Mrs. Ward is a housewife and full-time student at Bowling Green University in Ohio, majoring in American history.
Contrary to much popular belief, we of the planet earth live by certain unalterable absolutes. In America since the late 1800′s our intelligentsia have been trying to teach us that this is not true. "The only absolute is change," they say—which statement is a contradiction in terms, since by sound definition an absolute is that which does not change.
There are in fact certain absolutes that no amount of wishing, hoping, praying, or hiding will destroy. The basic one is—we live in a world where nothing is given to mankind except life itself and the elements of the earth. Even these so-called free gifts cannot be used without some effort on the part of the recipient. It is then safe to say absolutely: Nothing is free.
Now, if this is a basic natural law, then the human beings on this earth must take it into consideration when they build philosophical, political, religious, and economic systems. But do they? Our philosophy is based on pragmatism—whatever works is true; our politics are based on compromise—promise them anything, but get elected; our religions are built on humanitarianism—man’s highest good comes from serving other men; and our economic beliefs tell us we can spend, waste, destroy, and borrow indefinitely without coming to a day of reckoning—we never have to pay a debt we owe ourselves.
Let us apply this law of built-in costs to just one of these fields of human endeavor. Let us explore the damage done to our economic life as a result of ignoring the absolute—nothing is free!
Goods come into existence by the use of three things: elements (matter), thought (ingenuity), and labor (energy). Man takes the elements of the earth, applies thought, and then proceeds with his labor to bring into being a result or good which is useful to him. If man does not think or if he reasons incorrectly, he suffers want and the elements are wasted. If he applies labor alone, his harvest is meager and might not sustain him. Only when he applies both thought and labor to the material universe does he produce an adequate harvest.
By taking thought, mankind has been able to harness the earth’s elements in the form of energy to make them work for him. In this way—that is, by using capital —he can reap a larger harvest than would be possible by the use of his manual labor alone. But no matter how ingenious man’s technology, he can never come to the place where he no longer needs matter, thought, and labor (all three) to produce goods.
But what are the new breed economists telling us? "We have achieved perpetual motion through our harnessing of energy. Man no longer needs to work because he has machines to work for him. All man needs to do now is redistribute the produce and we will all have enough."
We are free to hold all manner of beliefs about this world, but we are not free to select the consequences of our beliefs. If we ignore the law which states, "A force cannot be applied in any direction without an equal force in the opposite direction," or, more simply, Nothing is free, we will still reap the consequences of that law.
If we ignore the fact that a totalitarian trend is generated whenever any society tools up for the political redistribution of goods, if we presume that a totalitarian society can produce enough goods and services so that society en masse can have a high standard of living, and if we believe that a secure "utopia" is a positive good, we still have the problem of price. The price, fellow men, is freedom. Cradle-to-grave economic security demands that the receiver give up his conscious volition, become a robot, and allow himself to be spoon-fed by the giver of this "good."
"But that is not what the seeker of security is looking for," you say. "What he really wants is to live without mundane tasks and have complete freedom to do what he wishes with his time." Now, there’s a noble aim—and one which is impossible to achieve in this world. The world can support a few nonproducers, but not non-producers in large groups. This is true because many men have sufficient ingenuity and energy to produce more than they personally need and are willing to do so as long as they are allowed the decision as to its distribution. When they are no longer allowed this decision, they cease to overproduce, because they know that no one has the right to make them work for others. In the realm of human endeavor, the division of labor is from choice, not, as is true with the lower forms of life, from physiological differences.
In the last fifty years America has been more and more ignoring the absolute, Nothing is free, and we have come to a time of decision. We can recognize this law and gradually reverse our direction, slowly lopping off those segments of our economy which are doles and, over a period of years, become once again free and self-reliant; or we can continue in the path we’re on and become completely totalitarian and impoverished like the rest of the world; or we can try to retain our freedom in a partially controlled economy until we go down in an economic heap with a world-sized monetary collapse.
We have these three choices —but we have no choice about the end results of the path we take. These results are preordained by law and will come to pass regardless of our wishes in the matter. That is the way the laws of nature operate.
If we choose the wrong path at this point in time, one can always retain the hope that human freedom will ultimately rise like the Phoenix from the ashes of its own funeral pyre with renewed youth and beauty.
I readily, and I trust feelingly, acknowledge the duty incumbent on us all, as men and citizens, and as among the highest and holiest of our duties, to provide for those who, in the mysterious order of Providence, are subject to want and to disease of body or mind, but I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for making the Federal Government the great almoner of public charity throughout the United States…. It would, in the end, be prejudicial rather than beneficial to the noble offices of charity….
From a Veto Message in 1854