The Failed Swing to the Right

Originally written for Shurts Accounting on November 27, 2012.

In 1980, after nearly a decade of double-digit inflation and continuing economic stagnation, Americans had had enough.  By a resounding margin, they removed Jimmy Carter from the presidency and replaced him with Ronald Reagan.  Thus began an almost unbroken economic ascent for the next 20 years.

In 1994, after a half century of Democratic malfeasance, the American people turned control of the House of Representatives over to the Republicans led by Newt Gingrich.  As part of the on-going swing to the right begun by Reagan, the American economy zoomed for the next 6 years.

So why now, 32 years after Reagan began his presidency and 18 years after the Republicans took control of the House, has our economy been reduced to a smoldering ruin?  Didn’t the Carter presidency and a half century of Democratic control of Congress teach us anything, and if it didn’t, why didn’t it?

“It is time to check and reverse the growth of government,” Ronald Reagan said.  Reagan’s rhetoric was soaring and inspiring.  For a short time, attempts were made to lessen taxes, roll back regulations and generally lessen the intrusiveness of government – all of which indeed helped the economy.  But in the end, far from reversing or even stopping its growth, government grew larger under Reagan.  And the entitlement state, instead of shrinking because of the increase in wealth due to the Reagan-inspired economic boom actually grew as well.  How come?

“This is a genuine revolution.  We’re going to rethink every element of the federal government.  We’re going to close down several federal departments.”  Thus spoke Newt Gingrich.  No such rethinking or closing down of departments ever occurred.  For all intents and purposes, nothing changed.  Government most assuredly did NOT get smaller.  Why?

For decades Conservatives and Republicans have filled the air with their promises of lesser taxes, fewer regulations and smaller government.  Yet, whenever they were given the power to act on these promises, nothing ever happened.  Government is larger than ever and growing still faster.  With so many sincere defenders of limited government having so many electoral successes over the last three decades, why hasn’t even the smallest dent been made in this inexorable growth?

The answer lies in an inability in those ‘sincere defenders’ to understand that Capitalism and freedom can only be defended on principle, which because it is a principle means it is not to be violated under any circumstance.  Thus when you say that a citizen’s money should not be taken to give to another on principle, you should not resume farm subsidies 2 years after stopping them and you should not create the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to provide medical care to children free of charge, which the 1996 Republican Congress did 2 years after coming to power under the aegis of the ‘Contract With America.’  These are two small examples in a century-long history of government expansion and intrusion into virtually all walks of American life.  And the reason why this continues on and on and on is because no one in power will say that it is wrong.  It is all wrong and it is all wrong on principle because a person’s life, liberty, pursuit of happiness and property are his by right and NOT to be violated for ANY reason.

Until such people come to power and make this case forcefully and without apology, any politician can say he is for limited government, freedom and Capitalism all he wants.  It doesn’t mean a thing.

“Free Market Revolution” – A Lesson in Morality

Amazingly enough a book titled “Free Market Revolution” and sub-titled ‘How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government’ is NOT a book about economics and politics.  In its essence, “Free Market Revolution” written by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins is a book about morality.  There is plenty in this book about economics and politics, but the book’s main thesis is the assertion, which I fully subscribe to, that only a revolutionary change in the underlying moral code of the American culture will ever remove the ever-increasing tentacles of big government, which are squeezing the freedom and prosperity from a once great people.

Brook and Watkins have taken on a daunting task, convincing people in 221 pages that the moral code they grew up with and that their fathers and grandfathers and their grandfathers’ grandfathers grew up with is flat-out wrong – that the moral code of altruism which most people understand simply as ‘selfishness is evil’ and ‘selflessness is good’ is really an inversion of morality.  The truth just as simply is that ‘selfishness is good’ and ‘selflessness is evil.’  Only when this truth is recognized by the best and brightest of us will freedom and prosperity ever be truly and permanently restored.

How did they do?  It depends on the premises that each person brings to the table when he or she sits down to read “Free Market Revolution.”  If one comes to the book with a scrupulous desire to apply logic to facts and with the express purpose of grasping the reality of the disastrous state we have devolved to, then they have succeeded spectacularly.  They have spelled out in easy-to-read detail why government keeps growing, why this happens because our culture’s moral code of altruism requires it, why this is wrong because it is rational self-interest that is the true good, why the profit motive is the economic embodiment of that good, why Capitalism is the only social system that allows this good to flourish, and finally how only a principled commitment to a moral code based on self-interest will EVER succeed in defending our Capitalist way of life.

However, if one comes to the book with the altruist moral code as his or her basic unshakeable premise to be defended against all facts and logic, then Brook’s and Watkins’ arguments will be only so much water off a duck’s back.  The book’s essential argument is that one must fully grasp the evil that is the altruist moral code and be willing to replace it in total with a new moral code of rational self-interest before that person will ever be able to defend Capitalism in a way that will end big government and restore our freedom and prosperity.  Nothing less than this will do the job, but a person who is unwilling to even question this altruist moral code at the outset will be immune to the arguments put forth and will never be able to defend Capitalism whose very basis is the selfish pursuit of happiness.

Obviously with this review I am hoping to convince anyone who does read the book to at least be willing to question the moral code they have grown up with.  If they do, then I think there is every chance “Free Market Revolution” may indeed spark just that, a free market revolution!

This review was first posted on Amazon.com on November 11th, 2012.

A Pyrrhic Victory

Originally written for Shurts Accounting on November 11th, 2012.

“Bread and Circuses’ is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader—the barbarians enter Rome.” – Author Robert Heinlein 

“The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” – Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher 

“TANSTAAFL – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” – Robert Heinlein

 

It took 232 years, the obliteration of the meaning plainly written into our Constitution, and a smooth talking demagogue to finally bring America to the point where it will inexorably prove out the words of Heinlein and Thatcher above.

To the 50.5% of you who believe you have just purchased your security with your vote, you will find that you have won a pyrrhic victory.

Similar to many commentators, I believe this election represented one of the few times in our history where the results were of monumental importance.  Unlike most of those commentators though I believe the critical importance of this election was due to the clear philosophical choice we were given.  The philosophy of each side can be demonstrated by several key words shown side by side:

Winners                                                          Losers

Collectivism                                                    Individualism

Statism                                                            Freedom

Socialism                                                         Capitalism

Coercion                                                          Reasoned Persuasion

Neither side represented the purist form of its philosophy, but the essence of the choice we were given is captured plainly by these key words, and a majority of the citizens of this country clearly chose the socialist, collectivist, statist philosophy.  And they chose it after a 4 year demonstration of exactly how this philosophy works in practice.

Unfortunately for them, however, the good things in life – the cell phones, the TV’s, the wonderful variety of foods, the health care advances, the vacation paradises and everything else ad infinitum – all come from the losing philosophy.  Because valuable things are only produced by free properly thinking individual minds, no statist government in history has ever produced anything of value and it never will.  And the individuals possessing these free minds are only willing to put forth the effort to keep innovating and producing when they know that any rewards they do earn will not be forcibly taken from them.

Since the law of the land for the foreseeable future is now going to be firmly on the side of those who DO wish to forcibly control those minds and forcibly take the goods they produce, it is inevitable the quality of our lives will continue to deteriorate.  And all of those people who voted this man and his philosophy back into office will soon find that all of the goodies they have been promised will never materialize because no man with a modicum of self respect will continue to see his life and his life’s work sacrificed simply to provide for them.

He will simply shrug.

Force vs. Persuasion – Why Everything Just Keeps Getting Worse

Originally written for Shurts Accounting on November 4th, 2012.

Have you ever experienced something like this?  You need to get something from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), only to be thwarted due to some minute rule that could easily be remedied if only the bureaucrat would listen to reason.  In a similar situation with any commercial enterprise, I imagine most everyone reading this would simply walk away, vowing never to deal with that business again.  But you can’t do that with the DMV, because there isn’t anywhere else to go to get your problem solved.  There isn’t a competing DMV out there that will take care of your problem better.

If that sounds like you, then you are experiencing what Ayn Rand described as “Force is anti-mind.”  This kind of interaction is where the average non-philosophical person discovers what Objectivists fully grasp all the time; government represents force, and pure physical force at that.  Underneath all of your frustration at dealing with the DMV is the understanding that if you don’t comply with every little, niggling requirement put on you, a government gun can force you to comply, or punish you for not complying.

A more important example because you are literally dealing with life and death would be those people suffering from a terminal disease who are NOT allowed to use an experimental drug because the Food and Drug Administration has banned its use.  Look at the position such a person is in.  He can either be a criminal for using an illegal drug or he can die.

Government IS force, and our Founding Fathers understood this implicitly.  They understood, unlike most people today, that an unchecked government is a government that will run roughshod over its citizens’ freedom.  If you read the thought that went into the writing of the American constitution, you will find that the fundamental underlying objective of that esteemed document was to limit government power.  The Founders knew that government, by its very nature, could destroy the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness if it was not kept under strict control.

If my blogs have any underlying theme, it would be that thinking – that is, using the power of reason – is the single most important activity for every person to engage in if they want to improve their lives.  But as I demonstrated above, when you are told what you must do or if a show of force limits your choices, your ability to use that power of reason is stopped, at least as it pertains to whatever the specific situation is.

Now consider a country where the power of the government grows and grows through the years, such that it begins to exert its influence in virtually every part of your life.  Every tax, every regulation and every entitlement closes off more and more parts of life to thinking and reason.  With each new tax or regulation or entitlement, the government stops more and more spheres of human productivity.  Now consider just how much this increase in government power has stopped the improvement in the quality of our lives in the more than 125 year period our government has been growing.  What on Earth would make anyone think that MORE government force is going to improve this situation?  Government IS force and force is anti-mind, which means it is anti-life, so the more the government expands, the worse our lives get.

In order to put a stop to this diminution in the quality of our lives and start improving it again we must remove the initiation of force from all of our interactions.  And since government is far and away the primary initiator of force in our lives it is imperative that government be significantly pruned back to its only legitimate function, that of protecting our individual rights.  In addition, we must fully and completely grasp that the only way to ever convince a person to do anything is through reasoned persuasion, and if that is not sufficient then resorting to physical force in order to ‘convince’ that person is a fool’s errand that will only end up in destroying all that is good in the world.

Must Read Book Recommendation: “Free Market Revolution”

Originally written for Shurts Accounting on November 3rd, 2012.

If you enjoyed or at least were intrigued by the ideas in my ‘Shurts Accounting/Tennis for Everyone’ series, then you would thoroughly enjoy the new book, “Free Market Revolution” written by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins of the Ayn Rand Institute.

If you want to know what will be necessary to restore freedom and prosperity to the American culture, you will find the answers in this book.

If you are tired of the businessman and entrepreneurs who provide most of the good things in our lives being constantly vilified, you will welcome this book that explains why this happens and how and why this view needs to be corrected.

Here are several excerpts and the link to where you can buy the book from Amazon:

From page 18 – “Why, if economic freedom has proven itself time and time again to be the engine of prosperity do we keep moving toward Big Government?  Why is a pro-freedom agenda so hard to come by and to defend?  Why, no matter the rhetoric, no matter the mood of the electorate, no matter how much the weight of Big Government pulls down economic progress, do we get more regulations, more government spending, less economic freedom?  The answer might surprise you.”

From page 37 – “This is what’s required to stop the growth of the state and end Big Government:  We will have to see that business “greed” is not to be feared, that “need” is not a mortgage on the wealth and lives of the productive and that self-interest is not a moral stain on capitalism’s soul.”

From page 117 – “The profit motive represents the best in us – and, as we’ll see in due course, the profit system represents the best for us.”

From page 135 – “If we want to stop the growth of the state, this is the view that has to change.  Americans need to understand what the free market is, how it works – and why it is profoundly good.  Not just okay.  Not just the worst economic system except for all the rest.  We need to grasp that the free market is an ideal – a profoundly, perfectly, flawlessly moral economic system – and that anyone who opposes it to whatever extent is wrong.

Yaron Brook Discussing Altruism in Colorado

Originally posted on Shurts Accounting on October 25, 2012.

 

This talk that the Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute gave in Colorado a couple of weeks ago further reinforces my recent blog post series titled ‘Shurts Tennis for Everyone.’

For the accountants or bankers reading this, you will especially appreciate his discussion of Sarbanes-Oxley at the 36 minute mark.

 

Laissez Faire: Promoting Free Market Revolution in Colorado

Shurts Tennis for Everyone – Part 5

Originally written for Shurts Tennis on October 25, 2012.

In the last part of this series I showed the devastating results the moral code of altruism and its political expression of ‘the strong must be sacrificed to the weak’ have had on human progress and human prosperity throughout history.  In this post, I am going to show exactly what the implementation of this philosophy does to each human being who subscribes to it or is forced to live under it.

According to altruism, the ‘good’ is represented by the strong sacrificing to the weak.  If this is true, then the actions taken while following this code, either voluntarily or involuntarily, should ultimately be beneficial to the individual human beings involved.  Let’s see if this is true.

First let’s look at those who might be deemed as ‘the strong’ under the altruist moral code; businesses, the wealthy, the healthy, the skilled, the educated or just generally anyone who has more of some value than someone else.  For ‘the strong,’ does sacrificing their values help them in any way?  Remember, according to altruism you are only morally good if you do NOT get any value in return for your sacrifice.  This includes any kind of spiritual joy for having helped someone.  The answer is blatantly obvious.  If you have a value, be it wealth or skill or health or happiness or anything objectively of value to you, and you give it away for nothing you are not better off.  How can this be good … for anyone?

So if this moral code does not benefit the ‘strong, surely it must be of benefit to those receiving the sacrifice of these values, ‘the weak.’  Nothing could be further from the truth.  To be human in any sense of the word requires self-esteem, the innate understanding that one is capable and worthy of living one’s life.  Self-esteem cannot be GIVEN to you.  It must be earned.  Altruism can give a person ‘values,’ but if those values were not earned, the person receiving them will KNOW that he is not competent or worthy to receive such values.  He will quickly cease to live as a human being, devolving inevitably into the human equivalent of a pet.  If this condition persists for any length of time then a person accepting it will become virtually irredeemable – certainly not someone who would be recognizable as a person of any value or worth to anyone else or much more importantly to himself.  How is this good … for anyone?

Finally, let’s discuss precisely what is required when this moral code of sacrifice is codified into the laws of the land.  When something becomes a law it is intended to be applied universally to all citizens, but altruistic laws require winners (the weak) and losers (the strong).  Because of this, you will be lumped into one group or the other depending on the superficial distinction written into the law.  Your personal circumstances and most especially your personal desires are irrelevant to how the law will be applied and enforced against or for you depending on where you fit on the altruistic scale.  Whether you like it or not, you have become part of a collective, and in the words of the purest fictional collective ever created, ‘Resistance is futile.’

Whether you earned your wealth through a legitimate enterprise or as a mafia mob boss, your money will be forfeit to whatever scheme the law requires regardless of how legitimately you acquired it.  And if you are an old person or a disabled person or a black person or a Native American or a child or any of a seemingly endless array of different distinctions of human beings that arise when government-enforced altruism begins picking winners and losers, you will be entitled to the benefits the law requires regardless of whether you need them or want them.

If you want the starkest representation of where all of this leads to in reality, look at how Jews were treated in Nazi Germany or how the owners of anything of value have been treated in every totalitarian Communist state ever devised.

The conclusion is obvious.  The more the political philosophy of sacrificing the strong to the weak takes over the government of any people the less individuality is allowed to those people, and the more they become only so many faceless cattle waiting for the slaughter.

This concludes my series of posts, which began with the most innocent of proposals to provide assistance to one needy group of individuals by requiring it through government force, and ended with a description of the horrors perpetrated throughout history because of the moral philosophy underlying that ‘innocent’ proposal.  Such is the nature of altruism, the moral code that is accepted without question by many of the people reading this and by virtually everyone on the planet.

Isn’t it time to start questioning this moral code … before it’s too late?