Columnist George Will recently spoke at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in Washington, DC. He described the current political divide in our nation as a struggle between two polar values of western political thought; freedom and equality. Will, who describes himself as a man who works as a political columnist to support his baseball watching habit, offered a number of insightful comments during his speech. You can view Wills speech at
My favorite economist, Milton Friedman, once said, “The country that values equality over freedom will have little of either. The country that values freedom over equality will have a great deal of both.” History bears him out. The old Soviet Union (USSR) embraced the principle that all of its citizens should have equality of outcome, even to the point of insisting that the government should own and run all economic enterprises. Over the seventy-two years (1917-1989) of their grand experiment, the communists largely achieved that goal, but not in the way that the Russian people would appreciate. Indeed, roughly 99.7 percent of the Russian people did experience equality; they became equally poor. But for the top three-tenths of one percent of Russians who were in the higher echelons of the Communist party, life was good indeed.
The Russians weren’t the only nation to claim that equality should triumph over personal freedom. The Indians, under Nehru, copied the Russian economic model, crippling their democracy economically for the first fifty years of its existence. Only in the mid 90’s did the Indians figure out that free markets are the roadmap to prosperity. Likewise, the Chinese prospered only when their people were allowed to own and operate private enterprises in the 1990’s.
During the same 73 years that the Russians, Chinese and Indians suffered, average Americans prospered by comparison. The United States became the place where people from all over the world longed to live. In contrast with other nations, in the United States there was a distinct separation between private and public ownership. Comparatively, government intervention into the economic and personal lives of its citizens was subdued in the United States compared to other countries. Consequently, we prospered while they struggled.
Since the Republicans reneged on their 1994 “contract with America” the United States has moved rapidly toward an economic model that is supposed to guarantee “equality of results.” Americans are to have free health care, low cost housing, fuel assistance, and God knows what else. Crony capitalism has replaced true competition. We no longer have a profit and loss system, but a profit and “too big to fail” system. Under Obama it has gotten worse; dependence on government is not just part of the national debate, but is now part of the national agenda.
Our children are subjected to attending crappy government schools run by bloated teachers unions. Government employees make 34% more than private sector employees, with 70% higher fringe benefits. The American Academy of Pediatrics has requested that the government require choking hazard labels on hot dogs. The carbon dioxide we exhale from our lungs is now considered by the EPA to be a toxic substance. Americans are now told that we will be forced to worship at the altar of the Church of Climate Change, where our “tithing” is conveniently added to our utility bills.
Last week I told my economics students that I subscribed to a radical idea that is apparently not accepted by most Americans. That “radical idea” is that “I can control and run my life better than anyone else on earth or than by anyone they can appoint.” I know that there are millions and millions of Americans that agree with me, but with our recent mad dash toward government dependence, I’m sometimes discouraged. We’ll find out for sure which direction Americans want to go on November 2, 1010.