A Free Lance in the Free Market
DECEMBER 01, 1969 by ROBERT G. BEARCE
Mr. Bearce promised to try an article when he recently subscribed for The Freeman. Here it is.
During my freshman year of high school, I took upon myself that patriotic but arduous task of making myself a fervent anticommunist. Books pertinent to the subject were studied with more zeal than were algebra and world geography, and I proceeded to accumulate a voluminous library exposing that most evil monster formulated by Karl Marx. Complex numbers, the binomial theorem, and the main waterways of Europe held but a secondary status in my education. My energies were channeled toward more profound subjects—dialectical materialism, slaughter of the kulaks, and Comintern policy.
One of my first priorities was to really know what communism was, that is, what it was that I abhorred with so much enthusiasm. This was accomplished by writing a definition compiled from dictionaries, various encyclopedias, and literature on Marxism-Leninism. I labored on this momentous undertaking for a full two weeks, using in the process at least two score sheets of notebook paper. Only after the most scholarly and diligent study was I able to gloat over the final draft defining communism in two or three precise, hard-hitting paragraphs.
Since that period of shrewd study into Bolshevism eight years ago, I have lost my prized definition, not only in material fact but also from my memory, for I did have it memorized. Remember, I wanted to prepare myself adequately for the opportunity to enlighten unwary Americans about the threat of the Red Horde.
Quite frankly, my enlightenment as to the horrors of communism was nothing more than a naive, emotional response. It had nothing to do with a penetrating, conscious understanding of the real nature and threat of communist theory.
But in this type of involuntary hypocrisy, I doubt that I stand alone. I fear that today I have many comrades-in-arms who are zealous defenders of capitalism, the free market system, free enterprise, and the like, without practicing what they preach. Their devotion to the integrity of the individual is a deceiving accumulation of words, clichés, and books on capitalism, not a day-by-day living example of that belief.
Several days ago, on my way to see my physician, I spotted a bulletin board outside a church which gave wee words of wisdom to passers-by.
The message: "Preach by your ACTIONS and not by your WORDS!"
Amen and ditto! We have a bad habit of cloaking ourselves in self-contented pride concerning our intentions and thoughts without ever taking positive steps forward in proof of our faith.
I’ve seen a lot of my physician these past few years. During my senior year of high school, I had to drop out due to illness. I am now twenty-two, and still haven’t recuperated enough to permit my attending a bastion of higher learning, that is a college, where some of my colleagues are sitting, cursing, marching, burning, and rioting. Yet, I have gained during this time a better understanding not only of communism but of many other areas of life as well. Despite my lack of a degree and material-physical assets that many claim necessary for security and accomplishment, I have rolled up my sleeves and entered into that stimulating proving ground for progress—the free market.
No, I’m not an industrialist, public relations man, or supermarket proprietor. I’m a free-lance writer, a financially embarrassed one to be certain, but a writer, nevertheless. It is in this field of joy and disappointment that I have learned to appreciate free enterprise, and only when I began to understand this system did I really attain any knowledge of what communism is. I claim no more than an elementary understanding of the American economic system, but what I have learned on the positive side of capitalism proves to me that socialism has always failed, that it will always fail, and that it works contrary to the freedom with which man is endowed by God.
Take away the hammer and sickle, the workers’ parades with red banners, the brute force, and the concentration camps so characteristic of Soviet communism, and what do you have? Nothing but a miserable, freedom-choking system known as socialism. Indeed, if you removed the brute force, you wouldn’t have socialism at all, since the system survives on totalitarian coercion bolstered by occasional transfusions of good old capitalism.
But I do not mean to wander into a slough of despond over the evils and sins of the socialist state in the Soviet Union. My testimony is one of optimism regarding my experience in the free market realm of editors and rejection slips.
Finding the Market
I am my own man, left to my self-discipline, individual initiative, and personal responsibility. I’ve no desire to write pornography, so I have no state interference or regulation. The only restrictions imposed upon my work are those I place on myself—laziness, conceit, inefficiency—and those placed on me by magazine editors.
Now, magazine editors are human—a fact that I doubt often but one that gains credibility when the postman brings me a check in return for an accepted story. Editors are guided primarily by what their readers want, whether it be true confessions, murder mysteries, or essays on economic philosophy. This public demand is tempered by editorial innovations and experiments. For example, the public might not be in a mood for the harsh realities concerning air pollution. An energetic editor, though, will use the informative power of his periodical to print a forceful article on the subject, even though his readers might possibly enjoy reading more about rattlesnake hunting in Oklahoma.
My Writer’s Market lists some 4,000 markets for a free-lance writer. Imagine! Four thousand opportunities to sell the product of my ingenuity and initiative —articles that might range from a swashbuckling tale of the sea to an account of the young men and women working in Honduras with Amigos de las Americas. The possibilities open to me include art magazines, trade journals, nature magazines, travel magazines, and garden magazines. Those aren’t all. There are calendar magazines, astrology magazines, poetry magazines, and western magazines, not to speak of detective magazines, aviation magazines, and automotive magazines.
Suppose, for example, that I submit a brief article describing a certain druggist’s participation in civic affairs to Drug Topics, a trade journal catering to the pharmaceutical profession. As often is the case, my submission is rejected. What do I do? I have at least thirteen other trade journals in the drug business that might find my article suited to their publishing needs. I submit to them.
What does this mean? Free market capitalism and free competition! The market is there, and it is open to me, unbridled by state interference.
Faith in Freedom Plus Basic Political and Economic Rights
It is in this field of writing that I have come to appreciate freedom.
I can’t really define this word; I don’t need to, for I know that it works in men’s lives. Freedom is a living faith to me, and I don’t need to have a precise definition of it. Besides the political rights to freedom of speech and press, I have these five basic economic rights:
1. to work in callings and localities of my choice.
2. to bargain with my employers.
3. to go into business, compete, make a profit.
4. to bargain for goods and services in a free market.
5. to be free of arbitrary government regulation and control.
One lesson writing has taught me, with no little pain on my part, is that men definitely are not equal in some respects.
Our Declaration of Independence states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…" What does this mean as we take it in the context of the remaining portions of the Declaration? Simply that each of us has the constitutional right to rise to any level of achievement in this world consistent with his individual capabilities and ambitions.
Nowhere in the Constitution or Declaration of Independence do we find the Founding Fathers proposing that government must assure its citizens equal standards of living, equal intellectual achievement, or equal job status. Henry Van Dyke stated the thought quite nicely: "Democracy declares that men, unequal in their endowments, shall be equal in their right to develop these endowments."
Basic to the above documents of individual freedom are the beliefs that man is not perfect and that only God is divine. It follows that all utopian plans for changing society through coercive legislation against the integrity of the individual—all in the name of ultimate perfection—are predestined to failure and are contrary to the will of God.
This ambitious notion that state legislating will change man’s environmental conditions and thus achieve utopia without poverty, discrimination, hatred, envy, and the like, is the pleasant reverie of social scholars in a dream world. The heart of the problem lies within man’s heart. Only when man’s inner self-seeking, rebellious nature is changed can he set his mind to overcoming covetousness, jealousy, and racial hatred.
Man Is Responsible
Man is responsible for his actions and thoughts—envy, hypocrisy, and yes, love for his fellow man. Assuming that some state could achieve an all-encompassing equalization of wealth—without totalitarian force—and a society with a minimum of disease, I dare say we would still witness the product of man’s inner nature —greed, pride, and all the rest.
Again, men are responsible, each individual endowed with varying ambitions and capabilities.
Frequently in my writing, my ambitions sag, and I must admit, humbly so, that my capabilities remain at a fairly consistent low level. Thus it is that I receive ten rejection slips for each sale that I make. That’s a discouraging batting average. Alas, do you not feel for the plight of the downtrodden free-lance writer in America!
I doubtless could make a case with today’s compassionate humanitarians and utopians who would demand that the state subsidize me! My rightful share of this nation’s wealth would be doled out to me! I could join the legions of other Americans who are daily relinquishing personal responsibility in return for greater authority over their lives! I would be on the road to blissful state security!
No, thank you. I’m content to rise and fall, and rise and fall again according to my own ambitions and abilities. I have a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing that when I’m up, it is due to my own efforts, and that when I’m down, it is due to my own failure.
Success or failure, I am responsible for my own—and free to preach what I practice.