The Golden Calf of Democracy

Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York— essay has been adapted for CEIL by the author from an essay first published in the December 2004 issue of FEE’s journal, “The Freeman.”

“Democracy,” journalist H. L. Mencken once said, “is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” He also famously defined an election as “an advance auction sale of stolen goods.”

Mencken was not entirely hostile to democracy. He simply possessed a more sobering view of its limitations than today’s conventional wisdom.

Indeed, democracy may be the world’s single most oversold concept of political governance. Commonly yet erroneously romanticized, it is assumed in most circles to ensure far more than it possibly can. The Norman Rockwell portrait of engaged, informed citizens contending freely on behalf of the common good is the utopian ideal that obscures the messy details of reality.

Just how oversold democracy is came home to me recently as I listened to a group of college students debating farm subsidies. Advised that experience and economics underscore the folly of subsidies, the student consensus was nonetheless in support of “helping farmers.” Why? Because that’s apparently what the people wanted when they voted for the congressmen who gave us the handouts. To those students and a disturbing number of other citizens these days, the veneer of “democracy” somehow covers up a multitude of sins. It may even sanctify them. We need another dose of Mencken-esque reality—and that starts with a clearer view of what this thing is that enraptures so many.

Monarchy is easy to define. If you’ve got a king, you’ve got one. Military dictatorship is also stark in its manifestation. If one guy wears a uniform, has all the tanks, and tells everybody else what to do, you’ve got one of those. But what exactly is democracy?

Pure, undiluted democracy is unshackled majority rule. Everybody votes on everything, and 50 percent plus one decides every “public” issue—and inevitably, a whole lot of what ought to be private ones too. Perhaps ancient Athens for a brief time came closest to this, but no society of any size and complexity can practice this form of governance for long. For starters, it’s unwieldy and unworkable, endlessly contentious, and disrespectful of certain inalienable rights of individuals who may find themselves in the minority.

People like the sound of “democracy” because it implies that all of us have equal say in our government and that a simple majority is somehow inherently fair and smart in deciding all or virtually all issues. On closer examination it should become apparent that subjecting every decision of governance to a vote of the people is utterly impossible. Many decisions have to be made quickly; many decisions require knowledge that few people possess or have the time to become expert on; and many decisions don’t belong in the hands of any government at all. A pure democracy, even if possible, would quickly degenerate into the proverbial two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch.

Suppose someone says, “I just don’t like people with boats and jewelry. I think we should confiscate their property. Let’s have a vote on that.” A democratic purist would have to reply, “All in favor say aye.” A person interested in securing individual rights would have to say, “That’s not a proper function of government, and even if 99 percent of the citizens vote for it, it’s still wrong. There’s nothing about mob rule that makes such a decision legitimate.”

In common parlance, “democracy” has been stretched to mean little more than responsive government. Because of elections, government officials cannot behave in a vacuum. That fact is laudable, but it hardly makes a “democratic” government heavenly. In his penetrating book, Capitalism, Democracy, and Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery, Ohio State University professor John Mueller writes that democracy “has been characterized by a great deal of unsightly and factionalized squabbling by self-interested, shortsighted people and groups, and its policy outcomes have often been the result of a notably unequal contest over who could most adroitly pressure and manipulate the system. Even more distressingly, the citizenry seems disinclined to display anything remotely resembling the deliberative qualities many theorists have been inclined to see as a central requirement for the system to work properly.”

Irrespective of presidential candidates’ singing interminable paeans to “our democracy,” America is thankfully not one and never has been. Our Founders established a republic, and a republican form of government modifies pure democracy considerably. It provides a mechanism by which almost anyone can have some say in some matters of government. We can run for office. We can support candidates and causes of our choosing. We can speak out in public forums. And, indeed, a few matters are actually decided by majority vote. But a constitutional republic founded on principles that are more important than voting—like individual rights—will put strong limits on all this. In its Bill of Rights, our Constitution clearly states, “Congress shall make no law. . . .” It does not say, “Congress can pass anything it wants so long as 50 percent plus one support it.”

Those democratic elements of our republic should be given their due. Elections are a political safety valve for dissident views, because ballots not bullets resolve disputes. But the saving grace of democracy is not that it ensures either good or limited government; it is nothing more than that the system allows for political change without violence—whether the change a majority favors is right or wrong, good or evil.

We should be thankful that we don’t have an absolute monarchy or a theocratic dictatorship or other truly objectionable forms of governance, but we should have no illusions about the harm that even a responsive government, whatever you want to call it, can still do.             Even the best and most responsive of governments, we should never forget, still rests on the legal use of force—an inescapable fact that requires not blind and fawning reverence but brave and determined vigilance. That calls for sober people who understand the nature of government and the importance of liberty.

Mitä on todellinen myötätunto?

Lawrence W. Reed on Foundation for Economic Education -organisaation toiminnanjohtaja. Tämä essee on kirjoittajan muokkaama samannimisestä artikkelista, joka on julkaistu vuonna 1997.

Jokaisessa vaalikampanjassa kuulemme vähintään tuhat kertaa sanan “myötätunto”. Suuret valtion ohjelmat ovat osoitus myötätunnosta; valtion leikkaukset ovat osoitus kylmäsydämisestä saituudesta. Termin väärinkäytöllä puoluepoliittiseksi edukseen poliitikot ovat sotkeneet sanan todellisen merkityksen.

Kuten Marvin Olasky toi esiin teoksessaan ”The Tragedy of American Compassion”, myötätunnon alkuperäinen määritelmä Oxford-English sanakirjan mukaan on ”toisen kanssa kärsiminen, osallistuminen kärsimykseen”. Painotus on henkilökohtaisessa osallistumisessa tarpeessa olevan kanssa, kärsiminen heidän kanssaan, ei pelkästään heille antamisessa.

Mutta nykyään termiä käytetään lähes pelkästään, kuten Olasky asian mainitsee: ”tuntemukseen tai tunteeseen, kun henkilö on liikuttunut toisen kärsimyksestä tai ahdingosta ja pyyteestä lievittää sitä.” Nämä kaksi määritelmää ovat hyvin kaukana toisistaan: Toinen vaatii henkilökohtaista toimintaa, toinen on pelkästään ”tunne”, johon yleensä liittyy vaade jonkun toisen – tarkoittaen valtiota – ongelman hoitamisesta. Toinen kuvaa Äiti Teresaa tai Punaista Ristiä ja toinen kuvaa tyypillistä vastuun siirtäjä, pehmeäsydämistä yhteiskunta-aktivistia mielenosoituskyltti kädessään.

Tosiasiallisesti valtion ”myötätunto” ei ole samaa kuin henkilökohtainen tai yksityinen myötätunto. Kun odotamme valtion korvaavan sen mitä meidän itse tulisi tehdä, odotamme mahdotonta ja saamme sietämättömän. Emme oikeasti ratkaise ongelmia, hallitsemme vain kalliisti niiden jatkumista loputtomiin ja samalla luomme joukon uusia.

Vuodesta 1965, niin kutsutun sodan köyhyyttä vastaan alusta, 1990-luvun puoliväliin Yhdysvalloissa kokonaiskulutus hyvinvointiin oli 5,4 biljoonaa dollaria. Vuonna 1965 koko valtion hyvinvointikulutus oli vain hiukan yli prosentin bruttokansantuotteesta (BKT), mutta 30 vuotta myöhemmin se oli paisunut 5,1 prosenttiin vuosittaisesta BKT:stä – korkeammaksi kuin suuren laman asettama ennätys. Ennen kuin sosiaaliuudistukset, jotka painottivat työntekoa, alkoivat toimimaan 1990-luvun lopussa, köyhyysaste oli lähes paikallaan siitä, mitä se oli vuonna 1965. Vuosikymmeniä miljoonat elivät elämää turmelevassa riippuvuudessa, perheitä palkittiin niiden hajoamisesta ja avioliiton ulkopuolella syntyneiden lasten määrä nousi taivaisiin – hirvittäviä tosiasioita, jotka suurimmalta osalta aiheutuivat ”myötätuntoisista” valtion ohjelmista.

Henkilön halukkuus kuluttaa valtion varoja tukiohjelmiin ei ole todiste, että henkilö itse on myötätuntoinen. Professori William B. Irvine Wright State yliopistosta Daytonista, Ohiosta, selittää: ”Olisi älytöntä pitää henkilön halukkuutta lisätä puolustusbudjettia osoituksena, että henkilö itse on urhea tai pitää henkilön halukkuutta kuluttaa valtion rahoja urheiluun osoituksena, että henkilö itse on fyysisesti hyvässä kunnossa.” Samalla tavoin kuin ”sohvaperunalle” on mahdollista suosia valtion rahoitusta urheilujoukkueelle, samoin henkilölle, jolta puuttuu myötätuntoa, on mahdollista suosia erinäisiä valtion tukiohjelmia, ja käänteisesti myötätuntoiselle henkilölle on mahdollista vastustaa näitä ohjelmia.

On virhe käyttää henkilön poliittisia uskomuksia myötätunnon lakmustestinä. Professori Irvine sanoo, että jos haluat määrittää kuinka myötätuntoinen yksilö on, tuhlaat aikaasi, jos tiedustelet ketä hän äänesti; sen sijaan tulisi kysyä mitä hyväntekeväisyyslahjoituksia hän on tehnyt ja onko hän tehnyt viime aikoina mitään vapaaehtoistyötä. Kannattaa ehkä myös tiedostella kuinka hän vastaa hänen sukulaistensa, ystäviensä ja naapuriensa tarpeisiin.

Todellinen myötätunto on vahvojen perheiden ja yhteisöjen, vapauden ja itsenäisyyden suojavalli, kun taas toisen käyttötarkoituksen tekaistu myötätunto on lastattu suurilla vaaroilla ja kyseenalaisilla tuloksilla. Todellinen myötätunto on ihmisiä auttamassa toisia ihmisiä aidosta välittämisen tunnosta. Se ei ole poliittisen edustajasi pyytämistä sen tekemisestä puolestasi. Aito myötätunto tulee sydämestä, ei valtion kassasta. Todellinen myötätunto on syvästi henkilökohtainen asia, ei rahalähetys etäiseltä byrokratialta.

Kun kuulet seuraavan kerran jonkun käyttävän termiä ”myötätunto”, kysy tietääkö hän todella mistä puhuu.

Prophets of Property

Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York— essay has been adapted for CEIL by the author from an essay first published in the July 2007 issue of FEE’s journal, “The Freeman.”

In 1800, fewer than 1 million people lived in London; a century later, well over 6 million. As the 20th century dawned, London had already been the most populous city on the planet for seven decades. Britain’s population as a whole soared from 8 million in 1800 to 40 million in 1900. In the previous 2,000 years, even a fraction of such population growth anywhere in Europe was usually nipped in the bud by famine, disease, falling incomes, and population retrenchment.

But Britain in the 19th century was a special place, the legendary “workshop of the world.” London had become the capital of capital, with private investment in agriculture and manufacturing burgeoning at a record-breaking pace in the latter half of the century. The year Victoria ascended to the throne, 1837, saw fewer than 300 patent applications for new inventions, but by the end of the century the number exceeded 25,000 annually. Per capita income on the eve of World War I was three times what it was a century before and life expectancy had risen by 25 percent. There were many more mouths to feed and bodies to clothe, but British entrepreneurship was feeding and clothing them better than the world had ever experienced. It was the greatest flowering of problem-solving creativity, ingenuity, and innovation in history.

Colin Pullinger, a carpenter’s son from Selsea, typified the 19th century British entrepreneur. He designed a “perpetual mousetrap” that could humanely catch a couple dozen mice per trap in a single night, and then sold 2 million of them. Perhaps Emerson had Pullinger in mind when he famously wrote, “If a man write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbour, tho’ he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”

As the 1800s drew to a close, the framework that made possible these extraordinary achievements — capitalism — fell under assault. As poverty declined massively for the first time, the very presence of the poverty that remained prompted impatient calls for forcible redistribution of wealth. Around the world, Marxists painted capitalists as exploiters and monopolists. In Britain, Charles Kingsley argued that Christianity demanded a socialist order, and the Fabian Society was formed to help bring it about. Many unscrupulous businessmen turned to the state for favors and protections unavailable to them in competitive markets. Would anyone come to the defense of capitalism with as much vigor and passion as those who opposed it?

At least one group did: the Liberty and Property Defence League. Though its work has been largely forgotten, what the world learned about socialism in the following century surely vindicates its message. Its name derived from the members’ belief that liberty and property were inseparable and that unless successfully defended, both could be swept away by the beguiling temptations of a coercive state.

The founder of the League in 1882 was a pugnacious Scot by the name of Lord Elcho, later the 10th earl of Wemyss as a member of the House of Lords and thereafter known simply as “Wemyss.” Originally elected to parliament in 1841 as a protectionist Tory, he eventually embraced free trade and repeal of the Corn Laws by 1846. He later evolved into a full-throated advocate for what we today would call “classical liberal” ideas. At the organization’s third annual meeting in 1885, he expressed his hope that its efforts to educate the public would “cause such a flood as will sweep away, in the course of time, all attempts at state interference in the business transactions of life in the case of every Briton of every class . . . . No nation can prosper with undue state interference, and unless its people are allowed to manage their own affairs in their own way . . . .”

Wemyss and his friends rounded up spokespersons and financial support. They enlisted writers and public speakers. They published and circulated essays and leaflets. The organization operated as an activist think tank with a lobbying arm. The League attempted to mobilize public opinion against specific bills, functioning as a “day-to-day legislative watchdog” in the view of historian Edward Bristow. It even arranged testimony before parliamentary hearings. One League pamphlet attacked the introduction of “grandmotherly legislation” as a transgression against the freedom of contract. Armed with arguments provided by League members and sympathizers, Wemyss’ allies in Parliament killed hundreds of interventionist bills in the 1880s and 1890s.

Opponents often accused the League of being motivated by its members’ bottom line drive for profits, but in actuality its philosophical ideals were paramount. Among its members were some of the brightest intellects of the era, Herbert Spencer being perhaps the most notable. Author of the libertarian classic, “The Man Versus the State,” Spencer was the best-selling philosopher of his day and was nominated for a Nobel in literature.

Spencer saw liberty as the absence of coercion and as the most indispensable prerequisite for human progress. The ownership of property was an individual right that could not be morally infringed unless an individual first threatened the property of another. Spencer has been demonized as an apostle of a heartless “survival of the fittest” Darwinism by those who choose to ignore or distort his central message, namely that individual self-improvement can accomplish more progress than political action. One creates wealth, the other merely takes and reapportions it.

Auberon Herbert was a Spencer acolyte whose championship of voluntarism found fertile soil among fellow League members. His now century-old warning about the danger of state intervention is positively prophetic: “No amount of state education will make a really intelligent nation; no amount of Poor Laws will place a nation above want; no amount of Factory Acts will make us better parents . . . . To have our wants supplied from without by a huge state machinery, to be regulated and inspected by great armies of officials, who are themselves slaves to the system which they administer, will in the long run teach us nothing, (and) will profit us nothing.”

In a 1975 essay in The Historical Journal from Cambridge University Press, historian Bristow contended that the Liberty and Property Defence League changed the language in one important, lasting way. Prior to the 1880s, “individualism” was a term of opprobrium in most quarters, referring to “the atomism and selfishness of liberal society.” The League appropriated the word and elevated its general meaning to one of respect for the rights and uniqueness of each person.

But was the League successful in its mission to thwart the socialist impulse? In the short run, lamentably, no. By 1914, socialists had convinced large numbers of Britons that they could (and should) vote themselves a share of other people’s property. Two world wars and a depression in between seemed to cement the socialists’ claim that their vision for society was inevitable.

Good ideas, however, have a way of resisting attempts to quash them. Bad ideas sooner or later fail and teach a valuable lesson or two in the process. Britain and most of the world gave socialism in all its varieties one hell of a run in the 20th century. The disastrous results now widely acknowledged underscore the warnings of those who said that we could depart from liberty and property only at our peril.

The warriors of the Liberty and Property Defence League may have lost the battle in their lifetimes, but a hundred years later they offer prophetic wisdom to those who will listen.

Vaje taloustiedoissamme

Lawrence W. Reed on Foundation for Economic Education -organisaation toiminnanjohtaja. Tämä essee on kirjoittajan muokkaama samannimisestä artikkelista, joka on julkaistu FEE:n vuoden 1994 syyskuun “The Freeman” -julkaisussa.

Talous on aihe, joka näinä päivinä hallitsee julkista elämää ja tärkeitä poliittisia keskusteluja. Kuitenkin useimmat ihmiset, nojaten koulussa oppimaansa, joutuvat tähän älylliseen taisteluun aseettomina.

Lukion taloustiedon kurssit ovat harvassa ja käsittelevät usein lähes pelkästään ”kuluttajien” asioita: kuinka pitää oma talous tasapainossa, kuinka löytää edullisimmat tarjoukset tai kuinka lainata rahaa alhaisimmilla koroilla. Nämä ovat hyödyllisiä asioita tietää, mutta älylliset työkalut ja olennaiset periaatteet, joita tarvitaan tämän hetken tärkeiden asioiden analysointiin ja arviointiin puuttuvat liian usein.

Lisäksi jo pintapuolinen lukion talouden kurssien oppikirjojen tarkastelu osoittaa kurjan ymmärryksen tason tai avoimen kirjojen kirjoittajien puolueellisuuden. Oppilaat lukevat esimerkiksi, että kansalaisia ei veroteta tarpeeksi, että valtion kulutus luo uutta varallisuutta ja että poliitikot ovat parempia pitkän aikavälin suunnittelijoita kuin yksityisyrittäjät. Kirjoille ei ole epätyypillistä tuoda esiin vapaiden markkinoiden kilpailua ja yksityisomistajuutta epäilyttävässä valossa, esitellen samaan aikaan valtion väliintuloja vähäisellä tai ei lainkaan kriittisyydellä. Näin ollen saattaa olla tosiasiassa siunaus kirouksen sijaan, että vain hyvin harvat oppilaat altistuvat sille, mitä näinä aikoina kouluissa pidetään ”taloustietona”.

Talouden opiskelu ilman puolueellisuutta on suunnattoman tärkeää. Tosiaankin, ilman sitä meiltä puuttuu merkittävä osa siitä ymmärryksestä, joka tekee meistä ainutlaatuisia, ajattelevia olentoja, joita olemme. Taloustiede on ihmisen toiminnan tutkimista rajallisten resurssien ja rajattomien tarpeiden maailmassa – eloisa aihepiiri, jota ei voida typistää elottomiin käppyröihin ja mieltä turruttaviin yhtälöihin, jotka täyttävät teennäisen suunnittelijan ajankäytön.

Mitä taloustiede opettaa

Taloustiede opettaa meille, että kaikella arvokkaalla on kustannus. Se kertoo meille, että korkeampi elintaso voi syntyä ainoastaan suuremmasta tuotannosta. Se tuo esiin, että kansakunnat eivät tule vauraiksi rahaa painamalla tai sitä kuluttamalla, vaan pääoman kartuttamisella ja tavaroiden ja palveluiden luomisella. Se kertoo meille, että kysynnän ja tarjonnan tasapainottuvat signaaleista, joita kutsumme hinnoiksi ja että poliittiset pyrkimykset manipuloida niitä aiheuttavat vahingollisia seurauksia.

Taloustiede opettaa, että hyvät aikomukset ovat arvottomia huonompia silloin, kun ne  uhmaavat väistämättömiä ihmisen toiminnan lakeja. Se muistuttaa meitä ottamaan huomioon tekojemme pitkäaikaiset vaikutukset pelkästään lyhytaikaisten tai päiväperhosmaisten vaikutusten sijaan. Se kertoo meille paljon kannustimien tärkeästä asemasta ihmisen käyttäytymisen muokkaamisessa.

Lyhyesti, taloustiede on toimintamalli vapaalle ja kestävälle taloudelle, joka on korvaamaton ihmisten aineellisten tarpeiden ja halujen tyydyttämiseksi. Kun aihealue on hyvin ymmärretty, ihmiset oppivat, että toisten ihmisten rauhaan jättäminen on paljon todennäköisempi polku hyvinvointiin kuin heidän tönimisensä poliittisilla määräyksillä.

Silloin kun ihmisillä on vähän tai ei lainkaan taloudellista ymmärrystä, he ylistävät ”pikakorjauksia” ja tukevat epäkäytännöllisiä taivaanrantaa syleileviä ratkaisuja ongelmiin. He saattavat ajatella, että mitä tahansa valtio antaakaan, sen täytyy todella olla ”ilmaista” ja valtion tulee vaurauden kasvattamiseksi ainoastaan käskeä sitä.

Taloustiedossa oppimattomat ihmiset ovat helppoa saalista valuuttaintoilijoille, jotka väittävät meidän vaurastuvan lisää rahaa painamalla. He saattavat jopa ajatella, että kauppa on pahasta, että jos suljemme rajamme tuotteiden virralta, elintasomme nousee. He eivät ole pelkästään kykenemättömiä tunnistamaan taloudellista käärmeöljyä vaan myös kouluttamattomia näkemään sen vahingollisia seurauksia.

Amerikan suurilla talousongelmilla on väitetysti juurensa laajalle levinneessä taloudellisten periaatteiden tietämättömyydessä. Kun tunnetulta taloustieteilijältä, John Maynard Keynesiltä, kysyttiin 1930-luvun lopulla, pitäisikö lisääntyvästä velasta ja rahan painamisesta olla huolissaan, hän vastasi raportoidun näsäviisaasti kommentilla: ”Pitkällä aikavälillä olemme kaikki kuolleita.” Totuus on, kuten paljon suurempi taloustieteilijä Henry Hazlitt aikanaan mainitsi, että ”Tänään on huominen, josta eilisen huonot taloustieteilijät kuten Keynes kertoivat meidän voivan turvallisesti – mutta virheellisesti – olevan piittaamatta.”

Kansalaisia pyydetään joka päivä muodostamaan käsitys ja antamaan äänensä ohjelmille ja ehdotuksille, jotka ovat pääosin taloudellisia luonteeltaan. Olisi suotavaa, että käynnistäisimme keskustelun, kuinka tarjoamme puuttuvat työkalut, joita tarvitaan näiden ja muiden päätösten tekemiseen, jotta emme kaiva itseämme syvemmälle kehnon ajattelut ja huonojen julkisten toimintamallien suohon.

Valtuutukset eivät ole ratkaisu

Todetaan, että vastauksena on tehdä valtuutus taloustiedon opetuksesta! Jos koulut eivät opeta ainetta, silloin laitetaan ne tekemään niin! Voi, tässä on jälleen houkutteleva, mutta täysin kielteisesti vaikuttava ”pikakorjaus” – oire juuri nimenomaisesti kuvaamastani sairaudesta.

Lakien laatiminen taloustiedon opettamiseksi ei juurikaan ole se ratkaisu. Julkisessa koulutuksessa se voi ainoastaan politisoida aiheen ja taata, että liian monet ihmiset, jotka eivät ymmärrä tai halua opettaa sitä, ohjeistavat kyllästyneitä nuoria, jotka eivät voisi vähempää välittää aiheesta. Suuri valtion kouluopettajien enemmistö on kunnollista hyvällä tahdolla ja taidolla varustettuja kansalaisia, mutta valtion työntekijöinä he työskentelevät luontaisesti vihamielisellä alueella valtion toimintojen kritiikille, jota paikkansapitävä taloustiede väistämättä tuottaa.

Ajatus valtion valtuuttamasta taloustiedon opetuksesta vaikuttaa minusta todennäköisesti olevan ei yhtään sen tehokkaampaa kuin valtio valtuuttama minkään muunkaan opetus. Emmekö ole keskellä koulutuskriisiä, testitulosten ja muiden oppilaiden taitojen mittaustulosten vajotessa ala-arvoisille tasoille? Onko mitään syytä uskoa, että valtio voi opettaa taloutta yhtään sen paremmin kuin se pystyy opettamaan matematiikkaa?

Lääke taloustiedon vajaaseemme on todella sama kuin lääke yleistietojemme vajeeseen: yhdistelmä koulutusjärjestelmän monopolin purkamisesta kilpailun ja toimeliaan itse-opetuksen avulla.

Jos taloustieto on niin tärkeää kuin olen viitannut, tällöin markkinavetoinen, valintoihin keskittyvä, tuloksiin perustuva ja täysin tilivelvollinen koulutusjärjestelmä opettaisi varmasti paremmin kuin valtion monopoli, joka saa tukensa opetti se todellista elämää varten tai ei. Kun koulutuksesta tehdään markkinoiden tuote politiikan sijaan, niin paljon enemmän kuin pelkkää taloustiedettä tullaan opettamaan, ja opettamaan hyvin.

Muodollinen koulutus, vaikka jopa täysin yksityistetyssä ympäristössä, pysyy olemaan vain osa taloustiedon opettamisen yhtälöä. Se mitä opimme itseksemme, erityisesti jos toivomme inspiroivamme ja vakuuttavamme muita, voi olla yhtä tärkeää. Tarkastellen omaa taloustiedon koulutustani, totean että pääosa siitä tapahtui yksityisten ryhmien suojeluksessa kuten Foundation for Economic Educationin ja julkaisujen kuten The Freeman.

Joka tapauksessa taloustiedon suhteellinen puuttuminen luokkahuoneista on ongelma, joka vaatii huomiomme. Monet yksityiset ponnistelut sen ratkaisemiseksi ansaitsevat tukemme. Mutta kenenkään ei tule erehtyä ajattelemaan, että valtiolle vastuun vierittäminen ratkaisisi ongelman.

Liberty and the Power of Ideas

Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York— essay has been adapted for CEIL by the author author from an essay first published in the February 1979 issue of FEE’s journal, “The Freeman.”

A belief which I stressed again and again in my classes when I taught economics at Northwood University in Michigan was the belief that we are at war—not a physical, shooting war but nonetheless a war which is fully capable of becoming just as destructive and just as costly.

The battle for the preservation and advancement of liberty is a battle not against personalities but against opposing ideas. The French author Victor Hugo declared that “More powerful than armies is an idea whose time has come.” Armies conquer bodies, but ideas capture minds. The English philosopher Carlyle put it this way many decades ago: “But the thing a man does practically believe (and this is often enough without asserting it to himself, much less to others): the thing a man does practically lay to heart, and know for certain, concerning his vital relations to this mysterious Universe, and his duty and destiny there, that is in all cases the primary thing for him, and creatively determines all the rest.”

In the past, ideas have had earthshaking consequences. They have determined the course of history. For good or ill, they bring down governments and raise other ones up.

The system of feudalism existed for a thousand years in large part because scholars, teachers, intellectuals, educators, clergymen and politicians propagated feudalistic ideas. The notion of “once a serf, always a serf’ kept millions of people from ever questioning their station in life. Under the mercantilism practiced from the 16th through the 18th Centuries, the widely-accepted concept that the world’s wealth was fixed prompted men to take what they wanted from others in a long series of bloody wars.

The publication of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations in 1776 is a landmark in the history of the power of ideas. As Smith’s message of free trade spread, political barriers to peaceful cooperation collapsed and virtually the whole world decided to try freedom for a change.

In arguing against freedom of the press in 1924, Lenin made the famous statement that “ideas are much more fatal than guns.” To this day, ideas by themselves can get you a prison sentence in a lot of places around the world.

Marx and the Marxists would have us believe that socialism is inevitable, that it will embrace the world as surely as the sun will rise in the east tomorrow. As long as men have free will (the power to choose right from wrong) however, nothing that involves this human volition can ever be inevitable! Men do things because they are of the mind to do them; they are not robots programmed to carry out some preordained dictum.

Winston Churchill once said that “Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent trait is the equal sharing of misery.” Socialism is an age-old failure, yet the socialist idea constitutes the chief threat to liberty today. So it is that believers in liberty, to be effective, must first identify and isolate the socialist notions which have taken their toll on liberty. In doing that, and then refraining from advancing those ideas, we can at the same time advance liberty. As I see it, socialism can be broken down into five ideas.

The Pass a Law Syndrome. Passing laws has become a national pastime in most Western countries. When a problem in society is cited, the most frequent response seems to be, “Pass a law!” Business in trouble? Pass a law to give it public subsidies or restrict its freedom of action. Poverty? Pass a law to abolish it. Perhaps we need a law against passing more laws.

In 1977 the American Congress enacted 223 new laws. It repealed hardly any. During that same year, the Washington bureaucracy wrote 7,568 new regulations, all having the force of law. (Thirty-three years later, the situation is even worse. Now, few in Congress even read the bills they vote for, some of which are in the thousands of pages).

James Madison in 1795 identified this syndrome as “the old trick of turning every difficulty into a reason for accumulating more force in government.” His observation leads one to ask, “Just what happens when a new law goes on the books?” Almost invariably, a new law means: a) more taxes to finance its administration; b) additional government officials to regulate some heretofore unregulated aspect of life; and c) new penalties for violating the law. In brief, more laws mean more regimentation, more coercion. Let there be no doubt about what the word “coercion” means: force, plunder, compulsion, restraint. Synonyms for the verb form of the word are even more instructive: impel, exact, subject, conscript, extort, wring, pry, twist, dragoon, bludgeon, and squeeze!

When government begins to intervene in the free economy, bureaucrats and politicians spend most of their time undoing their own handiwork. To repair the damage of Provision A, they pass Provision B. Then they find that to repair Provision B, they need Provision C and to undo C, they need D, and so on until the alphabet and our freedoms are exhausted.

The Pass a Law Syndrome is evidence of a misplaced faith in the political process, a reliance on force which is anathema to a free society. It’s also a sign that people have abandoned confidence in themselves and would prefer dependence upon politicians and largely unaccountable bureaucrats who usually are among the least capable in society to run the lives of others.

The Get Something From Government Fantasy. Government by definition has nothing to distribute except what it first takes from people. Taxes are not donations!

In the welfare state, this basic fact gets lost in the rush for special favors and giveaways. People speak of “government money” as if it were truly “free.” It may not be an exaggeration to say that perhaps the welfare state is so named because the politicians get well and the rest of us pay the fare.

One who is thinking of accepting something from government which he could not acquire voluntarily should ask, “From whose pocket is it coming? Am I being robbed to pay for this benefit or is government robbing someone else on my behalf?” Frequently, the answer will be both. The end result of this “fantasy” is that everyone in society has his hands in someone else’s pockets.

The Pass the Buck Psychosis. Recently a welfare recipient wrote her welfare office and demanded, “This is my sixth child. What are you going to do about it?”

An individual is victim to the Pass the Buck Psychosis when he abandons himself as the solver of his problems. He might say, “My problems are really not mine at all. They are society’s, and if society doesn’t solve them and solve them quickly, there’s going to be trouble!”

Socialism thrives on the shirking of responsibility. When men lose their spirit of independence and initiative, their confidence in themselves, they become clay in the hands of tyrants and despots. I might add: The only thing socialism has ever really done for poor people is to give them lots of company.

The Know-It-All Affliction. Leonard Read, in The Free Market and Its Enemy, identified “know-it-allness” as a central feature of the socialist idea. The know-it-all is a meddler in the affairs of others. His attitude can be expressed in this way: “I know what’s best for you, but I’m not content to merely convince you of my rightness; I’d rather force you to adopt my ways.” The know-it-all evinces arrogance and a lack of tolerance for the great diversity among people.

In government, the know-it-all refrain sounds like this: “If I didn’t think of it, then it can’t be done, and since it can’t be done, we must prevent anyone from trying.”

A group of West Coast businessmen ran into this snag recently when their request to operate a barge service between the Pacific Northwest and Southern California was denied by the Interstate Commerce Commission because the agency felt the group could not operate such a service profitably!

The miracle of the market is that when men and women are free to try, they can and do accomplish great things. Leonard Read’s well-known admonition that there should be “no man-concocted restraints against the release of creative energy” is a powerful rejection of the Know-It-All Affliction. (Leonard Read was the founder of the Foundation for Economic Education and you can read more about him here:

The Envy Obsession. Coveting the wealth and income of others has given rise to a sizable chunk of today’s socialist legislation. Envy is the fuel that runs the engine of redistribution. Surely, the many soak the-rich schemes are rooted in envy and covetousness.

What happens when people are obsessed with envy? They blame those who are better off than themselves for their troubles. Society is fractured into classes and faction preys upon faction. Civilizations have been known to crumble under the weight of envy and the disrespect for property which it entails.

A common thread runs through these five socialist ideas. They all appeal to the darker side of man: the primitive, noncreative, slothful, dependent, demoralizing, unproductive, and destructive side of human nature. No society can long endure if its people practice such suicidal notions!

Consider the freedom philosophy. What a contrast! It is an uplifting, regenerative, motivating, creative, exciting philosophy! It appeals to and relies upon the higher qualities of human nature such as self-reliance, personal responsibility, individual initiative, respect for property, and voluntary cooperation.

Nobel laureate economist F. A. Hayek (author of the seminal 1944 book, “The Road to Serfdom”) called attention to the power of ideas in preserving liberty: “Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark.”

The verdict in the struggle between freedom and serfdom depends entirely upon what percolates in the hearts and minds of men. At the present time, in every nation of the world, the jury is still deliberating.

The High Cost of Government Schooling

Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York— essay has been adapted for CEIL by the author from an essay first published in the February 2001 issue of FEE’s journal, “The Freeman.” The author wishes the reader to know that the conditions he described in 2001 are no better a decade later and neither are the public policies that produced them.

Public (government) education in America costs a princely sum, and it isn’t getting any cheaper. But what taxpayers shell out for the government school monopoly doesn’t tell the whole story. What others in society must pay to correct the shortcomings of that failed monopoly is huge and a painful testimony to the need for a big dose of choice, competition, and private enterprise.

Because government schools perform on a par with government farms, government factories, and government stores in the typical socialized society, we have in America what is commonly called “remedial education.” The government school establishment doesn’t like the term because of its pejorative nature, so its minions have lately come up with their own: “developmental education.” I have nothing to cover up, so I’ll use the former.

Remedial education is what has to happen when students graduate from high school lacking basic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. They have a diploma, but it doesn’t certify that they know anything; these days, the only thing you can be sure a diploma certifies is that lots of people paid through the nose for at least 12 years before the government was done with you. When employers and universities have to spend money to bring high school graduates up to speed—to do what the K-12 system did not do—that’s remedial education.

Getting a handle on the costs of this corrective work in Michigan was the purpose of a study released in 2000 by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The Cost of Remedial Education: How Much Michigan Pays When Students Fail to Learn Basic Skills” by education policy scholar Jay P. Greene, captured page-one headlines all across the state and shook the very foundations of the government school establishment. It made a lot of people rethink their longstanding, rarely questioned assumptions about government schooling.

First, it’s important to understand what the study did not count. It did not include the cost of college-level work that has been “watered-down” but not labeled either “remedial” or “developmental.” Talk to most university professors these days and you’ll know what I mean.

The study accounted for the expense of instructional services, but did not count expenditures on technology to accommodate the lack of basic skills. Increasingly, businesses are investing in software and gadgets to do, in effect, an end-run around workers who lack basic skills. Many businesses these days buy cash registers that make change for customers because employees can’t be relied on to count accurately. Some fast-food chains actually provide cash registers with pictures of the food items on them so adult employees who can’t read “cheeseburger” can still use them.

And finally, the study did not count the costs incurred personally by either high school dropouts or graduates who have been short-changed by the system: the later costs of tutors and self-study, and the cost of lower incomes.

This study looked only at Michigan and only at the costs of remedial education incurred just by businesses and universities in that state. At a minimum, one-third and probably something closer to one-half of all students graduating from Michigan public high schools lack basic skills. By using five different strategies for calculating these costs, Greene arrived at $601 million as a conservative estimate of what Michigan businesses and universities spend each year to remediate high school graduates lacking basic skills. That is a considerable sum on top of the $13 billion state and local governments spend on public education each year in Michigan, and yet it’s surely too low because of all the costs that were not part of the calculation.

The government school establishment is quick to suggest that the problem isn’t entirely the fault of the schools. Parents, they say, are partly to blame when they don’t prepare kids well or see that they do their homework. While it’s true that many parents have abdicated their responsibilities in the education of their children, it’s also true that many parents who do take education seriously find that they must constantly fight the public schools on matters of proper course content and academic rigor. Many parents believe the report cards their kids bring home, not realizing that grade inflation and poor teaching render the meaning of those report cards dubious. And schools, not parents, are the outfits that issue the diplomas that once implied a mastery of at least basic skills. If a student doesn’t have those skills, it’s deception when his school graduates him as if he did.

Janet Dettloff, chair of the Math and Sciences Division at Wayne County Community College in Detroit, says the remedial problem is acute and goes beyond a simple lack of knowledge: “Most of the students who come to us not only lack math and English skills, but they lack basic academic skills too. They have no idea what is expected of them at the college level. They don’t know how to take notes. They don’t read the assigned material. And many of them don’t even come to class.”

Others from both the business and university communities told the author what education reformers have long understood: government schools are doing a poor job of imparting critical thinking skills. Logic and reason have largely been supplanted by appeals to emotion. In place of rigorous analytical processes, students are asked to tell how they feel about a particular issue. The “self-esteem” craze that has swept public education essentially produces students by the boatload who don’t really know much, don’t know that they don’t know, but feel real good about their ignorance.

Getting the public to think about the high costs of remedial education is proving to be a catalyst for advancing real reform. If you favor more choice, competition, and private enterprise in education—irrespective of your preference for vouchers or tax credits or privatization and complete separation of school and state as a means to do that—the remediation problem provides new and powerful arguments: It vividly demonstrates that there are costs to not scrapping the status quo. People who are uncomfortable with the thought of change have some startling new numbers to wrestle with.

Apologists for government schooling love to spurn the arguments of reformers with the line, “You’re not being fair because, after all, public schools have to take all comers. They can’t pick and choose as private schools can.” Well, thanks to eye-opening studies like this one on the remedial problem, we know that whether public schools take everybody or not, it’s clear that atrociously high numbers of those they take are not getting educated.

A Student’s Essay That Changed the World

Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York— essay has been adapted for CEIL by the author from an essay first published in the May 2005 issue of FEE’s journal, “The Freeman.”)

As a former university professor, I read thousands of student-authored essays through the years — sometimes joyously, but probably just as often, painfully.  Occasionally, the process of researching and writing exerted significant influence over a student’s future interests, thinking and perhaps even behavior.  But of all the student essays ever written anywhere, I doubt that any had as profound an effect on its author and the world as one that was penned 220 years ago at Cambridge.

Throughout Britain, the annual Latin essay contest at Cambridge was known and the honor of winning it coveted.  The topic for the 1785 competition was prompted by a horrific human tragedy a few years before: Near the end of a long voyage from Britain to Africa to the West Indies, the captain of the British slave ship “Zong” had ordered his crew to throw 133 chained black Africans overboard to their deaths.  He reckoned that by falsely claiming the ship had run out of fresh water, he could collect more for the “cargo” from the ship’s insurer than he could fetch at a slave auction in Jamaica.

No one in the Zong affair was prosecuted for murder.  A London court ruled the matter a mere civil dispute between an insurance firm and a client.  As for the Africans, the judge declared their drowning was “just as if horses were killed,” which, as horrendous as that sounds today, was not a view far removed from the conventional wisdom that prevailed worldwide in 1785.  Slavery, after all, was an ancient institution.  Even to this day, the number of people who have walked this earth in bondage far outnumbers those who have enjoyed even a modest measure of liberty.

Moved by the fate of the Zong’s victims and the indifference of the court, the university vice-chancellor in charge of selecting the topic for the 1785 contest at Cambridge chose this question: “Anne liceat invitos in servitutem dare?” – Is it lawful to make slaves of others against their will?”

Enter a man who, with a handful of compatriots armed only with the printed and spoken word, would clutch the public by the neck and not let go until it consigned slavery to the moral ash heap of history.

Born in Wisbech in 1760, Thomas Clarkson was a 25-year-old Cambridge student who hoped to be a minister when he decided to try his luck in the essay contest.  Slavery was not a topic that had previously interested him, but he plunged into his research with the vigor and meticulous care that, with the passion that his findings later sparked, would come to characterize nearly every day of his next sixty-one years.   Drawing from the vivid testimony of those who had seen the unspeakable cruelty of the slave trade first-hand, Clarkson’s essay won first prize.

What Clarkson had learned wrenched him to his very core.  Shortly after claiming the prize, and while riding horseback along a country road, his conscience gripped him.  Slavery, he later wrote, “wholly engrossed” his thoughts.  He could not complete the ride without making frequent stops to dismount and walk, tortured by the awful visions of the traffic in human lives.  At one point, falling to the ground in anguish, he determined that if what he had written in his essay was indeed true, it could lead to only one conclusion: “it was time some person should see these calamities to their end.”

Adam Hochschild, author of a splendid recent book on the history of the campaign to end slavery in the British empire titled “Bury the Chains,” explains the significance of those few minutes in time:

“If there is a single moment at which the antislavery movement became inevitable, it was the day in 1785 when Thomas Clarkson sat down by the side of the road at Wades Mill . . . . For his Bible-conscious colleagues, it held echoes of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.  For us today, it is a landmark on the long, tortuous path to the modern conception of universal human rights.”  More than two centuries on, that very spot is marked by an obelisk, not far from London.

No man can rightfully lay claim, moral or otherwise, to owning another.  That became Clarkson’s all-consuming focus.  Casting aside his plans for a career as a man of the cloth, he mounted a bully pulpit and risked everything for the single cause of ending the evil of slavery.  At first, he sought out and befriended the one group — the Quakers — who had already gone on record on the issue.  But the Quakers were few in number and were written off by British society as fringe weirdos.  Quaker men even refused to remove their hats for any man, including the king, because they believed it offended an even higher authority.  Clarkson knew that anti-slavery would have to become a mainstream, fashionable, grassroots, educational effort if it had any hope to succeed.

On May 22, 1787, Clarkson’s organizational skills brought together twelve men, including a few of the leading Quakers, at a London print shop to plot the course.  Alexis de Tocqueville would later describe the results of that meeting as “extraordinary” and “absolutely without precedent” in the history of the world.  This tiny group, which named itself the Committee for the Abolition of the African Slave Trade, was about to take on a firmly established institution in which a great deal of money was made and on which considerable political power depended.  The broad public knew little about the details of slavery and what it did know, it had accepted for the most part as perfectly normal since time immemorial.

“Looking back today,” writes Hochschild, “what is more astonishing than the pervasiveness of slavery in the late 1700s is how swiftly it died.  By the end of the following century, slavery was, at least on paper, outlawed almost everywhere.”  Thomas Clarkson was the prime architect of “the first, pioneering wave of that campaign” (the movement in Britain) which Hochschild properly describes as “one of the most ambitious and brilliantly organized citizens’ movements of all time.”

William Wilberforce is most often given the lion’s share of the credit for ending slavery in the British empire.  He was the long-time Parliamentarian who never gave in to overwhelming odds, introducing bill after bill to abolish first the trade in slaves and later, slavery itself.  Hero he certainly was, but it was Thomas Clarkson who first proposed to Wilberforce that he be the movement’s man in Parliament.  And it was information Clarkson gathered by crisscrossing 35,000 miles of British countryside on horseback that Wilberforce often used in parliamentary debate.  Clarkson was the mobilizer, the energizer, the barnburner, the fact-finder, and the very conscience of the movement.

He translated his prize-winning essay from Latin into English and supervised its distribution by the tens of thousands.  He gave lectures and sermons.  He wrote articles and a least one book.  He helped British seamen escape from the slave-carrying ships they were pressed against their will to serve on.  He filed murder charges in courts to draw attention to the actions of fiendish slave ship captains.  He convinced witnesses to speak.  He gathered testimony, rustled up petition signatures by the thousands, and smuggled evidence from under the very noses of his adversaries.  His life was threatened many times and once, surrounded by an angry mob, he very nearly lost it.  The long hours, the often thankless and seemingly fruitless forays to uncover evidence, the risks and the costs that came in every form, the many low points when it looked like the world was against him — all of that went on and on year after year.  None of it ever made so much as a perceptible dent in Thomas Clarkson’s drive.

When Britain went to war with France in 1793, Clarkson and his committee saw early progress in winning converts evaporate.  The opposition in Parliament argued that abandoning the slave trade would only hand a lucrative business to a mortal enemy.  And the public saw winning the war as more important than freeing people of another color from another continent.  But Clarkson did not relent.  He, his ally in Parliament Wilberforce, and the committee Clarkson had formed, kept spreading the message and looked for the best opportunities to press it forward.

It was at Clarkson’s instigation that a diagram of a slave ship became a convincing tool in the debate.  Depicting hundreds of slaves crammed like sardines in horrible conditions, it proved to be pivotal in winning the public mind.  Clarkson’s committee enlisted the help of famed pottery maker Josiah Wedgwood in producing a famous medallion with the image of a kneeling black man, chained, uttering the words, “Am I not a man and a brother?”  Indeed, Clarkson’s imprint was on almost everything the committee did.  It even produced one of the first newsletters and one of the first direct-mail campaigns for the purpose of raising money.

The effort finally paid off.  The tide of public opinion swung firmly to the abolitionists.  The trade in slaves was outlawed by act of Parliament when it approved one of Wilberforce’s bills in 1807.  Twenty-six more years of laborious effort by Clarkson, Wilberforce and others were required before, in 1833, Britain freed all slaves within its realm and became a model for peaceful emancipation everywhere.

Clarkson died at the age of 86, having outlived the other eleven he had called together at the print shop back in 1787.  Hochschild tells us that the throngs of mourners “included many Quakers, and the men among them made an almost unprecedented departure from sacred custom” by removing their hats.

An essay lit a match, which started a fire, which saved millions of lives and changed the world.  If you ever hear anyone dismissing the power of pen and ink, just tell them the story of Thomas Clarkson and his prize-winning essay.

Taloudelliset mahdollisuudet tarvitsevat moraalisen ulottuvuuden

Lawrence W. Reed on Foundation for Economic Education -organisaation toiminnanjohtaja. Tämä essee on kirjoittajan muokkaama samannimisestä artikkelista, joka on julkaistu FEE:n vuoden 1994 kesäkuun “The Freeman” -julkaisussa.

Joka vaalivuosi odotamme joutuvamme ”maan jaloilleen nostamisesta”, ”työpaikkojen luomisesta” ja ”talouden parantamisesta” kertovan retoriikan ristituleen.

Poliitikot rakastavat tulevaisuuden lupauksia ja omien aikaisempien toimiensa unohtamista. Tyypillisesti he käyttävät paljon enemmän aikaa kehitelläkseen uusia tapoja sekaantua kansalaisten elämään kuin jo käytössä olevien sekaantumistapojen kumoamiseen.

Todellista huomiota ansaitsisivat valtion luomat taloudellisten mahdollisuuksien esteet – kuten säännökset, verot, lisenssikäytännöt, kaavoitussuunnitelmat, työmarkkinajärjestöjen erikoisoikeudet, yritystuet, jatkuvat pääomaa kuluttavat budjettivajeet, sosiaalitukijärjestelmä, joka suosii toimettomuutta ja rankaisee työnteosta, ja koulutusmonopoli, joka epäonnistuu lasten opettamisessa, mutta tyhjentää heidän vanhempiensa tilipussit.

Monet tutkimukset ovat osoittaneet, että rajoittavat kaavoitusmääräykset, rakennuslupakäytännöt ja kiinteistöverot ovat suurimmat syyt siihen, että köyhille ei saada sellaisia asuntoja, joihin heillä olisi varaa. Minimipalkkalait pitävät työmarkkinoiden ulkopuolella satoja tuhansia sellaisia, joiden osaamistaso ei ole valtion saneleman palkkatason mukainen. Loputtomat markkinoille pääsyä vaikeuttamaan suunnitellut säännöt ja määräykset, kuten esimerkiksi taksiliikennettä tai tavarankuljetusta koskevat, estävät montaa potentiaalista yritystä syntymästä.

En nyt tarkoita perustavanlaatuisia lakeja, jotka pyrkivät estämään toiselle aiheutettavaa vahinkoa tai rankaisevat jo aiheutetusta vahingosta. Puhun aikamme pääasiallisesta sosiaalisesta sairaudesta – siitä, että valtio ylittää soveliaisuuden rajat ja leikkii yhtaikaa Robin Hoodia, joulupukkia ja poikasistaan huolehtivaa kanaemoa, ja siten aiheuttaa todellista vahinkoa todellisille ihmisille, jotka eivät ole riistäneet tai ryöstäneet ketään. Ainakin taloustieteilijät alkavat suhtautua tuollaiseen politiikkaan yhä kriittisemmin.

On kuitenkin ymmärrettävä, että taloustieteellinen analyysi ei yksinään auta meitä pääsemään eroon näistä itse luoduista esteistä. On vaikuttavaa, mutta ei kuitenkaan riittävän, esittää numerotietoa ja näyttää kuinka monta työpaikkaa mikäkin valtion toimenpide on tuhonnut. Kuvioiden piirtely bruttokansantuotteen muutoksista ei riitä.

Tarvitaan kipeästi myös, että keskustelussa tunnustetaan se moraalinen taantumuksellisuus, jota niin monet näistä taloudellisen vapauden esteistä edustavat. Näiden esteiden kaataminen vaatii, että meidän vapaata markkinataloutta kannattavien tulee toimia korkean moraalin mukaisesti. Meidän täytyy vedota siihen, minkä useimmat ihmiset vaistomaisesti tuntevat olevan oikein, ei pelkästään siihen, mikä saa kassakoneen kilisemään. Meidän on opeteltava puhumaan valtion vahingollisista toimista termeillä, jotka viittaavat oikeuksien polkemiseen, unelmien murskaamiseen ja elämien pilaamiseen.

Esimerkiksi, kun Detroitin kaupunki Michiganissa korottaa – kuten se tekee – veroja niin, että verorasitus nousee useita kertoja kovemmaksi kuin muissa michiganilaisissa kaupungeissa, se ei ole pelkästään huonoa talouspolitiikkaa. Se on loukkaus niitä kaupunkilaisia kohtaan, jotka haluavat pelkästään parasta perheelleen, jotka haluavat vain mahdollisuuden olla tuottavia. Näiden korkeiden verojen pitäisi tuoda mieliin näkymiä nälkäisistä lapsista, lopetetuista yrityksistä, jotka kerran olivat joidenkin unelmien täyttymyksiä ja hajonneista kodeista perheiden ollessa kykenemättömiä maksamaan laskujaan vastuuttomien poliitikkojen takia.

Miksi ihmisiä, jotka työskentelevät valtion palkkalistoilla virkamiehinä tai byrokraatteina, kutsutaan ”kansan palvelijoiksi” – jopa kaikkein korkeimmin palkattuja? Miksei ”kansan palvelijat” termiä ole varattu niille yrittäjällisille sankareille yksityisellä sektorilla, jotka luovat työpaikkoja, tekevät keksintöjä, parantavat sairauksia, perustavat yrityksiä, palvelevat asiakkaita ja maksavat valtion laskut veroillaan? Missä ovat julkiset avunhuudot tai oikeudenmukaisuutta vaativa median hehkutus silloin, kun näiden ”kansan palvelijoiden” luomat esteet tuhoavat yritteliäiden ihmisten toimintakyvyn?

Se, mitä verot ja säännökset tekevät ihmisille ja heidän unelmilleen omasta liiketoiminnastaan, ja miten muut valtion toimet vaikuttavat ihmisten jokapäiväiseen elämään, on moraalisesti vastenmielistä. Tällaiset teot ovat muistoja siltä synkältä aikakaudelta, jolloin varasta ja hallitsijaa ei pystynyt erottamaan muutoin kuin vaatetuksen perusteella.

Kampanjan vapauden ja taloudellisten mahdollisuuksien palauttamiseksi tulee perusosanaan sisältää moraalisen ulottuvuuden. Lainsäädäntö, joka tukahduttaa yritteliäiden miesten ja naisten pyrkimykset, on enemmän kuin huonoa talouspolitiikkaa. Vapaassa yhteiskunnassa se olisi moraalinen katastrofi.

Great Myths of the Great Depression

Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York— essay is drawn from the author’s longer monograph available here. Readers can also view a speech by the author on this very subject here.

Many volumes have been written about the Great Depression and its impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of citizens around the world. Historians, economists, and politicians have all combed the wreckage searching for the “black box” that will reveal the cause of this legendary tragedy. Sadly, all too many of them decide to abandon their search, finding it easier perhaps to circulate a host of false and harmful conclusions about the events of eight decades ago.

How bad was the Great Depression? Generally speaking, it was worse in America than in Western Europe and Canada and my focus here is on the U.S. Over the four years from 1929 to 1933, production at America’s factories, mines, and utilities fell by more than half. Real disposable incomes dropped 28 percent. Stock prices collapsed to one-tenth of their pre-crash height. The number of unemployed Americans rose from 1.6 million in 1929 to 12.8 million in 1933. One of every four workers was out of a job at the Depression’s nadir, and ugly rumors of revolt simmered for the first time since the Civil War of the 1860s.

Old myths never die; they just keep showing up in college economics and political science textbooks. Students today are frequently taught that unfettered free enterprise collapsed of its own weight in 1929, paving the way for a decade-long economic depression full of hardship and misery. President Herbert Hoover is presented as an advocate of “hands-off,” or laissez-faire, economic policy, while his successor, Franklin Roosevelt, is the economic savior whose policies brought us recovery. This popular account of the Depression belongs in a book of fairy tales and not in a serious discussion of economic history, as a review of the facts demonstrates.

The Great, Great, Great, Great Depression

To properly understand the events of the time, it is appropriate to view the Great Depression as not one, but four consecutive depressions rolled into one. Professor Hans Sennholz has labeled these four “phases” as follows: the business cycle; the disintegration of the world economy; the New Deal; and the Wagner Act.[1]

The first phase explains why the crash of 1929 happened in the first place; the other three show how government intervention kept the economy in a stupor for over a decade.

Phase I: The Business Cycle

The Great Depression was not America’s first depression, though it proved to be the longest. The common thread woven through the several earlier debacles was disastrous manipulation of the money supply by government. For various reasons, government policies were adopted that ballooned the quantity of money and credit. A boom resulted, followed later by a painful day of reckoning. None of America’s depressions prior to 1929, however, lasted more than four years and most of them were over in two. The Great Depression lasted for a dozen years because the government compounded its monetary errors with a series of harmful interventions.

Most monetary economists, particularly those of the “Austrian school” (represented by such notable economists as Ludwig von Mises and Nobel laureate F. A. Hayek) have observed the close relationship between money supply and economic activity. When government inflates the money and credit supply, interest rates at first fall. Businesses invest this “easy money” in new production projects and a boom takes place in capital goods. As the boom matures, business costs rise, interest rates readjust upward, and profits are squeezed. The easy-money effects thus wear off and the monetary authorities, fearing price inflation, slow the growth of or even contract the money supply. In either case, the manipulation is enough to knock out the shaky supports from underneath the economic house of cards.

One of the most thorough and meticulously documented accounts of the Federal Reserve’s inflationary actions prior to 1929 is America’s Great Depression by the late Murray Rothbard. Using a broad measure that includes currency, demand and time deposits, and other ingredients, Rothbard estimated that the Federal Reserve expanded the money supply by more than 60 percent from mid-1921 to mid-1929.[2] The flood of easy money drove interest rates down, pushed the stock market to dizzy heights, and gave birth to the “Roaring Twenties.”

By early 1929, the central bank was taking the punch away from the party. It choked off the money supply, raised interest rates, and for the next three years presided over a money supply that shrank by 30 percent. This deflation following the inflation wrenched the economy from tremendous boom to colossal bust.

The “smart” money—shrewd investors like Bernard Baruch and Joseph Kennedys who watched things like money supply—saw that the party was coming to an end before most other Americans did. Baruch actually began selling stocks and buying bonds and gold as early as 1928; Kennedy did likewise, commenting, “only a fool holds out for the top dollar.”[3]

When the masses of investors eventually sensed the change in Fed policy, the stampede was underway. The stock market, after nearly two months of moderate decline, plunged on “Black Thursday”—October 24, 1929—as the pessimistic view of large and knowledgeable investors spread.

The stock market crash was only a symptom—not the cause—of the Great Depression: the market rose and fell in near synchronization with what the Fed was doing.

Phase II: Disintegration of the World Economy

If this crash had been like previous ones, the subsequent hard times might have ended in a year or two. But unprecedented political bungling instead prolonged the misery for twelve long years.

Unemployment in 1930 averaged a mildly recessionary 8.9 percent, up from 3.2 percent in 1929. It shot up rapidly until peaking out at more than 25 percent in 1933. Until March 1933, these were the years of President Herbert Hoover—the man that anti-capitalists depict as a champion of noninterventionist, laissez-faire economics.

Did Hoover really subscribe to a “hands off the economy,” free-market philosophy? His opponent in the 1932 election, Franklin Roosevelt, didn’t think so. During the campaign, Roosevelt blasted Hoover for spending and taxing too much, boosting the national debt, choking off trade, and putting millions of people on the dole. He accused the president of “reckless and extravagant” spending, of thinking “that we ought to center control of everything in Washington as rapidly as possible,” and of presiding over “the greatest spending administration in peacetime in all of history.”

Roosevelt’s running mate, John Nance Garner, charged that Hoover was “leading the country down the path of socialism.”[4] Contrary to the modern myth about Hoover, Roosevelt and Garner were absolutely right.

The crowning folly of the Hoover administration was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, passed in June 1930. It came on top of the Fordney-McCumber Tariff of 1922, which had already put American agriculture in a tailspin during the preceding decade. The most protectionist legislation in U.S. history, Smoot-Hawley virtually closed the borders to foreign goods and ignited a vicious international trade war. Professor Barry Poulson notes that not only were 887 tariffs sharply increased, but the act broadened the list of dutiable commodities to 3,218 items as well.[5]

Officials in the administration and in Congress believed that raising trade barriers would force Americans to buy more goods made at home, which would solve the nagging unemployment problem. They ignored an important principle of international commerce: trade is ultimately a two-way street; if foreigners cannot sell their goods here, then they cannot earn the dollars they need to buy here.

Foreign companies and their workers were flattened by Smoot-Hawley’s steep tariff rates, and foreign governments all across the world soon retaliated with trade barriers of their own. With their ability to sell in the American market severely hampered, they curtailed their purchases of American goods. American agriculture was particularly hard hit. With a stroke of the presidential pen, farmers in the U.S. lost nearly a third of their markets. Farm prices plummeted and tens of thousands of farmers went bankrupt. With the collapse of agriculture, rural banks failed in record numbers, dragging down hundreds of thousands of their customers.

Hoover dramatically increased government spending for subsidy and relief schemes. In the space of one year alone, from 1930 to 1931, the federal government’s share of GNP increased by about one-third.

Hoover’s agricultural bureaucracy doled out hundreds of millions of dollars to wheat and cotton farmers even as the new tariffs wiped out their markets. His Reconstruction Finance Corporation ladled out billions more in business subsidies. Commenting decades later on Hoover’s administration, Rexford Guy Tugwell, one of the architects of Franklin Roosevelt’s policies of the 1930s, explained, “We didn’t admit it at the time, but practically the whole New Deal was extrapolated from programs that Hoover started.”[6]

To compound the folly of high tariffs and huge subsidies, Congress then passed and Hoover signed the Revenue Act of 1932. It doubled the income tax for most Americans; the top bracket more than doubled, going from 24 percent to 63 percent. Exemptions were lowered; the earned income credit was abolished; corporate and estate taxes were raised; new gift, gasoline, and auto taxes were imposed; and postal rates were sharply hiked.

Can any serious scholar observe the Hoover administration’s massive economic intervention and, with a straight face, pronounce the inevitably deleterious effects as the fault of free markets?

Phase III: The New Deal

Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the 1932 presidential election in a landslide, collecting 472 electoral votes to just 59 for the incumbent Herbert Hoover. The platform of the Democratic Party whose ticket Roosevelt headed declared, “We believe that a party platform is a covenant with the people to be faithfully kept by the party entrusted with power.” It called for a 25 percent reduction in federal spending, a balanced federal budget, a sound gold currency “to be preserved at all hazards,” the removal of government from areas that belonged more appropriately to private enterprise, and an end to the “extravagance” of Hoover’s farm programs. This is what candidate Roosevelt promised, but it bears no resemblance to what President Roosevelt actually delivered.

In the first year of the New Deal, Roosevelt proposed spending $10 billion while revenues were only $3 billion. Between 1933 and 1936, government expenditures rose by more than 83 percent. Federal debt skyrocketed by 73 percent.

Roosevelt secured passage of the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA), which levied a new tax on agricultural processors and used the revenue to supervise the wholesale destruction of valuable crops and cattle. Federal agents oversaw the ugly spectacle of perfectly good fields of cotton, wheat, and corn being plowed under. Healthy cattle, sheep, and pigs by the millions were slaughtered and buried in mass graves.

Even if the AAA had helped farmers by curtailing supplies and raising prices, it could have done so only by hurting millions of others who had to pay those prices or make do with less to eat.

Perhaps the most radical aspect of the New Deal was the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), passed in June 1933, which set up the National Recovery Administration (NRA). Under the NIRA, most manufacturing industries were suddenly forced into government-mandated cartels. Codes that regulated prices and terms of sale briefly transformed much of the American economy into a fascist-style arrangement, while the NRA was financed by new taxes on the very industries it controlled. Some economists have estimated that the NRA boosted the cost of doing business by an average of 40 percent—not something a depressed economy needed for recovery.

Like Hoover before him, Roosevelt signed into law steep income tax rate increases for the high brackets and introduced a 5 percent withholding tax on corporate dividends. In fact, tax hikes became a favorite policy of the president’s for the next ten years, culminating in a top income tax rate of 94 percent during the last year of World War II. His alphabet agency commissars spent the public’s tax money like it was so much bilge.

For example, Roosevelt’s public relief programs hired actors to give free shows and librarians to catalogue archives. The New Deal even paid researchers to study the history of the safety pin, hired 100 Washington workers to patrol the streets with balloons to frighten starlings away from public buildings, and put men on the public payroll to chase tumbleweeds on windy days.

Roosevelt created the Civil Works Administration in November 1933 and ended it in March 1934, though the unfinished projects were transferred to the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Roosevelt had assured Congress in his State of the Union message that any new such program would be abolished within a year. “The federal government,” said the President, “must and shall quit this business of relief. I am not willing that the vitality of our people be further stopped by the giving of cash, of market baskets, of a few bits of weekly work cutting grass, raking leaves, or picking up papers in the public parks.”

But in 1935 the Works Progress Administration came along. It is known today as the very government program that gave rise to the new term, “boondoggle,” because it “produced” a lot more than the 77,000 bridges and 116,000 buildings to which its advocates loved to point as evidence of its efficacy.[7] The stupefying roster of wasteful spending generated by these jobs programs represented a diversion of valuable resources to politically motivated and economically counterproductive purposes.

The American economy was soon relieved of the burden of some of the New Deal’s excesses when the Supreme Court outlawed the NRA in 1935 and the AAA in 1936, earning Roosevelt’s eternal wrath and derision. Recognizing much of what Roosevelt did as unconstitutional, the “nine old men” of the Court also threw out other, more minor acts and programs which hindered recovery.

Freed from the worst of the New Deal, the economy showed some signs of life. Unemployment dropped to 18 percent in 1935, 14 percent in 1936, and even lower in 1937. But by 1938, it was back up to 20 percent as the economy slumped again. The stock market crashed nearly 50 percent between August 1937 and March 1938. The “economic stimulus” of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal had achieved a real “first”: a depression within a depression!

Phase IV: The Wagner Act

The stage was set for the 1937–38 collapse with the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935—better known as the Wagner Act and organized labor’s “Magna Carta.” To quote Hans Sennholz again:

This law revolutionized American labor relations. It took labor disputes out of the courts of law and brought them under a newly created Federal agency, the National Labor Relations Board, which became prosecutor, judge, and jury, all in one. Labor union sympathizers on the Board further perverted this law, which already afforded legal immunities and privileges to labor unions. The U.S. thereby abandoned a great achievement of Western civilization, equality under the law.[8]

Armed with these sweeping new powers, labor unions went on a militant organizing frenzy. Threats, boycotts, strikes, seizures of plants, and widespread violence pushed productivity down sharply and unemployment up dramatically. Membership in the nation’s labor unions soared; by 1941 there were two and a half times as many Americans in unions as in 1935.

From the White House on the heels of the Wagner Act came a thunderous barrage of insults against business. Businessmen, Roosevelt fumed, were obstacles on the road to recovery. New strictures on the stock market were imposed. A tax on corporate retained earnings, called the “undistributed profits tax,” was levied. “These soak-the-rich efforts,” writes economist Robert Higgs, “left little doubt that the president and his administration intended to push through Congress everything they could to extract wealth from the high-income earners responsible for making the bulk of the nation’s decisions about private investment.”[9]

Higgs draws a close connection between the level of private investment and the course of the American economy in the 1930s. The relentless assaults of the Roosevelt administration—in both word and deed—against business, property, and free enterprise guaranteed that the capital needed to jumpstart the economy was either taxed away or forced into hiding. When Roosevelt took America to war in 1941, he eased up on his anti-business agenda, but a great deal of the nation’s capital was diverted into the war effort instead of into plant expansion or consumer goods. Not until both Roosevelt and the war were gone did investors feel confident enough to “set in motion the postwar investment boom that powered the economy’s return to sustained prosperity.”[10]

On the eve of America’s entry into World War II and twelve years after the stock market crash of Black Thursday, ten million Americans were jobless. Roosevelt had pledged in 1932 to end the crisis, but it persisted two presidential terms and countless interventions later.

Along with the horror of World War II came a revival of trade with America’s allies. The war’s destruction of people and resources did not help the U.S. economy, but this renewed trade did. More important, the Truman administration that followed Roosevelt was decidedly less eager to berate and bludgeon private investors, and as a result, those investors came back into the economy to fuel a powerful postwar boom. The years 1945-46 brought huge reductions in government spending and much lower tax rates on business, along with smaller reductions in tax rates on individuals.

The genesis of the Great Depression lay in the inflationary monetary policies of the U.S. government in the 1920s. It was prolonged and exacerbated by a litany of political missteps: trade-crushing tariffs, incentive-sapping taxes, mind-numbing controls on production and competition, senseless destruction of crops and cattle, and coercive labor laws, to recount just a few. It was not the free market that produced twelve years of agony; rather, it was political bungling on a scale as grand as there ever was.


1. Hans F. Sennholz, “The Great Depression,” The Freeman, April 1975, p. 205.

2. Murray Rothbard, America’s Great Depression (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, Inc., 1975), p. 89.

3. Lindley H. Clark, Jr., “After the Fall,” Wall Street Journal, October 26, 1979, p. 18.

4. “FDR’s Disputed Legacy,” Time, February 1, 1982, p. 23.

5. Barry W. Poulson, Economic History of the United States (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1981), p. 508.

6. Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997), p. 741.

7. Martin Morse Wooster, “Bring Back the WPA? It Also Had A Seamy Side,” Wall Street Journal, September 3, 1986, p. A26.

8. Sennholz, pp. 212–13.

9. Robert Higgs, “Regime Uncertainty: Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why Prosperity Resumed After the War,” The Independent Review, Spring 1997, p. 573.

10. Ibid., p. 564.

Siviiliyhteiskunnan elvyttäminen

Lawrence W. Reed on Foundation for Economic Education -organisaation toiminnanjohtaja. Tämä essee on kirjoittajan muokkaama samannimisestä artikkelista, joka on julkaistu FEE:n vuoden 1996 syyskuun “the Freeman” -julkaisussa.

“Verot,” sanoi Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., “ovat osallistumismaksu sivistyneestä yhteiskunnasta.” Taloustieteilijä Mark Skousen esitti kuitenkin paljon paremman näkökulman todetessaan, että verot ovat maksu sivistyksen puutteesta. Jos ihmiset huolehtisivat paremmin itsestään, perheestään ja lähimmäisistään, valtion rooli kutistuisi ja yhteiskunnasta tulisi vahvempi.

Skousen sanoi hyvin kirjoittaessaan “Aina kun säädämme uuden lain tai asetuksen, aina kun korotamme veroja, aina kun aloitamme sodan, myönnämme, että ihmiset ovat epäonnistuneet oman elämänsä hallitsemisessa. Voimme voittaa kannustamalla ihmisiä toimimaan oikein, mutta aina kun pakotamme heidät toimimaan oikein, olemme epäonnistuneet.” Vapaaehtoisuuden voitto pakottamisesta – kun ihmiset auttavat toisiaan omasta halustaan eikä valtion pakottamina – on merkki sivistyneistä ihmisistä ja siviiliyhteiskunnasta.

Tämä on tärkeä ja kauaskantoinen havainto kaikille kulttuurimme kehittymisestä kiinnostuneille. Kulttuurin edistymistä ei pitäisi määritellä sen mukaan, paljonko toisten omaisuutta otetaan käytettäväksi valtion byrokratian “hyviin” tarkoituksiin. Kulttuuri on aidosti kehittynyt, kun yksilöt pystyvät ratkomaan ongelmia itse ilman poliitikkojen, poliisin tai virkamiesten apua.

Kun ranskalainen historioitsija Alexis de Tocqueville vieraili 1830-luvulla Yhdysvalloissa, hän piti yhteiskunnan toimeliaisuutta yhtenä nuoren maan suurimmista kilpailuvalteista. Hän oli vaikuttunut siitä, miten amerikkalaiset jatkuvasti perustivat “yhdistyksiä” tukemaan taidetta, rakentamaan kirjastoja ja sairaaloita ja tyydyttämään kaikenlaisia sosiaalisia tarpeita. Halutessaan saada aikaan jotain hyvää esivanhempamme harvoin odottivat niin fyysisesti kuin henkisestikin etäällä olevien poliitikkojen hoitavan asian heidän puolestaan. “Ihmisluontoa hallitsevien luonnonlakien joukossa”, totesi Tocqueville kirjoittaessaan Demokratiasta Amerikassa, “on yksi asia, joka on selvempi kuin mikään muu. Jos ihmiset aikovat säilyttää sivistyksensä tai kehittää sitä, yhdessä toimimisen kyvyn pitää kehittyä ja vahvistua.”

Nykyään, kun hallitukset Amerikassa ja useimmissa muissa länsimaissa kuluttavat 40-60% ihmisten ansioista, pitäisi olla ilmeistä, että monikaan ei ajattele, toimi tai äänestä kuten esivanhempansa Tocquevillen aikoina. Miten siis voisimme palauttaa ja vahvistaa niitä asenteita ja instituutioita, jotka muodostavat eloisan, vapaan ja sivistyneen yhteiskunnan perustan?

Ainakaan emme pysty siihen hyväksymällä sokeasti kaikki hallituksen ohjelmat, jotka hukuttavat alleen yksityiset aloitteet tai kyseenalaistamalla niiden motiiveja, jotka perustellen kyseenalaistavat hallituksen toimet. Emme saa elvytettyä sivistynyttä yhteiskuntaa, jos emme luota itseemme, vaan uskomme, että valtiolla on monopoli myötätuntoon ja hyväntekeväisyyteen. Emme saavuta tavoitettamme ikinä, jos verotamme 40-60% ihmisten ansioista ja sitten ihmettelemme, kuten matematiikassa reputtaneet koululaiset, miten ihmisillä ei ole varaa heidän tarvitsemiinsa asioihin.

Sivistys pääsee edistymään vasta, kun ihmiset alkavat suhtautua vakavasti ajatukseen korvata hallituksen ohjelmia yksityisillä aloitteilla ja, kun keskustelussa päästään yli sellaisista lapsellisista väitteistä kuin “Jos haluat vähentää valtion maksamia tukia, kannatat siis vanhusten jättämistä kuolemaan nälkään.” Sivistys alkaa kukoistaa, kun ymmärrämme, että valtion “palkkaaminen” kalliiksi välikädeksi ei ole paras tapa “tehdä hyvää” ja että se usein katkaisee yhteyden apua tarvitsevien ja auttamishaluisten välillä. Edistymme, kun valtion tarjoaminen ongelmien ratkaisijaksi tunnustetaan siksi, mitä se on – väärää hyväntekeväisyyttä, “lintsaamista”, yksinkertainen epävastaus, joka ei toimi kunnolla, vaikka saakin kannattajansa tuntemaan omahyväistä tyytyväisyyttä.

Siviiliyhteiskunnan palauttaminen ei tule olemaan helppoa. Huonoista tavoista ja lyhytnäköisestä ajattelusta on vaikea päästä eroon. Erityisen vaikeaa on saada sivistyksen viesti vahingoittumattomana läpi valtamedian suodattimista. Erään suuren michiganilaisen sanomalehden hiljattain julkaistu pääkirjoitus on tästä hyvä esimerkki. Kirjoitus vastusti valtion budjettiin ehdotettuja leikkauksia ja rinnasti siviiliyhteiskunnan palauttamisen ihmiselämän alistamiseen “markkinatalouden armoille”. On sääli, että niin monet sanomalehdet rutiininomaisesti harmittelevat poliittisten kampanjoiden pinnallisuutta, mutta kuitenkin itse käyttävät kuluneita sanontoja, kun joku ehdottaa toimia ihmisiä kiusaavan valtion roolin pienentämiseksi.

Kyseinen pääkirjoitus ei ruokkinut, vaatettanut eikä tarjonnut majoitusta yhdellekään tarvitsevalle. Se tuskin paljoa lohdutti vähäosaisia. Se ei inspiroinut yhtään vapaaehtoista toimintaa puutteenalaisten perheiden auttamiseksi. Sen sijaan se saattoi tuudittaa osan lukijoista yhä syvempään omahyväisyyden uneen. Valtio, kuten pitääkin, huolehtii kaikista niistä asioista, joihin kirjoitus viittasi.

Samaan aikaan pohdiskelevammat kirjoittajat huomaavat joitakin rohkaisevia muutoksia. Huomattava artikkeli U.S. News & Worldin tuoreessa numerossa ylisti “kansalaisaktiivisuuden henkiinherättämistä”. Eräs lehden käyttämistä esimerkeistä kertoi Frankfordin kaupungista Pennsylvaniassa. Frankfordista oli tullut korkeiden verojen ja laman koettelema valtiosta riippuvainen yhteisö, joka kaipasi kipeästi ratkaisuja ongelmiinsa. Sivistyneen yhteisön kipinä oli sytytetty, ja nyt ihmiset ratkaisevat ongelmia itse. “Kun kaupunkiin satoi ennätykselliset 76 senttimetriä lunta, … frankfordilaiset eivät jääneet tumput suorina seisomaan ja valittamaan kaupungin työntekijöiden tehottomuutta. Asukkaat vuokrasivat itse lumiauroja ja jakoivat kustannukset”, lehti kertoi.

Jos Tocqueville vierailisi tässä pienessä pennsylvanialaisessa kaupungissa, niin ehkä hän näkisi häivähdyksen siitä suurenmoisuudesta, jota hän todisti 1830-luvulla. Hän vaikuttuisi kaupungin yhteishengestä ja saataisi jopa ehdottaa, että ihmisten kaikkialla pitäisi ottaa siitä oppia. Tocqueville saattaisi huomioida, että asukkaat eivät jääneet istumaan aloilleen valittamaan kurjuuttaan ja kirjoittamaan lehtien palstoille siitä, miten poliitikkojen pitäisi pelastaa heidät. “Kun pääsee eroon närkästyksestä, ettei valtio hoida asioita puolestasi, saa aikaiseksi tehdä sen itse”, eräs paikallinen asukas kertoo.

Voimme oppia paljon frankfordilaisilta ja muilta heidän kaltaisiltaan, jotka ajattelevat, ettei hyväntekeväisyys tarkoita joidenkin toisten rahojen kuluttamista tai sosiaalisten tarpeiden saarnaamista tietokoneen näppäimistön takaa. Sivistyksen palauttaminen yhteiskuntaan edellyttää sitä, että “uskallamme sanoa ei” henkilökohtaisen vastuun pakoilemiselle ja sille, että odottaisimme valtion tekevän puolestamme sen, mikä meidän pitäisi tehdä itse perheidemme ja paikallisten yhdistysten kanssa. Se tarkoittaa, että meidän pitää ajatella luovasti, keksiä yksityisiä aloitteita ja sitten vain toteuttaa ne.

Itse asiassa, mitä enemmän asiaa ajattelen, sitä paremmin ymmärrän, että asioiden tekeminen sen sijaan, että vain puhuisi niistä tai odottaisi muiden tekevän ne, on yksi tärkeimpiä eroja aikuisten ja lasten välillä. Ehkä meidän kaikkien pitäisi vain kasvaa aikuisiksi – ja siten kasvaa ulos sosiaalivaltion tylsistyttävästä ympäristöstä.