By Nathan Tucker
President Obama’s infamous remarks at Roanoke are premised in socialism—the conviction that government action is needed to make the free market fairer and more equitable. It is the mistaken belief, shared by far too many politicians today, that individual rights are the citizens’ dutiful sacrifice on the alter of a collectivist utopian society achievable only by government planning.
Socialism in Western democracies is often cloaked in the mantra of compassion—the desire to produce greater equalization of outcomes by protecting individuals from the vicissitudes of the free market. It is the conviction that government intervention is necessary to make the free market “work for everyone.”
Regardless of the means adopted, the goal of socialism is to make such things as jobs, college education, health insurance, secure retirement, and homes more affordable and universal than they would otherwise be in the free market. It is, in short, the belief in the saving power of the government to provide the American Dream more effectively than capitalism.
The state can only achieve this mission, however, through redistributing wealth and the manipulation, if not direction, of the economy. It occurs either through direct subsidization of A by B in the form of government handouts and exploitation of the tax code, or by the indirect subsidization of some consumers at the expense of others as a byproduct of “compassionate” regulations that “protect” an industry, shift costs of products, create union monopolies, establish wage, price, and rent controls, etc.
In their eagerness to play Santa, politicians conveniently ignore the fact that government has no money, only people have money. There is no magic Obama stash of free money in Washington, there is only money taken from some to subsidize others. Government, therefore, cannot perform acts of charity without robbing someone else. It cannot build some up without tearing others down.
As the Declaration of Independence states, the purpose of government is to secure man’s natural and unalienable rights to life, liberty, and property. Consequently, the task of government is the maintenance of universal justice by the equal protection “of all persons, all products of labor, all property, all rights, all interests.”
There is no middle ground. The choice is either the equal protection of all, or the sacrifice of some in the name of the collective good. The former is called freedom, the later is called socialism. The former believes in individual rights, the later only in the rights of the government. The former is founded on a belief in the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, the later in which the state alone becomes the moral judge of both the means used and the ends pursued.
But not only is socialism dehumanizing, it is self-defeating. Redistribution of wealth always destroys economic growth, productivity, innovations, wages, and jobs. In the free market, capitalism only works when it is advantageous to both parties. Wealth is only created by cooperation, not by one at the expense of the other.
This mutual motive for profit creates the most efficient use of capital by directing it to productive businesses with improved products consumers demand at the lower prices they desire. Socialism, on the other hand, takes money out of the hands of consumers and producers where it would have been used most efficiently.
This inefficiency results in a net loss to the country. By redirecting capital from the efficient to subsidize the inefficient, total productivity and, consequently, wages and jobs are reduced. In effect, the pie gets smaller, not larger; the economy slows rather than grows. Even minimal socialist intervention, therefore, creates far more poverty than it can ever hope to alleviate. In contrast, however, the free market is the greatest poverty program the world has ever known.
There is no form of government as free, democratic, and equal as the free market. It is free in that it leaves the individual free to choose from a myriad of choices without threat of coercion. It is a democracy in which each consumer has an equal voice to buy precisely what he voted for in a competitive market free from the concentration of power, whether in the hands of government, the monopolist, or labor unions. It provides equality of opportunity in an unrivaled meritocracy in which hard work, rather than political favors and crony capitalism, is rewarded.
As Milton Friedman aptly summarized it, “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”
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