All Commentary
Tuesday, March 1, 1960

Regaining Lost Freedoms: A Plan


Mr. Tripp, retired from the building business, now devotes full time to travel, writing, and the promotion of free enterprise.

Everyone agrees that “sin” is a bad thing, to be overcome if pos­sible, resisted always. There is complete agreement that all should enjoy good health. Practically everyone assumes a personal obli­gation to keep as fit as he can, not only for his own sake but also to avoid trouble to others and to build the reserve needed if he is to be helpful to others.

This personal concern for our own health, the intense, intimate responsibility we feel for that ag­gregation of bone and tissue we call the body, is a powerful shore in the cause of liberty and free­dom. Very few have shown any disposition to entrust this vital matter to the “guv-mint,” or that vague thing we call “society.”

At first thought, socialized medi­cine—as practiced in Britain, for example—may seem to contradict the foregoing conclusion. But in this case the British, as individuals, have merely shifted to others a part of their financial responsi­bility for medical care. For health is such a personal thing it cannot be left to others. Nor for that mat­ter, I suspect, can responsibility for sin be safely delegated to a bureau, a department of govern­ment, or other proxy.

Salvation, too, is still a personal matter, according to modern eccle­siastics and the great religious teachers of the past. While some modern faiths attempt to inter­cede in the fate of departed friends and relatives, no prudent Chris­tian, Moslem, or Hebrew would think of risking such a vitally im­portant matter—getting safely in­to Heaven—to a third party.

So long as man insists on re­taining close personal control in these two basic aspects of life, his total subjugation by the State will be impossible.

However, vast numbers of peo­ple now seem willing, even anx­ious, to turn over to others, often strangers, their fortunes in a third and most important realm—their economic health. This has not al­ways been true. And this retreat from personal responsibility on the economic front is, as I see it, the root cause of our present trou­bles.

Why have people relinquished control in an area they once guarded so zealously?

A full and complete answer would be lengthy, as well as tedi­ous, involving evaluation of such fortunate accidents as the birth of James Watt, and the equally un­fortunate entry of a whiskered, half-mad reformer, Karl Marx.

The Revolution Reappraised

The invention of the steam en­gine made possible the use of the vast energy stored in fossil fuels: first coal, later oil and gas. With machines to harness this power, the industrial revolution was now inevitable. Eventually, the revolu­tion was to free great numbers of people from back-breaking toil, poverty, and insecurity. But the immediate results were not so full of promise.

It was against a background of the revolution’s first years, with widespread employment of young children in English mills, that Marx brewed his wild political philosophy and wrote his mis­chievous books. Marx was not wise enough to see that the early work­ing conditions, intolerable as they now seem to us, were but tem­porary, and would “wither away” in a few years. Nor was he honest enough to admit that employment of children, even at low wages, was preferable at the time to no employment and no wages. So he wrote, in the cold fierce anger and illogic of a maniac—and waited.

Communism Belittles the Individual

The core of communism is be­lief in the insignificance of the individual, his impotence to im­prove his own lot by his own ef­forts; insistence that he must turn over to a super state his former prerogatives in these matters.

Communism had little effect on the course of events for some time. The industrial revolution contin­ued, and spread, making possible a vast increase of wealth over most of the Occidental world. Little by little the condition of workers im­proved. Coincident with the in­crease of wealth came more leisure to think and study. Something like a moral renaissance followed, and we in the United States achieved the highest state of moral and in­tellectual integrity in our history. But the seed of communism did not die with its mad author. Like a malignant tumor, it continued to grow and develop in the filthy at­mosphere of political intrigue, waiting its chance.

Communism got its first real op­portunity in this country on the heels of the depression, though there had been some interest in the milder malady, socialism, which reached an apex in 1914.

When a Man Loses Faith

While Americans have rejected the uglier, grosser aspects of com­munism, they have embraced, in great measure, its most dangerous and revolutionary tenets—namely, those that deny man’s ability to handle his own funds and solve his own problems on a personal, indi­vidual level. The depression caused great suffering to millions. When at last the shock and bitterness wore off, many citizens, formerly stout individualists, were ready to renounce trust in themselves in favor of the “welfare” promised by the State.

It is impossible to estimate the implications of this retreat. At that time we came closer than we like to admit to complete extinc­tion of all political liberties. That we did not plunge headlong into the yawning gap of utter com­munism or socialism should be en­couraging now.

Just the same, with many will­ing to turn over to government a good part of their earnings, and the rest forced to do so, political morality and integrity reached a pitiful low. For the basis of moral and political integrity is inde­pendence, in turn resting on the economic health of the individual citizen. Those who must come crawling to government for their daily substance, or who think they must, are impelled to vote in per­petuation of this corruptive sys­tem. A man independent in money matters is not easily intimidated. Others are.

The Welfare State was not a new idea, but it did have elements of newness over here. Always there are those who are carried away with the false luster of the new or novel. First of all, the welfare idea appealed to the lazy and ineffec­tual, promising them a portion of the earnings of others. But an­other group, including those who craved power and authority over others, cynical little despots, social experimenters, were quick to latch onto the welfare wagon. There they have entrenched themselves in its labyrinths. There they will fight to retain their parasitic sinecures.

Moral Standards Deteriorate

Along with the epic retreat from responsibility on the eco­nomic front has come a reversal of long-held convictions on the moral aspects of success. Socialists and “liberals” viciously attacked those who were wealthy and pro­ductive. In this they were abetted by certain pulpiteers, and at least one powerful church group “re­solved” that all profits were mor­ally suspect.

This idea gave comfort to the shiftless and improvident. For, if accumulation of wealth is wrong, ergo, to live in poverty must be right. At any rate, they saw in these attacks on wealth some moral justification for their own lack of effort. It is always pleasant to feel a warm glow of righteous­ness inside.

What these moralists and Keynesian theorists failed to see is that no man can either gain or hold great wealth if he tries to confine to his own selfish use the entire creation of his genius and industry. This is economic law. It was true even before the infamous Income Penalty Law went into ef­fect. By far the bulk of such wealth finds its way into other channels, helping to create many different kinds of wealth, in which many people share.

I feel that the simile between physical health and economic health is a legitimate one. If it is right and moral to work for bodily health, is it not equally right to strive for financial solvency in one’s own economic affairs? At the very least, shouldn’t we try to avoid being a burden on others? And further, ought we not try to set aside enough to be of some real help should misfortune strike our fellows?

Admittedly, a vast accumulation of wealth might prove a worry, even embarrassing. Andrew Car­negie faced this problem, and de­vised a simple remedy. He gave his money away.

Rewards for Leadership

The most useful man in any community is not the theorist, the dreamer, the social reformer. Rather, it is one who can take the raw, shapeless energy of men and women and turn it into useful goods and services, for the benefit of all. Such men merit our highest esteem and honor, plus rewards appropriate to their talents.

If we are going to recapture our lost freedoms and liberties, we must first recapture the “precious ingredient” we were tricked into giving up years ago. That is, the personal, individual responsibility for our own economic health. For this is the keystone in the arch of all freedoms, all liberties. It is the thing first attacked by communist, socialist, or statist strategy. In this unholy design, people must first be made to feel personally insecure, unequal to the problems of life. In practically all socialist tracts, and I have read a lot of them, this theme is seldom varied. The “downtrodden worker” must be made to feel sorry for himself.

Confidence in himself, and in his ability to tangle with the economic problem, must be undermined. Once this is accomplished, the rest is easy.

We must also re-examine the moral dogma attending wealth and material success, totally demolish the false and libelous charges the able and talented have borne so long. Worship of the common and mediocre must give way to recog­nition of character and ability. In other words, success and achieve­ment must be made worthy of emulation once more.

Obviously, this is a job for the individual, not “the masses.” It will likely appeal more to those still struggling to save their free­doms, or recapture lost ones, than to those who have meekly sur­rendered.

Let each of us begin now, within the limits permitted by a grasping bureaucracy, to try to regain con­trol over our economic health and independence. In the quaint words of Governor Bradford, let us “set come, every man for his own particular.” The formula saved his colony from economic disaster, over 300 years ago. That same plan can save us from extinction, as individuals, now.

 

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Ideas on Liberty

“Rights”

No man has simply by virtue of his humanity any positive claim on his fellows. Charity is a debt we owe to God. He wills that it be paid to men instead. But men do not deserve it. For them to demand it by right is presumption, and for society to enforce it is sacrilege. Since government exists, properly, for the purpose of securing rights, through its characteristic and exclusive power of the sword, its role should be limited to pro­tecting the individual from predation, since freedom from preda­tion is the only right man actually has—predation being under­stood as a positive violation of the person or of property or con­tract, which are extensions of the person. Any so-called “right” which does not derive from this fundamental inherent right is not really a right at all, for rights are reciprocal relationships between persons: claims, grounded, either positively, on the basis of services rendered, or negatively, on the basis of noninter­ference.

ROBERT V. ANDELSON


  • Mr. Tripp, retired from the building business, now devotes full time to travel, writing, and the promotion of free enterprise.