Why Can't We Have Both?
FEBRUARY 01, 1972 by JEAN HOCKMAN
Mrs. Hockman of Tacoma, Washington, is a housewife and free-lance author with a bias toward freedom.
The current political discussion in the United States centers on how to control the economy. Not should the government control the economy but how! The propriety of government intervention into the private financial affairs of the people is a question long overdue.
For years America has been trying to "solve the problem" of how to have her cake and eat it too. Expert and layman alike struggle to understand why the government can’t spend money it doesn’t have and still remain solvent; why we can’t have government handouts without raising taxes; and why every American can’t be financially secure, with enough left over to support the poor on a global scale. Just what miracle do Americans believe will be forthcoming?
Let us leave aside opinions of economic experts who insist that a government-managed economic system is necessary, or superior to, or consistent with freedom. (This last, despite the fact that the historical record of all such attempts reveals that the people are required to live in a state of forced subjugation to the leadership, in behalf of the nation and/or the "common good.") Instead, let us apply an ingredient that has all but vanished from the American scene — common sense.
Federal bureaucracy is spreading (unchecked) over our land like a fungus. And like fungus, it feeds off the main crop, i.e., the earnings of the people. A fungus is a parasite that attaches itself to healthy growth, gradually weakening and ultimately destroying it. If the fungus is caught and destroyed, the main crop will be free to recover and continue its healthy growth at its own speed. If the fungus is allowed to spread, it gathers momentum, perpetuating itself until there is nothing left to feed on. So it is with bureaucracy. It feeds and perpetuates itself first.
Bureaucracy Has First Claim
One needn’t be an expert to figure out how it works; and further, that it can work no other way. In any society, some people produce more than others — and some produce nothing at all. But, the bureaucracy has first claim on all production, and siphons profits off the top. What seeps back to the people is considerably less than they have produced, thereby limiting their capacity for economic expansion and tending to lower their level of living.
We have been told repeatedly that "some" economic controls are necessary because men in private life are either unable or unwilling to successfully and honestly manage their own affairs. If this were true (of course, it isn’t), one might logically ask the following question. By what magical means do men, hired by the government, suddenly acquire the wisdom and honesty to manage the economic affairs of the entire population? Apparently, we are expected to believe that people aren’t capable of "handling" freedom, but that the government is.
The first order of private business is to make a profit. It should go without saying that an unprofitable business is scarcely in a position to survive (much less expand) and is of no use to anyone.
Government a Profit Taker
But government is a profit taking operation. It is not economically productive, but economically dependent upon the earnings generated by the private enterprise of the people. If a government program is ineffective or inefficient (and which ones aren’t?), the government does not account for the loss; it simply draws against the people’s private earnings and business profits and perpetuates the loss.
Observe the rising clamor against American business for making profits, the demand that "excess" profits be penalized. Yet the biggest profit taking organization in this country, the Federal government, is being encouraged to expand its operations and create new agencies of economic control. To what end?
If the goal is to eliminate poverty and unemployment through economic prosperity, the expansion of business must be encouraged, not restricted; and the role of government reduced — not expanded.
Economic control does not lead to growth, progress, and prosperity. It never has and it never will. Economic control is the means by which government maintains total political control over the people, a fact which the American people will have to face sooner or later — one way or another.
Government intervention is always restrictive, and for this reason it is impossible for government to "manage" or "control" a free economy. It is a contradiction in terms — and in reality.
Communism Controls Through Force and Subjugation
If proof is needed, communism has proven for all to see that economic control can only be fully achieved and maintained through sheer force and total human subjugation. Socialism (the supposedly benign version of communism) is failing miserably in every country that has tried it. Under socialism the people are taxed unmercifully, and end up bickering among themselves and clamoring to their bureaucratic "benefactors" for a greater "share." In short, economic control is a vicious, static, dead-end cycle that can only result in the ultimate loss of all human liberty and dignity, and a lowered level of living. (Note that fascism "permits" private ownership, but denies property rights and is merely a variation of the same theme.)
This leads to a question which I ask now, and future historians may well ponder. Why did America abandon the free enterprise system, or more precisely — capitalism?
Do Americans really believe the communist propaganda that was deliberately designed to destroy the most successful economic system in the history of mankind? I am 35 years old, and I can’t recall hearing a single American politician stand up and defend capitalism on the righteous grounds that it is entirely consistent with the Constitutional principles of individual liberty by which we are supposedly bound. In fact, one rarely hears capitalism mentioned at all, except in negative terms. "Private enterprise" is referred to and grudgingly accepted (primarily as a source of government spending power). But a fully consistent system of capitalism (laissez faire) does not exist anywhere in the world — and never has. It certainly doesn’t exist in America. Nor is it being seriously considered. Why not?
Efficient and Profitable
Capitalism is the most efficient, progressive, and profitable economic system ever devised. People seek their livelihood on their own terms, according to their own ability, for and with their own money. They deal directly with one another, not through the government — thereby saving the expense of useless bureaucracy. (Properly, government should enter the picture only upon request, i.e., in the event of a legal dispute or a criminal offense, to determine the legality of a given situation in terms of the natural rights of the individuals involved. Needless to say, no government, including ours, has yet confined itself to this role. This doesn’t mean it isn’t possible or desirable.)
Capitalism also contains its own built-in checks and balances. People are required to exercise sound judgment, or suffer the consequences of their own folly. It doesn’t carry any guarantees. One risks failure along with the prospect of success. And if we are honest, we know that there are no real guarantees possible in life — not in theory, or in reality. Life is a process of change and risk, growth and setback, and ultimately what one can realistically hope for is to achieve a just measure of success commensurate with one’s own ability. This is what capitalism is, and does. It puts the responsibility where it belongs — on the individual — which is, after all, the meaning of independence. One is not independent if he is not responsible for his own needs. Nor can one become independently responsible if the government intervenes to make it impossible.
Economic Disaster Follows Monetary Manipulation
The greatest economic disaster in America’s history came after the Federal Reserve Act had relieved people of the responsibility and the means of making an accurate judgment. The subsequent frantic efforts of government to "create" a sound economic balance through legislative force have brought us to our present state of chronic insecurity and collective dependency.
Yet government is rarely blamed for our economic difficulties. After all, hasn’t it been trying to cure them for over 40 years? Capitalism is blamed.
The accusation that capitalism exploits the worker has been repeated so often that it is generally accepted as true with no further thought. Let it be stated here for the record that capitalism is the system for the working man. It does not reward the idle — only the man who is willing to work for his wages. Consider the present situation in our "mixed" economy. Are we to believe that the working man is not exploited when a portion of the money he earns is forcibly extracted from his wages to support government programs which harm rather than benefit him?
Another supposedly unpleasant facet of capitalism is that it appeals to one’s selfish nature. This is absolutely true. Selfishness means to be primarily concerned with one’s own self-interest. Anybody who claims to be otherwise is either a fool or a liar (to borrow an old phrase). Self-preservation is primary to all living things. If man were not selfish by nature, he would be extinct. Yes, capitalism serves the self-interest of each and every individual. Which simply means that capitalism serves the individual, as an individual. Which is why it should be the economic system of the only nation ever founded in behalf of the individual — America.
It is also said that capitalism promotes greed. Does it? Who is greedy: the man who wishes to earn his keep, and keep what he earns? Or the man who wants a legislative advantage, who wishes special privilege so he can compete "fairly" in the "free" market?
Observe the present clamor at the doors of Congress for straight financial handouts to accommodate every conceivable whim. The quest for the product of what another man has earned constitutes greed in my estimation. Every dollar the government gives away was earned by a citizen of this country. It makes no difference if the citizen can afford it or not. It is a matter of principle; and the principle involved is the right of the individual to own what he earns, choose how his earnings are spent, and the right not to be forced to support a "spending," "subsidy," or "charitable" program of which he personally disapproves.
If, for example, I were to ask you for a voluntary contribution to support a farmer too stupid to stop growing crops for which there is no market, you would undoubtedly refuse. Who would voluntarily support such a program? It might work the first time around, but it would surely die of its own accord if it were pursued; and in a court of law it might even be construed as fraudulent.
This is but one example of a "program" which would neither be tolerated nor sustained on a voluntary basis. The list of self-defeating, useless, inefficient, and downright wasteful undertakings of government is endless, and well known to many of us.
The Inevitable Trend
It is not my purpose here to prove that government "manages" economic affairs in the least efficient manner possible. The situation here, and throughout the world, speaks for itself. My point is that such is the inevitable result of government intervention in the financial affairs of its citizens. When government assumes the "right" to manipulate economic matters, where does it draw the line? Thus far, in America, it has not seen fit to draw any line at all. And herein lies the danger. Anything goes, if enough pressure is applied in the "right places." It is a shameful abuse of a political system designed to limit the powers of government in order that the people might be free of government compulsion. If it were otherwise, (i.e., consistent with our fundamental principles), why is such effort made to hide the truth?
The attempt to conceal the trend toward statism in America is evidenced by the increasing use of evasive semantics. The economic policies outlined in the Communist Manifesto are written into law in the United States of America under the heading of "social legislation." Individual liberty is gradually replaced by "the needs of a changing society," i.e., collectivism. And our "mixed" economy is moving steadily toward a "new" version of full-fledged fascism under the heading of "responsive government."
Economic control is the key to political dictatorship. And conversely, capitalism is the key to political freedom. Observe that capitalism has been the primary target of communism from the outset. Communism, as an economic system, can’t hold a candle to capitalism. But it is the most effective system of political dictatorship ever devised, precisely because the individual has no property rights.
Cause and Effect
When are we going to see the connection? Why don’t we see it now? We can’t have our cake and eat it too. America is no more immune to the natural law of cause and effect than any other nation, past or present. The strength of any nation lies in its consistent devotion to its own stated principles. Communism isn’t spreading because it’s a better system. It spreads because communists are steadfastly committed to every facet of communism; and no similar commitment to capitalism stands in its way.
Americans have been apologizing for and compromising capitalism, at first slowly, but with increasing rapidity throughout most of this century. Where once we had a simple government structure based on a solid foundation, we now have a gigantic superstructure resting on a mish-mash of contradictory inconsistencies. Where once we had a thriving, progressive economy, we now have imminent disaster. By our own hand we are divided, weakened, and vulnerable — fair game for anyone and anything.
Figuratively and literally, the middle of the road is a dangerous place to stand. It indicates irrational behavior at best, and suicidal tendencies at worst. There are only two fully consistent and separate views of life. Two sides of the road. It’s an either/or proposition.
One side is collective dependency with full political ownership and economic control, i.e., total human slavery. This view is exemplified to its fullest extent by communism, but has prevailed in varying degrees throughout the entire history of mankind.
The other (and only) alternative is individual liberty with private ownership rights, economic freedom, and political protection of the individual as an independent agent, exemplified briefly (imperfectly, but significantly) by capitalism in American history.