Mr. Heiple is a young attorney from Washington, Illinois.
The forgotten man…. A cross of gold…. Greenbacks for all…. Yes, down through the years we have heard the calls.
Calls mouthed by even the stammering tot…. A car in the garage; a chicken in the pot.
French, Spaniards, Phoenicians, and Greeks — all knew the shortcut to abundance. Simple? Of course! Clip the coin, dilute the metal, issue script, and roll the presses. Money buys things, doesn’t it? Well, make money! More money to circulate to stimulate trade, for better distribution, and employment for all.
Oh, yes, we’ve heard the call. The promises sparkle; they always sound new.
But the story is as old as time, as unchanging as human nature. No matter how many times it has been tried, what name was given to it, who administered the plan, or what the honesty and good intentions, inflation has always brought poverty, not abundance. It always will. It is as simple as ABC. It is sure as rain.
The reason: man responds to incentives. He will work if rewarded. He will not work without reward. He will save if it is profitable to save. He will not save if it does not profit him to save. He will not save if he can get no interest on his money, or if his money deteriorates in value. We don’t save old pancakes, and we won’t save dollars either if they are going to be less and less valuable every year.
Saved money is what bought every diesel railroad locomotive in the U.S. today. It bought every lathe, broach, and milling machine. Yet, the men, widows, and children who loaned the money to buy these machines to produce our abundance were fools. Inflation made them fools. $2,500 in 1939 would have built a house; now it will barely buy a good automobile. How long will people save if this continues? How long before they "wise up" and stop providing new locomotives and lathes? It will be when the savers realize inflation is here for good. We will then have had it.
Inflation destroys ambition and creativeness. It defrauds the honest and punishes the thrifty. It is caused by government living beyond its means, by deficit, by manipulation and manufacture of money, by tampering with interest rates and credit expansion, by confiscation and redistribution.
Freedom of Choice
Someone figured it out…. We have 143,791 laws to enforce the Ten Commandments.
Suppose you should want to shoe a horse tomorrow. The policeman won’t let you. If your neighbor wants to haul your garbage to the dump, he isn’t permitted. If your cousin Rachel, on the old farm, should continue her egg and cream route, just bring her next birthday present to the jailhouse. Ridiculous, you say? Yes! Ridiculous because it is true.
It used to be that if you were a good horseshoer, you were in business; and if you sold ripe eggs, you weren’t. But not anymore. Nowadays it seems that peoplearen’t as smart as they used to be. All the smart ones must be in the legislature.
No longer can we tell for ourselves whether an egg is rotten, whether the garbage man can haul garbage, or whether the shoe stays on the horse. Whether there ought to be a law or not, there is.
It would be comical if it were not so pathetic.
The rationale of this "big brother" philosophy is based on a faulty premise and constructed of fallacious reasoning. Its absurd reasoning is this: (1) Most people are so dumb that they don’t know what is good for them; (2) The elected officials and appointed bureaucrats are so smart that they know what is good for others; (3) That by regulation, license, and code, everyone is going to get what the officials think the people should have. So runs their argument. Ridiculous? Yes! To say that you and I don’t have the judgment to choose a competent garbage man, horseshoer, barber, or plumber is an insult to our intelligence. Yet we are permitting ourselves to be so insulted in each of these fields.
To say that 235 men in Springfield can pick every competent and discard every incompetent barber, plumber, horseshoer, and garbage man in the whole state of Illinois is a statement of absolute and supreme arrogance. Yet every time a license is granted or refused, it is state-pronouncement of competency or incompetency.
To say that regulation and license guarantee good work is incredible. Just ask your barber or plumber sometime about their inspection and supervision. Ask them if it assures competent men and qualified work. They’ll tell you it’s a joke. All it does is create a lot of political jobs.
Our country is built on freedom — on the right of each individual to choose for himself what he wants — even though we might have made a different choice. You cannot protect people from their own ignorance. You cannot, by legislation, abolish mistakes. Freedom includes the right to make a mistake as well as the right to make a wise choice.
All things To All People
It seems to be the popular trend nowadays to proclaim your devotion to everyone. A candidate just isn’t unless he is for business, for labor, for farmers, for producers, for consumers, and for everything that costs money. No one is content to grow up and admit there is no Santa Claus.
For a good many years we have been kidding ourselves that the government should and could guarantee every employment and economic group a better deal than the next. That crackpot scheme worked OK for awhile. It worked just about as long as the chain-letter get-rich scheme. It goes over big for the first ones to get in the promotion, but pretty soon everyone is promoting and there aren’t any "fall guys" left. The idea of an above average standard of living for everyone is, of course, a contradiction and impossible on its face, if you should think about it. What I am trying to say is that individuals create their own success and prosperity. If you get the government to give you something it has taxed away from another, that fellow and countless others are going to get theirs by taxing you. And you can’t blame them. It’s a matter of self-defense.
The farmers may be receiving benefits, but they are in turn being taxed to benefit labor, consumer, business, banking, and so on. The same is true for each of the other groups. It is all just a lot of wasted effort applied to a very inefficient machine. You never get out what you put in.
Rights of the Individual
In the progress of history we have had the Stone Age, the Iron Age, and the Machine Age. We are today living in what some have called the Age of Conformity…. the age in which the quest for security has displaced opportunity. The accent today is on the group. The individual is of little concern. The mass is all that matters.
This false doctrine is shot through our whole society. Schools are geared in accordance with the norm and ignore individual ability and special talent. Law puts social responsibility ahead of individual rights. Politicians cry for the good of the greatest number without a thought of the individuals who suffer. Economists study institutions, not people.
The end result of this kind of thinking is the worship of the government as an idol — to believe that it can do anything except something wrong — that the unfailing way to find right, truth, and justice is to take a popularity poll. We act as if the State can feed us when we are hungry, heal us when we are ill, raise wages and lower prices at the same time, educate our children without costs, give us electricity by passing laws, and improve the game of baseball with regulations. We need just pass a law and then stand back and be overwhelmed with all the goodness of life.
Let’s try to be sensible for awhile. It is the differences in people that make possible our progress. The object in education is to develop your own special abilities to their utmost, not to conform. We as individuals have rights that the majority cannot take away from us.
It is time we used our common sense. Hard work, not legislation, makes production. Production, not regulation, makes prosperity. The legislature cannot amend the laws of economics anymore than it can the law of gravity.
Ideas On Liberty
Getting Out of Jams
The tendency of a Federal aid operation is by its nature to rigidify. The idea is to help the people, and the simplest way to help people without jobs is to put them on a dole. Beyond that, the attempt is to get them back to doing what they were doing before they lost their jobs, while their real need — and the community’s economic need— may be precisely to provide new kinds of jobs or jobs in new places. Nothing will discourage local incentive so fast as Federal intervention, even of an enlightened kind.
From the Wall Street Journal, November 9, 1955