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September 2017 Brief: Volume 24, Number 25

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A Commentary on American Public Policy


by Imitatus Publius



There is a major battle raging in this Nation today, to which most of us pay scant attention. We know this Nation was birthed with an economy in a capitalistic tradition. We know that it prospered beyond all others by employing this economic system based on capitalism. We also compare our returns against those received by peoples toiling in non-capitalist countries; after which we generally conclude that while capitalism may not be perfect, it seems to provide a better return than any other economic system so far devised. Discussion will center on Capitalism and Socialism, which is currently the strongest challenger to our capitalistic system.


My personal method of investigating economics is a bit roundabout, through the prism of human behavior. As much as one would like to believe in the noble qualities of man, and he has many, the truth is that human nature fairly dictates that by far the vast majority of us, under trying circumstances, will act in our own best self-interest and that of our immediate family. To proceed on a contradictory premise is to proceed on a false premise. For all the good intentions of those who hold that belief, Socialism and its inevitable successor, Communism, produce results that are quite the contrary of those intended. The reason being, that the principles of Socialism are at war with normal human behavior. Whether you approve of what you observe in normal human behavior is not the question. Normal human behavior is what it is. It is the reality.


Socialism is determined to make everyone altruistic and egalitarian, when the natural tendencies of human behavior are toward self-preservation and, yes, selfishness. Therein resides the conflict. The Socialist sets out to correct this situation through the enforcement of public policy designed to overcome this “minor” stumbling block. When these policies are less than effective in producing the desired results, as too many experiments around the globe have shown they will be, sterner measures are invoked. These policies become more and more severe until they must be imposed by force of arms and fenced borders. Capitalism, by contrast, accepts human behavior, as it is, warts and all.


The most telling difference between Socialism and Capitalism is that, in the former an exchange of objects of value is governed by force in that the exchange may well be involuntary, while in the latter, any exchange is truly voluntary and based on an assumption, by both parties to the exchange, that said exchange is an advantage to both of themselves. The proof of this assumption is that if one or both of them perceived the exchange to be a disadvantage, they would simply refrain from making it. In fact Capitalism exploits the natural human behavior, surprisingly enough, to the benefit of all. It is such a desirable economic system that we don’t have to put up fences around our nation to keep people from leaving. On the contrary, people are very literally dying to get in.


But as intimated above, we are precariously close to letting this marvelous and dynamic system slip from our grasp. This nation is succumbing to the siren song of those who would beguile us with the utopian dream of a nation that is altruistic, egalitarian, and all good things, if only we will grant the government the power to make it so. Are you familiar with Norman Thomas? He ran for President of the United States in every national election from 1928 through 1948 under the banner of the Socialist Party of America. Read what Mr. Thomas’ had to say on this subject:


The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism, but under the name of Liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program until one day America would be a Socialist nation without knowing how it happened.


Just as Socialism is the precursor of Communism, Liberalism is the precursor of Socialism. Please don’t doubt that there are people who are working day and night, whatever their reasons, to implement one or the other of these systems. And although their motives may be most noble, there is no reason to believe the unintended consequences they will engender will be any more pleasant than those you see in Russia, Cuba, North Korea, China, or any other socialist country. Perhaps Sir Winston Churchill captured the sentiment best when he said, “If capitalism is the unequal distribution of wealth, then communism is the equal distribution of misery.


The difference between a legitimate and illegitimate government: 1) It is truly lawful (God given right) for the individual to defend himself. 2) It is also lawful (God given right) for individuals to organize themselves into a collective force, that being government, in order to defend himself. Government derives its legitimacy from these prior two facts. The mere act of combining individuals together into a collective force does not confer upon that collective force the lawful authority to perform acts that are unlawful for the individual to perform. Therefore a government is legitimate (lawful) only so long as the actions of the collective-force of individuals limits itself to actions that are lawful for the distinct individual to perform. (This follows directly from the Natural Law.) Government that does is a legitimate government; government that does not, is illegitimate.


Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole – with their common aim of legal plunder – constitute socialism. (Frederic Bastait, The Law)


Is it possible to step back from this precipice and return to the safety of our original heritage? It is. The first step is to be able to recognize the problem. The second, and far more difficult, is to acknowledge our own participation in this act of perfidy. The third is to assist others in the first two steps of this endeavor. The fourth is to act. That is, to keep informed of our problems and make a serious effort to comprehend them; determine the proper application of constitutional principles to them; identify candidates who are committed to abide by the Constitution in these matters; support these candidates; and encourage others to do the same. In other words, cast a truly informed vote and work to see that others do too.


Public Interest Institute’s POLICY STUDY, A Commentary on American Public Policy, can be viewed at


Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used:"Reprinted by permission from INSTITUTE BRIEF, a publication of Public Interest Institute." The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute. They are brought to you in the interest of a better-informed citizenry.




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