A Radical Belief?

Like everyone who is employed as a University Professor, I have an opportunity to influence the thinking of impressionable young people.  This is a solemn responsibility.  During the first day of class I tell my students that the root word describing “Professor” is the word “profess.”  According to Webster’s dictionary, to profess is “to confess one’s faith in or allegiance to” or “practice or claim to be versed in a calling or profession.”

I go on to tell them that I’ve been a student of economics for nearly forty years.  In that time I’ve examined economic systems and have absolutely no doubt that free market capitalism (as contrasted with socialism in its various forms) is the best economic system to maximize the personal freedom and material wealth of the average person.  I tell them that there are other professors at the university that disagree with me intensely and that If they want to take a course from a raving Marxist, they should do so.  That’s why they go to college; to sample the various courses and professorial views on the “collegiate buffet table”.  As liberally educated human beings, it is up to them to work out for themselves where they stand on the great debates of the ages.

To avoid anarchy we need government to provide for the national defense, establish a court system to mediate private contract disputes, to supply local police forces to enforce court decisions, and to mitigate market failure (such as making sure the back flow valves were installed on drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico).  These functions, however, can be accomplished with a government one-third the size of the government we currently have.  The question always arises, “How much should government involve itself in the decisions of private citizens and firms?”

My response is to tell my students that I hold a radical belief.  That belief is that “I am better able to control my own life than anyone else on earth.”  This means that as long as I don’t violate the property rights of others, I want to be free to make my own decisions and to suffer the rewards or negative consequences of those decisions.  If I succeed, it is to my credit.  If I fail, it is my disgrace.  Life is neither kind nor fair.  Each of us goes through periods of joy and elation, often punctuated by sadness and despair.  We rely on friends and family to assist us when we suffer from calamity that is not our own making, thereby accepting the responsibility to help others when they suffer the same misfortunes.   Such are the actions of responsible people in a free society.

Only a limited government can provide the unfettered economic environment that encourages the creative activities of people.  Governments that excessively regulate or tax people and their enterprise simply reduce economic activity and the jobs that economic freedom provides.  The United States of America asserted itself as the world’s major economic and military power during the twentieth century largely because our size of government and its regulations was small, relative to competing nations.

The President of the United States is a community organizer.  His entire career has been predicated on the proposition that money comes from Government and it is spent on programs like providing “smoking cessation” counselors in the inner cities.  He is either unfamiliar with or oblivious to the lessons of economic history.  It is not too late to keep our nation from teetering over the cliff of European socialism (or worse).

As we reel from the effects of Wall Street bailouts, failed “stimulus” plans, the attempted socialization of heath care, and cap and trade legislation, it is time for the voters of this great nation to wake up.  Voters who sleep-walk past the next election and don’t insist on reducing the absolute size of government in the United States will do so at their own peril.  They will be more than merely negligent; they will be complicit players in the destruction of the American dream.

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