Forward: Down the Road to Serfdom

Most people completely miss the point of those who object to big government. Often the mainstream media argues against a straw man, pretending republicans want to take away women’s rights, or pretending the Tea party wants no government at all. Those of us who have been warning that we need to get off the road to serfdom do not feel that we are in a dictatorship, but we do see that as the logical conclusion to the type of policies currently set forth by our government. After all, by the time we live in a dictatorship, it will be too late to protest.

This is why it is aggravating to hear people say things like “what freedoms have you lost? How has your life really gotten any worse with these policies? The standard of living in America is such that no complaints are warranted”. This is like someone who just got on a roller coaster refusing to believe they will ever drop. “Well we’ve always been going up, so why would that change?” The only problem with our roller coaster is that just when you reach the pinnacle is when the furthest fall comes.

An article from CafeHayek discusses just this kind of attitude, in a response to a readers’ comment. The reader claims that “us guys” have been forecasting universal serfdom for as long as the other side has forecast the fall of capitalism (which actually shows each side has forecast the same outcome). He then lists all the good things about living in America, falsely claims we pay fewer taxes than ever, and asks for a list of freedoms lost in order to better understand the freedom lover’s position.

Our lives are in fact great here in America, and that is something I don’t want to change. Maybe yours has not, but in the last few years many Americans’ lives have gotten worse, because of the policies of the current administration, and the similar policies of the administration before that. So to act like the standard of living in America could never go down is silly. The closer we got to free market capitalism the higher the standard of living went, and the further we stepped from the free market, the more the upward trend slowed, and has now arguably stopped. I read recently that for the first time in decades the life expectancy of certain groups of people in America had dropped. We have not made any major leaps and bounds toward curing or preventing major illnesses or increasing material comfort or better hygiene in the last decade. Home ownership is at a 15 year low, and Americans disposable income has fallen the fastest since the 1960′s with over $1,000 less disposable income since the “great recession” started. Maybe some of these things can be explained away, but to scoff at the claim of a declining American standard of living without examining the facts would be ignorant.

We also have a great source of information for the type of policies America is now introducing: Europe. If we are seeking to implement European policy, then we should look at where those policies led European nations. They are further along “the road to serfdom” than America, so instead of just waiting for our stability to be rocked to the core, those of us seeking to preserve the high quality of life in America must protest. My life is good right now, but many Spaniards’ lives are not. Why then would America take the same actions that Spain took which led to their decline?

But I worry it won’t be so good for my children. We’re becoming more like Europe. I don’t know if you’ve looked lately but Europe isn’t doing very well. The last time I looked, unemployment in Spain was 25%. Most Europeans still have a good life, but I don’t like the trajectory and I’d hate to look for work as a teenager. It’s not a very dynamic place.

And how can we expect to continue growing and improving, as America always has, if our schools are worse than they have ever been? Schools have been taken over by the Unions who make education prices skyrocket, protect bad teachers (at a detriment to the efforts of the vast majority of good teachers), and keep inner city kids from getting the type of education they deserve. American students are doing terribly in math and science compared to the rest of the industrialized world. Students are graduating high school unable to pass eighth grade tests, and graduating college with fewer and fewer marketable skills. Do we think America will just magically stay on this privileged path without the brains to fill high tech industries?

The public school teachers are one protected group. They are not alone. Equally unhealthy is the protected status of the financial class. Republicans and Democrats are both friendly to the investment banks and their executives. Then there are the farmers. Public unions. The autoworkers. The green energy industry. All of these groups get special treatment, special favors, protection from competitors.  That divides us into those with special privileges and those without. It is very corrosive for democracy and for capitalism. And it makes us poorer. More energy goes into being in the protected class. Less energy is left over for productive activity serving others. Another way to say it–more energy put into zero-sum activity and less energy put into making everyone better off.

As for the freedoms lost, the list is too vast to compile, because our freedoms are not taken away all at one time. They corrode, they weaken, split, fracture. Every one of our rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights has been trampled in one regard or another. Election laws and the FCC trample the first amendment free speech protection, and now Obamacare threatens religious freedom. The right of the people to keep and bear arms, which was not supposed to be infringed, has been infringed through “assault weapons” bans, laws banning types of ammunition, states requiring restrictive licensing, and the underlying right to protect oneself has been weakened as well, some states requiring a victim to flee before they fight back. The Supreme court decision Kelo vs. New London helped scrap property rights, and the our fourth amendment rights to be secure in our persons, papers, houses, and affects are ignored on a regular basis by law enforcement who no longer feel they need warrants to monitor cell phones, online communications, search houses, and mount surveillance cameras on private property.

The Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act are two more examples of eroding freedom. One weakened our fourth amendment protections, and the latter allows American citizens to be detained indefinitely without a warrant. The tenth amendment might as well no longer exist, but just as a reminder it states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This means the people have lost control over our government, and states have lost control over the federal government (with the help of the 16th amendment instating an income tax, and the 17th amendment making Senators elected by the people instead of state governments). We have no control over the EPA, the TSA and other unelected government agencies which set regulations arbitrarily without elected lawmakers’ consent. The Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Health, and many others are all unconstitutional and should be dealt with at the state level. We the people have less control over federal agencies than we have over state agencies, meaning we get dictated to in regards to education, instead of the people dictating to our government exactly the type of education we want to see.

That was all just off the top of my head but there are millions of small freedoms lost which all add up to a mountain of federal authority over our lives. And it is not just the erosion of freedom which puts us on a “path to serfdom”, it is the government taking place of other institutions in society, then failing to deliver on the promises made, and not fulfilling the role which was previously filled by charity, the family, the community, religion, or the neighborhood.

Finally, the rise of big government in the 1930′s in the United States that took a great leap upward in the 1960s and pretty much keeps going no matter who is in office has been very damaging to civil society–to the voluntary connections we make to help one another. I want collective action that is voluntary not coerced. I want people to have the incentive to come together and help others. Government takes my money and gives it to other people. Sometimes it’s good people. But sometimes it’s not. So it doesn’t just replicate what I would have done already. It distorts it. But more importantly it discourages the deeply human ways we help one another as friends and family. I don’t want to romanticize private charity or the way families work. They’re both deeply flawed and imperfect. But big government destroys those systems of interaction and help. Big government makes it cheaper to be on our own. It makes it cheaper to avoid helping others because the government is doing it already.

Since the government pretends it is going to help every person who falls through the cracks of society, people assume that if they pay their taxes, they have done their part. This is not true, because the government lies to us and says they will help people as an excuse to raise taxes and collect more money. If we all knew outright that the government was not going to help anyone, there would be a larger number of more effective organizations dealing with the people who can truly not help themselves. Objecting to government help for the less fortunate is not the same as objecting to any help for the less fortunate.

Finally Thomas Sowell points out a disturbing aspect of Obamacare which nullifies the equal protection under the law, guaranteed by the 14th amendment. The President has the power to waive the Affordable Care Act for any business, union, or other enterprise.

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution provides for “equal protection of the laws” for all Americans. To have a law that can cost an organization millions of dollars a year either apply or not apply, depending on the whim or political interest of the President of the United States, is to make a mockery of the rule of law.

How secure is any freedom when there is this kind of arbitrary power in the hands of one man?

What does your right of freedom of speech mean if saying something that irritates the Obama administration means that you or your business has to pay huge amounts of money and get hit with all sorts of red tape under Obamacare that your competitor is exempted from, because your competitor either kept quiet or praised the Obama administration or donated to its reelection campaign?

Sowell goes on to discuss at least five other instances of government creating this arbitrary power. Obamacare is not to help people get more affordable care, it is a tool of power. It gives the President the power to make or crush businesses, just by applying the law, or waiving the law. Laws are objective for a reason.

So to all the people who refuse to believe, who scoff, and tell you you’re an idiot for thinking America could possibly slip down the road to serfdom, tell them instead of rolling their eyes, to open them.

2 thoughts on “Forward: Down the Road to Serfdom

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