Liberalism vs. Capitalism

Capitalism has kind of gotten a bad rap, and here in America of all places. Never mind that our unprecedented economic growth can only be attributed to capitalism, the free market, the curiously successful idea that a man should be allowed to keep the fruits of his labor rather than handing ALL or even some of it over to the government. When stated in this manner, most people might say something like “duh, I want to keep what I earn”. The challenge, or the area of concern for me, is the part where people also want a portion of what other people earn. Most people will, if asked, vehemently deny this. However, take a second to phrase it another way: Should the government provide you with needed products or services that you are unable to afford or should the government provide economic relief when you come upon hard times? Most citizens nod fervently, unfortunately. That mindset, in effect, says that the wages of others should be seized by the government to meet any monetary shortfalls another person may encounter. I think we can all agree that the government can not give one dollar to an American who hasn’t earned it without first taking it from an American who has. Thinking along that line of reasoning, who among us is forced to give up his capital? In simple terms, anyone who isn’t dependent on the government already is a source of revenue for government charity. That answer is fairly accurate and a bit misleading only in that the deck is stacked. When the government happens upon a citizen who’s in a bad way it looks to the rich man for the largest portion of economic assistance. That seems “fair”, right? He who has the most gives up the most, right? We need to be careful not to miss the grave implication of that mindset: The more prosperous an American becomes the more vulnerable his earnings are to seizure by the government in the name of charity. This can be interpreted another way: under-achieving is encouraged over hard work.

There are other equally troubling aspects of that policy. Politicians do an exceptional job of stirring up envy and anger towards the “evil, villainous rich man”. You’ll find precious few objections to government appropriation of wealth from people who are consistently, reliably demonized particularly when those appropriations are said to benefit the majority. A political environment that discourages success is bad place to find yourself in.

To facilitate this transfer of wealth (at the expense of the free market), the government has set up a variety of social programs. Social programs are very addictive for both the politician and his constituents.  The converse of that is this: social programs also happen to be very damaging to those hard-working, self-reliant Americans.

            The problem is compounded by a population that is more than willing to trade self-reliance for government dependence and politicians who use this money spent on social programs to buy more votes and, ultimately, more control. A population that has turned over its primary needs to the government, or become government-dependent, is a population that has forfeited its right to keep the fruits of its labor and is easily controlled.

            Understand that, originally, the government functioned at the discretion of the people. However, when the government becomes the arbiter of wealth the people function at the discretion of the government and when the majority of the population depends on the government to meet most of its basic needs there is nothing they can do to regain control of, or get freedom from, the government.

            The other consequence arising from government redistribution is the belief that government knows better how to spend our money than we do or is more benevolent and selfless than we would be and is, therefore, justified in taking whatever portion of our income it determines is acceptable. If the government doesn’t subscribe to that logic THEN WHY CAN’T AMERICANS SIMPLY BE ALLOWED TO KEEP THEIR MONEY? The intent of the founders in the way of government was, in simple terms, local and national security. If that accurately highlights extent of the government’s proper reach then why can’t Americans have the OTHER seventy percent of the federal budget back in their pockets?

            I suppose the next logical question is whether or not there is actually a need for government intervention through redistribution of income. Let’s peek through the lens of history. Did American citizens provide for the needy without funneling their money through the government first when this country was founded? Absolutely! If your neighbor had a need nobody waited for a governing body to act as a conduit. The need was simply met through the private sector with no local or federal mandate. Let me also add that there was never such a great need for welfare until after the program was created.

            I want to pose the challenge that the American people can be trusted with their money. And even if we can’t, well…  it’s still our money! If a particular politician needs my money to make promises of more government entitlement programs in order to garner votes then he may need to make a switch in policy platforms.

           Can we all agree that working, saving, and spending are activities that grow the economy? Certainly! That is a formula that we can all rely on. Taxation, for any reason, makes these activities more expensive. When the cost of saving and creating wealth increases people are inclined to do less of these things and the economy slows. That is another reliable formula. Maybe we could say it this way: The government and free market can not flourish simultaneously. That is only partially accurate though. When the taxation is decreased we see an instant surge in economic growth and individual, pre-tax incomes. Revenues going into the government increase as a byproduct of free market success. So long as politicians don’t see that as a green light to expand government the cycle can be allowed to continue.

         Of course how does this capitalistic greed affect the “proletariat”? There is no better, more productive, more beneficial social program in existence today than a private-sector job. It is a means by which Americans can extract money from other Americans while, at the same time, providing a product or service in exchange. A job will, or at least should, provide a better standard of living than a government handout. A flourishing free market will provide far more jobs than the government can provide welfare checks.

         My employer is a sterling example of corporate greed. He wants to grow his business and increase his income. However, he can not line his pockets with more cash without his employees encountering increased income as well. His business can not expand independently of his payroll, at least not sustainably. Consequently, he treats his employees like gold, like they are his most important asset. Smart, prosperous business owners must take this approach to attain consistent, lasting success. That sort of puts a dent in the whole exploitive bourgeois theory and liberalism/Marxism in general.

        Wealthy capitalists also benefit the economy in another way. Besides employing people they also spend their money. Sitting on a mountain of dollars is like sitting on a pile of I-owe-yous. Nobody needs to swipe their money (including the government). Pieces of paper are useless to them or anyone else for the matter. Wealthy Americans will happily exchange that useless paper for a product or service of value to them. That is where you or I come in. We provide whatever good or service we have to offer and the useless I-owe-yous get transferred into my pocket or yours. Now WE are the evil rich man, at least if we provided a particularly valuable or necessary good or service.

       Can everybody be rich? Is there a limitless supply of money? Well there is a nearly unlimited supply of ink and paper and there are definitely no limits placed people offering useful products or services. So, yes, everyone can earn enough income to satisfy and even far exceed their needs.

          No country in the world has proven that more effectively than America. The government has made greater strides in ensuring that success is harder to realize by swiping a bigger portion of every business transaction and every pay check than it has at any other time in our nation’s history. The solution to our financial struggles is not increased taxation and more burdensome government control through regulation. To achieve a good economy and individual prosperity we need to remove the biggest obstacle the free market faces: the government! That isn’t to say the government shouldn’t exist, but, rather, that the government shouldn’t exist as an obstacle to achievement and an avid supporter of slothfulness.