The recent vote within the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union has once again implicitly raised the issue of the right of self-determination through secession. In other words, do individuals have a right to determine under which political authority they shall live and be represented?
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.
The political and financial establishments of Europe and the United States were taken by almost total surprise and sent into apparent shock when 52 percent of the voters in the United Kingdom chose for their country to leave the European Union (EU). But it is not the end of the world as we know it, and can be a positive sign and example of opposition to unrepresentative and centralized bureaucratic control over people’s lives.
Commentators from the political “left” as well as the “right” have attempted to analyze and dissect the rise and appeal of Donald Trump. The reality is, I would suggest, is that he represents the essence of the modern interventionist state, with its regulated economy and redistributive politics.
Listening to the presumptive Republican and Democratic candidates for the White House, the average voter would think that international trade and investment is a zero sum game in which there is a “winner” and a “loser.” Their economic policy assumption is that other countries are gaining at the international trade game at the expense of the United States.
America! For more than 250 years the word has represented hope, opportunity, a second chance, and freedom. In America the accident of a man’s birth did not have to serve as an inescapable weight that dictated a person’s fate or that of his family. The American identity is shaped, not predetermined. We are a society of the free.
The history of liberty and prosperity is inseparable from the practice of free enterprise and respect for the rule of law. Both are products of the spirit of classical liberalism. But a correct understanding of free enterprise, the rule of law, and liberalism (rightly understood) is greatly lacking in the world today.
The world is threatened with a renewed wave of anti-capitalism and anti-business sentiments and policies. Many who cheered the demise of Soviet communism in the early 1990s, presumed that this meant that, by default, the case for free markets and competitive enterprise had won in the battle of ideas. Over the last twenty-five years it has become clear that the same misguided arguments against free market capitalism constantly reemerge, like an ideological vampire waiting to rise from the intellectual grave and drain market freedom of its lifeblood by more government regulations and controls.
What does freedom mean? What is the purpose of government? And what should be the government’s relationship to each of us as individuals and as members of society as a whole? These issues recently came up during a dinner conversation with a new acquaintance with whom I’d not previously had such a discussion.
The daily and unending bombardment of political campaign reporting and news, with its “drama” about who will be the Republican and Democratic Party candidates for the U.S. presidency, hides from view the continuing and real choice facing the American public: freedom or statism, individual liberty or government control.
Let us be clear. We are living, right now, in a time of emotional fear, hysterical anger, illogical demands, and dangerous temptations. In other words, liberty and prosperity are at risk. A decent and tolerant society is threatened. Common principles of humanity are being undermined.
Political campaign years are filled with candidates’ promises to solve people’s problems. Government policies will “create jobs,” will reduce or even block the “unfair” competition of market rivals in foreign lands, will restore or create prosperity for all, and will assure “fairness” for everyone, even if it means imposing regulatory or special tax burdens on some to guarantee politically provided privileges and benefits for others who are deemed “deserving.”
Sometimes there are men of principle who live their values and not merely speak or write about them. People who stand up to political evil at their own risk, and then go on to say and do things that help to remake their country in the aftermath of war and destruction. One such individual was the German, free-market economist, Wilhelm Röpke.
Presidential election years, more than many others, focuses our attention on politics, those running for political office, and the promises the competing candidates make to sway our allegiance and votes toward one or some of them in comparison to others. They want us to give them political power by promising to use that power to benefit some of us in ways that can only come at the expense of others in society.
Eighty years go, on February 4, 1936, one of the most influential books of the last one hundred years was published, British economist, John Maynard Keynes’s The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. With it was born what has become known as Keynesian Economics.
The news is filled with the everyday zigzags of those competing against each other for the Democrat and Republican Party nominations to run for the presidency of the United States. But one of the most important issues receiving little or no attention in this circus of political power lusting is the long-term danger from the huge and rising Federal government debt.
What is the role of government in society? This has been and remains the most fundamental question in all political discussions and debates. Its answer determines the nature of the social order and how people are expected and allowed to interact with one another – on the basis of either force or freedom.
President Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union address on January 12, 2016, and devoted most of the time to defending his “legacy” of bigger and more intrusive government, with an emphasis on the other aspects of personal and social life he wished could come under the blanket of more political paternalism, if only there was enough time before he leaves office on January 20, 2017.
This year, 2016, will mark the twentieth-fifth anniversary of the end of the Soviet Union from the political map of the world. A quarter of a century ago, the menace of Soviet-led communism, which had haunted the globe since the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917, disintegrated from within and passed into the dustbin of history.
Wherever we turn we are confronted with politicians, political pundits, television talking heads, and editorial page commentators, all of whom offer an array of plans, programs, and projects that will solve the problems of the world – if only government is given the power and authority to remake society in the design proposed.