(Thanks to Tony for suggesting I bring this point up)
“[…]The more laws and restrictions there are,
The poorer people become. […]
The more subsidies you have,
the less self-reliant people will be.”–Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching #57
So by now it should be fairly clear that I blame socialism and stupidity for the worst of the economic problems we are suffering–because socialism in the long run can lead to nothing but economic destruction, mass poverty, corruption and inefficiency. However despite the fact that trying socialism in part or in whole is the economic equivalent of taking a large mixture of sleeping pills and vodka, there is actually something worse than the fact that socialism doesn’t work. And that problem is that despite the public statement that socialism is diametrically opposed to it, socialism and fascism aren’t that different–that’s right they’re both totalitarian states.
Now clearly I’m not exactly treading on new ground. Milton Friedman makes it clear in his works “Capitalism and Freedom” and “Free to Choose” that the more government control you have of the economy (the more socialism) the less freedom you have to live your life. “Road to Serfdom” by F.A. Hayek makes the same point. Works by Ludwig Von Mises, Ayn Rand, Alan Greenspan (before he turned to the dark side), the entire Austrian School of economics, also have and will continue to beat this drum. Or at least we will all keep pointing this out until people get the fact that government involvement reduces your freedom.
But as it doesn’t appear people have got the socialism=evil equation, I will point this out again.
First off the government can only intrude in the economy when it has the power to enforce its legislation. And where does it get the money to enforce those laws (because despite what Barrack Obama may think, you do actually need to have money to run things)? I’m sure you know it gets it’s money from taxes. And taxes inevitably come from your pocket. But tax the rich you say! And then the rich stop investing, stop giving to charity, stop working as hard…this leads to an economic slow down and inflation of prices and/or you losing your job. So it hurt your wallet. But tax corporations you say! Pretty much the same problem, oh and the corporation will raise the prices on whatever product or service they offer to offset the taxes. Taxes are still hurting you. But tax imports from foreign countries you say! Which again causes the prices of their imports to rise, which causes whatever final product you were going to buy to also go up. But, the really slow among you who haven’t noticed a pattern here say tax (fill in anything it all ends with you paying more). Taxes will always take money from you.
That money was stuff you could use to do things, buy things, invest, save, retire. The less money you have, the fewer options you have. The fewer options you have the fewer opportunities you have to pursue happiness. Freedom isn’t just having the right and license to it, it is also having the practical opportunity. Now that doesn’t mean you are only free if you get to take vacations every summer in Italy at the Ritz. But it is freedom if no one stops you from EARNING the money do that and then puts up no barriers to you using that money that you have earned to take the vacation you want. Usually speaking taking the money you earned is a pretty big barrier.
Now before you bring up the objection that governments need money to run, I will agree with you. And we need government to protect our rights, but at the point that they are taking money they don’t need to protect your rights, they begin infringing on your rights. Under the best of circumstance it is a difficult balance to maintain perfectly, and thus because we deal with humans, reason dictates we won’t require that governments take not a single cent more than it needs because you can’t figure the exact cost of protecting the freedom of 300 million citizen down to the last penny…however, trust me when we have a 1.3 trillion dollar deficit for a single year, we are well into the side of taking far too much. (Current estimates put the total US Debt at $43,000 per person…what could you do with 43 Grand, because for me having that much money would free me up to do a lot of things).
But it doesn’t just end at the fact that taxes limit your freedom. Because that enforcement exists to do one thing, stop people from doing things. Government cannot do anything but stop people from doing things; that is basically its only function. Under the best circumstances government only stops people from hurting other people either through violence or fraud and to organize those few things which no private organization can possibly do (and it is a really short list). Government has no other legitimate function. But legitimate functions have little relevance to people like Obama and his ilk. Everything the government does hinders your ability to do things. Now while I like the fact that it tries to stop people from robbing and killing me…I’m not so thrilled with the other 90% of the things federal, state, county and city governments do.
Now if we take a look at how rules, rules which the government says are meant to help you, only end up ruining your life. Let’s take, oh, so many to choose from… I could talk about how each and every one of those dollars that are funneled into the Department of Education is a complete and total waste because any federal dollar spent on Education goes to the programs that don’t help students, i.e., teacher’s unions who help keep America as a truly terrible institution or teacher “education” which teaches teachers things that they never will (or should) use in their classrooms…all of this leading to not providing an education but actually preventing many children from getting an education, which is one of the tools to personal freedom. Or how about when cities have privatized sections of freeways and made them toll roads then the private company makes money, provides roads with better surfaces, fewer traffic problems, faster traffic, and actually pays less in keeping up those roads at higher quality than what it costs you to have the government take care of the roads…thus the government controlling the roads is taking time out of your life away in terms of traffic jams. Or the fact that most of that money is just wasted in government.
But instead let’s take one of the things people generally think positively of: The FDA. You think you like the FDA, after all you don’t like salmonella infected eggs (oh…I guess they dropped the ball there) or vegetables with e. coli (ugh, well it’s government, mistakes are to be expected)…but we certainly like the fact that we can know that the drugs we take, be it over the counter or prescription drugs, have been completely and thoroughly tested for our safety. Don’t we like that? Maybe we would, if the FDA didn’t seem to be out to kill us with their drug testing. The US has standards for drugs that are obscenely over cautionary. So much so that an unhealthy chunk of the cost of your pills was the cost of getting it tested. Most drugs are available in foreign countries long before they are available in the US, and as far as I know we have no reciprocity with any country on their testing. You know if the British, Canadians, French, and Germans all say a drug is safe, I trust those countries to have conducted their own extensive tests…why do we have to wait another five years and billions of dollars to get what may be a life saving drug. Or try this, FDA forbids people with end-stage terminal cancers from taking experimental drugs because it might be detrimental to their health. Please read that last sentence. It might be detrimental to the health of someone who is about to die…really what’s the worst that could happen? They die. Which they were going to anyway…but maybe, just maybe they could live a few more months just on hope and the placebo effect (mental perspective is one of the most important variables in survival, as any doctor will tell you). An then there is the fact that patent rights on drugs expire more quickly than any other form of patent which means that to recover the money they spent on the research (and testing) of the successful drug (as well as the unsuccessful drugs) companies have to charge astronomical prices for the drugs while they hold the patent…thus the government is one of the primary reasons why medical expenses are so high. Oh, and to counter the fact that the companies would go bankrupt and just stop developing new drugs because the government has made the industry so unfriendly, the government gives out billions of your tax dollars in research subsidies…which as we know that money came out of your pocket. (And did you know medical costs are often so high because of fraud most of it perpetrated under Medicare and Medicaid, which again you pay for). So yes the FDA is out to kill you, which I think tends to put a damper on that whole pursuit of happiness thing. (Can’t wait to see what Obamacare does to this well oiled machine!) Do you think any other government organization is any better?
Or try the issue of licensing. No I’m not talking about marriages (although one wonders what right a government has to say who can and can’t enter a religious bond) I’m talking about businesses. Right now I’m very glad I don’t live in Boston. I read that the city is requiring bloggers who make money from the ads that they put on their blogs (they are nice ads aren’t they, why not check them out if you get a chance) to get a business license. The license costs hundreds of dollars–most of these people made only a few dozen dollars. (In case you’re wondering these people were paying state and federal taxes on these few dollars they made…but apparently the city wanted their cut too). Now charging someone to post their opinion and trying to make a few bucks off it sounds like a violation of the freedom of expression, but apparently the liberals in Boston don’t hold that right as sacred when money is on the line. Then of course there is the shutting down of children’s lemonade stands by city health officials. Texas cities charging $25 fees to have a garage sale. The government burning down your crops of wheat because they didn’t approve it being done (no, really that happened). All of these things seem to suggest that the government doesn’t believe you have the right to any kind of property exchange they haven’t approved.
Oh yeah I’m feeling real free.
Granted this isn’t Soviet Russia or Red China (but if we keep selling our debt to them, well…), but liberty isn’t usually revoked in one grand move. Rome did not fall in a day. Nor were our freedoms won in a single bill. Nor will they be revoked all at one time in a single bill, but it’s through the methods of socialism that they are slowly, but surely eaten away. And when they are gone, socialist states control your life, your work, your retirement, your vacations, and everything else from conception to cremation.
“Therefore the Wise Ruler says:
I make no law,
and the people become honest[…]
I do nothing
and the people become rich.”
–Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching #57