Saturday, February 28, 2009

Central Planning and the Erosion of Liberty

Listening to President Obama's speech last Tuesday triggered many thoughts. Perhaps the one which hit me the hardest is that he is doing exactly what he was elected to do: design and implement government programs to actively "fix" the economy. But there is a massive problem with using government to actively solve our problems. To the very extent it "solves" our problems, it robs us of our liberty.

The political thought in this country has shifted from the time of the founding. The constitution was designed to create an environment of security and freedom which would allow individuals to live their lives and pursue their chosen values with minimal government interference--that means solving their own problems. The purpose and structure of government was simply to establish objective and predictable laws to protect individuals from the violation of their rights to Life, Liberty and Property--not just by fellow citizens, but more importantly, by the government itself.

Limiting government to the setting up and enforcement of the "rules of fair play" is no longer the major focus of politics. Politicians are elected based on their promises to intervene in the private affairs of men, pitting one special interest group against another, each jostling for a piece of taxpayer money (or more accurately, future taxpayer money as we go further and further into debt.) Politicians are reelected based on their ability to deliver the goods and to solve our problems for us.

But acting to solve our problems, to "fix the economy" means increasing government control. Government control means central planning. Central planning involves preempting and crowding out individual planning. Central planning's most fundamental essence is the deprivation of individual liberty.*

Let me repeat that:

Central planning's most fundamental essence is the deprivation of individual liberty.

Central planning substitutes the priorities and decisions of private individuals with the priorities and decisions of politicians. Instead of acting as a disinterested umpire, government has become the most powerful player on the field. The most fundamental requirements of liberty--the Rule of Law and the right to private property (which includes the presence of sound money)--are being actively undermined. Interestingly, these principles are also the same ones which allow and promote a prosperous, growing economy.

Arbitrary changes in policy and procedures, such as what we have seen in the recent actions of the the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve, both violate property rights and create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, destroying the predictability necessary for private economic planning. Raising taxes and bailing out insolvent businesses and individuals punishes those who have been prudent and efficient users of resources and rewards those whose poor choices have led to waste and failure. Expanding the role and burden of government has been shown time and time again to hinder economic growth**, and yet this administration (and the previous one) are attempting to defy both theory and evidence.

But getting back to my original point, these actions are what the populace seems to be clambering for. Until the general public regains its understanding of the proper role of government, we will continue to have leaders who attempt the impossible.

“You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.”
---Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931-2005

*Those who wish to place "community" ahead of the individual will often incorrectly equate liberty with license in attempt to justify the imposition of their central plans upon others. True liberty is simply freedom from the initiation of force (and of fraud, that sneaky and non-violent form of force.) Liberty is not "doing whatever you like." One man's freedom ends where another man's begins. Equality before the law is the principle which embodies this principle--and invalidates all the political claims of special interests.

**See Economic Freedom of the World, the Index of Economic Freedom , the Global Competitiveness Report, The Noblest Triumph, The Capitalist Manifesto, The Conquest of Poverty, The Improving State of the World, Ultimate Resource 2



Unknown said...

And since man doesn't have the right to exist for his own sake anyway, it's all justified. We'll let disinterested parties "fairly" allocate "resources" to ensure "equality".

Funny how a nation that at one point heroically ended slavery has become one were many (most?) are now begging to be enslaved, from salary caps to socialized medicine.

There's a long road ahead.

Michael Labeit said...

It is a great irony that prosperity affords posterity the luxury of forgetting its origins. Though not a hard-and-fast rule of societal evolution, generations who grow up wealthy often lack respect for or understanding of the values and ideas that generated the very wealth from which they benefit.

-Isaac M. Morehouse

Lynne said...

It certainly seems that we are getting the government we deserve.

Other than educating ourselves, what else, if anything, can we possibly do to help rein in the call for this massive crushing infestation of federal government?

What kind of effort will best further the idea of the proper limited role of government to the general public?