Wrong state of mind 2

Why do economic achievers, like George Soros for instance, who made their splendid fortunes because they had the freedom to do so, want to close that freedom to others? Or to put it another way, why do some who have benefited spectacularly from capitalism then go and vote for socialism and promote anti-free market causes?

We don’t know the answer to that question. There are a number of possible reasons, one of them being that a person might be very good at making money and yet be quite stupid.

Here’s an example of a German magnate who believes that individuals should not be allowed to make decisions for themselves, that bureaucrats know what is best for everybody, and the state should control and distribute the resources of the nation. He speaks for hundreds of millions of Europeans, which is why many European countries – Greece is a case in point – are facing economic ruin.

The story is told in Investor’s Business Daily. We emphatically agree with the editorial opinion.

An ultrawealthy German criticizes private charity, saying it takes “the place of the state.” More disturbing than the statement itself is the sad fact that many in the Western world agree with him.

Der Spiegel reported last week that “Germany’s super-rich have rejected” an invitation to join Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s “Giving Pledge,” in which the wealthy promise to give away a majority of their fortunes “either during their lifetime or after their death.” Wealthy Germans, Spiegel says, believe “donations shouldn’t replace duties that would be better carried out by the state.” Among them is a bitter Peter Kramer.

“I find the U.S. initiative highly problematic,” Kramer, a Hamburg-based shipping magnate, said in a Spiegel interview. “You can write donations off in your taxes to a large degree in the U.S.A. So the rich make a choice: Would I rather donate or pay taxes? The donors are taking the place of the state. That’s unacceptable.

What is apparently acceptable to these wealthy Germans is the unlimited authority of the state and the prerogative it’s given itself to restrict people’s choices.

“It is all just a bad transfer of power from the state to billionaires,” Kramer continues. … “What legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow?”

Is it legitimate for the state to demand wealth from some so it can give it to others? …

Money handed out by the state is taken from productive citizens, then distributed through the corrupt and inefficient system of politics … It’s a system based on coercion.

Even better than private charity is private enterprise. Markets meet needs by creating wealth and growing economies. No system can match capitalism in its ability to bring prosperity to so many.

While there’s a place for charity, it’s merely a patch and should be used with great care. There’s no place, though, for forced redistribution. What’s chilling is that so many still believe there is.

Posted under Commentary, Conservatism, Economics, Europe, Germany, liberty, Socialism, United States by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, August 17, 2010

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Less free, therefore less prosperous 0

We agree wholly with the opinion we quote here, though the author does not seem to believe as we do that Obama does not want America to be free. He is a collectivist, a redistributionist, a socialist. To reduce individual freedom, to replace the free market with centralized control of the economy, to expand government is what he is about.

From the Washington Times:

Consider our recent economic policy. In late 2008, the specter of a financial meltdown triggered dangerous decisions under President Bush. He approved an unprecedented intervention in the financial sector – the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program – which actually fed the crisis. Instead of changing course, President Obama not only doubled down on those decisions, but went even further, in the belief that only bigger government can “lift us from a recession this deep and severe.” …

In December, the U.S. economy lost an additional 85,000 jobs. Despite all the bailouts and stimulus spending, the economy shed 3.4 million net jobs in 2009. But while employment has shrunk, the federal deficit has ballooned. One year after Mr. Obama took office, the deficit has grown to $1.4 trillion. His 10-year budget will add $13 trillion to the national debt by 2019. …

The bad news is that the United States is falling behind. The 2010 Index of Economic Freedom, released Wednesday, finds that the U.S. experienced the most precipitous drop in economic freedom among the world’s top 20 economies (as measured by the gross domestic product). The decline was steep enough to tumble the U.S. from the ranks of truly “free” economies. We are now numbered among the ranks of the “mostly free” – the same as Botswana, Belgium and Sweden. Canada now stands as the sole beacon of economic freedom in North America, getting a higher score on the economic-freedom Index than the United States.

On the index’s 100-point scale of economic freedom, the U.S. fell 2.7 points. Canada’s score dropped, too, but only one-tenth of a point. Meanwhile, countries such as Germany, France, Poland, Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Indonesia managed to maintain or even improve their scores, despite the economic crisis.

Why? In large measure, it’s because of the way Washington has exacerbated the financial and economic crisis since 2008. By June of last year, when we cut off data collection in order to begin our analysis, Washington’s interventionist policies had already caused a decline in seven of the 10 categories of economic freedom we measure. Particularly significant were declines in financial freedom, monetary freedom and property rights.

Conditions attached to large government bailouts of financial and automotive firms significantly undermined investors’ property rights. Additionally, politically influenced regulatory changes – such as the imposition of executive salary caps – have had perverse effects, discouraging entrepreneurship and job creation and slowing recovery. On top of this, we had massive stimulus spending that is leading to unprecedented deficits….

We are heading the wrong way. The index, co-published annually by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, has become a “leading indicator” of economic vitality, but other surveys also show that when economic freedom drops, falling opportunity and declining prosperity follow. Unless Washington takes steps to reverse the poor decisions it has made, Americans can expect a long and difficult time ahead.

The good news is that we’ve been here before, and we’ve turned things around before. There’s no reason we can’t do that again. Poll after poll demonstrates that the American people understand this, even if their politicians don’t. They clearly want Washington to gather up the political will to do things such as lowering taxes and reducing regulation and massive spending that feeds the federal debt. We need to unleash the power of the market to create jobs and to reclaim our competitive edge in the global economy. …

The less government intervenes in our lives and our economy, the freer and more prosperous we can become. The choices Mr. Obama takes in the future will determine whether America remains a land of opportunity and can reclaim its international reputation as “the land of the free.”

View the Index of Economic Freedom list here.

A free market in ideas 3

One of our readers, Nietrick, has raised a very important question: who are acceptable political fellow travelers ? The US has a two party system, so if power to make law is desired, we are left with a choice between the GOP and the Democratic Party.   I would guess that many atheists are Democrat, because they associate Republicans, or conservatives generally,  with the religious.  And statistically they would be right. But they must also have an ideological leaning towards collectivism, and an anti-free-market, authoritarian government. (Perhaps the bias is inspired by the wish to squash religion.)  For an atheist to consider himself a Republican, the free-market, individual freedom and  small (federal) government principles must be of paramount importance. If the religious vote Republican because they want government either to legislate religious values, or because it is more likely to support values that are traditionally in line with religious beliefs (heterosexual marriage, pro-life, creationism), does the GOP become a hostile place for a rational, free-market atheist?  No.  Leaving out the extreme religious agenda (establishing a state upon a constitution based on fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible),  political policies attached to marriage and abortion should be decided at the State level. The GOP has been a strong supporter of States’ rights precisely because it allows local majorities to decide social issues – and therefore allows for the most self-determination, and diversity. Should Kansas decide to demand creationism be taught in schools, foolish as it is, it has only local effect, and individuals are still free to work around it. Meanwhile, other states will ban creationism from science class to another forum, or altogether. Given the need for qualified scientists, I believe that the creationist jurisdictions will fade away.  Indeed,  I believe that the free market permits the free market of ideas, and backward leaning ideas will be crowded out as they always eventually have been, by innovation and progress, which occur only under free-market and individual liberty systems. For these reasons, I believe that for atheists who want rationality to flourish and individuals to arrange their lives as they will (within the law),  the GOP is the right choice, although there are more atheists on the other side. I would also add that the left desires a uniformity of opinion, which we are seeing propagandized nationwide in schools, whereas the right likes  genuine diversity of ideas.

C. Gee  September 2009