Robert A. Mullen
n his recent so-called “Townhall Meeting” Obama was confronted by an elderly black lady who unintentionally revealed the basic illness our country faces. She articulated things just as succinctly as Joe the Plumber had done months earlier, except the message that came across was purely unintentional and of totally another tact. Could he, she asked, help her get a new car, a bathroom and a better kitchen.
This would have been an excellent opportunity for Obama to tell the nation that the best way we can improve our lots is by going to work and that he planned to make more jobs available by cutting corporate taxes and that government should never promise a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. Government could help, he might have said, by improving our educational standards so more people could qualify for more jobs. Instead, he took her name and said his staff would be getting back to her.
Arizona State University has just announced major program cutbacks. Sadly, they are dropping programs at the School of Engineering and the Polytechnic campus but leaving intact “Bachelor of Arts in Ethnicity, Race and First Nations Studies.” This is symptomatic of what’s wrong with education. Obama’s failure to respond with maturity is an indication of where we’re heading: Goofy programs and modestly disguised socialism.
The insidious strength of socialism is that it keeps perpetuating itself as long as voters realize government is providing them with a new car, a bathroom and a better kitchen. The beat goes on.
The most worrying aspect of all this is the path the federal government is currently following, especially the recent bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the “loans” to the auto industry. Through all this we are relentlessly implementing the same political/economic system that we spent the last half of the twentieth century fighting against. The USA is quickly becoming the USSA, the United Socialist States of America.
The only way to make a profit in a real (i.e., free) market is to satisfy consumer demand. In other words, to produce goods and services in which other human beings find value. By enriching his own life, by earning a profit, the entrepreneur enriches society. In fact, voluntary trade -- individuals exchanging things which they consider valuable with one another -- makes civilization possible.
Instead of the profit incentive, socialism is driven by political incentive. Instead of satisfying consumer demand, politicians are more interested in satisfying the demands of their constituents who have the ability to keep the politician in power. Successful politicians are those who are best able to work the system to the benefit of their patrons. Ability is no longer rewarded; ruthlessness and ambition are.
Socialism destroys human productivity through its innocent but nevertheless perverse incentives. Instead of rewarding ability, hard work, and self-reliance, it rewards need, sloth and dependence. Why work when the fruits of your labor are confiscated? Why work when you can sit at home and receive a government handout? Humans respond to conditioning. When I was at the University of Minnesota, I took a political science course from a professor who thought Karl Marx’s slogan of “from each according to his ability; to each according to his need,” was just dandy. You don’t have to dig very deep in Mr. Obama’s agenda to discover precisely what Old Karl was preaching a long time ago. The nice old lady who wanted a new car, a bathroom and a better kitchen was innocent in her request. But, unwittingly, she was speaking of our new national agenda.
It isn’t the mountains of money involved in TARP and the government bailouts that bothers me. It is the fact that Obama and his band of merry bandits are cleverly camouflaging what lies in wait down the road. Our American free market has brought tremendous benefits to mankind. Yet, Obamaists blame the market for the current crisis. The real cause of this crisis is not market failures, but decades of government intervention in the market. It is only the resilience of the free market that has delayed the inevitable for as long as it has. What we are seeing is the compromise between socialism and free markets that our country has pursued since the New Deal.