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The Lowdown on Obama Economics

Written by Tibor Machan

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Economic fairness is impossible: an oxymoron. Since economic activities are inherently varied and often competitive and since one size doesn't fit all and not everyone can win in a competition, no such thing as fairness is possible unless it simply means no one may be prevented from taking part. Certainly, however, the outcome will most likely be very different for different participants.

The sort of fairness and equality President Obama and his supporters are after may be achieved around a family or fraternity dinner table or in a last will and testament where goods are being distributed among family members who each expect the fulfillment of an implied promise from elders to receive a "fair share" of the wealth left to them. "Fair" here makes sense since the idea is that no one is going to get much less or more than another. But no such expectation makes any sense throughout a country! The government owns nothing and can thus leave nothing to the citizenry without engaging in massive redistribution of wealth it doesn't have any authority to distribute or redistribute.

When fairness is demanded, it implies that the government does have the authority to assign winners and losers in the economic sphere, as if we still lived in a monarchy awaiting the decision of the king as to who will be the beneficiary of his largess. All the subjects can hope they will receive a fair share of the wealth of the country.

But in a free country, with the principle of private property rights as the law of the land, the king or government has no business engaging in wealth distribution so the issue of fairness is entirely moot. It's a dream and where attempted, it leads to a police state. All that Mr. Obama needs to do to appreciate this is to read George Orwell's Animal Farm, a wonderful parable about what happens when equality is demanded and government tries to produce it. He might also check out the late Robert Nozick's famous Wilt Chamberlain example, from this book Anarchy, State, and Utopia(1973) where he shows that when goodies are fairly distributed among people they will turn right around and rearrange it all so the "fair" distribution is completely upset.

Or if he wants real life cases from which to take lessons, Obama & Co. might remember the Soviet Union and investigate how things are panning out in that heavenly egalitarian country, North Korea. They could perhaps consider that in Cuba the rulers are finally realizing the futility of the socialist-egalitarian ideal and are making changes to turn the place into more and more of a free-market system.

Still, there will always be those who want to level the economy. The main reason is the misguided conviction that we are, after all, in the same boat, just as are the children in a family. But the government isn't like our parents who have made a promise to care for all their children. We aren't the children of Mr. Obama and his administration! To try to serve us all with all the benefits that parents owe to their offspring would be futile and invites totalitarianism.

Parents, after all, own their resources and owe some of it to their children; this is not the case with governments and the citizenry. They don't own anything at all without confiscating it. At most they may do this up to what is needed for administering the laws of the land − providing the citizenry with national defense and a sound legal system and its maintenance. Even some of this can be achieved without much government management. After all, who is the government but other citizens who have been hired to do a rather limited job in the country? It is up to the citizenry to secure for themselves economic growth, solvency, innovation, investment, etc. To attempt anything more would involve the government in tasks that free citizens aren't entitled to.

Sadly, Obama & Co. see the country as it if were some club or team where everyone is part of it and needs the same treatment as everyone else. But a country is not a club or a team − those are the results of free men and women coming together voluntarily for a great variety of purposes. The government of such free men and women must not get involved with what the clubs are embarking upon, be it business, athletics, education, entertainment or whatever else peaceful such folks will embark upon. Like the proverbial cop on the beat, the government isn't there to pick the goals and tasks of those whom they serve in a limited capacity of securing their rights. It's there to keep the peace. That is all!

Dr_Tibor_MachanSOURCE: The Daily Bell

Dr. Machan is a well-known libertarian philospher. 

Tibor is Professor Emeritus of philosophy at Auburn University and holds the R. C. Hoiles Endowed Chair in Business Ethics and Free Enterprise at the Argyros School of Business & Economics at Chapman University. Tibor is also a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Dr. Machan has earned B.A. (Claremont McKenna College), M.A. (New York University) and Ph.D. (University of California at Santa Barbara) degrees in philosophy. He has written numerous books and papers in that field, including works related to the free market.

© Copyright 2008 - 2012 All Rights Reserved. The Daily Bell is an informative compendium of independent economic views and analysis, which is published by The Foundation for the Advancement of Free-Market Thinking (FAFMT).

 

 

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