Philosophy 1 On 1 – The Principles of Classical Liberalism Are Intuitive

by James Otteson

James Otteson teaches in the department of philosophy at the University of Alabama.

It is no secret that classical liberalism receives little attention in American academic philosophy, and then generally only as a historical artifact. What one hears is something like this: “No serious philosopher today believes that people can get on without substantial, organized help from the government. The only issues are in what way the government should help and to what extent; the issue of whether the government should help can no longer be seriously entertained.”

There are of course exceptions—Robert Nozick, David Schmidtz, and Eric Mack come to mind—but they are a decided minority and, in my experience at least, are often not considered to be within the philosophical mainstream. I have thus faced considerable difficulty convincing my colleagues that classical liberalism is worth thinking about at all, let alone worth careful examination. But a free society is worth the effort, and so I have explored many methods of opening the closed intellectual doors I have encountered, believing that if I can get others to think about classical liberalism for just a few minutes, I will find some place where it matches up with—or, if I am lucky, accounts for—a deep moral or political intuition they already have. When that happens, I have found that classical liberalism suddenly gains a footing as a position that has at least the possibility of plausibility. And that is a start.

Connecting to Intuition

In my experience arguments for classical liberalism rarely get off the ground unless they can first make this connection to intuition. Hence the method I have settled on for extending liberty’s cause in my discipline of philosophy is one that, first, seizes on a few of the adversary’s deeply held intuitions and then uses those intuitions as bases on which arguments can be built. I think three intuitions in particular combine to make an initial case for the free society that almost any person, regardless of his political position, will find formidable.

Here’s how I propose going about it.

Begin by asking whether there is anything wrong with rape. Now of course such a question may well shock its hearer, but a shock is sometimes necessary to get people to think hard about a different way of looking at the world. Ask your adversary to answer the question seriously. So: yes, there is something wrong with rape. Well, what is it exactly? It does not suffice to say that rape is self-evidently wrong because it might not be self-evidently wrong to everyone. The rapist, for example, might not think so.

To bring the matter into sharper focus, ask this next: Is rape always wrong—or might there be occasions when it is acceptable? What if raping a person would lead to some greater good? For example, should we consider whether the rapist might not receive such a degree of pleasure from the rape that it effectively cancels out the pain and suffering the victim experiences? On that ground, then, should we judge each rape on a case-by-case basis, asking in each instance whether the act in question led to a net increase or decrease in welfare? This question is typically met with horror: of course rape is always wrong and of course its wrongness is not subject to any utilitarian calculation. It is wrong absolutely and simply so. The following suggestion will now seem quite apt and will almost always meet with approval: rape is wrong always and everywhere because a person’s body is inviolable; a person has an absolute right to his (or her) body, and anyone who breaches that right is acting immorally regardless of his reasons. A person is, as it were, the owner of his own body, and as such he has absolute say over what gets done to it.

At this point the case for a free society has already begun to be built, though one’s adversary probably does not see it. It is time to call up the second intuition, again by asking a question whose answer will seem obvious. Is there anything wrong with slavery? Well, what exactly? Again we must not allow “self-evidence” to justify our belief that slavery is wrong because many people evidently have believed and continue to believe that slavery is at least in some circumstances acceptable. Might slavery be wrong because it violates the dignity of the enslaved by treating him as a means to someone else’s end? Might it be wrong because it dehumanizes the enslaved, treats him as if he were the moral equivalent of a pack animal?

Yes, that is it: slavery is wrong because it treats a man as if he were not a man; it fails to respect his inherent dignity, his inherent worth as a human being. But suppose that Congress—and congressmen, note, are popularly elected—passed legislation requiring the enslavement of some minority of the population. Suppose that to supply vital industries with much-needed cheap labor, the majority of us decided to enslave all, let us say, Irishmen. This would be democracy in action; the whole process would be strictly according to protocol in a democratic country. That would be acceptable, would it not?

Of course not! the reply will come. Slavery can never be justified, no matter how many people voted for it. And now one’s adversary will believe what has already been said with almost unshakable conviction: slavery disrespects the inherent dignity in a human being and is therefore always wrong. A person may not in any way be used against his will for the sake of another person, and his sovereignty over his own life is immune from democratic (or any other) lawmaking.

Is Theft Wrong?

Now the foundations of the free society are almost entirely laid. Only one more element is required. Is there anything wrong with stealing? This matter can be a bit tricky, because there will be those who think that stealing is justified in the case of a poor man stealing from a rich man. Put that possibility off for a moment and ask the hearer to answer whether theft as a general practice is acceptable. Is it all right for anyone who wants something simply to take it regardless of who owns the thing in question? To this question the answer will be “no.” But once again, why is it not all right?

Although the intuition that stealing is wrong is strong, people are often not quite sure what to say about why it is wrong. Proceed, then, with this question. Suppose Congress took a vote, and the majority, which carried the day, passed legislation licensing local police authorities to take anyone’s property whenever in their judgment, and in their judgment alone, they saw fit to do so. Would there be anything wrong with that? Would the fact that such a practice had been signed into law thereby make the practice morally acceptable? Odds are that the answer to this will be “no” as well.

Make, then, this suggestion. People have a right to what they own—that is, to what they have legitimately acquired (through labor, trade, or gift); stealing violates that right and for that reason is wrong. To return to the case of the poor man stealing from the rich man: how wealthy a person is does not seem relevant to our explanation of why theft is wrong. Theft violates a right, and hence it is wrong regardless of whose right is in question. If one’s adversary wavers on this point, remind him that there is always someone poorer than oneself, and thus everyone is a “rich man” relative to someone else—so if he is willing to allow an exception for a “poor man” to steal from a “rich man,” he is effectively licensing not only everyone else but also himself to be robbed. Is he still willing to make this exception?

Government Violates Rights

One can now move in for the coup de grâce: one’s adversary, whether he realizes it or not, is a classical liberal. Everything the state does beyond protecting these basic, negative rights of individuals is a violation of these same rights. Conscription, for example, is a use of your body to which you did not assent. The income tax and the staggering national debt are nothing but obligations on you to labor for the benefit of someone else. Wealth transfers to the poor, subsidies to farmers, support for the arts, and Social Security are all the forcible seizure of some people’s property in order to give it to others. And however noble the cause, however good the intentions, however many people voted in favor—rape, slavery, and theft are still wrong. And hence all the government programs that are merely particular instances of the principles underlying the immorality of rape, slavery, and theft are wrong as well.

One concrete example will show that the strong language of rape, slavery, and theft is justified in the case of government action. Estimated projections are that an average American born in 1999 will face an effective income tax rate of one hundred percent of his lifetime earnings simply to pay off the financial obligations that the American federal government will have incurred—and that is assuming that no more government programs are created. One hundred percent of lifetime earnings to make good on debts that these people played no part in creating and from which they will receive no benefit. How do you define slavery?

My genuine suspicion is that virtually all people are libertarians in their personal, everyday lives. In practice they regard anything that violates the sanctity of a person acting privately to be wrong. Certainly among my colleagues in philosophy I have met no one who would bodily assault another person (except perhaps in self-defense), who would enslave another person, or who would steal from another person. The challenge for the supporter of a free society, then, is threefold. First, he must get his adversaries to see that these three principles—the right to one’s body, the right to one’s labor, and the right to one’s belongings—are the fundamental organizing principles of classical liberalism. Second, he must show his adversaries that they already subscribe to these principles, a fact demonstrated by their reaction to the series of questions raised above. And, finally, he must bring his adversaries to understand that these principles are binding on everyone, including those who work for the government.

This last point is especially difficult since many people are inclined to believe that the government has an authority all its own. That is, they think that if the government says something, it must be right; and if the government tells one to do something, one’s sole duty is to obey. But one can summon a strong impulse to reconsider this thinking by pointing out that the government is nothing more than other people. If one would expect one’s neighbors to live by the three principles of respecting others’ lives, liberty, and property, then one should expect government employees to live by them as well. A person gains no special knowledge and earns no exemption from the requirements of morality merely by becoming an employee of the government.

Now I have not demonstrated that the free society is the only morally acceptable society (though I believe that it is). A philosophically sophisticated person will demand further argument for the principles underlying each of these intuitions, even if he shares them. It does not follow from the fact that one has a certain intuition about a moral matter, or even from the fact that many people have the same intuitions, that the matter is thereby settled. One’s intuitions might after all be wrong.

Moreover, I have not yet shown that the moral principles that I have suggested underlie these intuitions are in fact the principles that underlie them. It is possible to construct moral condemnations of rape, slavery, and theft—and thus justifications for the respect of life, liberty, and property—without appeal to natural rights. It might be possible, for example, to give a utilitarian or consequentialist rationale for these principles, although the sense that these principles deserve absolute recognition will be difficult to preserve within a utilitarian moral framework. It is also quite possible that one either has these intuitions or embraces these principles because one subscribes to Austrian economic thought. A follower of Ludwig von Mises or F.A. Hayek may well adhere to the sanctity of these moral principles without thereby thinking that they are made sacred because of their reliance on natural rights. Mises himself thought that the notion of natural rights was an intellectual fiction. Or one might subscribe to these principles because one is a Christian who believes that each of us, as a child of God, is sacred. A follower of Father Robert Sirico will believe that it is a violation of God’s will to treat another human being as anything other than inherently valuable and inviolable, and that one cannot fulfill one’s Christian duty to others unless one is radically free to choose to do so. Or, finally, one might think that man’s rational autonomy presupposes allegiance to certain universal rules, among which are the principles under consideration here. A Kantian will believe he is categorically commanded to treat others as ends in themselves and never merely as means, and he might for that reason believe that the free, classical liberal society is just the Kantian “kingdom of ends.”

I would not presume to resolve here which of these foundations for believing in the principles of the free society, if any, is correct. But that is not my intent. My belief is that substantially all of us share the intuitions that suggest these principles, regardless of the specific set of background beliefs we hold that lead us to accept them. My purpose rather is to galvanize adherents to a wide array of beliefs to fight for the free society by showing them that anything beyond the minimal, libertarian state violates moral principles they already hold—whatever the basis on which they hold them.

The Virtue of Consistency

All that would remain is to remind one’s adversaries of the importance of consistency in applying these principles generally. The classical liberal society is not alien or extreme or licentious or bizarre or naïve. It is simply our own moral principles writ large; it is the manifestation and reflection of the person of dignity each of us believes himself to be.

Many years ago Hayek called on classical liberals to “make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage” and to develop a program that would at once inspire us and serve as a blueprint for us to realize freedom under law. I think that such a program must begin by appealing to our deeply held intuitions, our pre-theoretical sense of right and wrong.

It is frequently remarked in America today that voters have a deep distrust for politicians and for politics; they are cynical about the whole political system, a fact that is regularly evinced by their exceedingly low interest in finding anything out about the people running for office. One will probably not understand this distrust and cynicism until one sees the constitutional, if perhaps unconscious, libertarianism that runs through many Americans. I suspect they distrust politicians and dislike politics because they are aware on some level that almost everything that goes on in politics is a violation of moral propriety. When the government bestows largess on them, they are by and large happy to receive it; but I suspect that most of them nevertheless harbor the perhaps vague sense that there is something wrong with this state of affairs.

Even if they think that they cannot but take advantage of the government’s “free money” before someone else does, they would, if they were candid and forced themselves to reflect on the matter, admit that these are dishonorable actions. This, in part, is what stands behind Americans’ general belief that politics is a sordid affair (and that politicians are little better than moral reprobates). What is required, then, is to bring into the open exactly what makes these actions sordid and dishonorable, and to discover explicitly the close connection between people’s notions of impropriety and the libertarian principles that give rise to them.

One way to begin this process of discovery is to get people who spend their time thinking about moral and political issues on a philosophical level—like philosophy professors—to begin to focus their mental energy on the philosophical underpinnings of the free society. The hope is that more and more of them will come to see the classical liberal conception of society as a compelling manifestation of some of their own fundamental moral beliefs, and, further, that they will then teach it to their students. In this way one might get people who are already prone to intellectual investigations to become intrigued with the strong intellectual appeal of the free society and to replace their perhaps present desire for a socialist utopia with a desire for a classical liberal utopia.

The free society is worth fighting for, and even a person in a tiny corner of human life—a person in academic philosophy, for example—can take up the cause of liberty and make a difference. The strategy I have outlined here can be an effective way to make people within academic philosophy open to the power of classical liberalism, but it can also, I believe, bear fruit with people outside philosophy. It can thus be a first step toward answering Hayek’s call. I commend it to you.

This article has been published with FEE‘s permission and has been originally published at The Freeman March 1999 • Volume: 49 • Issue: 3.

Home School Heroes

Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York—www.fee.org.This essay has been adapted for CEIL by the author from an essay first published in the February 1997 issue of FEE’s journal, “The Freeman.”

Of all the ingredients in the recipe for education, which one has the greatest potential to improve student performance?

No doubt the teachers unions would put higher salaries for their members at the top of the list, to which almost every reformer might reply, “Been there, done that.” Teacher compensation has soared in recent decades at the same time every indicator of student performance has plummeted.

Other answers include smaller class size, a longer school year, more money for computers, or simply more money for fill-in-the- blank. The consensus of hundreds of studies over the past several years is that these factors exhibit either no positive correlation with better student performance or show only a weak connection. On this important question, the verdict is in and it is definitive: The one ingredient that makes the most difference in how well and how much children learn is parental involvement.

When parents take a personal interest in the education of their children, several things happen. The child gets a strong message that education is important to success in life; it isn’t something that parents dump in someone else’s lap. Caring, involved parents usually instill a love of learning in their children—a love that translates into a sense of pride and achievement as knowledge is accumulated and put to good use. Time spent with books goes up and time wasted in the streets goes down.

American parents were once responsible for educating their children. Until the late nineteenth century, the home, the church, and a small nearby school were the primary centers of learning for the great majority of Americans. In most Southern states before the Civil War, it was illegal under state laws for blacks to be educated, but many people (both black and white) provided education in secret defiance, producing a remarkably high literacy rate among oppressed blacks.

In more recent times, many American parents have largely abdicated this responsibility, in favor of the experts in the compulsory public school system. According to a 1996 report from Temple University in Pennsylvania, nearly one in three parents was seriously disengaged from their children’s education. The Temple researchers found that about one-sixth of all students believed their parents don’t care whether they earn good grades and nearly one-third said their parents had no idea how they are doing in school.

If anything has changed since 1996, it’s more likely to be in the wrong direction. The bitter fruit of a century of Americans “educated” to believe that education is a government job is now being harvested. And literacy and graduation rates in government schools in inner cities like Detroit are now so bad one can’t help but wonder if they’d be better if education were simply made illegal.

Amid the sorry state of American education today are heroes who are rescuing children in a profoundly personal way. They are the homeschoolers—parents who sacrifice time and income to teach their children themselves. Homeschooling is the ultimate in parental involvement.

Teaching children at home isn’t for everyone and no one advocates that every parent try it. There are plenty of good schools—many private and some government (“public”)—that are doing a better job than some parents could do for their own children. But the fact is that homeschooling is working—and working surprisingly well—for the growing number of parents and children who choose it.

That fact is all the more remarkable when one considers that these dedicated parents must juggle teaching with all the other demands and chores of modern life. Also, they get little or nothing back from what they pay in taxes for a public system they don’t patronize.

“The number of home-schooled kids hit 1.5 million in 2007,” reports USA Today—“up 74% from when the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics started keeping track in 1999, and up 36% since 2003.” USA Today says that “the percentage of the school-age population that was home-schooled increased from 2.2% in 2003 to 2.9% in 2007.” Those are still small numbers compared to government school enrollment, but they are up from a mere 15,000 in the early 1980s.

Parents who home school do so for a variety of reasons. Some want a strong moral or religious emphasis in their children’s education. Others are fleeing unsafe government schools or schools where discipline and academics have taken a backseat to fuzzy feel-good or politically correct dogma. Many home school parents complain about the pervasiveness in government schools of trendy instructional methods that border on pedagogical malpractice.

Home school parents are fiercely protective of their constitutional right to educate their children. In early 1994, the House of Representatives voted to mandate that all teachers—including parents in the home—acquire state certification in the subjects they teach. A massive campaign of letters, phone calls, and faxes from homeschoolers produced one of the most stunning turnabouts in legislative history: By a vote of 424 to 1, the House reversed itself and then approved an amendment that affirmed the rights and independence of home school parents.

Critics have long harbored a jaundiced view of parents who educate children at home. They argue that children need the guidance of professionals and the social interaction that come from being with a class of others. Homeschooled children, these critics say, will be socially and academically stunted by the confines of the home. But the facts suggest otherwise.

A 1990 report by the National Home Education Research Institute showed that homeschooled children score in the 80th percentile or higher, meaning that they scored better than 80 percent of other students in math, reading, science, language, and social studies. Reports from state after state show homeschoolers scoring significantly better than the norm on college entrance examinations. Prestigious universities, including Harvard and Yale, accept homeschooled children eagerly and often. Homeschooled children make headlines regularly as winners of spelling bees and for other impressive academic achievements.

And there’s simply no evidence that homeschooled children (with a rare exception) make anything but fine, solid citizens who respect others and work hard as adults. Have you ever heard anyone say, after a riot or a drug bust or a rowdy post-game altercation, “Oh, there go the homeschoolers again!”?

Homeschool parents approach their task in a variety of ways. While some discover texts and methods as they go, others plan their work well before they start, often assisted by other homeschoolers or associations that have sprung up to aid those who choose this option. Common to every homeschool parent is the belief that the education of their children is too important to hand over to someone else.

Writing in the July 1996 issue of Reason magazine, Britton Manasco argues that the growth of CD-ROMs, Internet services, and computerized educational networks is likely to make homeschooling even more attractive to parents. For a tiny fraction of what a printed version might cost, one software publisher is offering a classic books program that incorporates more than 3,500 unabridged literary works, complete with hundreds of video clips and illustrations. A support group in Ann Arbor, Michigan, provides inexpensive on-line help, resources, and evaluations for thousands of homeschool children worldwide. Another organization links first-rate instructors and homeschool students from all over the country via computer in a college preparatory program that includes a core curriculum for about $250 per course.

In every other walk of life, Americans traditionally regard as heroes the men and women who meet challenges head-on, who go against the grain and persevere to bring a dream to fruition. At a time when more troubles and shortcomings plague education and educational heroes are too few in number, recognizing the homeschool heroes in our midst may be both long overdue and highly instructive.

Valtion koulutus keksii valtiota uudelleen

Lawrence W. Reed on Foundation for Economic Education -organisaation toiminnanjohtaja. Tämä essee on kirjoittajan muokkaama samannimisestä artikkelista, joka on julkaistu vuoden 1999 joulukuun “The Freeman” -julkaisussa.

Ehkä kaikkein tärkein periaate, mitä valtion luonteesta on opittavissa, on tämä: Se eroaa kaikista muista organisaatioista yhteiskunnassa, koska ainoastaan sillä on laillinen valta käyttää pakkovaltaa. Valitettavasti tämä periaate on pääosin pyyhitty pois läntisestä muistipankista. Yli sata vuotta pakollista julkista koulutusta monissa länsimaissa on todennäköiseti pääsyyllinen.

Selvennetään ensin pidemmälle menemättä erästä asiaa. Toteamus, että valtio nojaa voimankäyttöön, ei ole mikään radikaali anarkistinen ajatus. Se on nimenomaisesti kyseisen instituution määritelmä ja sen perimmäinen erottava piirre. Käytännössä kaikkien aatesuuntien poliittiset tutkijat pääosan viime vuosituhannen loppupuoliskosta hyväksyivät tämän tosiasiana. Kukaan vakavasti otettava tutkija ei pyrkinyt peittämään sitä ja pitämään valtiota jonain vapaaehtoisena hyväntahtoisena yhteisönä.

Amerikan perustajat ymmärsivät tämän periaatteen hyvin ja loivat hallinnon, joka ei koskaan pyrkinyt poistamaan voimankäyttöä; he ainoastaan pyrkivät rajoittamaan sen kapeaan elämän alueeseen ja siten säilyttämään suuren osan yksilön vapaudesta. George Washingtonin viitataan usein todenneen (en pysty varmistamaan): ”Valtio ei ole tarkoitus. Se ei ole kaunopuheisuutta – se on voima! Tulen lailla se on vaarallinen palvelija ja hirvittävä isäntä.” Toisin sanoen, jopa silloin kun valtio ei tee enempää kuin mitä Washington halusi sen tekevän ja kun se tekee nämä tehtävät erittäin hyvin kansan ”palvelijana”, se on silti vaarallinen, koska sen takana on kaikki laillistettu voimankäyttö.

Keltainen valo

Tämän valtion sisäsyntyisen luonteen syvään iskostettu ymmärrys on yksi vapaan yhteiskunnan pilareista. Se on keltainen varoitusvalo, joka kehottaa viisaita ja rauhanomaisia kansalaisia harkitsemaan pitkään ja raskaasti ennen valtion tehtävien laajennuksien hyväksymistä. Se luo tervettä epäluuloa houkutteleviin ohjelmiin korvata yksityinen aloitteellisuus julkisella toiminnalla. Se nujertaa pyrkimyksiä tyrkyttää kollektiivista yhdenmukaisuutta yksilön kustannuksella.

Jos olet tänä päivänä vapaan yhteiskunnan puolella, olet varmasti huomannut eroosion tämän periaatteen ymmärryksessä. Ei saata olla liioittelua vakuuttaa, että mureneminen on ollut valtavaa ja paljon tuhoisampaa vapaudellemme ja hyvinvoinnillemme kuin vain harvat ovat koskaan pystyneet kuvittelemaan.

Oivalsin tämän asian erittäin voimakkaasti, kun taannoin luin sanomalehden mielipidekirjoitusta. Kirjeen kirjoittaja vastasi aikaisemmin julkaistuun kommenttiin, jossa aikaisempi kirjoittaja oli väittänyt, että kirjailija Ernest Hemingway vastusti taiteiden valtion rahoitusta, koska hänestä taiteilijoiden tulisi olla vapaita valtion vaikutuksesta. Kirjoittaja esitti kommentaattorille, että Hemingway ”vastaanotti rahaa lahjoittajilta.” Kirjoittajan mielessä rahan vastaanottaminen vapaasti lahjoitettuna oli erottamatonta rahan vastaanottamisesta valtiolta.

Vastaavanlaisesti olen todistanut lukemattomia tilanteita, jossa yksiköt perustelevat, että jos valtio tekee jotain ja se pyrkii hyvään, se ei voi mitenkään mahdollisesti olla pakottamista; tai että jos se on ”demokraattista”, se on jotenkin vapaaehtoista. Pelkkä tosiasia, että poliitikot on vaaleilla valittu, perustelee lähes mitä tahansa he tekevätkään pelkästään yhteisesti hyväksyttyinä toimina pyyteettömien aikuisten kesken. Paljon järkiperäisempi ja reaalisempi näkemys demokraattisen tasavallan rajallisuuteen – tosin suotavampana kaikkiin muihin hallinnon muotoihin, on sellainen, joka kuvaa sitä kahden suden ja lampaan äänestyksenä lounaasta.

Olemme saapuneet pisteeseen, jota Edgar Freidenberg vuoden 1964 klassikossaan Coming of Age in America kuvaa seuraavasti: ”Amerikkalaiset lukiolaiset näkevät valtion hyväntahtoisena instituutiona, jota tulee noudattaa sen toimiessa kaikkien ihmisten hyväksi.” [1] Kuinka näin surullinen älyllinen asiantila on kohdannut kansakuntaa, joka on perustettu vapaudelle ja järkiperäiselle näkemykselle valtiosta? Kuinka tähän on jouduttu, että miljoonat ihmiset läntisissä maissa kuten Amerikassa kavahtavat ”radikaalia” ehdotusta, että  valtio ja laillistettu voimankäyttö ovat yksi ja sama asia?

En pysty keksimään mitään muuta syytä ongelmaan kuin satavuotista valtiollista (”julkista”) koulutusta. Kun lähes 90 prosenttia amerikkalaisista on koulutettu 12 vuotta muodollisesti valtion työntekijöiden toimesta, joista monet ansaitsevat opettajan tutkintonsa valtion yliopistoissa, miksi meidän tulisi odottaa muuta kuin mielisteleviä kansalaisia, jotka näkevät valtion hyväntahtoisena kirkkoherrana sille, mitä Rousseau kutsui ”yleiseksi tahdoksi”?

Amerikan julkisen koulutuksen historia on täynnä ammatillisia valtion koulutuksen puolestapuhujien lausuntoja, jotka löyhkäävät valtion palvonnalta. Tuomari Archibald Dougles Murpheyn, Pohjois-Carolinan julkisen koulujärjestelmän perustajan, mukaan valtion tulee opettaa, koska ”vanhemmat eivät tiedä kuinka heitä opetetaan… Valtion kiintymyksen lämmössään ja heidän hyvinvointinsa huolenpidossaan täytyy ottaa vastuu lapsista ja laittaa heidät kouluun, jossa heitä mieliään voidaan valaista.” [2]

Yhdysvaltain opetusviraston tiedonanto vuodelta 1914 toteaa: ”Julkiset koulut ovat pääosin olemassa valtion eduksi yksiöiden etujen sijaan.” Edward Ross, merkittävä sosiologi, tarjosi kaikkein jäätävimmän kuvauksen valtion roolista koulutuksessa: ”Kerätä pienet muovautuvat ihmistaikinan möykyt yksityisistä kotitalouksista ja muovata ne yhteiskunnallisella leivinpöydällä.” [3]

Tämä lopputulema oli ennustettavissa Amerikan julkisen koulutuksen alkupäivistä lähtien, eikä se poikkea mistään muusta, mitä valtio ryhtyy hallitsemaan. Kenen leipää syöt, sen lauluja laulat. Ei vain ole valtion tai siitä riippuvaisten intressissä tahrata omaa pesäänsä myöntämällä rehellisesti, että heidän työnsä rahoitetaan ja pakotetaan aseella uhaten. Kuten opetuksen tutkija Joel Spring esitti asian 20 vuotta sitten: ”Opettaja, koulun hallintovirkamies tai äänestyksellä valittu kouluista vastuussa oleva edustaja voivat uskoa, että hänen henkilökohtaiset arvonsa edustavat yhteisön yleisiä arvoja; vielä pahempaa, hän saattaa uskoa, että yhteisön tulisi omaksua hänen arvonsa.” [4] Tilanne ei vaikuta olevan yhtään parempi, ja on väitetysti huonompi, monissa muissa länsimaissa.

Näistä peittelemättömistä toteamuksista huolimatta olisi vaikeaa ja ehkä poliittisesti haitallista väittää, että nykyinen vajavainen valtiollinen koulutusjärjestelmä juontuisi jostain suuresta salaliitosta. Läntisten kansalaisten kauhistuttavaa tietämättömyyttä valtion perimmäisestä luonteesta selittämään ei vaadita mitään salaliittoteorioita. Riittää kun huomataan, että vain harvat järjestelmän työntekijöistä nousevat välittömän oman pyyteellisyytensä yläpuolelle edes tunnistaakseen, levittämisestä puhumattakaan, että valtion yleisesti ja heidän työpaikkansa erityisesti nojaavat laillistettuun voimankäyttöön.

Mitä merkitystä tällä kaikella on? Paljon. En voi kuvitella mitään vapaudelle vihamielisempää tilannetta, kuin että vapaat ihmiset epäonnistuvat erottamasta valtiota kaikesta muusta.

Viitteet

1.     Lainauksena William F. Rickenbacker, toim., The Twelve-Year Sentence (San Francisco: Fox & Wilkes, 1999 [1974]), s. 140.

2.     Lainauksena Murray Rothbard, “Historical Origins,” in ibid., s. 11.

3.     Lainauksena Joel Spring, The American School, 1642-1985 (New York: Longman, 1986), s. 155.

4.     Lainauksena Joel Spring, Educating the Worker-Citizen (New York: Longman, 1980), s. 14.

Rosvoparonit, politiikka ja markkinatalous

Risto Harisalo on Tampereen yliopiston hallintotieteen professori.

Markku Kuisma on kirjoittanut kirjan Rosvoparonien paluu, jossa yrittäjiä luonnehditaan rosvoparoneiksi. Väite rosvoparoneista on mielenkiintoinen ja usein kuultu. Siksi keskustelua aiheesta on syytä jatkaa.

Rosvoparonin arvon voi ansaita, kun ottaa luvatta tai vastoin toisen tahtoa hänen omaisuuttaan. On kyseenalaista voiko tässä mielessä huomattavan hyvin menestyneitä yrittäjiä kuten esimerkiksi John Rockefelleriä, Cornelius Vanderbiltiä, Pierpont Morgania jne. kutsua rosvoparoneiksi.

Yrittäjät ovat meillä ja muualla aloittaneet liiketoimintansa omilla ideoillaan ja ahkeruudellaan. He eivät ole pakottaneet ketään tekemään työtä puolestaan. He ovat hankkineet tarvitsemansa raaka-aineet maksamalla niistä vaaditut summat. He eivät ole pakottaneet ketään ostamaan tuotteitaan. Kaikki tämä on tapahtunut avoimesti kulloinkin voimassa olleiden sääntöjen mukaan.

Kuluttajat ovat luoneet heille heidän varallisuutensa omaa etuaan palvelevilla vapaaehtoisilla valinnoilla. Tämä asia on syytä pitää mielessä. Esimerkiksi Alcoalla oli Yhdysvalloissa ylivoimainen asema alumiinin tuottajana vuosina 1888-1940. Se pystyi kuitenkin vuodesta toiseen myymään tuotteensa niin edullisesti, että kukaan ei kyennyt kilpailemaan sen kanssa. Tuona aikana yritys laski alumiinin paunahinnan 8 dollarista 20 senttiin. Lisäksi yritys toi markkinoille satoja uusia tuotteita.

Alcoa on yksi monista yrityksistä, jotka ovat menestyneet palvelemalla kuluttajia. Tästä huolimatta niitä kutsutaan säälimättömiksi monopoleiksi ja niiden omistajia rosvoparoneiksi.

Ovatko esimerkiksi suomalaiset pankinjohtajat sitten rosvoparoneita? He ovat, jos he pystyvät lainsäädäntöön vedoten pakottamaan kuluttajat käyttämään palveluitaan heidän määräämillään hinnoilla ja estämään uusien kilpailijoiden tulon markkinoille. Jos heillä ei ole tällaista valtaa, heidän on lunastettava menestyksensä avoimien markkinoiden pelisääntöjen mukaan eikä heitä siksi voi kutsua rosvoparoneiksi.

Ajatus, että ahneus tekee ihmisistä rosvoparoneita, koskee luonnollisesti kaikkia ihmisiä, ei pelkästään yrittäjiä. Jokainen, joka tuntee edes jonkin verran ihmismielen monimutkaisuutta ja arvaamattomuutta, on huolissaan ahneuden sokaisevista vaikutuksista.

On kuitenkin virhe tulkita oman edun mukainen toiminta automaattisesti ahneudeksi ja yleisen edun vastaiseksi, jopa rikolliseksi. Tämä kritiikki on suunnattu valitettavan usein erityisesti liberaaleihin.

Olisi kuitenkin todella outoa, jos vain liberaalit olisivat ahneita. Yhtä outoa on kuulla väitteitä, että vain politiikan avulla on mahdollista rajoittaa rosvoparonien ahneutta ja luoda edellytykset yleiselle hyvinvoinnille.

Tällaisten väitteiden esittäjät unohtavat, että ahneus kukoistaa erityisesti politiikassa eikä markkinataloudessa. Kun esimerkiksi omistusoikeuksia vähätellään ja omistamista rajoitetaan, avataan tietä rajoittamattomalle ahneudelle, joka ei kanavoi yksilöiden valintoja yleiseksi eduksi toisin kuin markkinataloudessa.

Bogus Freedom

By James Bovard

James Bovard is the author of “Freedom in Chains: The Rise of the State and the Demise of the Citizen” (St. Martin’s, 1999), from which this article is adapted.

“Freedom from want” is one of the most frequently invoked notions of freedom in our time. However, it is a bogus freedom that politicians and socialists offer to lull people into accepting policies that destroy true freedom. Freedom from want has been most loudly advocated in this century by those who favored removing almost all limits from government power.

For example, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the founders of British socialism and authors of The Soviet Union: A New Civilization?, asserted in 1936: “Personal freedom means, in effect, the power of the individual to buy sufficient food, shelter and clothing.”[1]

The Webbs did not specify how many millions of people government should be permitted to kill in the name of “freedom from want.” But during Stalin’s bloodiest decade, they asserted that for government economic planning to succeed, “public discussion must be suspended between the promulgation of the decision and the accomplishment of the task” and that any criticisms of the master plan should be treated as “an act of disloyalty, or even of treachery.”[2] For government to be able to liberate people with food and clothing, it must have the power to execute anyone who criticizes the official economic plan. After visiting the Ukraine, the Webbs endorsed Stalin’s war on the kulaks (the least impoverished peasants), commenting that “it must be recognized that the liquidation of the individual capitalist in agriculture had necessarily to be faced if the required increase of output was to be obtained.”[3] (Output plummeted.)

Equating liberty with satisfactory living standards became far more common as the twentieth century went on. “Real freedom means good wages, short hours, security in employment, good homes, opportunity for leisure and recreation with family and friends,” wrote Sir Oswald Mosley, the most prominent British supporter of Nazi Germany, in his 1936 book, Fascism.[4] James Gregor noted in his book The Ideology of Fascism that fascism aimed at “restraints which foster the increased effective freedom of the individual.”[5] President Franklin Delano Roosevelt noted in 1937 that “even some of our own people may wonder whether democracy can match dictatorship in giving this generation the things it wants from government.”[6] University of Chicago professor Leslie Pape noted in 1941 that “democracies readily admit the claims of totalitarian states to great achievements in the cause of positive freedom.”[7]

British historian E.H. Carr, writing in 1951, observed that, for the modern era, “freedom from the economic constraint of want was clearly just as important as freedom from the political constraint of kings and tyrants.”[8]Carr justified the array of economic controls in postwar Britain: “The price of liberty is the restriction of liberty. The price of some liberty for all is the restriction of the greater liberty of some.”[9] However, with this standard, there is no limit to the amount of freedom that government can destroy in the name of creating “greater liberty for some.” The British Labour government that Carr championed advanced freedom by conscripting labor for the coal mines and empowering the Ministry of Labour to direct workers to whatever employment was considered in the national interest—empowering over 10,000 government officials to carry out searches (including of private homes) without warrants—prohibiting restaurants from serving customer meals costing more than 5 shillings (less than $2 in 1947)—and fining farmers who refused to plant the specific crops government demanded.[10] The government also “nationalized all potential land uses in the United Kingdom, permitting only continuation of existing ones and requiring ‘planning permission’ for any others,” as law professor Gideon Kanner noted.[11]

The Labour government offered freedom via the solidarity of standing in the same rationing line—liberation via deprivation. (A 1998 New York Times article cited the Labour government’s postwar food rationing, which continued into the 1950s, as a contributing factor to the long-term decline of British cuisine.[12])

The more politicians promise to give, the more they entitle themselves to take. Carr, serving in 1945 as chairman of the UNESCO Committee on the Principles of the Rights of Man, declared that “no society can guarantee the enjoyment of such rights [to government handouts] unless it in turn has the right to call upon and direct the productive capacities of the individuals enjoying them.”[13] Thus, the price of government benefits is unlimited political control over people’s paychecks and work lives.

Once freedom is equated with a certain material standard of living, confiscation becomes the path to liberation. Thus, the more avidly a politician raises taxes, the greater his apparent love for liberty. In the name of providing “freedom from want,” the politician acquires a pretext to destroy the basis of private citizens’ independence. “Freedom from want” becomes a license for politicians, rather than a declaration of rights of citizens.

Anyone who does not have certain possessions is assumed not to be free—and in need of political rescue. President Johnson, justifying a vast expansion of government social programs, declared in 1965, “Negroes are trapped—as many whites are trapped—in inherited, gateless poverty. . . . Public and private poverty combine to cripple their capacities.”[14] Vice President Hubert Humphrey defined a poor person as “the man who for reasons beyond his control cannot help himself.” This perspective on poverty and self-help mocks all of American history. It implies that any individual who earns less than $7,890 a year (the official poverty line for a single person) is incapable of any discipline or resolution.

While advocates of positive freedom insist that government must intervene so that each person “can be all that they can be,” government aid programs are notorious for rewarding people for making the least of themselves. President Roosevelt warned in 1935 that “continued dependence on relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber.”[15] President Clinton declared in 1996: “For decades now, welfare has too often been a trap, consigning generation after generation to a cycle of dependency. The children of welfare are more likely to drop out of school, to run afoul of the law, to become teen parents, to raise their own children on welfare.”[16] A rising tide no longer lifts all boats when the government rewards people for scuttling their own ships.

Faith in freedom from want depends on a political myopia that focuses devoutly on only one side of the ledger of government action. This is measuring freedom according to how much government does for people, and totally disregarding what government does to people. Government provides “freedom” for the welfare recipient by imposing tax servitude on the worker. Federal, state, and local governments collected an average of $26,434 in taxes for every household in the country, or an average of $9,881 for every U.S. resident in 1998, according to the Tax Foundation.[17] In an age of unprecedented prosperity, government tax policies have turned the average citizen’s life into a financial struggle and insured that he will likely become a ward of the state in his last decades.

Some statists insist that taxation is irrelevant to freedom. According to sociologist Robert Goodin,

If what the rich man loses when his property is redistributed is described as a loss of freedom, then the gain to the poor must similarly be described as a gain of freedom. . . . No net loss of freedom for society as a whole, as distinct from individuals within it, is involved in redistributive taxation. Thus, there is no basis in terms of freedom . . . for objecting to it.[18]

What does Goodin mean by “freedom for society as a whole”? By this standard, slavery would not reduce a society’s freedom, since the slave’s loss of freedom would be equaled by the slave owner’s gain. Nor is there any difference, vis-à-vis freedom, between permitting people to retain their earnings and spend them as they choose, and government confiscating their money to hire more regulators, inspectors, and informants to better repress the citizenry.

What are the practical results of the modern “freedom from want”? Economist Edgar Browning, writing in 1993, examined the marginal cost of redistribution—defined as “the ratio of the aggregate loss to the top four quintiles of households to the aggregate gain to the bottom quintile of households.”[19] Browning estimated that the marginal cost to the most affluent 80 percent of households of increasing the income of the poorest 20 percent by $1 was $7.82.[20] The marginal costs of redistribution are much larger than people might presume because of reduced incentives to work, both among the taxpayers and recipients. Also, as Browning noted, “marginal tax rates must be increased very sharply relative to the amount of income that is redistributed.” Combining Browning’s analysis and Goodin’s definition, confiscatory redistribution destroys almost eight times as much “freedom” as it creates.

Once the notion of “freedom from want” is accepted as the pre-eminent freedom, it becomes a wish list justifying endless political forays deeper and deeper into people’s lives. Princeton professor Amy Gutmann, in her 1980 book, Liberal Equality, declared: “Liberal egalitarians want to say that freedom of choice is not very meaningful without a right to those goods necessary to life itself.”[21] Gutmann’s elaboration of “necessary goods” reveals how government would be obliged to control almost everything: “Supplying the poorest with more primary goods will be insufficient if their sense of self-worth or their very desire to pursue their conceptions of the good is undercut by self-doubt.”[22] By this standard, freedom is violated when people suffer self-doubt, and the government is obliged to forcibly intervene to guarantee that all people think well of themselves.

Political scientist Alan Wolfe, a self-described “welfare liberal,” asserted in 1995 that “people need a modicum of security and income maintenance, underwritten by government, in order to fulfill the ideal of negative liberty, which is self-sufficiency.”[23] Government dependency is the new, improved form of self-reliance: dependency on government doesn’t count because government is a better friend to you than you are yourself. But the more dependent people become on government, the more susceptible they are to political and bureaucratic abuse. Freedom from want is conceivable only so long as people are allowed to want only what the government thinks they should have.

Freedom from want supposedly results from government taking away what a person owns so that it can give him back what it thinks he deserves. The welfare state is either a way to force people to finance their own benefits via political-bureaucratic bagmen, or it is a way to force some people to labor for other people’s benefit. In the first case, government sacrifices the person’s freedom to the fraud that government must tax him to subsidize him; in the second, government sacrifices the person’s freedom in order to “liberate” someone else—often someone who chooses not to work. If someone pays the taxes that finance the government benefits he receives, he is less free than he would otherwise have been.

Some “freedom from want” advocates imply that government is a great benefactor when it promises citizens “three hots and a cot”—the old-time recruiting slogan of the Marine Corps. But trading freedom for a full belly is a worse bargain now than ever before. As economist F.A. Hayek observed, “As the result of the growth of free markets, the reward of manual labor has during the past hundred and fifty years experienced an increase unknown in any earlier period in history.”[24] The average worker in industrialized countries can purchase the bare necessities of life with fewer hours of labor than ever before. Comparing current wages and prices with those of 1800, economist Julian Simon found that the average American worker today needs to labor less than one-tenth the time to earn enough to purchase a bushel of wheat than his predecessors did two centuries ago.[25] While the real price of food has plummeted (in spite of government farm policies), the “real price” of political servitude has not diminished.

It is understandable that some well-intentioned people assume that “freedom from want” is the most important freedom. It is difficult for many people to conceive of enjoying anything (much less their freedom) if they lack food, clothing, or shelter. However, freedom is not a guarantee of prosperity for every citizen; the fact that some people have meager incomes does not prove that they are shackled. It is a cardinal error to confuse freedom with the things that free individuals can achieve or produce, and then to sacrifice the reality of freedom in a deluded shortcut to the bounty of freedom. Freedom is not measured by how much a person possesses, but by the restrictions and shackles under which he lives.

Throughout history, politicians have used other people’s property to buy themselves power. That is the primary achievement of the welfare state. The danger of government handouts to freedom was clear to some political writers hundreds of years ago. The French writer Etienne de la Boétie, in his 1577 Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, noted of ancient Rome: “Tyrants would distribute largess, a bushel of wheat, a gallon of wine . . . and then everybody would shamelessly cry, ‘Long live the King!’ The fools did not realize that they were merely recovering a portion of their own property, and that their ruler could not have given them what they were receiving without having first taken it from them.”[26]

“Freedom from want” is not possible unless the government is allowed to control all things people want. Americans must beware of Trojan-horse definitions of freedom—definitions that, once accepted, allow bureaucrats to take over everyone’s life. Government handouts insinuate political power into the deepest recesses of a person’s life. And when the time is ripe, politicians take command where they previously lavished their gifts.


Notes

  1. Quoted in Fritz Machlup, “Liberalism and the Choice of Freedoms,” in Roads to Freedom: Essays in Honour of Friedrich A. von Hayek, Erich Streissler, ed. (London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1969), p. 126.
  2. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Soviet Communism: A New Civilization?, vol. 2 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936), pp. 1038–39.
  3. Ibid., vol. 1., p. 547.
  4. Quoted in Dorothy Fosdick, What is Liberty? A Study in Political Theory (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1939), p. 28.
  5. James Gregor, The Ideology of Fascism (New York: Free Press, 1969), p. 212.
  6. The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1937 (New York: Macmillan, 1941), p. 361.
  7. Leslie M. Pape, “Some Notes on Democratic Freedom,” Ethics, April 1941, p. 26.
  8. Edward Hallett Carr, The New Society (London: Macmillan, 1951), p. 107.
  9. Ibid., p. 108.
  10. John Jewkes, The New Ordeal by Planning (New York: St. Martin’s, 1968; based on his 1948 book), p. 213.
  11. Gideon Kanner, “Tennis Anyone?,” California Political Review, March-April 1998, p. 17.
  12. William Grimes, “History Explains Disparity Between English and French Cuisine,” New York Times, May 9, 1998.
  13. Quoted in F.A. Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty, vol. 2, The Mirage of Social Justice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), p. 184.
  14. Quoted in Marvin Gettleman and David Mermelstein, eds., The Great Society Reader (New York: Random House, 1967), p. 256.
  15. Quoted in “The Welfare Bill: Excerpts from Debate in the Senate on the Welfare Measure,” New York Times, August 2, 1996.
  16. “Radio Address of the President,” Office of the Press Secretary, White House, December 7, 1996.
  17. “Total Tax Collections to Reach $2.667 Trillion in 1998, Tax Foundation Says,” Tax Notes Today, June 11, 1998.
  18. Robert Goodin, Reasons for Welfare (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), p. 313.
  19. Edgar Browning, “The Marginal Cost of Redistribution,” Public Finance Quarterly, January 1993, p. 3.
  20. Ibid., p. 3.
  21. Amy Gutmann, Liberal Equality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), p. 8.
  22. Ibid., p. 123.
  23. Alan Wolfe, Review of Passions and Constraint: On the Theory of Liberal Democracy, by Stephen Holmes,New Republic, May 1, 1995.
  24. Friedrich Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty, vol. 1, Rules and Order (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973), p. 24.
  25. Julian Simon, “What the Starvation Lobby Eschews,” Wall Street Journal, November 18, 1996.
  26. Etienne de la Boétie, The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, Murray Rothbard, ed. (New York: Free Life Editions, 1975), p. 70.

This article has been published with FEE‘s permission and has been originally published at The Freeman May 1999 • Volume: 49 • Issue: 5.

Kultaiset pellot: EU:n maataloustukien paljastuminen

Euroopan unioni käyttää 55 miljardia euroa vuodessa maataloustukiin. Viime aikoihin saakka kysymys rahojen käytöstä oli tarkkaan varjeltu salaisuus. Toimittajien, tutkijoiden, ohjelmoijien ansioista Euroopan veronmaksajilla on nyt oikeus tietää, kuinka heidän verorahansa kulutetaan.
Tämä lyhyt filmi kertoo farmsubsidy.org:n tarinan.

Katso Suomen EU-maataloustukien vastaanottajat: http://farmsubsidy.org/FI/

Alkuperäinen video: http://vimeo.com/6184633

Grover välitti

Lawrence W. Reed on Foundation for Economic Education -organisaation toiminnanjohtaja. Tämä essee on kirjoittajan muokkaama maaliskuussa 2006 National Review Onlinessa julkaistusta artikkelista. Hurrikaani Katarinan aiheuttamat tuhot New Orleansissa tapahtuivat edellisvuoden elokuussa.

Vuosi 1887 oli rankka Teksasille. Päivä toisensa jälkeen toi kuumia, kuivia tuulia, jotka kärvensivät maata. Maanviljelijät seurasivat viljansa kuihtumista ja karjansa janosta heikentymistä. Mielialat horjuivat epätoivoisten teksasilaisten rukoillessa sadetta, ilman näkyvää tulosta. Innokkaana auttamaan (ainakin muiden rahoilla), kongressiedustajat työnsivät läpi lakiehdotuksen tarjota liittovaltion apua siementen muodossa, mutta yksi mies seisoi heidän tiellään – Amerikan 22. presidentti Grover Cleveland. Aikana, jolloin liittovaltion budjetti leveili suurella ylijäämällään, hän käytti veto-oikeuttaan.

Millainen henkilö voi sanoa ei ilmaisille siemenille rutikuivan ahdingon lähimmäisilleen? Oliko Cleveland, presbyteeripapin poika, kylmä, julma ja sydämetön saituri? Voitko tämä olla sama mies, joka aikanaan opetti New Yorkin sokeiden koulutusinstituutissa ja viljeli palavaa, elinikäistä omistautumista sokeiden auttamiseksi?

Kyllä tosiaan, sama mies. Mutta presidentti ei ollut mikään pahantahtoinen kitsastelija. Hän vain tiesi sen, mitä lähes kukaan kongressissa ei enää nykyään ymmärrä: Hän tiesi ratkaisevan eron valtion ja kaiken muun välillä. Jos hän olisi elossa todistamassa liittovaltion hätäapuviraston (FEMA) traagista irvokkuutta hurrikaani Katrinan jälkivaikutuksissa, häntä saattaisi kovasti houkutella kommentoida: ”Mitä minä sanoin.”

Liittovaltion byrokratia pulitti 438 dollaria yöltä majoittaakseen New Orleansista evakuoituja manhattanilaiseen hotelliin, kulutti 300 miljoonaa dollaria asuntovaunuihin, jotka makasivat ja mätänivät kilometrien päässä tarkoitetuista vastaanottajistaan, esti Punaisen Ristin ja muiden valtion virastojen avun, jakoi 2000 dollarin arvoisia maksukortteja kaikille vastaantulleille, jotka kaipasivat tatuointia tai hierontaa ja asetti jäälastirekkoja kaikkialle paitsi sinne, missä jäitä tarvittiin: Nämä eivät ole tuloksia väitetystä tunteettomasta 1880-luvun laissez-fairesta. Nämä ovat tulosta ”myötätunnostamme” ja valtavasta valtionhallinnosta, jolle jokainen pyyde on tekosyy kuluttaa, kasvaa, politisoida ja sulauttaa itseensä.

Teksasin siementen lakiehdotuksen veto-oikeudessaan Cleveland varoitti yleisestä piittaamattomuudesta liittovaltion ”rajoitetuttua tarkoitusta” kohtaan. Hänestä kongressin tai presidentin ei tule kiduttaa perustuslakia, kunnes se tunnustaa, että hätäapu kuuluu Washington D.C:n tehtäviin. Hän koki maan tarvitsevan huomioida perinteikkään läksyn, kuten hän sen ilmaisi, että ”Vaikka ihmiset tukevat valtiota, valtion ei tule tukea ihmisiä.”

Nykypäivän sosiaalivaltion valtiojohtoisuuden kannattajat ovat satuloineet meidät 8 biljoonan dollarin velkoihin, 7-8 kertaiseen liittovaltion verorasitukseen Clevelandin päivistä ja tukiohjelmien perintöön, jotka eivät ole saaneet paljon muuta aikaan kuin riippuvuutta ja rikkinäisiä perheitä. Miljardien yritystuet ovat vaatineet vastaavan veronsa Amerikan yrityksistä. Cleveland yritti kertoa meille, ettei valtiolla ole mitään annettavaa kellekään paitsi ottaessaan ensin joltain muulta, ja että riittävän iso valtio antaakseen meille kaiken haluamamme on riittävän iso ottaakseen kaiken mitä meillä on. Mutta jossain matkan varrella päädyimme uskomaan, että valtio pystyy auttamaan veljiämme ja siskojamme paremmin, nopeammin ja edullisemmin kuin voimme itse auttaa heitä. Millaiseen valitettavaan soppaan olemmekaan pantanneet lapsiemme tulevaisuuden.

Kaikesta huolimatta amerikkalaiset ovat edelleen kaikkein avokätisimpiä hyväntekeväisyyteen lahjoittajia tällä planeetalla. Paras todiste siitä, ettemme ole täysin kadottaneet Clevelandin vetoamaa vaistoamme on tosiasia, että kun amerikkalaiset haluavat lahjoittaa rahaa muiden auttamiseksi, he eivät osoita lahjoituksiaan FEMA:lle tai millekään muulle valtion virastolle.

Cleveland ei sanonut ei kuivuusavulle sen takia, että katsoi etteivät kärsivät maanviljelijät ansainneet apua. Hän kehotti amerikkalaisia yleisesti ja kongressin jäseniä erityisesti antamaan sydämestään ja henkilökohtaisista resursseistaan. Hänen veto-oikeuden viestinsä totesi: ”Maanmiestemme ihmisrakkauteen ja armeliaisuuteen voidaan aina luottaa heidän kanssakansalaistensa ahdingon helpottamisessa.” Apu Washington D.C:stä, hän kirjoitti, ainoastaan ”rohkaisee odotuksia isällisestä huolenpidosta valtion osalta ja heikentää kansallista vahvuuttamme.”

Maanviljelijät Teksasissa saivat apunsa – yksityisenä tukena kymmenkertaisesti tai yli sen määrän, mitä Cleveland kieltäytyi ensin mankeloimasta liittovaltion byrokratian läpi.

Toisessa esimerkissä valtavasta avokätisyydestä vain kuusi vuotta aikaisemmin amerikkalaiset tulivat lähimmäistensä apuun yksityisin keinoin. Vuonna 1881 Clara Barton jalkautti juuri perustamansa Amerikan Punaisen Ristin sen ensimmäiseen laajaan avustushankkeeseen, lähettäen virran rahaa, ruokaa, vaatteita ja vapaaehtoisia Michiganiin suurpalon tuhottua suuren osaa neljästä maakunnasta. Amerikan historia on täynnä vastaavia kertomuksia, joissa ihmiset auttavat toisiaan ilman Washington D.C:n avokätisyyttä.

Katrinasta toipumisen jatkuessa valtio tekee sitä, mitä valtio tekee parhaiten. Se puhuu, valittaa ja saarnaa. Se pitää kuulemistilaisuuksia, osoittelee syyllisiä ja julistaa hyviä aikomuksiaan. Se ei opi mitään ja muuttuu vähän, sillä se on sen luonne ja suuri syy, miksi perustajamme alkujaankin halusivat pitää sen pienenä ja rajoittuneena. Se tulee, kuten eräs Franklin Rooseveltin läheisistä ystävistä aikanaan totesi, ”verottamaan ja verottamaan, kuluttamaa ja kuluttamaan, äänestämään ja äänestämään.”

Epäilen, että samaan aikaan huolimatta laajan valtion mieltä turruttavista heidän tielleen asettamista esteistä, todelliset sankarit ovat hiljaista väkeä, jotka auttavat lähimmäisiään antamallaan ja rakentamallaan. Grover Cleveland kertoi meille, että voimme luottaa heihin, koska ainakaan he eivät ole koskaan tuottaneet pettymystä.

Grover Cared

Lawrence W. Reed is president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York—www.fee.org.This essay has been adapted for CEIL by the author from an essay first published in the March 2006 issue of National Review Online. The disaster in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina occurred the previous August.

The year 1887 was a tough year in Texas. Day after day brought hot, dry winds that parched the land. Farmers saw their crops wither and their cattle grow weak from thirst. Spirits faltered as desperate Texans prayed for rain, seemingly to no avail. Eager to help (at least with other people’s money), congressmen pushed through a bill to provide federal aid in the form of seed, but one man stood in their way—America’s 22nd president, Grover Cleveland. At a time when the federal budget boasted a large surplus, he vetoed the bill.

What kind of man could say no to free seed for his salt-of-the-earth brethren in distress? Was Cleveland, son of a Presbyterian minister, a cold, cruel and heartless Scrooge? Could this be the same man who once taught at the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind and cultivated a passionate, lifelong devotion to helping the sightless?

Yes indeed, one and the same. But the president was no mean-spirited miser. He simply knew what almost no one in Congress today understands: He knew the decisive difference between government and everything else. If he were alive to witness the tragic antics of Federal Emergency Management Agency in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he might be sorely tempted to say, “I told you so.”

A federal bureaucracy that shells out $438 per night to house New Orleans evacuees in a Manhattan hotel, blows $300 million on trailers that sit and rot many miles away from the intended recipients, stymies help from the Red Cross and other government departments, doles out $2,000 debit cards to just about anybody who needs a tattoo and a massage, and runs ice trucks to every corner of the country except where the ice is needed: These are not the fruit of the allegedly insensitive, laissez-faire 1880s. They are the product of our “compassionate” and gargantuan government, for which every need is an excuse to spend, grow, politicize and subsume.

In his veto of the Texas Seed Bill, Cleveland warned against a general disregard of the “limited mission” of the federal government. He didn’t think Congress or the president should torture the Constitution until it confessed that disaster relief was among the responsibilities of Washington, D.C. He felt that the country should heed the time-honored lesson that, as he put it, “Though the people support the Government, the Government should not support the people.”

The welfare-statists of our time have saddled us with $8 trillion in debt, a federal tax burden seven or eight times that of Cleveland’s day, and a legacy of handout programs that have yielded little more than dependency and dysfunctional families. Billions in corporate welfare have exacted a similar toll on American enterprise. Cleveland tried to tell us that government has nothing to give anybody except what it first takes from somebody, and that a government big enough to give us everything we want is big enough to take away everything we’ve got. But somewhere along the way we fooled ourselves into thinking that government can help our brothers and sisters better, more quickly, and more cheaply than we can help them ourselves. What a sorry mess of pottage we’ve mortgaged our children’s future for.

Nonetheless, Americans are still the most generous charity givers on the planet. The best evidence that we haven’t entirely lost the instincts Cleveland appealed to is the fact that when Americans want to donate money to help others, they don’t make their checks out to FEMA or any other government agency.

Cleveland didn’t say no to drought relief because he thought hurting farmers didn’t deserve relief. He urged Americans in general and members of Congress in particular to give from their own hearts and personal resources. His veto message noted, “The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow citizens in misfortune.” Aid from Washington, D.C., he wrote, only “encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character.”

Those farmers in Texas got their aid, all right—as much as 10 times or more in private assistance as the amount that Cleveland refused to launder first through a federal bureaucracy.

Just six years before in another example of monumental generosity, Americans came to the rescue of their fellow citizens through private means. In 1881, Clara Barton mobilized her newly formed American Red Cross in its first major disaster-relief effort, pouring a gusher of money, food, clothes and volunteers into Michigan after a raging fire destroyed much of four counties. American history is replete with similar stories of people helping people in the absence of largesse from Washington, D.C.

As the Katrina recovery continues, the federal government will do what the federal government does best. It will talk, squawk, and pontificate. It will hold hearings, point fingers, and proclaim its good intentions. It will learn nothing and change little, for that is the nature of the beast and a big reason our Founders wanted it kept small and constrained in the first place. It will, as one of Franklin Roosevelt’s cronies once said, “tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect.”

I suspect that meanwhile, in spite of the mind-numbing hurdles that big government puts in their way, the real heroes will be quiet folks who help their fellow citizens by what they give and by what they build. Grover Cleveland told us we could count on them because they, at least, have never let us down.

Scandal at the Welfare State

Tibor Machan teaches philosophy at Auburn University, Alabama. His recently edited volume “Commerce and Morality” was just published by Rowman and Littlefield, and he is now working on a book titled “Public Realms and Private Rights” for the Independent Institute of San Francisco.

There is much talk these days about government corruption. Scandals abound and usually involve special benefits obtained by organizations from local, state, or federal governments. Government officials are accused of playing favorites as they carry out their duties. They are charged with accepting gifts or campaign contributions in return for giving supporters special treatment.

But there is reason to believe that the more obvious improprieties are merely routine behavior carried out somewhat ineptly. In other words, it is very doubtful that politics in our society involves anything more noble than playing favorites, serving special interests—and neglecting what could be reasonably construed as the true public interest.

Although the distinction between the public and the private interest is quite meaningful, the democratic welfare state totally obscures it. Such a system favors majority role regarding any concern that some member of the public might have (if it can be brought to public attention). It treats everyone’s project as a candidate for public support. And, of course, most every person or group has different objectives. Thus, so long as these objectives can be advanced by political means, they can gain the honorific status of “the public interest.”

It is noteworthy that this may be the result of what Professor Benjamin Barber of Rutgers University has called a strong democracy—a political system that subjects all issues of public concern to a referendum. This approximation of strong democracy—where, for example, just wanting to add a porch to one’s home must be cleared with the representatives of the electorate—has produced our enormous “welfare” state. Yet it was just this prospect that the framers of the U.S. Constitution wanted to avoid. That in part accounted for their insistence on a Bill of Rights, namely, on denying to government-democratic, monarchical, or whatever—the kind of powers that strong democracy entails.

To see how confusing things have become in this kind of strong democracy/welfare state, consider a few current topics of “public concern.” Take, for example, wilderness preservation, an issue that appeals to many and cannot be considered a bad example—environmentalists who favor interventionist policies certainly believe that government preservation of wilderness areas is in the public interest.

Yet it is not unreasonable to suppose that many people do not have the wilderness as their top priority. Sure, they might like and even benefit from some of it. But in the main, they might prefer having at least part of the wilderness given up in favor of, say, housing development which might better suit their needs.

Or take all those Ralph Nader-type crusades for absolutely safe automobiles, risk-free medical research, and the banning of genetic experiments. Mr. Nader is the paragon of the so-called public-minded citizen, presumably without a self-interested bone in his body. Whatever his motives, however, his concerns quite legitimately are not shared by many citizens—.g., those who would prefer more powerful, maneuverable automobiles that can quickly get out of tight spots. These people might well lead better lives without all this worry about safety—they might be good drivers for whom Nader’s concern about safety is superfluous.

Jeremy Rifkin, a Nader type who would ban all genetic experimentation, is another of those who bill themselves as public interest advocates, presumably without a tinge of self- or vested interest to their names. But such persons in fact serve quite particular interests. These and similar-minded individuals clearly do not favor the general public. They favor, instead, some members of it. The rest can fend for themselves when Mr. Rifkin and others gain the political upper hand.

The point is that when government does so much—in behalf of virtually anyone who can gain political power or savvy—it is difficult to tell when it is serving the true public interest. Everyone is pushing an agenda on the government in support of this or that special interest group.

There is under such a system hardly any bona fide public service at all. In this case, laws often serve a private or special purpose—.g., smoking bans in restaurants, prohibition of gambling, mandatory school attendance, business regulations that serve the goals of some but not of others. Such a bloated conception of the “public” realm even undermines the integrity of our judicial system. Courts adjudicating infractions of such special interest laws become arms of a private crusade, not servants of the public.

An Erosion of Confidence

One consequence of this is that confidence in the integrity of government officials at every level, even those engaged in the essential functions of government, is becoming seriously eroded. The police, defense, and judicial functions all are suffering because government has become over-extended.

As government grows beyond its legitimate functions, scandals become the norm. They certainly should not be surprising. They merely represent the more obviously inept ways of trying to get the government to do your own private, special bidding.

It is all just a matter of getting your part of the pie out of Washington—whether it be day care for your children, a monument to your favorite subjects, help to unwed mothers, support of faltering corporations, or protection of the textile industry from foreign competition. Everyone wants to get the government on his side. Some people do this in ways that make it all appear on the up and up. They hire the necessary legal help to navigate the complicated catacombs of the welfare state. Others aren’t so adept.

In such a climate it is actually quite surprising that not more scandals erupt. Probably that is due to even more corruption—in this case cover-ups.

Were government doing something more nearly within its range of expertise—protecting individual rights from domestic and foreign threats—some measure of ethical behavior could be expected from it. But when, despite all the failures and mismanagement of government, people continue to go to it to ask for bailouts, why be surprised when some do it more directly, without finesse? And why wonder at their claim, when caught seeking favors openly and blatantly, that they are innocent?

In light of this, an old adage gains renewed support: the majority of people get just the kind of government they deserve. It is they who clamor for state favors by dishonestly calling their objectives the “public” interest. Notice how many look to political candidates for future favors, how many support this or that politician because they expect something in return once the political office has been gained. Unfortunately, many of us who choose not to play the political game have the results imposed on us in the form of higher taxes and more burdensome regulations.

It may be surprising, after all this, that there are certain matters which are of genuine public interest the Founding Fathers had a clear idea of the public interest, as have most classical liberals. The public interest amounts to what is in everyone’s best interest as a member of the community—the defense of individual fights from domestic and foreign aggression. Here is where our individual human rights unite us into a cohesive public, with a common interest. We are justified in establishing a government, with its massive powers, only if this is our goal to protect and maintain the public interest so understood.

Once we expand the scope of the public in effect make the concept “public” quite meaningless the powers of the state get involved in tasks that serve only some of the people, and often at the expense of other people. And that simply breeds bad government—whether hidden, by phony legislation and regulation, or by means of out- and-out corruption and subsequent scandal.

It is therefore not surprising that the welfare state is so susceptible to misconduct. The lesson we ought to take away is that the scope of government should be reduced to proper proportions—the defense of individual rights.

This article has been published with FEE‘s permission and has been originally published at The Freeman March 1989 • Volume: 39 • Issue: 3.

Ilmastonmuutoksen tosiasia vai harha

Risto Harisalo on Tampereen yliopiston hallintotieteen professori.

Ongelma

Yleisen käsityksen mukaan ilmastonmuutoksen torjunta on koko ihmiskunnan tärkein ja kiireellisin haaste, jolle kaikki muut tehtävät ja voimavarat on alistettava. Jokaista toimenpidettä, pientä ja suurta, on tarkasteltava ympäristön näkökulmasta. Rohkeimpien ennusteiden mukaan kulttuurimme on vaarassa tuhoutua, jos mitään ei tehdä yhteiskuntien kehityksen muuttamiseksi ekologisempaan suuntaan.

Pitävätkö väitteet ilmastonmuutoksen torjunnan välttämättömyydestä paikkansa? Onko mahdollista luottaa valittujen toimenpiteiden moitteettomuuteen? Näitä kysymyksiä on syytä tarkasti pohtia.

Tieteen harha

Tiede etsii säännönmukaisuuksia ja lainalaisuuksia kahden olettamuksen varassa. Näistä ensimmäinen on se, että tieteessä vain muutamat totuudet ovat pysyviä ja useimmat tilapäisiä. Uudet tutkimustulokset kyseenalaistavat ja kumoavat jatkuvana virtana totuuksina pidetyt havainnot. Thomas Kuhnin mukaan tieteelle on ominaista, että se korjaa ja uudistaa jatkuvasti omaa ajatteluaan.

Tieteen kehityksen perusteella on arveluttavaa julistaa ilmastonmuutosta koskevat tutkimustulokset niin vahvoiksi totuuksiksi, että tieteen kehitys ei enää pysty niitä kumoamaan. On kyseenalaista luottaa vuosia ja vuosikymmeniä koskeviin ennusteisiin, koska ihmiset eivät pysty tekemään osuvia ennusteita edes pienen mittakaavan asioista lyhyellä tähtäyksellä.

Tieteen toinen olettamus liittyy kritiikkiin. Tieteen voima on sen kyvyssä ja rohkeudessa kritisoida tutkimustuloksia ja hallitsevia ajattelutapoja. Ilmastonmuutoksen torjunnassa on kuitenkin kritiikki korvattu lujalla uskolla omiin totuuksiin. Tällainen asenne ei ole kovin tieteellinen.

Asiantuntemuksen harha

Ilmastonmuutoksesta puhuvat vetoavat tieteelliseen asiantuntemukseensa suositelleessaan keinoja ongelman ratkaisemiseksi. Vaikka he ovat hyvin perillä itse ongelmasta, siitä ei kuitenkaan automaattisesti seuraa, että he pystyvät sanomaan millaisin keinoin ongelma on ratkaistavissa. Kun he suosittelevat poliittisia ja taloudellisia keinoja yhteiskunnan toimintojen ja rakenteiden muuttamiseksi, he astuvat alueelle, josta heillä ei ole enää asiantuntemusta.

Keinoja on helpompi esittää kuin toteuttaa ne käytännössä. Mikä pitäisi olla huoneistojen optimikoko ja optimaalinen lämpötila? Kuinka tiivisti ja korkealle asunnot on rakennettava? Jos asunnot on rakennettava junaradan varteen, onko rakentaminen kiellettävä alueilla, joissa ei ole junaratoja? Mistä tuotannosta on luovuttava joko osittain tai kokonaan?

Näihin kysymyksiin ei edes ympäristöä parhaiten tuntevilla ole tieteellisesti hyväksyttäviä vastauksia. Näistä pohdinnoista huolimatta on hämmentävää havaita kuinka kritiikittömästi heidän suosituksensa on otettu todesta.

Ihmisten tietämättömyys yhteiskunnan toimintaan keskeisimmin vaikuttavista syy- ja seuraussuhteista on korjaamatonta. Tämä pitää paikkansa myös ilmastonmuutoksen asiantuntijoiden suhteen. Tiede tarjoaa erehtyville ihmisille mahdollisuuden tietää takaamatta heille kuitenkaan ehdotonta tietämystä.

Yhteisen hyvän harha

Ilmastonmuutoksen torjunta on ymmärretty koko yhteiskunnan kattavaksi haasteeksi. Ihmisten kaikkia tekemisiä on tarkasteltava tästä näkökulmasta. Ilmastonmuutoksesta on hyvää vauhtia tulossa kaikki muut totuudet poissulkeva totuus.

Se sallii sälyttää kustannuksia ihmisille, vaikka kenelläkään ei ole varmaa tietoa siitä, mitä hyötyä he siitä saavat. Se oikeuttaa ohjailemaan ihmisten valintoja ja käyttäytymistä asioissa, joita he pitävät tärkeinä omalle hyvinvoinnilleen. Onnistuminen näissä asioissa edellyttää poliittisen vallan keskittämistä.

Ajatus ympäristöstä kaikki muut totuudet alistavana on hyvin totalitaarinen. Kun se hyväksytään, annetaan valtaa ihmisille, joille päämäärä pyhittää keinot. Kun ihmiset uskovat tietävänsä perimmäisen totuuden, he eivät anna enää todellisuudelle mahdollisuutta osoittaa, että asiat voivat kehittyä toisin.

Kun yhteiskunnan kehitystä ohjataan haluttuun suuntaan, poliittisten päättäjien on puututtava moniin erilaisiin asioihin. He muuttavat matkan varrella tavoitteiden ja keinojen tärkeysjärjestystä tekemällä suosimistaan keinoista tavoitteita. Tuloksena on aikaa myöten sekasotku, jonka vuoksi kukaan ei oikeastaan tiedä mikä on oikein ja mikä väärin.

Ihmiskunnan historiassa jokainen yritys ohjata kehitystä tietyn kriteerin mukaan on väistämättä epäonnistunut. On todennäköistä, että ekologisia muutoksia pelkääville käy samalla tavoin.

Taloudellisen tuen harha

Valtiot ovat kaikkialla luopumassa sellaisista tuotannonaloista, joita on tuettava verovaroin. Käytäntöön on monia syitä, joista yksi on se, että julkisen vallan taloudellisesta tuesta muodostuu jatkuva ja se vääristää kilpailua. Tämä asia on tyystin unohdettu ilmastonmuutosta koskevassa keskustelussa.

Useimmat strategiset ehdotukset energian säästämiseksi perustuvat julkiselta vallalta saatavaan taloudelliseen tukeen. Harvassa ovat ne oivallukset, jotka pystyvät varmistamaan tulevaisuutensa omin voimin ilman julkista tukea.

On tietenkin totta, että uudet hankkeet työllistävät ja tarjoavat vientimallisuuksia. Jos niiden menestys on kuitenkin kiinni valtion varoista, niillä ei voi olla kestävää perustaa. Ympäristöteollisuudesta on hyvää vauhtia tulossa uusi maatalous, joka voi toimia vain julkisen rahan turvin. Kun nämä alat kasvavat, ne muodostavat niin vaikuttavan painostusryhmän, että valtio voi tuskin toimia sen tahtoa vastaan.

Päästökaupan harha

Päästökauppaa pidetään huomattavana edistysaskeleena ilmastonmuutoksen globaalissa torjunnassa. Päästökaupasta sopiminen on kuitenkin eri asia kuin varmistaa sopimuksen mukainen toiminta. Tässä on syy siihen, miksi päästökaupan tavoitteet eivät välttämättä toteudu.

Kun sopijat ovat poistuneet näyttämöltä, peliin astuvat uudet toimijat, jotka tuntevat omat etunsa ja etsivät sopimuksesta itselleen edullisimmat tulkinnat. Tätä peliä sopimuksentekijät eivät enää pysty täysin hallitsemaan ja valvomaan. On mahdollista, että tässä pelissä, jossa hyödyt ja haitat jaetaan uudelleen, päästökaupan tavoitteet muuttuvat ja murtuvat.

On todennäköistä, että kansalaiset ovat päästökaupan suurin häviäjä. Heillä ei ole neuvotteluvaltaa päästökauppaa toteutettaessa. Voimakkaat tuotannonalat hankkivat halutessaan vapausasteita sopimusvelvollisuuksiinsa.

Lopuksi

Ilmastonmuutos on niin laaja ja monimuotoinen ilmiö, että sitä on vaikeaa määritellä yksiselitteisesti poliittisten toimenpiteiden mahdollistamiseksi. Vaikka ihmiset olisivat varmoja asiastaan, siitä ei seuraa, että heidän suosituksensa auttaisivat ratkaisemaan ongelman. Lääkkeet voivat myös pahentaa tautia.

Ilmastomuutoksen torjunnassa tarvitaan maanläheistä realismia ja kriittistä ajattelua utopioiden sijasta. Vain tällä ajattelulla on mahdollista korjata ja kehittää asioita. Paikallisesti on mahdollista tehdä paljon enemmän hyvää ympäristölle kuin globaalisti.