All Commentary
Tuesday, September 1, 1987

Perspective: The Road to Freedom


“Sure, I believe in freedom. But we have to be practical. If we let our ideals get in the way, we risk losing everything.”

Many of our well-meaning friends often reason this way. They point out that the political debates now taking place are not between statism and freedom, but over various forms of government intervention. If you want to be relevant, these friends tell us, you will have to meet the statists half way and try to push society toward a milder form of statism. For the time being, we are told, we should forget about ideals.

But is this, in fact, practical? These “friends of liberty” have been compromising for several decades, and what .has it gotten them? The statists began by advocating a little socialism, and these “friends of liberty” countered with proposals which, in the final analysis, amounted to just a little less socialism. The political wheels turned and a consensus was reached. Having beaten back the worst proposals for socialism, the “friends of liberty” seemed to have won.

But they also had lost. They had lost some freedom and, in the process, they had lost touch with basic principles. They no longer were talking about freedom as an ideal; instead, they were making comparative analyses of statist interventions. Perhaps without realizing it, many friends of liberty had begun talking the statist language of those who would control our lives through the political process.

But then, with some victories under their belt, the statists upped the ante. They wanted more socialism. Our practical friends of liberty countered, not by standing for freedom as an ideal system but, all too often, by trying to ameliorate and shift the burdens of the statist interventions. Again the political wheels turned, and today the results are in: runaway budgets, soaring deficits, and an ever-expanding maze of regulations.

Fortunately, while the political trend has been toward statism,’ another trend has started. Gradually, through the efforts of a few dedicated people, it has again become respectable to talk about certain aspects of liberty. For example, the idea of denationalizing money is getting a hearing. Abolishing the Postal Service’s monopoly on first class mail is being seriously considered. And privatization, a catchall phrase for many proposals, is now a political buzzword.

Of course, it is still not fashionable to advocate an unhampered market economy as an ideal system. But certain parts of that system are being considered. Through consistent discussion of principles and continued education, we may be approaching the point where practical “friends of liberty” will feel that they can propose outright repeal of government interventions—and statists will find our friends uncompromising as we make our way along the road to freedom.

BJS

Cambodian Communism

Sophal Song, a student at Winona State University in Minnesota, describes her experiences in communist Cambodia:

“Four years of my life, from the age of ten to fourteen years, were spent under communist rule. My family consisted of my parents, my grandmother, two sisters, and two younger brothers, one who was just a baby. The communist tactic was to divide all family members so they wouldn’t try to escape from the work camps, and so they separated family members into camps many miles apart. We didn’t know if our family members were alive or dead, but we had to live with the hope that they were surviving.

“The communists separated my two sisters and me into three different camps. They put my morn with a group of women who worked on a farm in the valley and my dad worked in the field with a group of men, cutting wood, building roads, and so forth. My camp was for children seven to twelve years old. We weren’t allowed to visit our families. The communists taught us to work the farms and to obey their rules. I missed my family very much so one day I escaped to see my mom, but they caught me and wouldn’t give me any food for a whole day.”

That was not the end of Sophal Song’s struggle. Her mother died of malnutrition in 1978. Her father also perished. In 1982, she came to the United States with her grandmother, two sisters, and two brothers. Although Sophal is thankful for her freedom, she still grieves for what she has lost. She concludes, “The free world must know that communism doesn’t work. It is deadly. It cripples the mind and the spirit. We must always work hard to protect our freedom and to fight any force that threatens to destroy it.”

The Minimum Wage

“A minimum wage increase eliminates jobs by encouraging businesses to seek ways to lower overall labor costs. Some firms automate to avoid higher wage payments. Employers also make up for cash wage hikes by reducing fringe benefits. . . .

“Minimum wage legislation hurts most those who have the most to gain from employment—poor youths, especially blacks. It is ironic that American liberals are pushing a higher minimum wage, which also has been promoted by South African racists. While the Americans don’t have racist intentions, they should understand, as the Afrikaners did, that the minimum wage favors better-educated and -trained white youths over their black counterparts. . . .

“The minimum wage clearly strengthens only one group—unions, whose wage rates become more competitive when minimum wage legislation lifts the level of nonunion compensation- while it clearly harms many others. In the end only improved productivity and economic growth—not higher wage levels—can increase general prosperity.”

—from an editorial in The Detroit News, March 3, 1987

What’s New at FEE