Twenty years ago, at the time of another presidential election, I wrote my first little essay that appeared in The Freeman. It was called, “Each on His Own White Charger.” (October 1968)
The theme was simple: The challenges of the time were to be solved by each of us acting morally and responsibly, not by some “political savior” on a white horse magically appearing in our midst with cure-alls.
Though two decades have passed, the challenge for believers in the market economy and limited government remains the same.
There are those who will argue that the cause of individual freedom has made progress. I would politely disagree. Our affairs private and public remain too much at the whim of congressmen, judges, bureaucrats, and a host of others. And, for every deregulation of business that has occurred, new burdens can easily be cited.
If anything, with the continued inflation of the money supply, and the passage of more and more laws, the task before us is as difficult as ever.
Each person living the most exemplary life he or she can continues as the best means for pursuing the ideals and the benefits of the free market and limited government.
We know we are surrounded by statists, socialists, and technocrats of varying tones. We know, too, we are forever being urged to compromise the virtues of individuality and free enterprise in the name of societal goodness, an alleged faker distribution of goods and services, and one-worldness.
The pity of these pleas is that those who make them disregard the uncoerced market as the place where the fulfillment of what they seek is most likely to occur. They prefer the use of the police power, the State, in the achievement of their ends.
Mankind must have a code by which to live. The code existed before the creation of any current government. But the dos and don’ts of the Commandments and the Golden Rule do not satisfy those who would create an improved (?) society by forcing everyone into their own molds at gunpoint.
What would happen to society and to the world if people truly respected one another, if people recognized that despite all efforts to educate and to civilize there always will be the unfit and the antisocial?
The harmony, the caring society and world we seek, are not to be found through the use of force in the peaceful activities of people whether it be in the arts, education, or the manufacture of patty cakes.
Salvation begins and ends with each of us as individuals. No one can instill it except ourselves. We can and do have teachers to help us understand and see, but the adoption of the final product depends upon ourselves. That has not changed in twenty years, nor will it in twenty times twenty more.
About 120 million people now live in Japan, 25.5 million of them in the huge Tokyo-Yoko-hama megalopolis. Because of soaring land prices, most Tokyo residents live in tiny homes or apartments, developers are resorting to constructing shopping malls underground, and one Japanese company is even planning floating office buildings to moor in Tokyo Bay.
Yet Yukio Noguchi, professor of public finance at Hitotsubashi University, argues that Tokyo does not suffer from an insufficient amount of land in absolute terms. (Look Japan, February 1988) Japan’s population density, in fact, is similar to that of southern New England. Then why the soaring land prices?
As Japan’s population has grown, its cities have expanded and swallowed up surrounding territory. But the farmers’ rice paddies have often been encircled and left intact. According to Robert Chapman Wood, writing in the November 16, 1987, issue of Forbes, “Tokyo farms can be worth $230 and more per square-foot (commercial land on Park Avenue in New York can command $65 per square foot), and their value has been rising at up to 50 percent per year.” But few suburban farmers sell. Why should they? They are taxed only on the value of their land for agricultural purposes, while they face enormous capital gains taxes if they sell. And if they can’t make a profit in the suburbs, local governments often give them a special subsidy.
Some rice paddies have been converted to housing in recent years, but nowhere nearly enough to dent the housing shortage. Only 47 per cent of the land within metropolitan Tokyo has been developed. And 30 per cent of metropolitan Tokyo is still used for farmland.
As Wood points out, Japan “maintains a maze of regulations and tax benefits that attempt to protect farms, tenants, rickety old urban houses, and small stores from the modern world.” Because of these regulations and taxes, “Tokyo’s residents live in minuscule apartments and houses.”
Japanese rice farmers enjoy a privileged status because urban Japanese “want to live the life of a farmer vicariously.” But they must pay the price—as taxpayers, in the form of subsidies; and as consumers, in the form of crowded living space.
The Value of the Market
The central value of the free market is that it is inextricably intertwined with human freedom, both spiritually and materially. What the past 50 years of the world socialist experiment have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt is that if human beings are to be free in spirit and of mind, they must first be free to make their individual market choices. Deprived of the latter, they are automatically deprived of the former, Granted freedom of spirit, they demand freedom of the marketplace.
—Charles D. Snelling