In the minds of many people around the world, including in the United States, the term “capitalism” carries the idea of unfairness, exploitation, undeserved privilege and power, and immoral profit[...]
Author: Richard Ebeling
The Declaration of Independence, proclaimed by members of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, is the founding document of the American experiment in free government. What is too often forgotten is that what the Founding Fathers argued against in the Declaration was the heavy and intrusive hand of big government.
Forty years ago, during the week of June 15-22, 1974, the Austrian School of Economics was reborn during a conference in the small New England town of South Royalton, Vermont. Why was this important? Because the economists of the Austrian School have developed the most persuasive understanding of why only economic freedom can give mankind both liberty and prosperity.
For more than two hundred years, practically all of the leading advocates of individual liberty and free markets have assumed that money and banking were different from other types of goods and markets. From Adam Smith to Milton Friedman, the presumption has been that competitive markets and free consumer choice are far better than government control and planning – except in the realm of money and financial intermediation. They have been wrong on this important issue.
For millions of Americans the Second Amendment and its guarantee of the right of the individual to bear arms appears irrelevant and practically anachronistic. It seems a throwback to those earlier days of the Wild West, when many men, far from the law and order provided by the town sheriff and circuit judge, had to protect their families and land from cattle rustlers and outlaw bands. Such people are wrong.
Governments have an insatiable appetite for the wealth of their subjects. When governments find it impossible to continue raising taxes or borrowing funds, they have invariably turned to printing paper money to finance their growing expenditures. The resulting inflations have often undermined the social fabric, ruined the economy, and sometimes brought revolution and tyranny in their wake. The political economy of the French Revolution is a tragic example of this.
This year marks one hundred years since the beginning of the First World War in the summer of 1914. The Great War, as it used to be called, brought great devastation in its wake. Millions of human lives were lost on the battlefields of Europe; vast amounts of accumulated wealth were consumed to cover the costs of combat; and battles and bombs left a large amount of physical capital in ruins. But the “war to end war,” as it was called, also resulted in another weapon of economic mass destruction – an orgy of paper-money inflations.
A new book by French economist Thomas Piketty on “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” has recently caused a major stir on the opinion pages of newspapers and magazines. Piketty has resurrected from the ash heap of history Karl Marx’s claim that capitalism inescapably leads to a worsening unequal distribution of wealth with dangerous consequences for human society.
A demonstration of just how far the United States has moved from its original founding principles is seen in the fact that in all the jousting over ObamaCare, the general rise in “entitlement” spending, and the burden of government regulation over American enterprises, there is one question that seems rarely to be asked: What should be the size and scope of government, and what would it cost if government were cut down more to the size delineated in the original Constitution?
Regardless of where someone may view himself along the political spectrum (conservative, libertarian, or modern liberal), there are always a variety of government programs and activities that they either think are not worth the money or should not be the business of government in the first place. Yet, it seems almost impossible to rein in government. It keeps growing in size and scope in one direction after another. Why? And is there any way to reverse it?
In whatever direction we turn, we find the heavy hand of government intruding into virtually every aspect of American society. Indeed, it has reached the point that it would a lot easier to list those areas of people’s lives into which government does not impose itself – and, alas, it would be a very short list. But it was not always that way.
If there is one label more than any other that principled advocates of individual liberty are often stamped with it is that they are “extremists.” How can you be so extreme, it is said, what is wrong with a compromise between personal freedom and some “reasonable” degree of government regulation, welfare legislation, and social intervention?
or almost a century, since the end of the First World War in 1918, mankind has been in search of international order and global peace through the political method of international organization. However, instead of peace among men, the last one hundred years as seen almost unending wars, great and small. Maybe it is because men have looked for peace from government rather than from a rebirth of the philosophy of individualism and classical liberalism.
Russian president Vladimir Putin’s power grab and annexation of the Crimea has filled global news headlines as he attempts to reverse what he has called the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century” – the collapse of the Soviet Union. But it needs to be remembered that this conflict has its deeper roots in two ideas that have plagued the world for over two centuries: nationalism and government interventionism into economic affairs.
The Ukrainian-Russian crisis over the de facto occupation of Crimea by Russian military forces, which has enveloped the concerns and fears of the world over the last weeks, revolves around two conflicting claims of national self-determination. It has, once again, brought with it the danger of war on the European continent.
The president of the United States has publicly declared that he knows the minimum wage any worker in the United States should earn as an hourly salary: $10.10. Why not $11.11 or $9.99 has been left a mystery. But what the president is sure of is that businessmen clearly are stonehearted money grabbers exploiting some of their workers by not paying them the real value of what their labor is worth.
Seventy years ago this month, on March 10, 1944, “The Road to Serfdom” by Friedrich A. Hayek was first published in Great Britain. For seven decades it has continued to challenge and influence the political-economic landscape of the world. Hayek delivered an ominous warning that political trends in the Western democracies, including America, were all in the direction of a new form of servitude that threatened the personal and economic liberty of the citizens of these countries.