Margaret Thatcher: Warrior for Liberty

April 9, 2013

One need not agree with everything Margaret Thatcher said or did to recognize her as among the most important political leaders of the 20th century—the Iron Lady of British politics—a champion of freer markets, and a stern critic and dogged opponent of socialism. She is best remembered by some of her own words: “Without economic liberty, there could be no true political liberty.” “A man’s right to work as he will, to spend what he earns, to own property, to have the state as servant and not as master, they are the essence of a free economy, and on that freedom all our other freedoms depend.” “If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time and you would achieve nothing.” “You don’t win by just being against things, you only win by being for things and making your message perfectly clear.” “I do believe that political arrangements which are based upon violence, intimidation and theft will eventually break down – and will deserve to do so.” “A system of state control can’t be made good merely because it is run by ‘clever’ people who make the arrogant assertion that they ‘know best’ and that they are serving the ‘public interest’ which of course is determined by them. State control is fundamentally bad because it denies people the power to choose and the opportunity to bear responsibility for their own actions.” “Some socialists seem to believe that people should be numbers in a state computer. We believe they should be individuals. We’re all unequal—no one, thank Heavens, is quite like anyone else, however much the socialists may pretend otherwise—and we believe that everyone has the right to be unequal.” “The people want to live in peace, real, lasting peace. The peace that comes from independence of the state, and being able to run your own life, spend your own money, and make your own choices. And above all, the peace of a country that is properly defended against any potential adversary.” “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money.” Margaret Thatcher has passed away, but her eloquent and determined statesmanship will remain profoundly inspirational to all those fighting for a freer world. Like this post? Join our mailing list to receive our weekly digest. And for in-depth commentary from an Objectivist perspective, subscribe to our quarterly journal, The Objective Standard. Related: Review: Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics by Nicholas Wapshott On May Day, Remember the Victims of Communism—and Condemn the Evil Ideology Image: Wikimedia Commons/a>

The Fruits of Capitalism Are All Around Us

March 3, 2013

These are shocking statistics: Among Americans ages 18–29, people tend to have a negative view of capitalism and a positive view of socialism. As Pew reported in 2011, people in this age group saw capitalism negatively by a margin of 47 to 46 percent, and they saw socialism positively by a margin of 49 to 43 percent. This is despite the fact that, to the degree governments have allowed it to exist, capitalism has brought the people of the civilized world vastly more wealth and vastly better and longer life—and despite the fact that socialist governments have slaughtered scores of millions of people. Overall, people saw capitalism positively only by a margin of 50 to 40 percent. Why does the greatest force for human advancement in the history of the world get such mixed marks among its beneficiaries? Today many people confuse capitalism with the cronyism of bank bailouts, corporate welfare, and special government privileges forcibly limiting competition. But such schemes are utterly contrary to capitalism, and it is illogical and unjust to blame capitalism for programs it explicitly opposes. Capitalism is the political-economic system of individual rights and free markets. Under capitalism, government protects individuals’ rights to control their own property and interact with others voluntarily. Capitalism forbids fraud, theft, government bailouts, and force of every kind. When people think of capitalism, they should not think of bank bailouts or the like; rather, they should think of the relatively free aspects of our society and markets, such as freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the relative freedom of the computer industry that has brought us such wonders as remarkably inexpensive yet high-quality laptops, Androids, and iPhones. Another illustrative example is the modern grocery store. Although the government interferes with the operation of such stores in myriad ways ranging from wage controls to taxation to antitrust actions to food subsidies, in large part grocery stores operate freely, in accordance with the best judgment of their owners and managers. The result is that anyone in the civilized world can quickly and easily purchase goods—including myriad varieties of fresh produce—imported from around the world. My grandmother, who early in life did not have electricity or even indoor plumbing, spoke of getting an orange for Christmas, and of that being such a delightful treat. Fresh oranges were so rare in those days that they were once-a-year splurges for many families. Today most people take for granted our ability to purchase once-exotic foods from around the world as well as from nearby farms—not only oranges but kiwis, pineapples, pomegranates, coffee and tea in endless varieties, leafy greens, various grains and seeds including quinoa and buckwheat, many types of peppers, many types of meats, various cheeses, and on and on. The American grocery store even helped bring down Soviet Communism, as Chris Anderson relates in his book The Long Tail. While visiting the United States, some 50,000 Soviet citizens witnessed, firsthand, American abundance. After visiting a Houston supermarket, Boris Yeltsin, the first president of post-Soviet Russia, said: When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons, and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people. That such a potentially super-rich country as ours has been brought to a state of such poverty! It is terrible to think of it. It is also terrible to think of an America following. . . Continue »

And Neither We Shall Have

November 7, 2012

Last night I crawled into bed with my little girl, wrapped my arms tightly around her and wept for hours while she slept. I wept for the loss of a country that was once the envy of the world—a republic that stood for freedom, opportunity, justice, and individual rights protected by the rule of law—its fearless and indivisible people known for their fierce individualism, exceptionalism, unwavering patriotism, and pride in their nation. I wept for the degradation of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, the greatest documents ever written, and the brilliant men who drafted them in attempts to secure our liberties by the rule of law. It was this rule of law that was the foundation for our republic, which became the greatest, most advanced nation the world has ever known, simply because government was limited and men were free. I wept for the dreams and hopes of immigrants who risked their lives to escape the evils of communism and totalitarianism around the globe for the promise of freedom and opportunity in America. They are among the minority who truly understand the impact and future implications of yesterday’s election. I wept for the heroes in uniform who bravely fought and died so that we could enjoy the liberties that have been the envy of every thinking man around the world, but that we have lazily come to take for granted. Thousands of these heroes’ voices were (purposely, in my opinion) silenced in this election. I wept for the incredible betrayal of the tiny yet great nation of Israel that has always been the only beacon of hope for the most loathed, scapegoated, discriminated against, tortured, and enslaved people in the history of the world—and that stands at the front of the battle against the Islamist assault on the West. Abandoned by the United States and left adrift amidst an ocean of enemies seeking its ultimate destruction, Israel may not survive the greatest threat it has ever faced, an unchecked nuclear Iran and a consequent united caliphate that will sweep the Middle East and threaten the entire world. I wept in fear that my daughter will never know the freedoms and opportunities that were the resolute mission of my parents when they arrived in America, the promised land, with one suitcase between the three of us. I wept because, in Reagan’s words, I will likely spend my “sunset years telling [my child] and [my child’s] children what it was once like in the United States where men were free,” because “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction” and that it was my generation that did not “fight for it, protect it or hand it down to our children to do the same.” Whether you realize it or not, accept it or don’t, the American dream is no more. My parents’ efforts to escape socialism so that my daughter and I could live in freedom were in vain. Socialism and all of its inherent evils and vices followed us, and it is now being forced upon us here in America, the nation that was the last hope of the free world. There is nowhere left to go. Just after the signing of the Constitution, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what they had created. “A Republic,” Franklin answered, “if you can keep it.” Not only have we failed to “keep it,” but most Americans don’t even understand the. . . Continue »

The Moral Integrity of Condemning Social Security While Collecting It

November 3, 2012

In an absurd act of injustice, the left routinely castigates those who criticize government redistribution programs while accepting some benefits of those programs. For instance, writing for the Huffington Post, Michael Ford blasts those on the right who allegedly hold the attitude, “venerated in public, disdained in private”; he describes such people as “vip-dippers.” Ford proceeds to smear Ayn Rand with the term because she accepted Social Security and Medicare payments—after being forced for most of her working life to pay into those rights-violating programs. According to Ford, Rand accepted those “benefits” even as she “said it was wrong for everyone else to do so” (a flagrant misrepresentation of Rand’s position). Ford concludes, “In the end, Miss Rand was a hypocrite. . . .” Similarly, commenting prior to the Republican convention in August, David Sirota wrote for Salon: Hysterical jeremiads against “socialism” and for the “free market” are sure to pepper the Republican convention, if not from the dais then from the assembled rabble. . . . [Y]ou can expect the assembled media to loyally echo the themes—and barely notice that the paroxysm of anti-government hysteria is taking place inside a socialist enterprise. That’s right, as the Daily Dolt first noted, “The stadium where the GOP will be announcing ‘We Built This!’ was financed primarily by the government.” Specifically, according to Marquette University’s National Sports Law Institute, “The total budget for the project was $139 million, of which public money accounted for $86 million and team money accounted for $53 million.” Sirota thus implies that, if one uses a tax-financed stadium, not only can one not properly oppose the tax financing of the stadium, one cannot justifiably condemn socialism or promote free markets. One more example: This summer Eli Stokols reported for Denver’s Fox31: Mitt Romney’s Colorado campaign held an event involving local business owners expressing their outrage over President Barack Obama’s statement that businesses “didn’t build” their companies themselves. “It pissed me off,” said Jack Davis, who hosted the press conference . . . at Advance Surface Technologies, which he bought 15 years ago. “To me, that statement really demonstrates to me that the president doesn’t have an appreciation for what it takes to start and run a business.” Like the business owner who hosted the Romney campaign’s “We Did Build That” event Monday in Colorado Springs, Davis acknowledged that he did receive a government-backed SBA loan. This story led to predictable smears. Lynn Bartels, a reporter for the Denver Post, Tweeted, “Great reporting by @EliStokols on the ‘You didn’t build that’ double standard.” The leftist publication asked, “[A]t what point will people stop the fake rage against the evil ‘government’ when they knowingly take advantage of government programs?” In short, these leftists shrilly mock, “You hypocrite! You accept money the government is handing out, yet you dare criticize the government for handing out money!” Never mind the fact that the government looted Rand’s paycheck for most of her life to finance rights-violating “entitlement” schemes. Never mind the fact that the government forcibly took people’s wealth to build the stadium in question (thereby driving private investment from the market) and that government continued to seize wealth from anyone doing business near the stadium. Never mind the fact that Davis was forced—by threat of criminal prosecution and imprisonment—to subsidize government loans long before he ever applied for one. To leftists, such facts do not matter. What matters to them. . . Continue »

Occupiers Celebrate Communism, Socialism, and Anarchism for May Day

May 2, 2012

Communist regimes enslaved, tortured, and slaughtered hundreds of millions of people in the last century, and to this day communists in North Korea, China, and elsewhere tyrannize citizens. To cite but a couple of examples from recent headlines, North Korean communists continue to murder even children in brutal concentration camps, and Chinese officials “jailed and harassed [blind activist Chen Guangcheng] for years for his campaigns against forced abortions and sterilizations under China’s birth control policies.” Anyone who values human life and liberty must condemn communism as horrifically evil. So, of course, many in the Occupy Wall Street movement celebrated it yesterday for May Day. In New York, one Occupier carried a Chinese flag while others carried a banner stating, “Kill Capitalism, Save the World.” In Chicago, Occupiers carried a sign that read, “Long Live Communism.” Other Occupiers promoted a generic form of socialism. In Denver, for instance, Occupiers carried a banner stating, “Democratic Socialists of America”—apparently either oblivious or indifferent to the well-known fact that any degree of socialism (the essence of which is the state’s use of force to redistribute wealth as “society” sees fit) violates individuals’ rights—and oblivious or indifferent to the equally well-known fact that the National Socialists of Germany came into power through “democratic” elections. But the Occupiers’ May Day celebration was not restricted to glorifying genocidal communists and rights-violating socialists. In Cleveland, an Occupier was arrested for (allegedly) trying to bomb a bridge. In Seattle, anarchists smashed store windows and vandalized cars. In Los Angeles, Occupiers assaulted two police officers. And so on. Many Americans, lulled to sleep by cries for “tolerance” and calls to “judge not that ye be not judged,” either cannot see the danger posed by the left, or do not know what to do about it. To defend America and its core principles, we must condemn as evil the ideologies of communism, socialism, and anarchism—and the people who seek to instate them. And we must champion as just and moral capitalism, the system of individual rights and rule of law. Like this post? Join our mailing list to receive our weekly digest. And for in-depth commentary from an Objectivist perspective, subscribe to our quarterly journal, The Objective Standard. Related: On May Day, Remember the Victims of Communism—and Condemn the Evil Ideology Marxism “Begins with Theft and Ends with Murder,” Shows C. Bradley Thompson Image: Creative Commons by The Eyes of New York


On May Day, Remember the Victims of Communism—and Condemn the Evil Ideology

May 1, 2012

MSNBC recently featured a favorable discussion of the ideas of Karl Marx in the context of a proposed May Day “general strike.” To put this in context: MSNBC would never do the same with respect to the ideas of Adolf Hitler, yet Marxists slaughtered many millions more people than the Nazis did. Writing for The Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin suggests that we designate May Day as “Victims of Communism Day.” Other writers have followed his suggestion, and, as Somin explains, “In time, we hope to make this a worldwide commemoration similar to Holocaust Memorial Day.” Somin first suggested the idea five years ago; he wrote: May Day began as a holiday for socialists and labor union activists, not just communists. But over time, the date was taken over by the Soviet Union and other communist regimes and used as a propaganda tool to prop up their regimes. I suggest that we instead use it as a day to commemorate those regimes’ millions of victims. The authoritative Black Book of Communism estimates the total at 80 to 100 million dead, greater than that caused by all other twentieth century tyrannies combined. We appropriately have a Holocaust Memorial Day. It is equally appropriate to commemorate the victims of the twentieth century’s other great totalitarian tyranny. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so. I suggest that May Day be turned into Victims of Communism Day. Socialism and Communism are evil—murderous evil—and everyone today who understands even a modicum of history knows this. Given that May Day is rooted in these ideologies, the only appropriate way to “celebrate” the occasion is to remember the victims of such collectivist evil, to say “Never again!”—and to mean it. Like this post? Join our mailing list to receive our weekly digest. And for in-depth commentary from an Objectivist perspective, subscribe to our quarterly journal, The Objective Standard. Related: Marxism “Begins with Theft and Ends with Murder,” Shows C. Bradley Thompson Creative Commons Image of the Prague Memorial to the Victims of Communism by Abir Anwar

Soviet Mass Murder for Fun and Games?

April 15, 2012

One perversity of modern American culture is the propensity of some to treat totalitarian mass murderers as “cool” kitsch. Consider, for example, the love affair of many leftist college students with the totalitarian and mass-murderer Che Guevara. Recently, when I attended the conference of the Association of Private Enterprise Education, other participants noticed with disgust that Harrah’s, the Las Vegas hotel that hosted the conference, also houses a burger joint called KGB, a name that refers both to “Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers” and to the Soviet’s version of the Gestapo. The restaurant is adorned with Soviet paraphernalia. But nobody would dream of opening a restaurant called “Gestapo” and adorning the walls with Nazi swastikas; indeed, such an establishment would draw immediate and universal condemnation. Why the double standard? The character of Joseph Stalin himself shows up on a poker app by Candywriter I purchased for my iPod. The game features a variety of historical and fictitious characters, ranging from Genghis Khan to the Tooth Fairy to Barack Obama. Among the group is Stalin, who even by conservative estimates slaughtered around ten million people. Why is it culturally acceptable to include Joseph Stalin as a potential poker partner but not Adolf Hitler? Soviet-style socialism is every bit as evil as Nazi-style socialism. To treat either lightly is not only to disrespect the memories of the millions murdered under those regimes, but to pretend that murder for the “common good” is somehow better than murder for the “superior race.” How obscene. If you enjoyed this post, consider subscribing to The Objective Standard and making objective journalism a regular part of your life. Related: Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice Who is Ayn Rand? Image: Wikimedia Commons