected to the government stealing the money to cover the losses of the banks. In truth, the money had been stolen decades ago, the minute that Fannie Mae was established.

Rather than saving the money for college tuition or allowing our children to work their way through college if we cannot afford to pay the tuition in full, we use the brute force of government to compel our neighbors at gunpoint to guarantee our student loans with their money. As with healthcare, this evil practice has driven the price of college tuition so high that not only are students going into long-term debt just to pay for their education, but their parents are taking out decades-long loans as well.

Should fortune not smile upon us or should we not develop marketable skills with which to obtain employment, we use the brute force of government to steal the money needed to sustain us from our fellow citizens. We call this the “social safety net,” but it also should be recognized as “anti-social.”

If we believe that we have a scientific theory that could lead to a new discovery that will benefit society (and enrich ourselves), we do not seek out capital to research it from those who can provide it voluntarily. We use the brute force of government to steal the money from our neighbors with the flimsy justification that “federal funding of research” will “benefit all of society” with a new medicine or a new technology.

This is by no means the length and breadth of the ways in which we violate each other’s rights on a daily basis. Every program funded by government, besides those that have the express purpose of defending our rights (police forces, the courts, the military), amount to the same thing: using our collective means of brute force to extract money from one group and give it to another.

What should be obvious is that it is not one evil group (the poor, the elderly, the corporations, Wall Street, etc.) that engages in this morally repugnant practice. Politicians will pick their scapegoats to play to their own power bases. The Republicans will blame the poor to get votes and campaign contributions from their base, the corporations and the rich. The Democrats will blame the rich and the corporations to get votes and campaign contributions from their base, the unions, average Americans, and the poor (the poor have only their votes to give and get back only the most miserable portion of the loot).

However, we must wake up to the fact that we all have a hand in this. The steady growth of one redistribution scheme after another has made it virtually impossible to function in our society without in some way participating in the looting of our fellow citizens, while we are at the same time looted ourselves. We have established all of these redistribution schemes through the democratic process. This past century has not been a progressive century. It has been a regressive one. We have regressed from a society of free people that respect each other’s inalienable rights to a society that is based upon competing groups stealing from one another through the brute force of government. We use only the support of greater numbers (majority vote) to justify the institution of each new crime. We have regressed to the brutal law of the jungle. We have become a nation of hyenas.

This has all followed logically from one fundamental break we made from our founding principles. We have elevated democracy to an ideal, at the expense of the individual rights that our government – and any government of free people – was constructed to protect. We have convinced ourselves that anything a majority vote sanctions is just, even if it violates those rights. Once we accepted that premise, the seeds of our destruction were sown.

As one might expect, this is something that the founders of our nation warned us specifically against. When one takes an objective look at our founding documents, the first thing that should jump off the pages is how little democracy there really was in our original government. Only the House of Representatives was chosen directly by the people, with the president and senate chosen indirectly by electors or the state legislatures, respectively.

More importantly, it is vital to realize what all of the limits, checks and balances, and even the Bill of Rights were intended to protect us from. They were intended to protect us from democracy.

One does not need to engage in interpretation to support this claim. The founders said it explicitly on more occasions that one could count. Here are just a few examples:

“Democracy is the most vile form of government … democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention: have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property: and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths,”[3]

“The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.”[4]

“There is no maxim, in my opinion, which is more liable to be misapplied, and which, therefore, more needs elucidation, than the current one, that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong.”[5]

These vitriolic attacks upon democracy and majority vote from the founders of our nation would probably surprise most Americans. Nevertheless, there they are. The founders understood that democracy was a means, not an end. Their end was protection of the inalienable rights of each individual. Democracy was only good and just insofar as it helped to defend those rights. Furthermore, it must be prevented from being used to violate them. Again, the founders said this explicitly.

“In short, it is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men, at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights; when the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defence of those very rights; the principal of which, as is before observed, are Life, Liberty, and Property. If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.”[6]

This passage elucidates another conclusion that proceeds from natural law. Not only is each individual prohibited from using the majority vote to violate the rights of his fellow citizens, he is prohibited from using that vote even to relinquish his own rights. That is because rights are not granted by society. They are inherent in man’s nature itself. They are non-transferable. They cannot be taken or even given away. That is the meaning of “inalienable.”

It was at the turn of the last century that we made the fundamental change in our philosophy. Since that time, we have held democracy up as our ideal at the expense of our natural rights. We did this primarily to justify the routine violation of one specific right: property. It is no accident that as democracy has become more and more extolled as an ideal, property has become more and more reviled. We have even had professors in American universities teach their students that “property is theft.”

Of course, like the hyena, we really do not care what our fellow citizens say or believe. We will not expend much energy in violating their rights to free speech or freedom of religion, because in the end we have nothing to gain from violating those rights. However, by violating their rights to the fruits of their labor, we do gain enormously at their expense. This is the true danger of democracy. We must face up to this plain fact and stop talking about everything but property. As Adams also said, “Now what liberty can there be where property is taken away without consent?”

We are at a crossroads. The system we have built upon the brutal law of the jungle is about to collapse. We are presently suggesting even more brute force (government) to try to preserve it. If we continue on this course, the relationship between predator and prey on the African savannah will seem civilized compared to the state of our society. Unfettered democracy – not unfettered capitalism – has brought us here. We must choose respect for our inalienable rights over the loot that unfettered democracy can provide us with. If not, we must admit to ourselves that the way in which we live and deal with one another is no different from that of the savage beasts of the jungle. A return to our founding principles is our only hope.

Are we not men?

Check out Tom Mullen’s new book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!


[1] “Cavuto” Fox Business News May 27, 2009.
[2] While hard-core progressives might call her a “Fox News Liberal” for even appearing on the hated network, her role on this telecast was without question to argue the liberal side of the issue.
[3] Madison, James Federalist #10
[4] Jefferson, Thomas To Dupont de Nemours Washington ed. vi, 591 1816
[5] Madison, James Letter to James Monroe October 5th, 1786
[6] 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: pg. 419.