Posts Tagged ‘individualism’

            When the founders spoke of limited government they meant it.  Washington’s first administration consisted of the Departments of War for security, State for diplomacy to avoid war, the Attorney General to maintain the Rule of Law, and the Treasury to raise the money for the other three departments, mainly through tariffs, and to provide a stable currency to promote commerce.  The budget was an estimated 2% of the new nation’s economy.  The Revolution was the culmination of a two century pursuit of individual liberty over tyrannical monarchies.  Individualist virtues of independence, self reliance, individual initiative, local responsibility, voluntary cooperation, willingness to bear risk, non-interference with one’s neighbors, tolerance of the different, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority had won out.

            Contrast this with the National Socialist Party in Germany before World War II.  A founding principle of the party was the individual has no rights, only duties.  Government, driven by someone’s ideas of social justice, must have absolute power to organize society for its purposes.  When do individual rights disappear?  Friedrich A. Hayek wrote in his seminal work on the battle between individualism and socialism, “Once the communal sector, in which the state controls all the means, exceeds a certain proportion of the whole, the effects of its actions dominate the whole system.” 

            Hayek, once responsible for collecting economic data in Austria, estimates this occurred in Nazi Germany when the government controlled 53% of the national income.  By the way, if you are looking for a clear understanding of individual liberty, you need to read “The Road To Serfdom”.  Milton Friedman wrote in his introduction of the fiftieth edition in 1994, “Over the years, I have made it a practice to inquire of believers in individualism how they came to depart from the collectivist orthodoxy of our times.  For years, the most frequent answer was a reference to the book for which I have the honor of writing this introduction.”

            Where do we stand on this road to socialism?  By 1900 government spending was only 3% of the nations’ income, by 1950, 24% and by 2009, 47%.  Now add industries targeted by current government initiatives such as private health care and insurance at 7%, banking at 7%, and energy production at 13%, and we will easily exceed the point where government controls everything. 

             Not convinced?

             Read these prophetic lines from Hayek written in 1944, “We can rely on voluntary agreement to guide the actions of the state so long as it is confined to spheres where agreement exists.  But only when the state undertakes direct control in fields where there is no such agreement is it bound to suppress individual freedom.”  Compare this to the clarity we have gotten from those trying to save the health care bill since the Massachusetts election.  They now talk about two key goals of reform and the problems of meeting these goals.  One is to stop insurance companies from refusing coverage to people already suffering medical problems.  But this requires forcing everyone to buy coverage so healthy young people won’t wait until they need coverage.  This mandate comes with fines and even jail terms!  The second goal is to expand coverage to more low income people.  This requires government subsidies so they can afford the premiums.  The money for this must come from the forced transfer of wealth in the form of higher taxes on everyone else.  You already know the penalties for not paying taxes.  This clearly is an example of government passing socialist laws where there is no consensus agreement so it can only be done by suppressing individual freedom.  It is sad some people get caught without coverage but turn to Hayek again for this wisdom, “We shall never prevent the abuse of power if we are not prepared to limit power in a way which occasionally may also prevent its use for desirable purposes”.  Freedom comes with risks.

            This is my first blog.  I wanted to establish the basis for my writing.  Future blogs will address creeping socialism that can only lead to our complete loss of freedom.  It is not enough to slow the creep as Reagan did.  It must be reversed and that will require education.  The majority of people in this country still would tell you they support the individualist virtues summarized in the first paragraph.  They don’t realize how far we have moved in the wrong direction. 

David T. Stevenson 1/27/10

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