"It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expence, either by sumptuary laws, or by prohibiting the importation of foreign luxuries. They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expence, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will." ~ Adam Smith
It's Not All That Hard
Column by Bob Wallace.
Exclusive to STR
“The opposite of war is not peace; it's creation.” ~ Jonathan Larson
Back when I was in college (close to worthless then and even closer now, except for the hard sciences) I realized none of my classes that I was really interested in were logically connected to each other, so that I could come up with an accurate model of how the world worked.
All people have a model in their heads of how the world works. Perhaps I should say “theory” instead. No matter what word I use, none of them, no matter how accurate, are reality itself (“the map is not the terrain”). But the closer to reality the theory, the better it works.
Economics, political science and law (my main interests) were listed as separate disciplines (in reality they’re not), so I ended up with masses of facts, half-truths and outright lies that of course didn’t make much sense. What I was taught were awful maps that led me into dead zones (for that matter, the United States and most of the rest of the world staggered into those zones, too).
I was taught neo-Keynesian economics (gobbledygook), that politicians give serious thought to the bills they pass (har!), and that law is what the government passes (not even close).
Is it any wonder what I was taught didn’t make much sense? It wasn’t logical, and as Henry Hazlitt wrote in Economics in One Lesson, “…[false] theories…are never held with logical consistency….”
I don’t exactly remember how this happened, but over time I realized that with political and economic liberty there was wealth and happiness, and when those two things did not exist there was poverty, disease, starvation, war, slavery.
I know I was influenced by books I read – books I never heard about in college. Some of them are quite old. The Law, by Frederic Bastiat, which is a pamphlet. Common Sense and The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine. The Discovery of Freedomby Rose Wilder Lane. The Mainspring of Human Progress by Henry Grady Weaver. Ancient Law by Henry Sumner Maine.
I have all these books in paperback, but the texts are so old they are in the public domain and therefore downloadable for free on the Internet. Yet I had never heard of any of them in high school or college. But I surely heard enough about those nitwits out of Harvard, Yale and Princeton who tortured me and the other students with their inept 300-page semi-Marxist economics textbooks.
(Parenthetically, I proficiencied both Intro to Macro and Intro to Micro Economics because I knew the classes would be excruciating – which is exactly what Intermediate Macro and Intermediate Micro turned out to be. Unfortunately, they couldn’t be proficiencied.)
Things finally started to make sense – and college had nothing to do with it, except for the disappointment it provided and therefore an inventive to get a real education.
I realized the laws of political science and economics (actually it’s political economy) can be discovered just like the laws of physics and chemistry. This put me in the Natural Law camp – just as every one of the Founding Fathers were.
The term “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” came from the British philosopher John Locke, who originally wrote, “life, liberty and property.” They are our natural rights, he said. We are born with them.
Those Natural Rights are what this country was founded upon. The purpose of “government” was to protect those three things, and nothing else. When those three things are protected, what springs up automatically is the free market. Always. It’s a law of nature, one that can be (and has been) discovered.
As Samuel Adams wrote, “The rights of the colonists are these: first, a right to life; second to liberty, third to property; together with the right to support them and defend them in the best manner they can” (the latter being enshrined in the Second Amendment).
This was a revelation to me. I suddenly had a model of how the world worked. You could have freedom and creation and progress, or you could not have freedom and go backwards, possibly into an abyss.
Law, economics and political science, I realized, were the same thing and not separate disciplines. Understanding the basics of them is not that hard. Almost everyone can do it.
Richard Maybury, for example, has suggested there are only two laws that all free, successful societies need to follow: “Do all you have agreed to do” and “Do not encroach on other people or their property.” It can’t get any simpler than those two laws, and even a child can memorize them.
When “government” goes beyond protecting life, liberty and property, it always destroys. It’s as simple as that. The bigger the government, the more people, families, neighborhoods, education and everything else is damaged. In other words, our life, liberty and property are always damaged by the growth of “government” when it goes beyond protecting those three things.
It’s entirely possible “government” is not necessary (well over 2,000 years ago, the prophet Samuel in the Old Testament warned the Hebrews to follow the Law and stop their whining for “government”). If people always followed the Law (discovered natural law) voluntarily, it wouldn’t be necessary. In fact, if most people didn’t voluntarily follow most natural laws, society would collapse no matter how oppressive the government was.
If government is necessary then what remains is to discover how to keep it within its proper limits. So far, no one has figured that out. The Founding Fathers tried by splitting the government into three parts. They meant to make it weak and ineffectual to limit its power (they also had no use whatsoever for the left-wing delusion of “democracy,” something most people today don’t know).
They make some mistakes. They forgot to write that one of the purposes of government was to protect our property, they didn’t get rid of slavery, and they didn’t forbid a central bank (which always inflates the money supply, thereby stealing your property, which automatically damages your life and liberty).
I sometimes do a thought experiment and imagine what this country would be like if the various governments did nothing but protect life, liberty and property.
We’d be far wealthier than we are now. Economists I’ve read estimate the average income today would be over $90,000 a year. We wouldn’t be involved in three wars; we wouldn’t have troops in 144 countries; the federal government wouldn’t take up one-third of the economy and the dollar wouldn’t have lost 99% of its value since the creation of the illegal Federal Reserve Bank. We wouldn’t have the misnamed “War on Drugs” and we certainly wouldn’t have the godawful TSA.
The fact we don’t have many of the good things and instead have many of the bad things comes from breaking the law. Or perhaps, I should write, Law.