Monday, November 10, 2008

The Fall of Capitalism?

A loving father and mother watch their son grow up and approach an age of independence. Upon reaching that age he leaves home and begins college. However, once in school, the young man begins skipping classes, frequents the bars, and becomes a real party animal. He eventually drops out of school and is unable to maintain a steady job. His parents are heartbroken and comment, "We should have never let him leave home."

Compare this to a situation that is unfolding nationally. Several weeks ago the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing in which they hounded former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan for the free market policies of his administration. If he had implemented more regulation, they pressed, the economy would not have stumbled. As reported by the forever-impartial New York Times, "A humbled Mr. Greenspan admitted that he had put too much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets and had failed to anticipate the self-destructive power of wanton mortgage lending."

The feeling in both above situations is the same: If we had not allowed so much freedom, things would not have gotten out of hand. If the boy's parents had forbidden him leaving home, he would not have wasted his life. If the government had taken control of the economy, we would not have the current recession.

But let's analyze the rationality of these feelings, starting with the parents. We sympathize with them in their sorrowing for their son's wasted years. Yet, we cannot pretend that they could prevent their son's actions once he left home. They could try to influence him, but he is an independent adult. Their belief that they could have controlled his actions is incorrect. Any effort to truly control his life would have been morally wrong.

The national reaction to our economical slump is likewise irrational. "If the Fed had just taken control..." we lament. Here, like the mourning parents we forgot ourselves. First of all, we forget the actions of the past and try to pin the blame on a free market for falling stock prices and bank failures. But more importantly, we forget what America's free-market capitalism is.

These days our free-market capitalism is often thought of as just another economic system. Our European allies have abridged it without regrets. Many, far too many, in our own nation want to do the same.

But capitalism is not an economic system. There is no structure or control involved in capitalism. Capitalism is the free-market economic state that comes as a result of liberty. Thus, if capitalism is substituted by another system, we have not merely swapped one system for another. We have swapped freedom for control. We have taken away American liberties.

The goal of capitalism is not to amass national wealth. The goal of capitalism is not to maintain our status as the world superpower. Capitalism is not maintained for the sake of the stock market. In fact, capitalism has no goal. Capitalism is simply the result of economic freedom. And so, we do not casually give up capitalism because our stock portfolio isn't doing well. Indeed, we fight furiously and bleed and die to maintain it because the loss of capitalism is tyranny. It is the loss of our God-given, won-by-blood American freedoms.

A sound byte from a speech by Ezra T. Benson (Secretary of Agriculture during the Eisenhower Administration) has been floating around the web. In it he describes a confrontation that he had with Nikita Khrushchev ("First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union") during the 1959 visit that Khrushchev made to see American agriculture:
"As we talked face to face, he indicated that my grandchildren would live under communism. After assuring him that I would do all in my power to assure him that his and all other grandchildren would live under freedom, he arrogantly declared in substance: You Americans are so gullible. No, you won't accept communism outright. But we'll keep feeding you small doses of socialism until you finally wake up and find that you have communism. We won't have to fight you. We'll so weaken your economy that you fall like over-ripe fruit into our hands."
In a time of economic turmoil, may we stand fast in the liberties with which God has blessed us. May we reject the doses of socialism that are so constantly being offered us. Any threat to the American free market is a threat to American freedom. Let us be alert and treat those threats as such.

Rusty Scalpel

(I regret not having a primary source for the Ezra T. Benson quote. To listen to the quote click here and scroll to 8:15.)