By Mike Cronin
Today we celebrate our nations’ birthday, codified by the Declaration of Independence. It is one of the watershed documents of human history – not for its eloquence (though it is wonderfully written), but for what it accomplishes. In modern parlance, it is the “vision statement” of a new country (the preamble of the Constitution is the “mission statement,” while the body and the Bill of Rights are the “operating manual”) – one founded on the concept that the purpose of government is to protect the individual rights of the citizens – and not much else.
The kind of freedom espoused in the Declaration does not come freely. An individual free from government oppression must by definition also be “free” from dependence on government – he or she must be self-reliant. He or she must produce what they need to survive, either directly, through the hard physical work of living off the land, or indirectly, by doing the hard physical or mental work of producing something worthy of exchanging for the food, water, shelter, clothes, and other goods and services one needs to survive. Under this vision of freedom, survival is the basic underlying motivation for producing: either you make your own shelter and grow/kill your own food, or you make something to sell to others, or work for someone else in exchange for money so you can buy those things, or you don’t eat and don’t have a roof over your head!
Basic survival is the foundational motivation, but it is not the only one. Since any surplus produced belongs to the producer who created it, it can be saved for a rainy day, or exchanged for something else – a luxury, perhaps, or something that will make the future effort of producing “a living” go a little easier, i.e. an investment. In this manner, the “rugged individualists” are producers of wealth. They have no expectation that anything will be given to them, and they demand that nothing be taken from them – but they trade value for value amongst each other. All economic exchanges are conducted voluntarily to mutual benefit. This is how wealth can be created. It is the essence of Capitalism.
Critics either cannot or will not see this creation of wealth, this “enlargement of the pie.” To those folks, the “pie” is finite. There is only so much wealth, and if someone has more if than another, they must have stolen the excess, or received it unfairly. The “pie” (wealth) is distributed, not produced! They also argue that no one, not even the “rugged individualist,” can go it alone, that each of us must depend on the benevolence of others, or of the state (i.e. the same thing) – under the threat of force, if necessary. They use that formulation to argue for and justify all manner of violations of our rights by the government (that is supposed to defend those rights), and then point to the artifacts of those intrusions (roads and railways and schools are favorite examples) as proof of their assertions – as if those things have not been and could not be made by private parties. This is the essence of all forms of Collectivism.
To make it work, they have to cram the word freedom through the Orwellian doublespeak machine. What comes out the other end is all but unrecognizable. To this crowd, freedom means the absence of want or need or responsibility for one’s choices. Since they “can’t” handle the requirements of individualism, they must first hook as many people as possible onto the drug of state dependency, and then they must vilify and penalize those who insist on being individualists. Therefore, you must want government regulation and government assistance for everything, right? It’s what’s best for you. Surely, then, you‘ll understand and appreciate the tax man taking 40-50% or more of everything you produce, right? And when that doesn’t cover the costs of all the “benefits” and “entitlements” the government is “bestowing” upon your neighbor, you’ll understand when the bureaucrats will take even more of your wealth by manipulating the value of the currency, right? (Oh, wait, they forgot to teach that part at the government –run schools they “bestowed” upon you.) Thus, the 1800 square foot house your parent’s bought in the Denver area in the 1960’s for $18,000 goes for $350,000 to $400,000 today. The value of the house might have gone up – it might have even doubled or tripled, based on the popularity of the city and the neighborhood, but it didn’t go up 22 times. Rather the dollar has been devalued that much or more over 50 years – and salaries haven’t kept up. An $18,000 house was an affordable investment for an engineer with ~3 years’ experience, making a $7K or $8K annual salary in the sixties. How does the salary of an engineer with ~3 years’ experience compare now, relative to the house that has “gone up in value” 22 times? The median pay for an electrical engineer in Denver, CO is $76K per year now. The value of the house “went up” 22 times, but the pay of an engineer only “went up” 10 times during the intervening 50 years. The lag between rising prices and rising salaries is the stolen wealth zone.
The Collectivists don’t want you to look behind the curtain. They don’t want you to realize that their formula requires you to be a producer so that more and more people who won’t produce can ride on your back – until it gives out and you beg for assistance yourself – but at that point there won’t be anyone left to provide assistance, and we will have become Venezuela…or worse.
When you celebrate our independence today, will you be celebrating independence from tyranny, or independence from reality?
You might make the mistake of thinking this denigrates the military… you’d be wrong.”
“If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”
If healthcare and education are “important to the defense of the nation,” then why on earth would you want the US government involved? The purpose of the US government, as codified in the founding documents, is to protect our rights. That implies the use of force, if necessary, a la the military or the police and the courts…and not a whole lot else.
The thing that distinguishes government from other entities is its authority (derived from us) to use force to do its proper job…but since force is its only real tool, applying that tool to problems that don’t involve violating our rights is…dysfunctional at best, usually absurd, and frequently wasteful and/or harmful, and occasionally result in the direct violation of the very rights that are supposed to be protected!
Here’s an interesting thought experiment to help make my point. Try replacing the words “by the government” with the words “by force” in the following sentences:
Healthcare should be run by the government
Education should be run by the government
Social Security should be run by the government
Fiscal and monetary policy should be run by the government
National Parks should be run by the government
Radio and television broadcast frequencies should be controlled by the government
The internet should be controlled by the government
See what I mean?
“This is just meaningless rhetoric…
“If healthcare and education are “important to the defense of the nation,” then why on earth would you want the US government involved? “
The answer is that its important… I wouldn’t want 50 states fielding military because it doesn’t work as well as having a national military… the main complaint is that some local people want to teach crap to their kids. That can be extreme enough that it is child abuse.
Your answer reveals more about your personal outlook on the world than reality.
Here’s my challenge to you. Take that same list and substitute
“a private company whose mission is to make as much profit as possible with no obligation to the health of society”
Thats either the current reality, the reality being legislated in Congress or a reality that is on the verge.
Thanks for the softball.”
My answer should not have been any great revelation. I am pro free-market capitalism and individual rights. That “bias” informs my answers to many questions on Quora. On the other hand, your reply reveals a few factual errors and/or reasoning flaws.
The 50 states do have militaries: The (fill in the state) National Guard.
A private company cannot “make as much profit as possible” unless it delivers a product or service its customers want to buy. Only government has the power to force you to buy something you don’t want at price that doesn’t generate profit, then tax you to make up the difference, fail at that, then devalue your currency, still fail to make a profit, then borrow money against future revenue, then still not make ends meet. That’s why we have a 20 trillion dollar national debt.
Beside using force, what is the US government good at? I contend it is worse at anything and everything it tries that could be done by private enterprise, because government eliminates competition and profit motive. The very thing you are decrying is the thing that has driven the ever increasing standard of living for the past ~200 years.
“I don’t know why you all think “we’re” not free market people. We are. We don’t pretend that markets remain free if they don’t have rules. If you don’t think that••• then you’re not free market you’re for anarcho capitalism.
Ya, I don’t like anarchy. I don’t like social darwinism and the Russian woman…
You’all also think we’re not experienced business people. I am. You think I don’t understand how finances work. Here’s how it works. The more customers I have the more I sell. I’ve never added a single piece of equipment or bought anything with tax break. Or whatever.
You wanna do me a favor… get me out from under this crazy idea that business should supply insurance. Thats crazy- who the hell thought that up. Lets save some money, help business and make America healthier. Lets have a single payer system.
And I know all about the military. Of course I meant if we had no national military and had 50 state militaries our national security would suffer. I would even go so far as to say… completely ineffective.
So now that we’ve laid to rest the idea that we’re… I… am against private enterprise and the profit motive… why don’t you call Washington and tell them to quit watching Fox and reading Breitbart because its all fiction.”
First up: You stated you “know all about the military.” Have you served?
Second, you might not be against private enterprise or profit, but you have a very different idea about what a free market is. A “free market” where government controls entire industries isn’t free at all. At best, it’s a mixed economy where cronyism takes root; at worst it’s fascism a la Nazi Germany. I am not for anarcho-capitalism OR fascism. Anarchy would never last; it would be supplanted by a dictatorship run by the most powerful bully in short order. But capitalism is another matter.
I am for an economy where the government protects our rights via enforcing laws against force and/or fraud, but keeps its mitts off otherwise. That is capitalism without the anarchy.
I am against “single payer” healthcare because “single payer” is code for “government,” and government just isn’t the right tool to provide goods and services, nor does the Constitution delegate it any authority to do so, save for one case: the post office. The term “single payer” is also disingenuous, because it’s really paid for by us taxpayers. Private enterprise and non-profits can and do provide goods and services much more effectively than government – when the government butts out.
Of course, our government couldn’t butt out of healthcare. In fact, it’s the reason the industry is what it is today. Health insurance has been around a long time in some form or fashion, and “mutual aid societies” existed even before that, but businesses “thought it up” and began offering it in earnest during WWII as a means to attract employees. Why? Because, in a perfect example of violating the very rights it’s supposed to protect, the government froze wages during the war! With a good chunk of the workforce drafted into the military (another rights violation!), companies had to find creative ways to offer competitive compensation. Health insurance was often the answer. It was a popular perk – so popular that it became a routine offering after the war, then expected, and now demanded as a “right.”
To summarize: Government interference into the not-so-free market induced the evolution of the healthcare industry into the monstrosity we know and hate today – and you are advocating for exponentially more government to “solve” it, asserting against all evidence that it will save us all money and make us healthier, while purporting to be pro-free market. That is bad medicine.
“I know the patter. Its unconvincing.”
So what do you think? Did I win, or Mr. Jones?