All Commentary
Tuesday, December 1, 1970

Goose or Citizen?


The Reverend Mr. Scott is a minister of the United Church of Canada and a doctoral can­didate at the Université de Strasbourg.

Perhaps you’ve had an experience like mine. You’ve been arguing over socialism for about an hour with someone, and you finally con­centrate all your powers of per­suasion on the proposition that socialism will destroy individual initiative. Then, without a mo­ment’s delay, comes the socialist rebuttal: “But we don’t intend to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Reassured? Fairly certain that under socialism things won’t be all that bad? Well, think again.

(1) The promise, sincere as it is, is simply that the goose that lays the golden eggs will not be killed. This is cold comfort if you happen to be the goose in ques­tion. I mean, you might want to hatch one or two of those eggs, but the only promise you’ve got is that you won’t be killed. Now by the time you’ve spent most of your life laying egg after egg, death might just seem like a wel­come release, but there is this sin­cere promise that they won’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Some promise, some reassurance!

(2) The promise is also that the goose that lays the golden eggs will not be killed. You might ask yourself if you are a goose or a citizen. Are you satisfied with be­ing treated like a bird whose fate is decided for him, or would you rather be regarded as a man? You know, when people start talking about you as if you were an ani­mal, you’d better let them know that you’re a human being, free and responsible by nature. You’re no man’s creature; and although you don’t produce golden eggs, whatever you do produce belongs to you by right.

(3) The socialist promise in­cludes this business of not killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Now a goose lays eggs because that’s its nature, and I suppose the goose that lays golden eggs does that by nature too. But your professional or entrepreneurial skills do not come naturally. If they did, we’d all be millionaires overnight. In fact, professional and entrepreneurial skills come from the hard work called learn­ing and from a lot of persistence when the going gets rough, not to mention the self-control and intel­lectual judgment that are essen­tial for any successful enterprise. Although most people are capable of learning, persistence, self-con­trol, and good judgment, the fact is that there are those who could but don’t and there are those who do. This difference is usually that of extraordinary effort. Those who do, make the effort; those who could but don’t, do not make the effort. And to make an extraordi­nary effort a man needs an incen­tive, and the less the incentive the less effort a man will make.

(4) Not being killed is sorry compensation for the kind of ef­fort required to learn and to prac­tice professional and entrepre­neurial skills. In a free society it is no reward at all, because free men expect a positive reward for their efforts, not the negative as­surance that they won’t be done away with. In other words, the goose that lays the golden eggs may be just a fairy tale, but being treated like one in real life is defi­nitely for the birds.

 

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Alexander Hamilton

The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written as with a sun­beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of Divin­ity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by human power. This is what is called the law of nature, which being coeval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. No human laws are of any validity if con­trary to this. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times.