More than 50 years ago, Milton Friedman’s seminal work “Capitalism and Freedom” reminded Americans of the founding principles that made us greatest nation on Earth (economic and political freedom, individualism, and the rule of law).
America’s greatness lies in its people’s faith in these ideals and the constitution that embodies them.
Central to Friedman’s vision—and America’s promise—is the elevation of the individual’s aspirations above those of the state and the collective.
This vision does not stem from a lack of concern for the welfare of the whole people, but rather flows from that very concern. Societies that put the welfare of the collective above the individual destroy both.
Those that put the welfare of the individual before that of the collective end up with the greatest well-being for all.
Friedman’s most profound argument—a point we neglect at our own peril—was that economic and political freedom are closely linked.
There has never been, nor will there ever be, a politically free society that is not also economically free.
This practical reality is apparent on a micro-scale.
For example, if I were to depend on my subsistence from doing paid legal work for Coca-Cola, I would then not exactly be “free” to trash their product in a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal.
The same principle holds true when it comes to government dependency. As the state grows larger, it increasingly decides who deserves how much, a power it will invariably use to ensure that the people with the “right” views are taken care of.
Those with the “wrong” views are coerced into surrendering their values and individuality in service to the state, the mass of citizens it claims to represent, and their preferred doctrines.
Often the left complains of power imbalances among different segments of society. But the biggest power imbalance in the country is between the individual and the government.
All government power—every regulation, ordinance, law, and court decision—is backed by the threat of force.
As the government seizes more authority, the citizen becomes even more powerless.
The end result of the socialist philosophy is that we all work for the government full-time, with the government deciding how much we are allowed to keep.
Think of how much the government takes from us. With combined federal and state tax rates now over 50 percent in New York and California, some Americans now spend six months out of the year working for the government.
This does not even include the fact that every time you put money in a parking meter, register your car, go through a highway toll, or buy by a product, you pay another tax.
When politicians “ask” us to pay a little more in taxes, what they really mean is: “Give us more money, or face legal sanction.”
It is easy to look at America’s economic pie, and its present distribution, and start slicing it up into different-sized pieces, ensuring that everyone receives a “fair” portion.
That is how you get applause on college campuses.
But the more profound questions must first be asked: How do you get an economic pie to begin with? How do you grow it? And what incentives are necessary to ensure that, as the population increases, the economy adjusts to meet the changing needs, wants, and aspirations of the people?
What’s the Secret?
Traditionally, Americans knew we had the answers. We did not feel guilty for our success because we understood its source.
It lies not in the government, but in a fiercely independent people who desire self-rule.
We used to keep the government from telling us what to do and how to think (we also did not pay half of our income to the government).
Incredibly, politicians now call Americans greedy for wanting to keep our hard-earned money, rather than having it taken by the government for government to redistribute and waste.
Big government has not only strangled our economy and weakened our fiscal health. It has eroded our willingness to stand up for our own rights.
The choice we face is clear: Either we slide into ever more socialism and accept the rules and dictates that go along with government paternalism, or we fight for the values that we know are right, values that people have crossed oceans to see vindicated.
At least we have one thing going for us: The antidote to our present predicament is in our DNA as Americans.