Column: The heart of the problem
May. 04, 2012
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
More than three months have passed since this column began to run. A lot has happened. SOPA failed. The 53 percent took Twitter by storm. Sandra Fluke asked the government to mandate that her college fund her sex life. The media became convinced the GOP would have a brokered convention. Mitt Romney proved the media wrong. New coal-fired power stations were abolished. Justice Kennedy asked, “Can you create commerce in order to regulate it?” and Obama failed to win passage of the deficit-widening “Buffet Rule.” The names change and the circumstances vary, but every one of these political bullet points is a small part of a much larger philosophical battle.
America was founded on the principle that man’s mind is his own possession, and he should be able to use it as he wishes in both production and leisure. The United States became the greatest nation on earth because it was built on the right of man to his own life, liberty and property. This is not an over-arching attack on social programs, and it is not a call to strict libertarianism; but it appears many citizens of this great nation have lost an understanding of what made this country great in the first place.
There are two questions we must ask any time someone proposes a new law. The first is, “Who will this benefit?” The second is, “At whose expense will this occur?” In the modern world, many focus so much on the former, they forget the latter. This is especially dangerous when the persons benefited are the majority and those who pay are the minority.
America was built with the understanding that minority factions should be just as protected as majority factions. That’s why the founding fathers made laws difficult to pass. James Madison said the true role of government was, “To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction.”
Today, many Americans have been lulled into believing transfer payments and social programs are at the expense of the “wealthy” and they will be for the “social good,” even if they hurt a minority faction, not to mention they’re full of waste. Look again. “Wealthy” has been substituted for “successful,” so the producing minority can be forced to carry the less productive majority. Do you see the problem?
If a man creates a wonderful product, does he deserve his 100th sale any less than the first? Is it any less a product of his mind? If so, how do you define what he deserves? More importantly, if you take a larger percent of his property as he creates more, what incentive will he have to continue producing? That’s right. His incentive shrinks exponentially. This explains why the economy exploded when the top personal tax bracket dropped from 70 percent to 28 percent in the 1980s. This also explains why the government can’t tax a company into submission, but it can incentivize one into production.
Keep your eyes open. Well-meaning, misinformed people are everywhere. They will spread rhetoric that sounds enticing but doesn’t work in the long run. Some examples follow. “We can help make housing more affordable.” “Education can’t be handled by the states. The federal government should get involved. Test scores will surely improve.” “It’s important that finances are never an issue when sending someone to college.” The first example was the housing bubble. The second gives us what we now know as the broken American education system. The third is the student loan bubble. Brace yourself.
Now, the left will say, “If it wasn’t for all those greedy people, we wouldn’t have these problems in the first place.” However, this denies a very important element of the human experience. Everyone on Earth is greedy, or to put it in nicer terms, everyone does what he or she wants to. This is true of everyone from the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to the college student who took an alternative spring break. Saying greed creates financial catastrophes is like saying rain made your new Affliction t-shirt wet. No, you’re the one who decided to go outside while it was raining. (How dare you disrespect the rain like that?) People will always work in their own interest. It’s a fact of life. The trick is to harness that greed and use it for something wonderful. That’s exactly what capitalism does.