Column on You Should Belong to Washington

You Should Belong to Washington!

Tibor R. Machan

Back in the times of feudalism, a system the American Revolution was
supposed to have overthrown, people belonged to government. The king owned
everyone and all the wealth in the country. People were subjects, at the
disposal of the will of the monarch not to their own. Decisions about
everyone’s life was made by the head of state. It was government that was
sovereign, self-governing, not citizens!

All of this was what the American revolution managed to abolish, at very
great cost. That event put on record the declaration that all human beings
have unalienable rights to their lives. And while practical reality took a
good while to catch up with this declaration–African Americans did not
manage to get their basic right to life recognized until after the Civil
War–the principle took root firmly enough so that much of the legal
system in time adjusted to it.

It’s about time for all this to be over, according to a very prominent and
long article in The New York Times Magazine, Sunday February 1, 2009. The
author, David Leonhardt, states without reservations that "… Once [e.
g., during The New Deal] governments finally decided to use the enormous
resources at their disposal, they have typically been able to shock an
economy back to life. They can put to work the people, money and equipment
sitting idle, until the private sector is willing to begin using them
again. The prescription developed almost a century ago by John Maynard
Keynes does appear to work…" ("The Big Fix," The New York Times
Magazine, Sunday, February 1st, p. 23). Read it carefully–you are to be a
government resource according to Mr. Leonhardt, along with everything else
in the country, a resource the government "can put to work."

This would be a most revolting development in the supposedly freest
country in human history, the leader of the free world. Yet that it is a
philosophy Mr. Leonhardt is eagerly urging upon the new administration of
President Barack Obama, which is also a great irony. It was, after all,
black Americans who continued to belong not to themselves but others, with
full sanction from the governments of Southern states. And Mr. Obama’s
ascent to the American presidency has been hailed as the final step in the
long march out of that bondage only to have the current crop of statist
intellectuals, such as Mr. Leonhardt, writing in perhaps the most
prestigious newspaper in the nation, urge the reversal of the trend and
return the country to its pre-revolutionary time when everyone belonged to
the government.

All this is advocated, of course, for the laudable cause of reviving the
American economy. That kind of supreme objective is exactly what the
Soviet government used to justify its disastrous Five Year Plans and what
all tyrants use to excuse their system of subjugation. Never mind. These
current, American cheerleaders of the reactionary policies of George III,
and of mercantilism in general, have no care for individual rights, for
the hard won liberties of Americans. All they want is to be in on a phony
rescue mission the ultimate result of which is most likely to be a full
scale dictatorship in which people and the wealth of the country will be
"put to work," like it or not.

According to Mr. Leonhardt and the political economist he lines up in
support of this dangerous agenda, namely Stanford University’s professor
Paul Romer, "The choices that determine a country’s growth rate ‘dwarf all
other economic-policy concerns’." Because of the distorted history of the
New Deal accepted by Mr. Leonhardt–and, probably, Professor Romer, a
"history" that has been refuted over and over again by the recent work of
such researchers as for example Amity Shleas in her Forgotten Man: A New
History of the Great Depression, and by Jim Powell in his FDR’s Folly: How
Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression–the country’s
most fundamental principles are to be cast aside and its population is to
be returned to the status of serfdom–which is what comes to being an
economic resource.

It is going to be difficult to counter all this enthusiasm for old style,
mercantilist statism–the hunger for power in these times is enormous.
Leonhardt mentions the late economist Mancur Olson who observed many years
ago that the time for serious change in a country is when it experiences
an upheaval like the one that’s threatening American now. And of course
Leonhardt urges his statist pals to seize the day.

If Olson was right, it is vital that these enemies of human liberty meet
with total failure, that they do not get to seize the day in favor of a
regimented, top-down planned American economy. For that a widespread and
effective counter movement needs to be sustained.

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