Thinking about some of the posts and comments on the site from yesterday, I have to wonder if people really understand the concepts of freedom and liberty. There are those who in the words of a former contributor at this site, melfamy (aka Imam Greg), think that:
… people, and I do include me, want a big brotherly government to take care of mundane matters, such as our health care, our retirement, overseeing the quality of goods and services, so we can concentrate our collective minds on American Idol and the exploding Kardashian population.
I’m not picking on Mr. Cobb, I just think that this quote (the understood American Idol and Kardasian sarcasm notwithstanding) is so telling.
So what does that mean? What are the “mundane things” that government is allowed to “take care of” and how much do we hand over to it?
Therein lays the line of demarcation between those of us who believe in capitalism and a constrained government and people like Imam Greg, Professor Progressive, the Communist Crustacean and Komrade Karl, people who believe socialism and in more government.
To be fair, Komrade Karl actually believes that socialism creates a totally free society where each individual is entirely and completely equal because they all work for the betterment of the collective. It is a beautiful concept – but unfortunately a fatally flawed one. It is also a fact that a direct democratic vote in a country of 312,000,000 people is a functional impossibility. We can’t agree in a Senate with only 100 members so can you imagine a national referendum on national highway funding and how those funds are to be distributed and used? Karl also thinks that the elimination of money is a socialist goal, so now think about how difficult it would be to distribute workers to highway projects around the country through some form of managing entity. Chaos.
This is why I maintain that collectivism can only be successful when it is voluntary and in small groups (Joe identified this as being the “cooperative”) – any form of collectivism is simply not scalable to large numbers.
That’s also why collectivists always propose that the “workaround” for this fatal flaw is the creation of an all-encompassing government. The fact of the matter is that there simply can’t be a total dictatorship of the proletariat because there has to be some entity that is created to plan, manage and distribute national output for the imagined “worker’s paradise” to exist.
Once such a governing structure is established, the body politic swings into action – since there must be a prioritization of work based on some criteria, the politics of influence begins as the “needs” of each area are determined…and since one man’s wants are another man’s needs, influence peddling begins. This is why I say that currency is not eliminated in a collectivist society; it just changes from a medium of exchange to a medium of influence. We have spoken of how this works as we quoted F.A. Hayek’s explanation of why the worst get on top in socialist/collectivist socioeconomic systems.
Once the collective attains power through the granting of wishes based on influence, the need for it to be responsive to the proletariat is no more and totalitarianism and autocracy is born.
So, we go back once again to Hayek’s examination of Lenin’s famous question of “Who, Whom?”:
I believe it was Lenin himself who introduced to Russia the famous phrase “who, whom?”– during the early years of Soviet rule the byword in which the people summed up the universal problem of a socialist society. Who plans whom, who directs and dominates whom, who assigns to other people their station in life, and who is to have his due allotted by others? These become necessarily the central issues to be decided solely by the supreme power.
As soon as the state takes upon itself the task of planning the whole economic life, the problem of the due station of the different individuals and groups must indeed inevitably become the central political problem. As the coercive power of the state will alone decide who is to have what, the only power worth having will be a share in the exercise of this directing power. There will be no economic or social questions that would not be political questions in the sense that their solution will depend exclusively on who wields the coercive power, on whose are the views that will prevail on all occasions.
This is an undeniable truth. Collectivism cannot guarantee the ethics or morality of a society any more than capitalism can. A wise man once said:
A corrupt individual is an isolation of corruption; a corrupt government is the institutionalization of it.
Oh, wait – that was me! Maybe not such a wise man but this is true nonetheless. No doubt that Karl would assert that our Republic has the same flaws – but I would respond that those flaws are uniquely allied with the creeping collectivism that has been prosecuted by the progressives over the past 100 years. America is being damned due the the flaws caused by the integration of the very collectivist system that people like Karl want to replace it with. That’s a little like trying to cure a stab wound by stabbing yourself again and again.
The point is that with individual freedom and liberty, we have a choice to associate or disassociate with any facet of a socioeconomic system, corruption included. In a collectivist system, we do not. This is the basis for my assertion that capitalism is the more fair and therefore the more inherently moral system.
As evidenced in Imam Greg’s seminal quote, the root of the issue is that the collectivist defines freedom as “freedom from“, as in freedom from economic risk, from political risk and from social risk. A capitalist defines liberty is as “freedom of“, as in freedom of opportunity, self-determination, liberty. The former requires maximum regulation and control, the latter requires minimum regulation and control. The collectivist confuses safety, security and low risk with liberty, but as we have already proposed, this “security” comes at a cost. We pay for it by surrendering individual liberty to the collective.
In its practical realization, the security of socialism has been historically represented as the enslavement of national populations. It always begins with noble ideals (much as Karl proposes) but it never ends nobly. It usually ends in the oppression of people, then revolution and war…assuming the proletariat has not given away enough of its rights in exchange for the safety and security of its own enslavement.
The historically proven fact is that the only system that has ever guaranteed the individual liberty and prosperity of all of its people has been the capitalist economy and constrained government as represented in the Republic of the United States of America. In the words of Benjamin Franklin when he was queried by Dr. James McHenry as to what form of government was established at the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787:
“A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Whether we can keep it is still a relevant question.