Posts Tagged ‘liberty’

The Tyranny of Debt

May 7, 2015

“(T)he United States waged a long war upon the ground, that governments are instituted to secure, and not to bestow, the freedom of property.” John Taylor, Construction Construed and Constitutions Vindicated, (1820), Sec. 1.

“To live securely happily and independently is the end and effect of liberty… All men are animated by the passion of acquiring and defending property, because property is the best support of that independency, so passionately desired by all men… as happiness is the effect of independency, and independency the effect of property; so certain property is the effect of liberty alone, and can only be secured by the laws of liberty; laws which are made by consent, and cannot be repealed without it.” Thomas Gordon, Cato’s Letters, No 68, (1721).

 

Against Exploitation

“Private property is the bulwark protecting the individual against exploitation by others,” Herman E. Daly wrote in Beyond Growth. “A property owner has an independent livelihood and need not accept whatever conditions of employment are offered.”

Indeed, Daly taps into the very essence of private property with these sentiments. If there is one single element of Marxism that presses the hardest against the individual’s freedoms, it is the question of property. While it is true that in a perfect world – wherein everyone’s sincerity of altruism would be above question – a society based on communal property may indeed be a workable framework.

But this is not a perfect world, and as sure as the sun rises in the east, there will always be those individuals who would eye the control of communal property as a means to power. In fact, we find in history that state control of property defines every major establishment of communism in the world. And while contemporary Marxists will contend the communism of the USSR and China does not represent “real” Marxism, it is fair to level these criticisms against Marxism until such time its followers show us a society in possession of a complete sincerity of altruism.

It is for this reason, and others, that the tenant of private property continues to hold in free societies, at least for the foreseeable future. But there is another insidious threat to private property, one that Daly did not recognize in his statement above (but does so elsewhere in his works), and that threat is indebtedness.

The Big Lie

Today, “free” societies everywhere are populated with a large number of home and property owners, but only a small percentage outright own this property lien free. Almost all of it has been purchased with the help of a mortgage. And within this reality rests The Big Lie, that is, we live on the illusion that we are “homeowners.” Yet, unless we hold title to our property lien free, it is very difficult to align this illusion with reality. And so, to tap Daly’s passage again, encumbered homeowners are forced to “accept whatever conditions of employment are offered.” (more…)

Are Free Marketers Blind to Tyranny? Part 2

October 19, 2012

In picking up on our discussion of economic tyranny from yesterday, the argument contended that to blindly submit to market forces creates an atmosphere for economic tyranny to arise, every bit as dangerous as political tyranny. This singular belief in markets, to the exclusion of all other considerations, is folly. Both the economic and the political institutions that arise in a society were given space by America’s founders for the betterment of the individual, not the converse.

Economist Wilhelm Röpke noted in The Humane Economy that to focus merely on the economic is to place blinders over our eyes, that

“we have narrowed our angle of vision and do not forget that the market economy is the economic order proper to a definite social structure and to a definite spiritual and moral setting. If we were to neglect the market economy’s characteristic of being merely a part of a spiritual and social total order, we would become guilty of an aberration…” (emphasis added – ed.).

Röpke squarely embeds the economy within the social, within society. (more…)

Are Free Marketers Blind to Tyranny? Part 1

October 18, 2012

All too frequently we hear free marketers in America bemoan regulatory action, suggesting such action actually hampers a sorely needed economic recovery. Free markets, they state, will ultimately sort things out. Yet, do we ever hear these voices caution against economic tyranny? It seems economic tyranny is simply not in their vocabulary. Why?

To blindly submit to market forces creates an atmosphere for economic tyranny to arise, every bit as dangerous as political tyranny. This singular belief in markets, to the exclusion of all other considerations, is folly. Both the economic and the political institutions that arise in a society are there for the betterment of the individual, not the converse. The German American political theorist Hannah Arendt understood this when she observed that

“Free enterprise… is a minor blessing compared with the truly political freedoms, such as freedom of speech and thought, of assembly and association, even under the best of conditions. Economic growth may one day turn out to be a curse rather than a good, and under no conditions can it either lead into freedom or constitute a proof for its existence” (On Revolution, Chp. 6).

Any doubt about these sentiments, written in 1963, can be placed aside when one considers China, a country that has fully embraced capitalism and has taken a commanding lead in global economic growth because of it. Yet, the Chinese enjoy very little in the way of political freedoms. Capitalism does not need political freedom to thrive; in fact, centralized capitalism can create tyrannies of its own.

Economic tyranny arises when the vast majority of citizens are wage laborers. By the very need of an income, wage laborers are at the mercy of centralized economic forces that are seemingly beyond control; one’s fate rests in the hands of others unseen, unknown. Such forces are not part of the “invisible hand” of which Adam Smith spoke. (more…)


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