About This Blog

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was the greatest economist of my time. His greatest works can be accessed here at no charge.

Mises believed that property, freedom and peace are and should be the hallmarks of a satisfying and prosperous society. I agree. Mises proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the prospect for general and individual prosperity is maximized, indeed, is only possible, if the principle of private property reigns supreme. What's yours is yours. What's mine is mine. When the line between yours and mine is smudged, the door to conflict opens. Without freedom (individual liberty of action) the principle of private property is neutered and the free market, which is the child of property and freedom and the mother of prosperity and satisfaction, cannot exist. Peace is the goal of a prosperous and satisfying society of free individuals, not peace which is purchased by submission to the enemies of property and freedom, but peace which results from the unyielding defense of these principles against all who challenge them.

In this blog I measure American society against the metrics of property, freedom and peace.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Who's To Blame?

The recent farce, known as the Debt Ceiling Crisis, was typical Washington spin and pin. Supposedly, politicians struggled for months to do the right thing: reduce spending and decrease the debt. In reality they spun abstruse schemes that would allow them to have their cake and eat it too, all the while pinning blame for the trumped up “crisis” on political rivals. In short, nothing has changed. It’s still business as usual in Washington, DC.

But surely someone must be truly to blame for the sorry state of this country’s finances. Is it a malevolent President? A crooked, self-serving Congress? An engorged Washington bureaucracy feeding at the trough of government largesse? The infamous, favor-seeking corporate lobby? The biased and incompetent mainstream media?

No. In truth all the above are mere henchmen of the true villain of our national melodrama: ourselves. This country, despite its slide into statism, is still a democracy. The President, Congress and their hangers on are in Washington for one reason: we put them there; we allow them to stay there. In short, in the United States we get the government we deserve.

If lovers of property, freedom and peace are looking for someone to blame for the political defeat of their principles, they should start by looking in the mirror. How often have we rationalized not voting? By forfeiting our vote we cede political power to the other side. We invite the collectivism, regulation and conflict that the other side is eager to visit upon us.

There is a sizeable segment of Americans who are ignorant of the principles of property, freedom and peace. Such individuals are not ideological. They live in a perpetual fog of fear and uncertainty. They remind me of savages who believe that their fate is in the hands of some inscrutable, evil force that must be appeased lest they suffer sickness, accident or famine. Totally unaware of how reality works, they turn to their protectors in government who promise to care for them from cradle to grave. They willingly trade property and freedom for promises of welfare and security never realizing that such a course must inexorably lead to the loss of both.

It is incumbent upon us to educate these sleepwalking Americans on the principles of property, freedom and peace every chance we get. When they spout nonsense, we must challenge them – no matter who they are, no matter what the consequence. 

There is another sizeable segment of Americans who despise the principles of property, freedom and peace. These rabid ideologues believe that American society is akin to a living on a lifeboat. As a result, they conclude that resources, goods and services must be shared and rationed so that each individual has an equal chance of survival. The believe that any individual who refuses to share what he possesses with others, whether it be food, water or productive talent and ambition, is a threat to the survival of all. They believe such “uncooperative” individuals must be censored and controlled, in short, forced to go along, to live according to the will of the majority. They are willing to cede the use of force to a strong and charismatic “Captain,” a leader who can and will maintain harmony, law and order by threat if possible, by violence if necessary.

The only problem with this analogy is that it is false! We do not live in a lifeboat. Cooperation among people in society is a voluntary human action. Involuntary cooperation is a contradiction in terms.

Again, when we are confronted by such ideologues we must confront them with the truth. If they continue to spout their party line, then we must stand our ground and disassociate ourselves from them.

During the spectacle of the “Debt Crisis,” pundits of all stripes were fond of berating representatives of The Tea Party for not compromising. Tea Partiers were called terrorists and accused of holding the country’s economy hostage to their rigid demands.

Pray tell, how does someone who believes in private property and individual liberty compromise with a “lifeboat progressive” who believes in wealth redistribution and intense government regulation of the individual? How does someone who believes in peace compromise with the Captain of the Lifeboat who is eager to rule by force, violence and fiat?

Please, folks, stand on principle! There is no such thing as property that is a little bit private, or freedom that is a little bit repressive. The only sane rule for society is: What's mine is mine and what's yours is yours! And the only way that what's mine can become yours is by means of a free and uncoerced trade. If any man accepts that another man has some imagined "right" to violate the principles of property and freedom in whatever small way, he has conceded the "right" of the thief to steal and the “right” of the dictator to dictate.

"But all property cannot be absolutely private," screams the collectivist. "And all individuals cannot be absolutely free. We can't have anarchy. We must have rules and a police force!”

Don't fall for such sophistry! Yes, voluntary cooperation in society is impossible without self-imposed and self-enforced taboos against murder and theft, but does this fact of reality prove that involuntary cooperation is possible? Does it justify the imposition on the people by means of force and violence any rule – no matter how banal or arbitrary?

When does a society based on voluntary cooperation become a society based on involuntary servitude? I say that tipping point is reached when citizens of that society compromise away the principles of private property and freedom.

Why are we living in a political free-for-all, wherein each individual sides with a particular political faction to wrest goods and services from individual members of another political faction? Why in these United States is there no peace, only political conflict and turmoil?

The answer is obvious. The principles of property and freedom are the only means to the ends of societal harmony and peace and, as lovers of these principles, we have compromised away both once too often.

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