Sunday, November 30, 2008

Larry Summers: Heavyweight Centrist or Lightweight Leftist?

A recent New York Times article provides two significant pieces of information about Larry Summers, the man designated by President-Elect Obama to be head of the National Economic Council and, as such, according to The Times, “his lead economic adviser inside the White House.” (David Leonhardt, “The Return of Larry Summers,” November 26, 2008, p. B1.)

First, The Times’ article informs its readers that Summers, a former Secretary of the Treasury under President Clinton, and later President of Harvard University, so impressed Henry Kissinger that years ago “Kissinger suggested that Mr. Summers be given a White House post in which he was charged with shooting down or fixing bad ideas. Mr. Summers’ loyal protégés — Timothy Geithner, who beat him out to become the next Treasury secretary; Peter Orszag, the next budget director; Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook; and others — say that Mr. Summers can make them smarter in ways that almost no else can.”

The second significant piece of information provided by The Times’ article describes the nature of Mr. Summers’ own ideas. It describes how “His favorite argument today…goes like this: To undo the rise in income inequality since the late ’70s, every household in the top 1 percent of the distribution, which makes $1.7 million on average, would need to write a check for $800,000. This money could then be pooled and used to send out a $10,000 check to every household in the bottom 80 percent of the distribution, those making less than $120,000. Only then would the country be as economically equal as it was three decades ago.”

The Times’ reporter has apparently known about Mr. Summers’ redistributionist ideas, as well as his closeness to Mr. Obama, for at least a year and a half. As a professional journalist, he had a moral obligation to share such important knowledge with the general public. But he, and many others, similarly so informed, did not bother to do so. Instead, even in the face of the substantial public upset in connection with the question about redistribution posed to Mr. Obama by the now famous “Joe the Plumber,” they chose to remain silent.

They personally favored the election of Mr. Obama and his ideas on the subject of redistribution. Badly lacking in professional standards and personal morals, they placed their own political agenda above their professional obligation to inform the public about a matter vital to an intelligent decision as to how to cast its ballots.

And now, when they openly describe the redistributionist egalitarianism of Mr. Summers and, implicitly, Mr. Obama, they try to make a far-left agenda more palatable by depicting these gentlemen as belonging to the “center” of the political spectrum.[1]

Summers apparently does not see, or if he does see, does not care, that in presenting his proposal for redistribution, what he is urging is armed robbery on a massive scale. That is the essence of any policy of “redistribution,” whether advocated by Summers and Obama or by Lenin, Stalin, or Mao.

For what is going to make each of the top 1 percent of income earners pay an extra $800,000 in taxes? The only thing that would make them pay it is fear of being arrested and imprisoned. And who will arrest and imprison them? Armed thugs wearing the uniforms and badges of officers of the United States Government, who would give them no other choice but to pay the money or be hauled off to jail and clubbed or shot if they resisted. (What a total perversion this would be of what the United States Government once stood for: a transformation from an institution designed for the protection of individual rights into a gang of bandits massively violating individual rights.)

How does this differ in any essential respect from those who are to receive the loot, in the form of $10,000 checks, taking matters into their own hands and simply robbing the homes and businesses of the top 1 percent of income earners to the extent of $10,000 each? They would give the homeowners and businessmen the same choice, of their money or their lives.

And why should it stop at $800,000 in extra taxes and $10,000 each for the looters? If the economic inequality represented by that $800,000 per capita of the top 1 percent of income earners must be done away with, why should not all economic inequality be done away with? Why not make everyone an equal owner and equal income recipient, i.e., why not go straight for communism? That’s the logic in what Summers is advocating.

Not only is Summers advocating the kind of evil committed by criminals, but he also displays a degree of lack of thought that is often found among criminals.

One of the implications of his proposal is that an individual who increased his earnings by just one dollar could be liable for an additional $800,000 in taxes. Based on the most recent available data, which are for 2006, an individual who increased his earnings from $388,806 to $388,807 would thereby be thrust into the top 1 percent of income earners and thus be made subject to the $800,000 of additional taxes urged by Summers. This, of course, would leave such an individual with an after-tax income of minus $411,193. (In addition, of course, all of the ordinary income taxes for which he would be liable at that level of income would also have to be subtracted, throwing him still further into Summers’ Alice-In-Wonderland world of negative after-tax income.)

Summers is probably unaware of this, because he appears to focus on the $1.7 million average income of the top 1 percent of income earners. This enables him to ignore all the below-average incomes of members of that group that would be rendered negative on an after-tax basis if his scheme were imposed.

A proposal this hare-brained makes Summers come across more as an intellectual lightweight than as any kind of brilliant thinker able to identify the errors in others’ thoughts.

There is actually a reason for Summers’ advocating a scheme that implies negative after-tax income for many upper income taxpayers. That’s the fact that that is what is necessary to make it appear that redistribution can constitute any kind of significant gain to large numbers of people. If one rules out taxes that imply negative after-tax income, and also taxes that serve to reduce the demand for labor or capital goods, it turns out that there is very little to “redistribute.”

First of all, all of the wealth of businessmen and capitalists that is in the form of capital (which in the case of large businessmen and capitalists, is almost all of their wealth) already benefits the entire population. It does so by virtue of serving to produce the goods and services that everyone buys and by virtue of constituting the source of the demand for the labor that wage earners sell.

The wealth of Exxon, General Motors, Dell, etc. is in the means of production that bring gasoline and heating oil, automobiles and SUVs, computers and monitors to the masses. Their wealth and that of all other firms is also the source of the demand for the labor that wage earners sell. Thus there is a twofold general benefit from privately owned means of production: the benefit to the buyers of products and to the sellers of labor.

Exactly the same is true of profit and interest income and of capital gains and inheritances to the extent that they are saved and invested, which, in the case of large incomes and inheritances is overwhelmingly the case as a rule. The only special benefit of the businessmen and capitalists, i.e., the only benefit that they obtain which the non-owners of the means of production do not obtain, is the additional personal consumption that their wealth makes possible, plus the satisfaction of knowing that if necessary they could consume their wealth.

The truly personal consumption of businessmen and capitalists is insignificant in the scheme of things. For Warren Buffet, the world’s richest man, it appears to be on the order of an extra ice-cream soda per billion dollars of additional capital accumulated, plus mosquito nets to fight malaria in Africa. The few dozen or even few hundred mansions, yachts, and personal jets of other very wealthy businessmen and capitalists, pale into insignificance alongside the tens of millions of ordinary homes, automobiles, refrigerators, freezers, washer-dryers, air-conditioners, television sets, and computers of the general population. A major, probably the greater part of the consumption of the leading businessmen and capitalists takes the form of the support of such institutions as universities, hospitals, opera companies, libraries, and the like. When all this is taken into account, it turns out that in the first place there is simply not very much to redistribute that the intended beneficiaries of the redistribution do not already have.

It also turns out that attempts to redistribute the wealth of businessmen and capitalists serve almost entirely to reduce the supply of means of production and the demand for labor. It is a self-destructive policy of eating the seed corn. Summers and Obama are ignorant of such facts. Never having studied the works of Mises, they have no way of knowing them. (For elaboration of these points, see the author’s Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics, pp. 297-303, 622-639.)

It speaks volumes that apparently no one to whom Summers presented his “favorite argument” had the ability to find any moral or practical flaws in it.

Summers should be fired. He’s too shallow and ignorant and his ideas too evil for him to serve in the United States Government in any capacity. Although generally viewed as a prominent professional economist, his actual knowledge of the subject is minimal. This conclusion follows from the fact that the essential subject matter of economics is capitalism. And Summers' ideas on redistribution reveal that he fails to understand the nature of the most essential feature of capitalism, namely, private ownership of the means of production and the indispensable role it plays in the standard of living of the average person.

His views may qualify him to be an economic advisor to Hugo Chavez of Venezuela or Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, but certainly not to be an economic advisor to the President of the United States. Before anyone assumes that position, he should know and understand the ideas of Ludwig von Mises, who is far and away the leading theorist of capitalism, and whose works explain its operation as it is has never before been explained. In the absence of extensive knowledge of Mises, one is, simply put, an economic ignoramus, irrespective of the degrees, awards, and public acclaim one may enjoy.

[1] These are the same kind of reporters who define laissez-faire capitalism in an equally bizarre way. Just as you supposedly can be an egalitarian and a Marxist and still be a centrist, so too you allegedly can have virtual economic fascism and it will still be laissez-faire capitalism. And it will be laissez-faire capitalism which is then blamed for all of the evils of economic fascism. Thus, irrespective of the present-day magnitude of taxation and government control over economic life, irrespective of the massive government intervention in the form of credit expansion and of laws compelling the making of loans to unqualified borrowers, which in fact caused our present financial crisis, laissez-faire, they say, still existed and it is what is responsible for the crisis. They claim that laissez faire existed because financial innovations were able to take place without their first being thoroughly understood by government bureaucrats and only then being allowed to occur. Never mind that the major flaw in the innovations was the mistaken belief, held almost universally, but first and foremost by government bureaucrats and by their allies in the media, that the Federal Reserve had made the existence of depressions impossible. (For elaboration on the attempt to blame the crisis on laissez-faire, see the author’s “The Myth that Laissez Faire Is Responsible for Our Financial Crisis.”)

Copyright © 2008, by George Reisman. George Reisman, Ph.D. is the author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics (Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1996) and is Pepperdine University Professor Emeritus of Economics. His web site is A pdf replica of his book can be downloaded to the reader’s hard drive simply by clicking on the book’s title Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics and then saving the file when it appears on the screen.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Why We MUST Invoke Our Individual Rights—Now, By Gen LaGreca

America today is a nation in trouble. The great fortress of liberty, the country of the most productive, prosperous, and happy people in the world, is now in grave danger. America is under siege by the Dark Side, the forces of statism, while its Knights of Liberty are disarmed, demoralized, and suffering near-fatal wounds.

The country that once elected leaders whose ideas upheld liberty now elects leaders whose sweet-sounding platitudes and woozy promises are all that is required, and whose actual, dangerous ideas need not be examined until after Election Day.

The country that defended property rights now seizes 40-percent of our income in a myriad of taxes imposed by all levels of government—with even larger levies on incomes, profits, investments, and savings on the horizon.

The country that championed capitalism now vilifies our industries, cripples them with regulations, seizes their profits, then declares that the free market has failed and government must take over.

The country that made possible the great industrial titans—the Henry Fords, Thomas Edisons, and others whose productive genius moved mankind forward—now thinks that government can run things better, and that government should own, operate, and finance our corporations, deciding which will survive and which will die, creating a new kind of soup kitchen where emaciated companies stand in a bread-line waiting for their bailout.

The country that protected the individual now protects polar bears, spotted owls, caribou, and the wilderness at the expense of human life.

The country that fought a revolution to end the abuse of power now elects politicians who wallow in power like hippos in mud, such as members of congressional subcommittees who hold hearings threatening the prosperity or very existence of American business firms, and then let the hearings end with little or no result when the hapless firms make sufficient contributions to the reelection campaigns of the congressmen.

The country of the American eagle, flying proud and free, now pens its people up like chickens in a coop, waiting to feed at the welfare state’s trough.

America is a nation whose government is on the ascent and whose people, consequently, are on the descent.

What can explain our alarming plunge into statism? At the dawn of our country we held a powerful weapon to fight our first battle for liberty, an ideological weapon that emboldened an upstart group of colonists, against all odds, to topple the British Goliath and to ignite a firestorm of liberty that in time led to the abolition of slavery, the suffrage of women, and the spread of freedom around the globe. What ideal ushered in a glorious new age for mankind?

This year’s award-winning mini-series on HBO, “John Adams,” captures the answer. It portrays the moment when Adams reads the stirring document that is the soul of the new nation, the Declaration of Independence, and exclaims to its author, Thomas Jefferson: “This is not only a declaration of our independence, but of the rights of all men!”

The weapon that toppled a king and transformed the world, America’s shining sword, was the doctrine of individual rights.

Our Founding Fathers were imbued with the spirit of the Enlightenment, with the glory, power, and moral rightness of the individual unshackled and free. America’s great distinction is that it reined in government to unleash individual liberty.

The result was amazing. America triggered an explosion of scientific and industrial advancement and a standard of living unmatched in history. The American Dream became the worldwide symbol of boundless opportunity and achievement. A great civilization arose, a country of confident, resourceful, hard-working, wealth-creating, and life-loving people.

All of this rested on a bedrock of liberty—on a government that protected the rights of the individual.

But things changed. The doctrine of individual rights was not always expressed unambiguously or applied consistently in our founding. Cracks in our armor, such as clauses in the Constitution allowing Congress to regulate interstate commerce and to promote the general welfare, gave the Dark Side of Statism an opening to enlarge government far beyond its original purpose.

And our enemies on the Dark Side got stronger as Western thought turned its back on the individual and his right to exist unencumbered by the state. Later thinkers claimed that a person must serve a purpose allegedly higher than his own life and happiness, a purpose dictated by the government. This notion led to communism and fascism. Sadly, it has now spread across America.

Barack Obama states in the Chicago Reader, “[I]ndividual actions, individual dreams, are not sufficient. We must unite in collective action, build collective institutions and organizations.” John McCain urges in his speeches that Americans serve “a national purpose that is greater than our individual interests.” Is there any fundamental difference between these exhortations of the candidates of our two major parties and that of the Nazi Party’s “the common good before the individual good”?

Today America has dropped its saber of individual rights. We stand disarmed and vulnerable to what could be fatal wounds to our liberty. This is why we urgently need to rediscover the meaning of our rights and rekindle our devotion to them. Then we must define a strategy for picking up our sword again, sharpening it, shining it, and using it adroitly to win the most important battle of our age, the battle to rescue our lives and liberty from the Dark Side of Statism. So, let us begin.

The Meaning of Our Individual Rights

The Declaration of Independence proclaims that our rights include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” or as described in one state document, the 1784 Constitution of New Hampshire, our rights include “enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; and in a word, of seeking and obtaining happiness.” What does this really mean? The following are ten characteristics of individual rights.

1. Our Rights are Unalienable
They are inherent in our nature as human beings. No government gives us our rights, and no government can take them away. In Jefferson’s Summary View of the Rights of British America, he states that free people claim their rights “as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their Chief Magistrate.” Exercising our rights is like breathing. We need not ask the government’s permission to breathe, nor to exercise our rights.

Remember this when you the hear statists like Mr. Obama say in a speech in Roseburg, Oregon: “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees . . . and then just expect that other countries are going to say okay.” How can we claim our unalienable rights if we can be prevented by the state from enjoying a standard of living that somehow offends another country?

2. Our Rights are Rights to Take Action
They are not entitlements to the free goods and services of other people. In a letter to Isaac Tiffany, Jefferson defines liberty as “unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.” This means we may work for the things we want. We may earn money and buy a house, but we may not
expect the government to seize taxpayers’ money to provide us with a house for free.

As James Madison said on the floor of our country’s newly formed Congress: “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” According to the Father of the Constitution, charity is a private matter. You may spend your own money to help your fellow man, but the state cannot seize your money and force you to be charitable. How can we fail to conclude that today’s entire welfare state and the redistribution of wealth fueling it are illegitimate and must be stopped?

3. The Pursuit of One’s Own Happiness is a Right
A person is not a pawn in the service of the state’s aims. When Hillary Clinton, echoing her party’s platform, declares in a San Francisco speech, “We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the public good,” how can this mean anything other than her intention to seize your property and infringe on your happiness so that she and her party’s voting base can pursue their happiness at your expense?

4. The Majority Cannot Violate the Rights of the Individual
Because individual rights are unalienable, they are not subject to any majority vote. Our Founders were as suspicious of democracy, or unlimited majority rule, as they were of monarchy. In a letter to P.S. Dupont de Nemours, Jefferson states: “[T]he majority oppressing an individual is guilty of a crime . . . and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society.” If you have a bigger bank account than your neighbors, they cannot steal your money and redistribute it among themselves. By the doctrine of individual rights, neither can the government. If Congress votes to increase your taxes to pay for a prescription drug plan for seniors, or a mortgage bailout for homeowners, it is telling you that a majority can rob you of your rights. When a neighborhood gang steals your money, you can call the police; but when the perpetrator is Congress, who can you turn to for help?

5. There are No Rights of Groups
Rights belong to individuals. If pizza eaters lobby Congress for a “right” to a free pizza every Thursday, and if Congress, out of concern for their nourishment or their votes, grants their wish, it acts illegitimately. There are no special rights of seniors, workers, farmers, women, minorities, people with blue eyes, left-handed people, etc.

The Founders tried to protect the individual not only from the tyranny of a monarch, but also from the control of what they called “factions,” i.e., special interest groups seeking government privileges and entitlements to benefit their members at the expense of other citizens. In the Federalist Papers, Number 10, Madison addresses the danger of a democracy bringing factions into power: “[S]uch democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property . . .” How can we fail to see how today’s Godzilla-like factions have invaded our country, crushing the individual under their massive feet? How can we fail to realize that today we have a government of the factions, by the factions, and for the factions?

6. Our Rights Include the Right to Property
Without property rights, no rights are possible. If the state can seize the fruits of your labor, doesn’t that make you “a laborer legally bound to and obliged to serve a master,” which is the definition of a serf? And if you are a business owner, with the state now regulating virtually every aspect of your enterprise, doesn’t that make you “someone whose actions are controlled by the will of others,” which is the definition of a puppet?

Consider Mr. Obama’s answer to the now-famous Joe the Plumber, who questioned the senator’s plan to tax him: “I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody.” How can it be clearer that Mr. Obama intends to punish success, seize the money of productive people, and give it away to those who haven’t earned it?

Does a rich person have less of a right to property than a poor one? John Adams writes in A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States, “[I]t must be remembered that the rich are people just as well as the poor; that they have rights as well as others; that they have as clear and as sacred a right to their large property as others have to theirs which is smaller; that oppression to them is as possible and as wicked as to others.” By the doctrine of individual rights, how must we rate the endless schemes of today’s politicians to “tax the rich”? Doesn’t this seem like a pack of wolves and a few lambs deciding what to have for lunch?

And what are we to make of the recent YouTube-captured lament by U.S. congressman Jim Moran of Virginia, who says, “[W]e have been guided by a Republican administration who believes in this simplistic notion that people who have wealth are entitled to keep it and they have an antipathy towards the means of redistributing wealth”? Isn’t the loot-and-plunder agenda of the statists becoming more blatant than ever before? Is this the civilized society in which people’s rights have Constitutional protection?

7. Our Rights Include the Right to Intellectual and Spiritual Independence
Our rights rest on the fundamental freedom of every person to use his own mind, think for himself, form his own beliefs, and the liberty to act on these judgments. Jefferson’s Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia was an achievement he valued so highly that he had it acknowledged on his tombstone. This bill stopped the government’s practice of paying clergy with public funds because, in Jefferson’s words, “to compel a man to furnish . . . money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.”

Jefferson fought for a “wall of separation between church and state” and was “against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.” By the doctrine of individual rights, what must we conclude about today’s faith-based initiatives, which allocate public funds to religious organizations, and the attempts by religious lobbyists and elected officials to dictate public policy based on their faith? What must we conclude about the America-damning Chicago pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who, according to Fox News, received $15 million in federal grants for his organization? Why should people who disagree with his vile preaching be taxed to support Jeremiah Wright, or any other person or organization—religious or secular—whose beliefs, values, and causes they do not share?

Our right to intellectual freedom extends to all beliefs, be they in science, art, philosophy, or any other field, including politics. In an address to the Danbury Baptist Association, Jefferson makes clear that “the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions.”

With our newly elected Democratic Congress already planning to pass a law that will suppress commentators on talk-radio who oppose them, how can we fail to see the emboldened, Hugo Chavez-like force now being unleashed in the halls of our government? How can we fail to see that the statists’ euphemistically named “Fairness Doctrine” is really a “Censorship in America Doctrine”? How can we fail to realize that this vile scheme must be defeated before it takes away the most potent weapon we have in our fight, our sacred right to freedom of speech?

8 Our Rights Rest on Reason
People are capable of self-government because they possess reason. Says Jefferson in a letter to Peter Carr: “Fix reason firmly to her seat and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion.” Our Founders expected people to use their own minds to control their own lives. For example, Jefferson gently chastised his teenage daughter, Martha, when she relied on her teacher’s help to read an ancient Roman history text. He wrote her in a letter: “If you always lean on your master, you will never be able to proceed without him. It is part of the American character to consider nothing as desperate—to surmount every difficulty . . . ” Contrast this call for self-sufficiency to today’s welfare state, which destroys our capacity to think and act for ourselves and transforms us into helpless dependents.

9. Our Rights are Violated Only by Force
Only acts of physical force or fraud violate our rights. In Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia he states: “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others.” If I pick your pocket, break your leg, or breach a contract with you, then I violate your rights and the government can and must stop me.

But if I draw a cartoon that offends you, I haven’t violated your rights. If I make a windfall profit on Wall Street, I do not violate the rights of people who didn’t invest as I did. If I offer you a job at a wage lower than you would prefer, I haven’t violated your rights. You are free to seek a better job. However, the government certainly violates my rights if it compels me to hire you on terms I don’t accept. The peaceful economic and personal activities of private persons exercising their liberty do not violate the rights of others and cannot be abridged by the state.

10. Government’s Sole Job is to Protect Individual Rights
Wise government, explains Jefferson in his First Inaugural Address, “shall restrain men from injuring one another . . . shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” And that’s it. That’s the whole of the job of government.

Bear this in mind when you consider Mr. Obama’s views on American government, given in an uncharacteristically candid 2001 interview with WBEZ radio in Chicago. He expresses regret that the Supreme Court “never entered into the issues of redistribution of wealth” because it “didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution.” However, Mr. Obama sees a way around these Constitutional constraints: “[O]ne of the, I think, tragedies of the civil-rights movement . . . was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change.” How are we to interpret this? Will pressure-group warfare and intimidation by community thugs be the means of bypassing the Constitution and bringing about the “major redistributive change” that Mr. Obama envisions? How can we not be alarmed by these statements? How can we not see that government today has become the greatest threat to our lives, liberty, and property?

Six Strategies for Using Individual Rights in the Fight for Freedom

To win the battle for freedom, we must invoke individual rights, and we must invoke them now, before it’s too late. The statists have become emboldened by their recent election victories; their ranks have degraded to include officials that talk like thugs; their attacks on our rights have become more open and virulent. This brings us to what could be a watershed moment in American history. We must invoke individual rights because they bring morality to our side, and the moral argument is the most powerful weapon of all. The person whose position stems from correct and compelling moral principles will win any argument, just as our Founders won their cause in establishing America. Let’s examine six strategies for employing individual rights in the fight for freedom. These six points will be formulated using the word RIGHTS, which, conveniently for us, contains six letters.

R = Reason with Moral Principles, Not Just Practicality
For example, consider the draft (and the same arguments would hold for other forms of obligatory “national service,” which Mr. Obama seems to be entertaining). When we periodically hear calls for a military draft, the friends of freedom often argue that a volunteer army is more efficient. This is true and definitely deserves to be said. However, giving only the bad consequence (the inefficiency) of an act of government usurpation without explaining why the policy is wrong in principle reduces the argument to a mere practical discussion of the effectiveness of different armies, with no pressing moral issue at stake to rally the public to one side or the other. If the statists can raise plausibility that the draft is efficient, then the friends of liberty have no leg to stand on.

Giving the practical argument from the inefficiency of a draft is like trying to walk with one leg. Adding the moral argument from individual rights gives us two legs—plus a spine. The argument from individual rights asserts that the draft is wrong because it represents involuntary servitude, i.e., it violates a person’s right to life and liberty. A person has the right to decide for himself what he wants to do with the precious years of his life. Government exists to protect that sacred right, not to violate it. A person is free to chose his employment, including a job with the government, especially one that could risk his life. It would be clearly tyrannical for the state to draft its public school teachers, police officers, or mail carriers against their will. How then can the government claim the power to compel someone to serve in the military?

Furthermore, the argument from rights strengthens the practical argument by giving the underlying reason why the draft is inefficient, namely, because people do not perform well when their rights are violated and they are working under compulsion.

The argument from rights deals a mortal blow to the statists. It elevates the issue from a technical matter of military efficiency to a moral issue involving nothing less than our fundamental Constitutional rights. The moral argument is unanswerable, unless you want to be on the side that violates individual rights. This is what we are aiming at—a moral crusade for the sanctity of individual rights as our answer to the statists.

I = Invoke Private Solutions to Life’s Problems
Living in a free society means that we citizens take care of ourselves, and we relish doing so. We’re Americans, the most resourceful people on earth. Each of us is master of our fate and captain of our soul, and that’s the glory of life. Because the nanny state destroys self-esteem and self-reliance, we need to help people discover that they can blow their noses without the nanny holding the handkerchief. Here are just a few self-help tips for living in a free society:

—If you don’t go to school and don’t work hard to get ahead, then don’t expect the same rewards as those who do. You haven’t earned them.

—If you default on a loan, lick your wounds and don’t make the same mistake again. But don’t expect the government to bail you out with money fleeced from taxpayers who pay their debts on time.

—If you want to develop a new enterprise, invention, or source of energy, then work for the removal of all government regulations standing in your way and convince private investors to support you, but don’t try to get a billion-dollar government boondoggle. Be an entrepreneur, not a leech.

—In short, don’t expect any free lunches. Everything worth having in life requires effort to obtain. And there are no guarantees. You can lose your job, your investments can fail, and your fiancé can leave you. Stop trying to use the government to shield you from life’s risks. Take the plunge and feel the tingle of life.

In fighting for freedom, hold people responsible for their own lives.

G = Get Behind Capitalism
We must defend the free market because it is the expression of our individual rights in the economic and material sphere of life. By pursuing profit, we further our lives and happiness. By engaging in economic activities unfettered by the government, we exercise our liberty. As Ayn Rand observed: “[A] free mind and a free market are corollaries.”

The Dark Side’s resentment of capitalism is unrelenting. Capitalism is to a socialist what a stake in the heart is to a vampire. It is the living proof of the power of freedom to create unlimited wealth and prosperity, without the need for power-hungry politicians to run things for us. This is why the Dark Side’s attacks on capitalism are so virulent, and why we must resoundingly defeat them.

For example, consider a CEO’s pay. The statists call for government to limit a CEO’s compensation. Friends of freedom explain that a company is unable to attract the best candidate for CEO with a salary lower than the person can obtain elsewhere. Furthermore, they explain, CEOs deserve their salaries because they bring additional revenue into the company that vastly surpasses their pay, revenue that expands the business, creates more jobs, increases wages of employees, and lowers prices for customers. This argument is crucial in educating the public on the remarkable benevolence of the free market and on its unmatched effectiveness in bringing prosperity to everyone. We need to disseminate this information in order to combat the countless misconceptions of capitalism and ignorance of economics that poison our culture.

But, we can’t stop there. We need to strengthen our case for capitalism by adding the argument from individual rights, which asserts the following: Any government regulation to cut a CEO’s pay sends a message to all Americans to beware. If you make too much, you’re no longer covered by the Constitution; your rights to your life and property are no longer protected; they’re subject to seizure by the police force of the state. Where would it stop? What about a baseball player, or a rock star, or a brilliant surgeon—are they too successful? Does their pay also need chopping by Congress? Will the government seize their livelihood and destroy the American Dream for them, too? CEOs are citizens, which means they have rights, including the right to accept any compensation offered to them. Would the government use its police power to cut the salary of a janitor? If the janitor is free to work for the highest possible salary he can get, then why would the Constitutional rights be different for a company executive? Why would the janitor’s rights be protected, but the CEO’s rights trampled?

The argument from rights shows how government tampering with anyone’s pay represents a tampering with the Constitution and bedrock of America.

H = Hammer the Government for Using Force Against Innocent Citizens
The more we unmask the use of force, the more people will see the thuggery involved in the regulated state.

During a Congressional hearing with oil company executives, Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California castigated them for the rise in gasoline price and threatened a complete government takeover of their industry. Based on this incident, can anyone fail to see the thin line that exists between the welfare state and the police state? The answer to Maxine Waters should be something like this:

The property rights of the millions of shareholders who own these corporations are guaranteed by the Constitution and are unalienable. That means there is never a situation in which you could expropriate that property, even if the price of gasoline hit $1,000 a gallon. This hearing should be adjourned and another one started to remove you from office because you are threatening a level of tyranny characteristic of communism, namely, a police-state seizure of an industry. The rights of every American are at risk with you in office.

If enlightened citizens speak out like this, maybe next time a company executive will have the courage.

T = Talk Straight and Unmask the Enemy’s Evasions
We must translate the honey-coated language of the Dark Side into plain English.

“Redistributive justice” means looting and plundering those who produce in order to give benefits to those who haven’t earned them.

“Government investments in new technology” means replacing real investments—private people taking careful risks with their own money and expecting results—with government squandering of taxpayers’ money in subsidies, grants, and boondoggles that need never turn a profit, that need never show results, with every special-interest group under the sun in line for the bounty.

The most honey-coated of all the statists’ expressions, their constant refrain, is: “We just want to help people.” The notion of government, the exclusive wielder of police force, as a helper in the peaceful affairs of citizens is absurd. Government intrusion necessitates the use of compulsion. As George Washington is reputed to have said: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

When politicians say they just want to help people, they neglect to mention that they are garnering dangerous, unchecked powers for themselves and destroying our liberty in the process. We must not allow them the excuse of good intentions. No one can take away our rights, be their intentions good or bad.

For example, the daughter of a presidential candidate appears on television to say: “My dad is a wonderful man. He wants to give free healthcare to the people.” What’s the answer to this? What about giving their rightful freedom to the people? What about the freedom of doctors? Are they now excluded from the Constitution? Do they no longer have the liberty to practice their profession by their own judgment and conscience? Under state-run medicine, doctors lose this freedom and must take orders from bureaucrats.

Another scenario involves farm subsidies. I saw a kind and gentle Republican senator say on television: “We only wanted to help farmers.” She didn’t realize that ethanol mandates for gasoline would contribute to rising prices of gas and food and would lead to food riots in the world. We must translate her words into plain English for the good senator: You mean you only wanted to rob the taxpayer to pander to the farm vote. You wanted to pass regulations favorable to farmers but disastrous to other citizens. The Constitution does not give you the power to take money out of my pocket and put it into a farmer’s pocket. And the Constitution does not give you the power to meddle in somebody’s business, mandating what goes into a product.

We need to find principled public officials to defend our rights, rather than the typical Republicans, who accept the statists’ premises because they want to please everyone and never raise eyebrows. The first Americans had the courage to face the enemy musket to musket. The least that officials on our side can do is summon the courage to raise a few eyebrows.

S = Stand as One People Against the State, Not as Pressure Groups Against One Another
Today the vast majority of politicians are invested in their special interest groups, which means they are intensifying the welfare state and stifling our liberty. They are breaking us into warring tribes—pitting the seniors against the young, the patients against the doctors, the consumers against the oil companies, the home buyers against the mortgage companies—with more and more government regulation as the alleged answer to our woes. We must see beyond this scam. We must take up the sword as one people in one fight against statism.

Defending any person’s individual rights is scoring a point for all of us. Therefore, we need to be the one non-special interest group that places the individual in the center of the battle for liberty. In each instance in which we want to fight for freedom, we need to ask ourselves two questions:

—1. Whose individual rights are being violated?
—2. What can I say or do to defend them?

For example, instead of the typical practice of businesses lobbying for regulations favorable to their enterprises or detrimental to their competitors, imagine if a consortium of companies banned together in a massive media campaign addressed to the public, not to the legislators, asserting the individual rights of each of them to operate without government interference. How shocking it would be to learn that business owners have Constitutional rights and they are asserting them! The consortium must risk vehement denunciations by the Dark Side and hold its ground. Such a battle would refocus the American people on the true meaning of rights, educate the young (who apparently never learned of America’s greatest legacy in school), and eventually win the country. Wouldn’t that be a better way to spend millions of dollars than to obtain some range-of-the-moment concession from the statists while reinforcing their system of political pull?

And in education, instead of parents’ groups fighting each other over what curriculum should be taught in public schools, what if the enlightened among them banned together to fight for the right and responsibility of every parent to control his child’s education? This would be a fight to privatize schools and establish a free marketplace of education. Such a fight would rescue the precious minds of the young from the control of the state.

We have now refreshed our understanding of individual rights, the only doctrine that stands between us and tyranny and that makes a civilized society possible.

There is much concern that we are losing our distinctive American values, and we are right to feel this concern, because we are losing them. However, the exact nature of the values that made us the greatest country in the world often eludes us. Let us always remember with pride that our unique American values are: a respect for individual rights and all that implies—i.e., limited government, personal liberty, and laissez faire capitalism.

We have established six strategies for asserting and defending our rights in the battle for freedom. These six strategies can be condensed into a single battlecry: Argue from individual rights. In your letters to the editor, op-eds, articles, calls to radio talk-shows, e-mails to television news shows, discussions with your town councils, neighbors, family, and friends, argue from individual rights. For those holding or seeking public office, in your campaign speeches, in the positions you take, and in your presentations in the halls of government, argue from individual rights. It is the only way to win the battle for freedom. It is the only way to rescue our lives and country. And may the force of this powerful and noble weapon be with you.

Copyright © 2008 by Genevieve LaGreca.
Gen LaGreca is the author of Noble Vision, a ForeWord magazine Book-of-the-Year award-winning novel about liberty. Permission is given to post or publish this article with attribution to the author and to