By Tom Mullen
"... every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interests his own way and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of other men."
— Adam Smith (1776)
As President Obama and his pet Congress continue their crusade to expand the reach of government into our lives, "conventional wisdom" continues to tell us that socialized medicine, rampant wealth redistribution, and government control over one industry after another is "necessary" because of the supposed failure of the free market to adequately address the needs of society. The way the "free market" is characterized by politicians and media pundits, it is not surprising that most Americans seem to regard it as some sort of special interest group (Mr. Undersecretary, the gentlemen from the free market are here to see you). Doubtless, when most Americans hear the words "free market," they picture the CEO’s of Detroit automakers flying in on corporate jets or Wall Street financiers busy mastering the universe. This mischaracterization of the free market is ironic, seeing as both of these groups have recently sought and obtained capital from people who were not free to refuse (taxpayers).
So, before trying to ascertain whether or not the free market has failed society, it is necessary to define exactly what it is. This is not so much difficult as it is inconvenient for those who either wish to exert control over our lives or who wish to be controlled by those that they believe can offer them security in exchange for their liberty - even if it means destroying liberty for everyone. For both of these groups, the "free market" is something that must be characterized as something that it is not. To recognize it for what it is would both threaten their own ability to justify their positions and concede to their victims that what they advocate is in fact abject slavery. Neither result is palatable to opponents of the free market, so gibberish is necessary for them from both a moral and practical perspective.
So, let us say here what it seems that no one anywhere wants to come out and say: the free market is nothing more than all members of society exercising their inalienable rights. It is nothing more and nothing less. Any other system, by definition, violates some or all of these rights.
Every individual has a natural right to labor and to keep the fruits of his labor (his property). This is his only means of pursuing his happiness. There is only one role for government in this area: to defend the property of each individual against theft by another person or group. A truly free market limits government’s role in regards to property to this natural boundary — for any further role constitutes government committing the very crime it exists to prohibit.
Every individual has a natural right to liberty — to do as he pleases as long as he does not commit aggression against the equal rights of another. In a free market, there can be no "regulation" (as we incorrectly understand the term today). The laws that restrict human action must be limited to those few necessary to ensure that no individual is forced or defrauded while participating in an exchange of property nor forced to accept any terms that he does not freely consent to. As the quote from Adam Smith illustrates, one cannot talk about "free markets" without at the same time incorporating the Non-Aggression Principle of Liberty. While Smith is generally regarded as the "father of capitalism," he never actually called his economic system by that name. Instead, he referred to it as "a system of natural liberty." Given the confusion that now accompanies the word "capitalism," it might be better to revert to Smith’s terminology.
Since a free market is by definition the only system that allows individuals to exercise their rights, to say that an unfettered free market does not work is to say that society will not work unless those rights are systematically violated and that those violations must be protected by the law. A greater perversion of justice is unimaginable. Yet, the majority of our elected officials champion exactly this. Sadly, the majority of their constituents blindly parrot their horrific slogans.
In response to this argument, the more cunning opponents of liberty will say that we have given the free market a chance to work and it has failed. False prophet of freedom Alan Greenspan is notable among this gang of vipers. However, any lucid analysis of the difficulties that we find ourselves in now can indisputably be traced to the aspects of our society that prevent free markets. Bad mortgage loans were made because government committed the fraud of monetary inflation combined with the theft of guaranteeing loans with taxpayer money. The skyrocketing cost of health care is a result of government committing the theft of taking money from one individual and using it to buy health care for another, suspending the natural law of supply and demand with artificial demand. Contrary to the idea that individual rights must be balanced with societal needs, it is the violation of individual rights that causes all of our societal problems, most pervasively our economic problems.
As it is merely the economic application of the Non-Aggression Principle of Liberty, the free market is the only system that allows individuals the ability to exercise their right to pursue their happiness. By doing so, they naturally seek to profit from their labor and compete with each other without committing aggression against each other’s rights. History shows that individuals acting in this manner produce enormous benefits for their fellow human beings. The steam engine, the automobile, the airplane, the telephone, and virtually every other technological advance that provides a tangible improvement in the quality of human life have been the result of human beings peacefully competing with each other for profit.
Conversely, the atomic bomb, the concentration camp, and every other technology which serves the purpose of death, destruction, and enslavement have been the result of governments forcefully confiscating property from their citizens which would otherwise have been put to productive use. It has only been by violating the individual, inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property that any of these horrors were able to come to fruition.
The free market has not failed. The free market is Freedom itself, and while it has only occurred for brief moments throughout history, it has never, will never, and can never fail. When we are confronted with gibberish about the failure of free markets and the need for government to "play a role in the economy," or for a "public-private partnership," let us not let ourselves be led into a carefully framed argument about what might provide more health care, produce more automobiles, or save more jobs. Let us recognize these arguments for what they are: a declaration of war upon our inalienable rights.
As our Declaration of Independence states, government’s purpose is to secure our rights, including our inalienable right to a free market within which to exchange our property. Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of this end, it is our right and our duty to alter or abolish it. Not only must we resist further government expansion into our economy, we must begin dismantling the institutions of tyranny that government has already established over the past century. Our representatives must hear this from us every day until they call off their attack upon our rights or until they can be removed from office. There is nothing in any of our lives that is more important than this right now.
1. Smith, Adam An Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations from An Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations: Selections edited by Laurance Winant Dickey Hackett Publishing Indianapolis, IN 1993 pg. 165
2. The reader should avoid confusing private companies developing weapons for the government with "the free market." The fact that the companies are privately owned does not mean that they are operating in a free market. Quite the contrary. Since the buyers of their products do so involuntarily (taxes), the development of new weapons and subsequent sale of them to the government has nothing to do with a free market.
Copyright © 2009 Thomas Mullen