Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Biggest Mistakes in History Part 5

One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”  - Milton Friedman

I’ve always thought the above quote was flawed.  It seems to me that judging results in order to evaluate government programs is a false approach.  All you get are lies, propaganda and glowing statistics from those who favor such programs. You’ll never get into a substantive debate about the real issues such as the role of government and the role of liberty or even the nature of rights.  You wind up with an endless debate about what works and what doesn’t – which reduces the debate to a fruitless discussion of how much force should be exerted against citizens.  This approach cedes the basic principle to the progressives and leaves the door open to more force in the long-run.

Yet, when I recently saw Professor Friedman’s quote again on a Facebook post, it reminded me that he was also referring to a cognitive issue.  There is a reason why progressives focus more on the intentions of their policies than on the results.   Their overall intellectual level, their disdain for logic and clear reasoning, their inability to see cause and effect as well as their erroneous use of a presumed moral mandate have blinded them to reality.   Like thugs, who do not deserve the power their government-issued guns afford, they have convinced themselves that their poorly conceived intentions are moral and this gives them the right to demand that men provide the funds to support them. 

The idea that “moral” intentions justify government force is flawed at base.  To explain this, we must understand how people define the good in society.  There are essentially three methods.  The first is that the good is defined by God, the second, that it is defined by the collective and the third is that it is defined by the individual for himself.(1)

The first two approaches to the good have always presented problems for society.  Firstly, both approaches have been imposed upon men by means of that moral mandate we mentioned, a social contract, the will of the people or brute force.  Secondly, they are justified by fallible individuals who claim to be the voice of God or the voice of the people.  Who can argue with God, the first group asks, while the second asks who can argue with the will of the people?  Finally, these two views of the good don’t provide a standard for what the good actually is.  The first holds that the good is intrinsic, made right simply because God has deemed it while the second group holds that the good is whatever society decides.  Both approaches subject society to the whims of men who do not have special knowledge.  These two views are the sources of tyranny and the American Revolution was a rebellion against them. 

The Founders of our society had a different view.  They knew that each individual was sovereign and had the right to the pursuit of happiness.  For them, this right was real, and neither men nor society should be allowed to violate it.  This implied that the individual was responsible for deciding the good for himself according to his own standards.  The implication of this view is that the individual should be free to use reason and apply it to his life.  It held that he had the right to apply his best knowledge to any problem or, if he makes a mistake, to pursue and apply new knowledge that corrects the mistake.

Notice that in letting the individual decide the good for himself, we prohibit the other two views from being imposed upon man. This shows the moral power of self-sufficiency and how clearly the Founders knew that freedom was a moral issue.  In addition, letting the individual decide for himself is the best way to ensure that most of the solutions men define will be based upon a correct ascertainment of reality and a clear connection between free will and success in life.  This individualist view liberates people to be “reality-based”; realistic and constantly learning because no one has made the final decision for them to follow.  It holds that life is a process of growth and improvement for those men who choose to think.

This is why capitalism (2) is such a successful system; it enables reason and leaves men free to judge reality based upon their own learning and knowledge rather than that of a government technocrat.  What one man decides will likely also be decided by other thinking men since all are focused on reality rather than ancient scripts and the dictates of Mao interpreting Marx.

I’ve noticed that many young people today do not realize that their freedom directly leads to their ability to make a profit.  They are unaware that collectivism, the idea that the collective determines the good, destroys profit and the ability to flourish.  The collectivist ideas taught to them in school destroy their ability to live according to their own thinking; to live by their own minds and this destroys their ability to compete and profit from their work.  In fact, they have lost the knowledge of recent history that exposes the flaws of collectivism.  That recent history was that of East and West Germany. 

The poverty of the communist east before Reagan was due to the fact that socialism/communism defined the “good” intentions for which people were forced to work.  Many people who lived in East Germany remember how poor society had become and how demoralized people were that they could do nothing about it.  I remember seeing filthy and poorly dressed East Germans visiting their relatives in the West; the contrast between them was palpable.  It was easy to identify them; their dress, grooming, lack of self-confidence were clear signals that they had not been raised in the West.  Their West German relatives, on the other hand, were prosperous, clean, well-groomed and self-confident.  Their homes had new furniture and television sets and their towns were clean and well maintained.  Later, while visiting East Berlin, I noticed the decrepit buildings, the often un-bathed people and their silent despair.  Today, we are being asked to give up our freedoms in order to establish similar conditions in America. 

East and West Germany were testaments to the power of ideas.  People’s lives were directly affected by whether they were asked to sacrifice for the collective or work toward their own well-being.  The idea that the collective is all powerful, that it defines the good toward which people should work, stood in stark contrast to the idea that people should be free to think and determine their own destinies by means of their own thinking.  West Germany was a country of tall buildings and vibrant affluence whose people enjoyed life; whereas East Germany was a country where the tallest buildings were the massive towers from which they were watched by their government, where technology was used to spy on people rather than improve their lives.

The actual cause of affluence in society is capitalism not re-distribution.  In a capitalist system, productive citizens are allowed to keep their earnings and invest them as they see fit.  The result is more jobs and more people earning enough money to buy an ever growing inventory of newly produced products.  Capitalism reduces the poverty rolls because it creates jobs for people and turns people into producers (and consumers).  Capitalism also raises standards of living and creates a “snowball” effect where the more capital that productive citizens accumulate, the better are the capital improvements in society.  In other words, capital accumulation and the free flow of capital in a capitalist system mean better highways, better electricity grids, better manufacturing facilities, better homes, better jobs, better communication networks, etc., all of which affect the long-term comfort of people and the viability of society. 

Imagine the surprise of the East Germans when they saw the large numbers of products and services that their West German relatives were routinely enjoying.  What they felt was betrayal because they had been taught in school that the west was poor and collapsing.  They realized that what they saw everywhere could not be a mere show designed to fool them.  They knew that the prosperity they saw was capitalism…many of them cried to have been so massively deceived.

Why was the difference between east and west so stark?  Why did the same ideas of today’s progressives cause the communist system to regress in such a way?  Why was everything collapsing in the east and shooting up in the west?  Why wasn’t socialism able to create the improvements that capitalism put within the grasp of the even poorest citizens?  Progressive policies and programs actually destroy progress and bring people poverty and decay.  The progressives are really the “regressives.”

To show that progressivism causes society to regress, we must remember what the progressives have always promised.  Their main value to society, they claim, is that they are expanding freedoms for those who are supposedly left behind by capitalism.  For instance, capitalism provides the freedom of upward mobility and secure jobs while the progressives promise to advance beyond these to welfare, unemployment insurance, higher wages and union protection (to name a few).  Yet, the freedoms promised by progressives come at a price; they must be paid for by money taken from the producers, the factory owners, the wealthier and the middle class.  Where the freedom offered by capitalist society is the freedom to act, the “freedom” offered by progressivism is the freedom not to act, paid for by those who act.  Progressives promise to extend freedom but they do it by enslaving a part of society – those who are able to satisfy their own wants.  Progressivism harms the best and most productive among us in order to extend invented “freedoms” to the less productive.  This is not merely a new definition of freedom; it is a bait and switch.

Another example of regressive government policies is socialized medicine.  A government program that is intended to increase the availability of medical care will actually decrease that availability and destroy medical care in the long run.  By claiming a “right” to free medical care for the poor, the government is defining “social justice”, while disregarding the natural rights of doctors and others in the medical industry.  By interfering in the profits of medical industry professionals (who must make profits in order to stay in business), the government is turning these professionals into government employees beholden to the decisions of bureaucrats.  On a minute-by-minute basis, all medical decisions are subordinated to a bureaucrat’s view of “social responsibility” rather than giving the patient proper care.  The overall result is a slave camp professing a love for mankind.  “Arbeit Macht Frei.”

In a socialized medical system, the targets to be exploited are doctors, medical professionals and other private companies dedicated to providing products and cures.  Doctors will be monitored and evaluated, ostensibly to root out fraud, so government can justify paying them less for their services.  This reduces their profits and re-distributes them to people who get free care or drugs.  The same would go for other medical professionals that government would unionize.  Unionism would force the more productive nurses and specialists to work harder to prevent the less productive from harming or killing patients.  Private industry organizations would face huge compliance standards and reporting requirements as well as provide free services and products, all of which reduce their profits and re-distributes their money to the bureaucrats and poor. 

Socialized medicine is actually a vast re-distribution scheme where the most talented and able are forced out of the system precisely because of their special knowledge and skills.  By taking the profits out of medical care, the socialized system destroys those providing the best products and offering the most cures.  The medical industry will have its profits wrung out of it by various reforms so that some patients can get their care for free.  The result will be fewer doctors, fewer medical industry professionals and fewer companies competing for a dwindling medical dollar.  The result will be lower quality care available to fewer people, long lines and stressed out medical workers who no longer enjoy their jobs, not to mention people who die while waiting for treatments. 

Once again, the solution to providing better medical care to more people is capitalism.  Capitalism enables capital accumulation (since there are no taxes) and this enables private research and development over long periods.  The incentive of huge profits would drive the industry to produce better and less expensive cures over time.  Products or cures that work best find customers who are able to pay for them while production improvements and additional research bring the cost of the more expensive cures down over time.  Eventually, what were once expensive cures are brought down within the budgets of more people.  Private insurance that is truly free is able to help people bear the costs of highly expensive cures while patients responsible for their own health care pay out of pocket for more common sicknesses.  As the health care “system” grows, more and more people live longer lives.

We could engage in this exercise for virtually every “intention” of the progressives and we will find that coercive, re-distributive measures actually slow progress.  Every re-distribution program is a de facto transfer of money and, therefore, it is possible for someone somewhere to skim, either by being allowed to raise prices to exorbitant levels or by stealing.  Payoffs, bribes, government “investments” and extortion become the order of the day.  And the more massive the government program, the more massive is the money laundering it enables. 

The idea that the collective determines the "good" in society is called collectivism. Collective unity is glorified as a panacea for all problems today and is considered by many to be a wonderful expression of group strength and survivability.  In fact, President Obama often speaks about the collective spirit of our forebears as if collectivism, sacrifice for others, and not individualism, made America strong.  This is a deliberate deception.  The President wants to associate collective sacrifice with strength in America.  If he can make sacrifice into the highest value of society, there will be no end to the sacrificing – and no end to the money laundering. 

Collectivism is one of the most evil ideas in history.  It is the cause of much of the evil that has been done on the planet.  It is the refuge of the dictator and mass murderer who uses the idea to force people into herds of mindless slaves.  Collectivism despoils society and life and it forces people to give up their minds and self-respect.  It forces them to join a “unity” that demands self-sacrifice and destroys self-esteem.  It makes everything dirty in society because it forces the individual to assume that someone else will do something and it relieves the beneficiary of the responsibility for his or her life.  When nothing gets done, the leaders blame those of ability for not sacrificing enough.  Collectivism always destroys the most able and removes them from society, leaving a vacuum to be filled by incompetents.

When I say that collectivism makes everything dirty, I mean it literally.  In my travels around the world, I’ve noticed that the more collectivist societies are always the dirtiest.  I think this is because there is no practical (profit) motive that would move anyone to take responsibility for his area.  Collectivist societies have “renters” not owners.  Since no one owns anything, no one takes responsibility for maintenance and upkeep.  No one sees a benefit to maintaining, cleaning and repairing anything because the government is supposed to see to it.  But the government doesn’t do it.  Government officials, also do not own anything.  They are responsible but no one is keeping track.  The entire society gets older and dirtier while everyone waits for someone to do something. This extends even to peoples' homes and living environments.  People refuse to care for themselves and their surroundings because they are always waiting for someone to take responsibility.  From the welfare mother who raises numerous kids on the dole, to the high-bred executive who runs a bailed out enterprise, there is nothing to be done while waiting for the government to save them.

Contrast this to societies based on private property, where profit is possible and where there are no restrictions on the flow of capital.  The owners of property know that their profits will increase if they maintain their areas.  Shops are cleaner, brighter and more enjoyable to visit; restaurants are clean and they make tasty food so customers will come back.  Janitors are everywhere mopping and sweeping.  Capitalist society is always cleaner and more open.  People are happier and more active.  This is what the profit motive does to society.

Yet, we are told that the profit motive is evil.  It creates a surplus that the rich spend on yachts and wild sex parties.  Progressives tell us that such profits are actually stolen from the poor and should be recovered by the government on behalf of the people.  Capitalism has failed, they tell us, and only the collective unity of socialism can correct its errors.  Such arguments are the stuff of which massive, failed government programs are made. 

The practice of using collectivism to justify theft and coercion makes it difficult for many people to recognize that corruption is gaining a foothold in society. Certainly, those committed to collective action think they are being nice when they ask people to sacrifice for the good of the whole; but they don’t realize that the collective “system” gives people no choice about having their production confiscated.  Certainly, progressives use magic words like “social justice” and “social contract” or they invoke the “will of the people” to justify what they are doing to the people, but the bottom line, so to speak, is coercion; someone must be forced to pay for it.  You have no choice about it…regardless of how eloquent they are in telling you to sacrifice.

Another real-life example of failed collectivist policy was the government’s effort to increase home ownership between the periods 1994 to 2010.  Politicians told us that banks should be required to make money available to poor people who wanted to buy homes.  In this case, the government used a bogus study that accused banks of redlining certain neighborhoods and denying mortgage loans to people who lived there. They pointed out that many of those neighborhoods were filled with black people and they accused the banks of racism.   They insisted that banks aggressively issue mortgage loans to the poor – under threat of prosecution.  And the government even knew of a group that could help recruit those new homeowners, namely ACORN.  The result is that loans (dollars) which would have gone to credit-worthy customers were re-distributed to people with questionable payment histories.  As I said, all re-distribution programs are money laundering schemes and the Community Reinvestment Act was the biggest money laundering scheme of all.  Poor people were used so that corrupt government officials could transfer huge sums of money from the banks to the Democrats.

The government’s collectivist policies, its interference in the mortgage industry, eventually led to the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two quasi-governmental organizations responsible for purchasing the loans.  Because of the massive numbers of risky loans, these organizations exerted a huge influence over the economy and especially over the financial services industry.  Some government officials saw the danger to the economy.  They realized that any downturn in the mortgage industry could seriously harm the entire economy.  Some politicians (the “evil” John McCain and George W. Bush) attempted to rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but their efforts were re-buffed by mostly Democratic politicians who thought there were no problems with this system as long as housing prices continued to rise; and as long as no one raised any alarms. 

During this period of home ownership expansion, it appeared that socialism was working and that the Democrats had discovered a cash cow in the banks.  All of the faulty loans were re-packaged into investment vehicles and given the backing of the Federal Government which spread the money laundering cancer to the financial services industry otherwise known as Wall Street.  Yet, it was all temporary and illusory.  With the glut of money available for home purchases and the aggressive lending facilitated by ACORN and the CRA, housing prices continued to rise until the financial system became flooded with the faulty loans.  High oil prices in the summer of 2008 forced people to stop making their mortgage payments and the house of cards collapsed.  This was good news for the Democrats who were responsible because they could now use the collapse as a weapon in the coming Presidential election.  A panicked George W. Bush was boxed in.  He and the Republicans were now being falsely blamed for the failure of capitalism.  In an effort to save the election for the Republicans, he bought into a “solution” that meant even more money laundering.  He proposed the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) which created shivers of alarm among the American people.  The entire fiasco gave Presidential candidate Obama an opportunity to criticize the Republicans for policies that even he supported.

But the housing bubble and the collapse of the financial services industry were created solely by the government's forcing the banking industry to issue risky loans.  The very people responsible for it were swept into power to give us more money laundering schemes such as massive stimulus programs (that stimulated nothing) and the Affordable Care Act (that would re-distribute medical services.  
Coercion Exerted
Provide support until the individual can support him or herself
Taxpayer dollars taken from productive citizens
More welfare and fewer jobs
Community Reinvestment Act
Provide homes for the less advantaged
Bank investments diverted from productive investments
Housing crash
Breakup large trusts and increase competition
Government mandates to break up corporations or fine them
Less competition
Affordable Care Act
Provide medical coverage for every American
Individual Mandate
Death Panels, reduced services, long lines, fewer doctors, poor service, higher costs
Government Funded Education
Provide better education to students
Taxation, compulsory education, indoctrination
Social engineering, lower test scores, propaganda, poorly educated students
GM and Chrysler Bailouts
Save auto industry
Green cars no one buys, clash for clunkers, reduced buying power of consumers, lower economic conditions, fewer jobs overall, prolong eventual collapse

Coercion against peaceful citizens is anti-mind and anti-life. It stifles the ability of people to take the necessary “free” action that would solve problems. For instance, a government official, with large amounts of taxpayer dollars, could never establish the first electrical grid. This is because the activity of inventing an electrical grid can only be engaged in by free people (with certain skills) seeking to make a profit. 

In capitalism, great enterprises are possible because real solutions for real problems can only be found by free minds capable of invention. Capitalism requires reason, the creation of values, free choice, free trade, capital accumulation and the free flow of capital. Capitalism is the only system where the "intentions" of individuals can be tied to their self-interest and especially to the quality of their thinking. Capitalism does not impose intentions that people should be forced to pursue; it lets people define their own intentions and it gives them the freedom to achieve them and to profit.

Every program advanced by progressives restricts and expropriates money from the productive sector in some way. This means that it does harm to the workings of the capitalist system; it restricts "reason, the creation of values, free choice, free trade, capital accumulation and the free flow of capital".  Each instance of expropriation drains a part of the productive economy; taking the money and energy of productive citizens and putting them to less productive use or totally wasting them. Each government program takes away a piece of the product of society and eats the substance of society in some way. 

I mentioned earlier that progressives have a disdain for reason which makes them incapable of converting their intentions into practical results. One example of this is the idea that government can stimulate an economy by giving consumers more money. But the money that would stimulate demand is already in the economy. It is being removed from one group of people, the producers, who are already spending it in the economy and giving to another group of people who will spend it. There is no new demand being created.

Yet, progressives continue to impose their intentions on society. Sometimes they want to re-distribute money. At other times, they’ll re-distribute skills and intelligence, and at other times human energy. Their methods are varied, but the key to the essence of progressivism is coercion. Some programs only “steal” a small amount of money and their economic impact is lost to our immediate vision. But the cumulative effect of millions of small thefts will eventually eat at society and bring us to a tipping point where the “interest” is gone, where the profits have been taken away and where there is no reason left to produce. At this point, we return to the jungle and fade away as a nation. 

The fading away of America is coming and the only way to stop it is to end the massive government programs so people can start living again. Whether ending these programs is done slowly or immediately, it must be done if we are to survive. But once it is done, all those intentions that are now forced upon us by progressives will become the intentions of real living innovators who will find a way to accomplish them while making a profit. Once profit is put back into human transactions, America, the nation destroyed by progressives, will return.

There is no way to stop the juggernaut of progressivism in society without repudiating it totally and insisting that we be allowed to be self-interested – which means that we be free to use reason, free to make the right decisions and free to profit from them. Don’t let the progressives make you feel guilty for wanting to live – celebrate your right to the fruit of your labor and the fruit of your mind. Celebrate your right to enjoy your life without government expropriation. Celebrate your love of values and tell anyone who demands sacrifice to go straight to Hell. 

Without the repudiation of progressive intentions, we are doomed to living on a planet of wars, self-destruction and moral guilt not to mention poverty and disease. Changing the culture and liberating minds requires a philosophical argument against altruism and self-sacrifice. Altruism has become so engrained on the planet that it is everywhere, implicit and taken for granted. Only a conscious, philosophical approach can defeat it. It cannot be done today or by the time of the election. It will take years; but the struggle must begin and the challenges must be verbalized.

So if you want to stop the progressive juggernaut, you have to say to the progressives, by any means at your disposal, “You are stealing and it is time to stop.” You can say it through blogs, articles, videos, discussion groups and by voting. You must tell people that altruism is not a benevolent idea and, as a nation, we must begin the process of challenging its power and its hold on the minds of millions. Short of this, the inexorable power of ideas will carry our nation further into decline.  As long as altruism goes unchallenged, there is no stopping its deadly influence. There is no stopping the progressives.

Compare the approach to progress taken by the Framers of the Constitution. Their intent was not to foster a particular intention out of context and force individuals to accomplish it. Instead, their approach was much more sophisticated. They understood the broad sweep of values and liberties necessary for individual accomplishment. They saw the value of establishing the type of society that protected individual rights and enabled people to thrive and flourish. They knew that freedom enabled moral living.

The Founders’ intention was not to provide for people but to liberate people so they could provide for themselves. This revolution in political thinking made our nation the most moral in history. It elevated the individual to the level of sovereignty in his own life and removed all obstacles to his pursuit of the good. It enabled pride rather than guilt and force.

Today, with massive re-distribution and money laundering taking place, progressivism has shown itself to be bereft of ideas and solutions. It continues to wallow in the intellectual decay created by Marxism and fascism, offering the same tired lies and methods that were used by Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. The “solutions” it offers are the weapons of force that kept man in tatters and hunger for centuries. 

There is nothing in the ideas of today’s left toward which people should move. A good example of the bankruptcy of the left is the atrocious Affordable Care Act. This bill is a labyrinth of Marxist-style re-distribution schemes so complex that people are not supposed to notice that it is actually a man-made abyss where money just disappears. The bill has so many coercive elements, each working to re-distribute money, time and skills, in so many ways that it is mind-boggling. It demands that people accept corruption as “normal”, as the way things are done, as the new “moral”, to such a degree, that what people end up accepting is pure evil. Lurking beneath the words that promise health care is the cynical use of a once great medical care system to dispense death.

I know people who claimed to feel violated when the Supreme Court ruled that the ACA was constitutional.  This act is an affront to the dignity and self-respect that previously free people had always felt in the past.  Its corruption changes society drastically and spreads a pall of uncleanliness everywhere.  It is as if collectivism has taken the soul out of people and forced them to think, what should I do, how do I accommodate the new demands being made upon me?  How do I deal psychologically with the prying hands of society as it has its way with my body, with my health and with my future?

The progressives of today don't realize that today’s negative news and economic numbers are caused by their own coercive policies; and because they can’t believe that their ideas are creating today’s problems, they double down on the talking points; and, finally, rather than desist from advancing their disastrous policies, they insist on making things worse.

They have become automatons who wonder what's wrong with the world, totally oblivious to the fact that what is wrong with the world is progressivism.

(1) “For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors—between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it. "Both sides agreed that morality demands the surrender of your self-interest and of your mind, that the moral and the practical are opposites, that morality is not the province of reason, but the province of faith and force. Both sides agreed that no rational morality is possible, that there is no right or wrong in reason—that in reason there's no reason to be moral. "Whatever else they fought about, it was against man's mind that all your moralists have stood united. It was man's mind that all their schemes and systems were intended to despoil and destroy. Now choose to perish or to learn that the anti-mind is the anti-life.” – Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, This is John Galt Speaking

(2) “Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.” – Ayn Rand, “Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal”, What is Capitalism?

No comments:

Post a Comment