Last night we were treated to a fascinating and timely talk by economics professor Daniel Smith at our Economic Liberty Lecture Series, which is cosponsored by the student-run Econ Society at George Mason University. We’ll be posting his talk online within the next week.
Smith researched and compared the recovery efforts in two cities that were hit hard by tornadoes last year: Joplin, Missouri, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The results in the two communities were strikingly different. In Joplin, the efforts at rebuilding have been strikingly effective, while in Tuscaloosa they have been precisely the opposite. In fact, Smith pointed out that many businesses simply decided to leave Tuscaloosa and rebuild in a neighboring community.
Why the difference?
The reason, Smith said, could not be attributed to private relief efforts. He pointed out that voluntary efforts in both communities were absolutely astounding. Church groups and other private groups came together and integrated their efforts to help people. Businesses and individuals donated millions of dollars to aid in the recovery in both cities. Businessmen who ordinarily competed against each other worked together to better serve people who were suffering.
So then, why the difference?
The reason, Smith said, was the extent of the artificial barriers placed in the way of businesses by the governments in each communities. In Joplin, government officials pretty much got out of the way and simply let businesses rebuild themselves. In Tuscaloosa, government officials decided to centrally plan the rebuilding of the city, imposing and enforcing a myriad of rules, regulations, permits, and licenses. On top of all that, Smith pointed out that Tuscaloosa officials even led businessmen to believe that there was a temporary moratorium on rebuilding in the city.
Smith’s presentation provided a textbook case for the superiority of the unhampered market economy over the centrally planned economy. The thing we should keep in mind is that the unhampered market economy is not only the key to prosperity after natural disasters but also for societies which just want to improve their economic well-being. Stop the government from taking care of people and see prosperity soar.
Which brings us to today’s election. In a fundamental sense, it really doesn’t matter whether Romney or Obama is elected. They both share the same overall philosophy on such important issues as economics, civil liberties, the drug war, the regulated economy, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education grants, bailouts, subsidies, the Federal Reserve, monetary policy, the overseas military empire, a vast military-industrial complex, foreign aid, sanctions, embargoes, assassination, torture, indefinite detention without trial, and kangaroo military tribunals.
In a word, Romney and Obama are both statists. They believe in statism and they embrace it enthusiastically. They were born and raised as statists. It’s who they are. Nothing is going to change that.
The past year, of course, has been euphoric for the American people. It’s the time when their presidential candidates cater to them and are nice to them. The people hold the power to prevent the candidates from satisfying their lust for power. The candidates have to be nice. Being nice garners votes.
So, there are the customary promises to lower taxes, increase spending, reduce the debt, and raise benefits for everyone, while, of course, make the military bigger and stronger than ever. Never mind that it’s impossible to achieve all this. That doesn’t matter. Voters just want to hear the promises, and they enjoy being catered to.
But everyone knows that tomorrow the table turns once again. It will be readily apparent that the president, whoever is elected, is in charge, not the citizenry. Reality will set in. We now live in a country in which the president is the master and the people are the servants. The president doesn’t need to worry about being nice to his serfs, at least not for another three years or more.
People will be reminded that they now live in a country in which the president wields the omnipotent power to send the nation into war without congressional approval, assassinate them, incarcerate them without trial, torture them, spend and borrow them into bankruptcy, plunder and loot them with inflation, incarcerate them for drug violations, or punish them for committing silly economic crimes.
There is but one antidote to all this statism: libertarianism. To restore a free and prosperous society to our land, we must not permit ourselves to settle for statist reforms. We must instead continue spreading libertarianism, with the aim of continuing to find people who share our philosophy but who might not even yet realize it.
As we build the number of passionate, knowledgeable, and committed libertarians, the government begins to lose its hold on the minds of people. More and more people become less subservient and submissive. In increasing numbers, people stop falling for the lies, deceptions, and delusions. Ultimately, a critical mass of libertarians is reached, which then brings about a major shift in the direction of the country.
Of course, there are no guarantees, but it’s the only chance there is of achieving a monumental change toward genuine liberty, free markets, and a constitutional republic.
Regardless of the result, however, we remind ourselves why we continue to fight despite all the statism society into which we have been born and raised: We do so because it’s the right thing to do and because we want to live our lives as free men and women.