All Commentary
Thursday, February 1, 1990

Perspective: The Freedom Rule

Economically our country, and much of the world, is in better condition than at any time since World War II. We have not had anything comparable to the Great Depression in half a century and have avoided a repetition of World War II for more than four decades. Econometric data show the cyclic nature of business, but it is flourishing at present. Despite this good overall picture, we have a problem that is perhaps best expressed by Leonard Read’s acronym LOOT: living off others thoughtlessly. We have a massive transfer economy imposed by government whereby money is taken from groups of people (generally taxpayers) and given to other groups. Let us follow not 0nly the Golden Rule but also the Freedom Rule: Do not force others to do for you what you would not wish others to force you to do for them. Living by these rules would improve ourselves, our community, and our country.

—William J. Ellenberger,

Washington, D.C.

The Soviet Future

Marxism is wrong—for a variety of reasons, but most importantly because Marx never appreciated the role individuality has in human life. He was a thoroughgoing collectivist who said, “The human essence is the true collectivity of man.” This is dead wrong. Man is by nature both human and an individual, a self-developing, choosing, diverse creature. This is not part of the Marxist-Leninist ideology. And since it is not, Soviet leaders make no plans for this in their conception of the future. They think you can have a little taste of freedom, for practical purposes, and then return to totalitarianism. But that will not work.

—Tibor R. Machan,

Auburn University

On Discrimination

American law has ruled that minorities and women are what they always were in the eyes of God—equal, as to basic human rights—but common sense tells us that every person is different as to talents, qualifications, character, etc. It is ludicrous for civil rights activists to expect applicants to be hired because of their race or gender alone. As a woman, I have no desire to simply satisfy a quota on someone’s spreadsheet, but rather to fill a position because I happen to be best suited for the job. If in the workplace I am an equal, then I should be prepared to be judged according to the same standards as all other applicants and hired because of my qualifications, not in spite of them. This same line of thought would hold for racial minorities as well. Being a woman, or black, or Asian, or WASP male, for that matter, should not make or break a prospective employee.

—Ellen Gillette,

Fort Pierce, Florida

Projections Without Prices Don’t Come True

Projections based on “if present trends continue” are usually wrong. Such projections depend on “baseline data” that are often drawn from too short a period. Baseline data on racquetball court construction in the early 1980s, for example, would predict that the entire earth would be covered with racquetball courts by the year 2010. And nature is even less linear. Height projections, for example, based on a baby’s growth rate up to age two, would predict teenagers 20 feet tall.

Projecting U.S. forest depletion based on logging rates in the late 1800s would predict that the last tree would have fallen years ago. But projections based on logging and growth rates in the late 1900s would predict that forests would cover every square inch of America in the next century.

Projections of future resource scarcity go off the mark when they fail to include: 1) the effects of future prices on the supply of and demand for that resource, and 2) the effects of new technology—developed in response to higher prices—to find, conserve, recycle, or discover substitutes for that resource.

The difficulty of accurately forecasting future resource scarcity is not new. According to economists Charles Maurice and Charles W. Smithson, “Forecasts of doom and gloom have existed for as long as civilization has existed. The important fact is, however, that all of these forecasts of doom have been wrong. No civilization has collapsed due to the depletion of a resource.

Instead, freely functioning markets with people acting in their own self-interest have eliminated the shortages.” (The Doomsday Myth, Hoover Institution Press, 1984)

—Gregory F. Rehmke,

writing in the April 1989 issue of Econ Update.

The Essence of the Market

After several decades of uninterrupted government programs in Bolivia, we are forced by events to recognize that this state of affairs must be halted. Another policy must be adopted to permit economic freedom and private initiative to develop fully and to be transformed into the “engines” of social and economic development. Private enterprise in our country has developed under a system of economic restriction in which government intervention distorts the economy and limits the freedom of the market.

In those countries where the free market has flourished, everyone—the entrepreneur, the professional, the worker, the butcher, the baker, the plumber, the policeman, the bureaucrat—eats well and dresses well. They can count on having essential services, travel by various means, participate in world events through the communication media. And finally they have access to all those benefits which make their and their family’s lives more comfortable.

The essence of the free market system is freedom—freedom to imagine, to think, to discover, to produce, to buy and sell, to own property, to be, and to believe. This freedom is the basis of the system of justice which permits every individual to attain what he wants, to pursue his goals, and to gain by his own efforts. Under this system neither total nor interventionist government is called for; all that is needed is for the legal body to see that the rights and obligations of each individual are respected. Under this system acting individuals may efficiently carry out the basic market function, that is to cope with scarcity and transform it into abundance. This is why the free market is necessary if our country is to be strengthened.

—from an editorial in Mundo Empresario,

Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Translated

by Bettina Bien Greaves.