All Commentary
Monday, June 1, 1992

The New Statism

While the ordering of economic resources under a socialist structure is failing throughout the world today, a more insidious successor to state socialism has developed. A form of statism has evolved whose adherents are less concerned with outcome and more concerned with controlling the processes of society. These new statists are interested in a social order which can be manipulated politically to interfere with private property ownership without completely repudiating the market order framework. While state socialism seized all claims of private ownership to property, this new form of statism captures only the economic ownership of private property, achieving its political objectives by imposing mandates and injunctions upon the legal owners of the property. It has become a system of social organization which can best be described as a pragmatic, neo-fascist state.

—Robert G. Anderson, writing in A Man of Principle: Essays in Honor of Hans F. Sennholz


Who Benefits from Property Rights?

People who own no property at all benefit from property rights, because they benefit from living in an economy with a higher standard of living, made possible by having innumerable self-interested guardians of the economy’s resources. In this sense, property rights are very similar to free speech rights, which do not exist just for the benefit of that 1 percent (or less) of the population who are writers or lecturers.

—Thomas Sowell, writing in the March 2, 1992, issue of Forbes


Crime in the Black Community

I think that making excuses for criminals betrays our black tradition. In the days when every hand was against us in this country, when the laws were against us, when employers openly discriminated and were supported in law, fathers and grandfathers didn’t use this as an excuse to destroy their own community, to prey on their own people. And the people who did were ostracized and put down for what they were. And that’s the way we understood things ought to be. In those times, we had a strong sense of religious values and moral standards, where people were bound to take care of each other, not slaughter one another.

And if in those days of oppression we didn’t use that oppression as an excuse, how can we say today that there is any excuse for this kind of behavior? Doors are open, and people have worked to open those doors, and we need to move forward now with the same sense of discipline possessed by the people who suffered during Jim Crow and slavery.

—Alan Keyes, quoted in the Summer 1991 issue of Issues & Views


The Role of Rules

Today, much of the economic game is in the political arena. It is played by getting rules on your side, or making sure that somebody else doesn’t get the rules on their side against you. The action is in Washington, D.C.

It’s interesting to look at the statistics of many large companies and see how much of their time goes into lobbying, where their business headquarters are, who the big players are, etc. It tums out that it’s just as important to try to make sure that the rules favor you as it is to produce better products. Any society in which the rules are not clearly defined, whatever they are, is at risk. You need a society of stable, legitimate and just rules in order to have people productively engaged.

—Peter J. Hill, from an interview in the November/December 1991 issue of Religion & Liberty


Man’s Place in Nature

An environmentalism that began from the principles of American liberal democracy would recognize that the worst form of tyranny is not the tyranny of man over nature, bad as that might sometimes be, but the tyranny of man over man. In order to prevent the latter tyranny, it is necessary to recognize that it is not proper for men to treat other men as though they were but another species of animal. Men are worth more than animals. To sacrifice their freedom and the quality of their lives in the name of species equality is both unethical and shortsighted. This is the proper starting point for environmental policy.

But from that recognition, it is not proper to draw the conclusion that we should be unconcerned with the protection of other species. It is wrong for humans to be cruel to animals, but the true evil cannot be grasped without seeing the evil this cruelty does to human beings. It is the corruption of the human soul revealed in cruelty to animals that is the most shocking aspect of this cruelty. For the same cruelty practiced by a hawk upon its prey would not be the same evil—indeed it would be no evil at all. Hawks are not interested in protecting kangaroo rats and cannot be blamed for their indifference. Human beings should care for the earth, but more for their own sake than for the sake of the earth. Earth is glorious among planets above all because it is the home for men. It would be unworthy of our human dignity, as well as being shortsighted, to foul our own nest.

—Glen E. Thurow, “Endangered Species and Endangered Humanity,” published by The Claremont Institute


On Bureaucracy

Bureaucrats, like private business people, act to further their self-interest. Instead of financial gain, their reward is the perquisites resulting from advancement. Because they do not “profit” from their decisions, they do not necessarily manage their bureau in a manner designed to generate the most satisfaction or benefits for the users of the bureau’s services.

Decisions by the bureaucrat do not result in more or less profit as the customers or users react by purchasing more or fewer goods or services. People in private business, seeking profit, consider their customers. If their business decisions produce more satisfaction, they gain more income. A successful bureaucrat, in contrast, would gain salary, rank, and prestige. The bureaucrat’s most advantageous policy, therefore, is one that increases the size of the bureau, the size of its budget, and the number of people the bureaucrat supervises.

—Michael D. Copeland, writing in The Yellowstone Primer