On Capitalism, Entitlement, And True Greed

 

“If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen” – Barack Obama

Greedy?

All too often it seems, us conservative, constitutional, individual liberty, limited government, free-market types are painted as “greedy” or “selfish” by the progressive socialist left. Those of us who advocate for an efficient limited government, less government spending and regulation, the free-market, entrepreneurship, individual self-determination, lower taxes, and…dear God…profit–or keeping the money that we earn– are depicted by the left as some kind of greedy and corrupt Gordon Gekko or Jordan Belfort stereotype. We are viewed by the left as the epitome of 1980’s Wall Street yuppie excess and greed, or perhaps some kind of turn-of-the-century robber baron industrialist, or even more fittingly, a Marxist bourgeois. Never mind the obvious fact that the overwhelming majority of us are just blue collar slobs with a hard work ethic who value our liberty. Simply put, to a progressive socialist, capitalism and free-markets equals greed and inequality. Actually, better yet, profit equals greed in the mind of a progressive. But what does true greed really look like?

Capitalism?

Now clearly there are certain things about, or that go on, within a capitalist system that I do not like or approve of. To begin with, I can’t stand the blatant consumerism and commercialism which can be found in capitalism. I don’t agree with buying crap you don’t need just for the hell of it, or with “conspicuous consumption”. I feel that these things contribute to the degeneration of society, as well as a complete lack of perspective about what is truly important. I understand that capitalism requires consumerism to a certain degree, but I tend to fall along the more Spartan view of what is considered necessary consumption.

I am also in no way a supporter of crony-capitalism, business lobbies, corporatism, government subsidies, and government bailouts–something which both the progressive left and establishment right are guilty of, albeit with generally different motivations. I can’t even begin to describe how much I despise the old “great recession” mantra of “too big to fail”. In reality, these things do not reflect true free-market capitalism at all, and are actually far more indicative of centralized socialism, corporatism, the nationalization of business, and a governmental involvement and control over the economy.

Along with the government control and corruption of the economy, I also have absolutely zero tolerance for corruption on the individual level as well. This type of individual corruption may include things such as predatory exploitation, white-collar crimes, Ponzi schemes, boiler rooms, insider trading or other market corruption, or any other type of individual malfeasance that may be found within a free-market capitalist system. I firmly believe that these types of crime and corruption should be rooted out and punished accordingly. I am also not incredulous to the fact that these things do frequently go on in a capitalist system, and it is this simple fact which helps fuel the progressive argument about the evils and greed of capitalism. Is there greed within capitalism, yes of course there is. But again I ask, what does true greed really look like?

The U.S. And Free-Market “Capitalism”

Before we go on, seeing as how I have used the word “capitalism” a lot thus far, I think it is important to set something straight right now–is the United States still a free-market capitalist country? The short answer, yes, the long answer, not really, no.

Does the US still have an undercurrent and spirit of capitalism, free-markets, limited government, rugged individualism, entrepreneurship, and innovation? Yes we do–based on our history and past–but the question is, for how long. Based on current trends of socialist acceptance, progressive acceptance, government expansion, changing demographics, the expectations and entitlement towards government handouts and benefits, and the entitlement culture of the younger generations, it is not at all inconceivable to think that we are only a generation away from losing that spirit completely in the name of progressive socialism. It is naïve, and quite frankly dangerous, to believe that just because the US was founded on these principles, that we will somehow always have them.

As for the long answer–no, sadly the US is not really a free-market capitalist country anymore. In its current state, the US economy is not a free-market and capitalist economy, but rather a mixed-to-socialist economy at best. We are no longer a democratic republic, but rather a democratic socialist republic. It pains me to say this, but the data and facts don’t lie. Based on the 2014 data from the Index of Economic Freedom:

• The US ranked 12th in the world for Economic Freedom, with a cumulative score of 75.5. The average score of an economy considered “free” is 84.1

• Canada, long considered socialist, ranks 6th, with a score of 80.2

• “Substantial expansion in the size and scope of government, including through new and costly regulations in areas like finance and health care, has contributed significantly to the erosion of U.S. economic freedom. The growth of government has been accompanied by increasing cronyism that has undermined the rule of law and perceptions of fairness.” – Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation.

• The top individual income tax rate is 39.6%

• Roughly 45% of the population pays no income tax.

• The corporate tax rate is 35%, which is one of the highest in the entire world.

• Since 2009, more than 130 new regulations have been imposed on business, costing businesses over $60 billion, and making it much more difficult and costly to start a new business.

• Government spending as a percentage of a $15.7 trillion GDP is 40%

• In FY 2013, total government revenue was $2.8 trillion, while the federal budget spent $3.5 trillion, resulting in a deficit of roughly $648 billion.

• Total government debt is over 17 trillion, which is more than 100% of GDP

• In the last 20 years, government spending grew 63% faster than the rate of inflation.

• Roughly 66% of the entire $3.5 trillion federal budget for FY 2013 was spent on mandatory spending (welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, housing assistance, food stamps, etc.) and interest payments on the $17 trillion debt.

• Mandatory spending was 14.5% of the total $15.7 trillion GDP

• Roughly 35% to 48% of the population is on some form of government assistance or benefit, depending on how you define and calculate it.

If you don’t believe these numbers, or think that I am wrong, by all means go ahead and fact check me:

http://www.heritage.org/index/

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/08/federal-spending-by-the-numbers-2013

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/11/the-2013-index-of-dependence-on-government

Based on the above facts, numbers, and statistical analysis, it is increasingly difficult to say with a straight face that the US is still a free-market capitalist economy. These are not the numbers of a free-market economy and government, but rather a mixed-to-socialist one. We have been steadily moving in this direction for over a century–with the progressive socialists constantly pushing and the establishment right either being complicit or doing little to stop them—and sadly we have arrived. The only question now is, how far we move along the authoritarian and economic spectrum of socialism. We are not yet at the authoritarian communist level, but that is of course where the reformist Marxists within the progressive movement want to take us. My friends, I don’t like these numbers any more than you do, but the numbers and facts don’t lie. As I like to say, you are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts.

Now please don’t misunderstand me, just because we are not a free-market economy and country anymore does not mean that private business and entrepreneurship can’t still exist. It simply means that it is becoming increasingly more difficult and punitive to do so. It means that the economic environment for business is becoming more toxic and less favorable. It means that we are slowly losing our economic and individual liberty in the name of statism, collectivism, the redistribution of wealth, and the ever increasing reformist welfare state. It means that through taxation, government regulation, and laws, it is becoming more difficult and costly to create a new business, and that many of the larger businesses, corporations, and industries that already exist are becoming increasingly nationalized. It means that companies are moving overseas to avoid our punitive corporate tax rates. It means that companies are cutting employees and hours in order to remain financially solvent. It means that through punitive taxation, the government can punish individual and business success in the name of wealth redistribution. It means that the government can exercise its growing power over the economy and private business to pick “winners” and “losers”. It means that “profit” and “success” are becoming more and more of a dirty word. It means that the attitude of hard work is being replaced with the attitude of entitlement. It means that the reformist Marxists are winning in their long game approach.

Is Capitalism Perfect? An Analysis And Breakdown

Is a capitalist free-market economic system perfect, no of course not, but the harsh truth is that no economic or political system is perfect. Therefore, let’s keep some things in perspective—something that seems to escape progressives—there will always be corruption, greed, oppression, and inequality in some form or another, in any system. It is unavoidable. It is human nature. Power and money will corrupt every system in some way. The question should be–which system mitigates these things the most, not whether they exist or not.

A) Economics

A free-market system is the economic system most compatible with the principles of a constitutional limited-government, individual liberty, individual rights, and individual property. It is the economic system most compatible with the inalienable negative rights of man, and the most conducive for free individuals to pursue their ambitions and interests without government intrusion. It is the system which ensures equal opportunity and freedom for all men, but cannot nor should not guarantee equal outcomes. Therefore, the free-market should be viewed as less about economics, and more about protecting individual liberty.

Progressive socialists on the other hand, have an extremely flawed and dangerous concept about what constitutes inalienable rights and equality. First of all, they do not respect the negative inalienable rights of the individual, and therefore will never respect an economic system designed to protect them. Instead, they believe in the false positive rights that should be bestowed upon a dependent and subservient people by the all-powerful benevolent state. This means that rather than protecting the individual rights and availability of opportunity for all men, progressive socialists would rather control the economic outcomes for all men at the hands of an all-powerful state.

Progressive socialists will decry their contempt and hatred for big business and corporations, yet will pledge their support and patronage for the small local “mom n pop” store. They generally see nothing wrong with a small business earning a profit, in order to stay in business and earn a living, but their hypocrisy becomes apparent If and when that small business becomes successful. If that local “mom n pop” business is run well, and grows and expands, it will eventually reach a point of becoming an “evil” big business. Those once loved middle class entrepreneurs will eventually be seen as wealthy big business owners, earning an evil profit at the expense of others, who must therefore be punitively taxed into submission.

Progressive socialists and Marxists will berate the greed and oppression of big business, industry, and corporations. They will demonize “big” oil, coal, natural gas, pharmaceutical, insurance, automotive, airlines, and retail, but will rarely criticize the largest, most corrupt and inefficient corporation of them all—the federal government. Rather, they will put their full faith and trust in the federal government bureaucracy—despite its countless failures–to run and manage everything. The progressives base this unwavering trust of government on the hubris that when they are in charge of the system, they will be the most enlightened and qualified to run it. Therefore, they hate a big-business monopoly, but see nothing wrong with a total government monopoly and authoritarian control over the economy and the people.

On an economic level—at least with private business competition—there is an incentive for efficiency, innovation, frugality, balanced budgets, and good publicity. With a big-government monopoly, there is no incentive at all for oversight, auditing, efficiency, and good will. We see it all the time with the waste, fraud, and abuse that goes on within the government. It’s incredibly easy to be spend happy and wasteful with other people’s—i.e. the tax payers—money, and there is often little concern for balanced budgets, deficits, debt, and intelligent fiscal policy within the government.

Progressive socialists are always quick to demagogue and point out the “greed” of capitalist companies “only motivated by profit”, if these businesses move out-of-state or overseas seeking a better business climate. The uninformed and ignorant never once consider that the progressive’s intentional punitive and anti-business policies–such as taxes, regulations, unions, and environmental regulations–are the cause. Progressive policies do not happen in a vacuum. Of course companies seek to make a profit, and therefore base their business strategies on the best way to achieve that–to not do so would mean going out of business. No one starts and maintains a business out of the kindness of their heart. People go into business to make money. In doing so, a successful business can grow and expand, thereby creating jobs, and adding wealth and production into the economy. This is something that the government will never understand, because the government is not required to maintain a balanced budget or a profit margin in order to stay in business, nor do they contribute any wealth to the economy. All the government can do is tax existing wealth, borrow money, print money, manipulate fiat money and interest rates, and spend other people’s money—taxed revenue.

The progressive socialists absolutely hate the free-market, but will swear their undying allegiance to the altar of big government, government spending, stimulus, and Keynesian economics, despite all evidence to the contrary proving that these policies are completely flawed and don’t actually work (the failure of Keynesian Economics and stimulus will be the topic for a later article). They see the free-market as nothing more than an economically unfair system, which “produces” a large wealth disparity. The “useful idiots” therefore believe that it is government redistribution and government spending which creates jobs, prosperity, stimulates the economy, and produces “fairness”. The power elites desire nothing more than total control, and believe that they are the most enlightened to wield it. These progressive socialists ignorantly, or intentionally, fail to acknowledge that the free-market has produced the most wealth for the most people, and that it is actually a centrally planned and controlled economy that creates hordes of poor and a few wealthy oligarchs.

B) Oppression

On an oppression level, yes there can be oppression and exploitation of people within a free-market. Individuals and companies can be motivated by greed, which can lead to exploitation. Industry and businesses have not always historically had the best track record in this area–but guess what—centralized authoritarian governments throughout history have been far worse. As bad as any exploitive company may be toward a worker, it doesn’t even compare to the level of atrocity that can be committed by an authoritarian government. This fact seems to conveniently escape the socialist progressives. When a free individual grows tired of a company’s abuse, he may leave. When an individual ceases to be free, there is nowhere left to run to.

Progressive socialists are either complicit in the government oppression that they intend to cause, or they are naïve “useful idiots” who don’t fully understand. These “useful idiots” believe that a free-market creates an inequality of outcome—rather than understanding that it provides an equality of opportunity—and therefore they seek to reform, regulate, legislate, redistribute, and socially engineer equality. Yet human inequality will always exist in some form or another. It is a fact of human biology, physiology, and psychology. You can’t regulate, legislate, and socially engineer it away. Sure you can try, but it only leads to oppression, atrocities, and genocide. This is of course what the true nature, history, and face of progressivism really looks like. With this in mind, the only real equality worth protecting is the inalienable rights of all men.

C) So Is It Perfect?

With these truths in mind—that no system is perfect and free from corruption and oppression, and that there is no such thing as total equality—the free-market should be viewed as less about economics, and more about protecting the inalienable rights of man from an ever intrusive government. This is the important thing to remember the next time a liberal goes on about the evils of capitalism. When you boil it down, it’s not about fairness, or money, or wages, or status, or social class, and it is especially not about whether or not it is a perfect system, the free-market it is about protecting individual liberty. That’s it.

Economically speaking however, despite its flaws, I do think that historically capitalism has provided the highest standards of living to the greatest number of people. As I said before, a centrally planned economy creates oligarchs and serfs. Contrary to progressive propaganda, businesses do create jobs, and a pro-business growing economy does allow for better opportunities for the greatest number of people. Marx believed that workers were exploited when there was a surplus of workers compared to the number of jobs. Now this may very well be true in a bad economy and a bad business environment, but when the economy is good, the environment is conducive for business, and companies must compete for qualified applicants, then people have far more leverage, opportunity, and options available to them—to include going into business for themselves.

Capitalism and free-market competition are also conducive to creativity, ingenuity, innovation, and technological advancement, which helps to advance a society. As the old saying goes, capitalists innovate and communists duplicate. The automobile did not become popular in the US because the government legislated that people buy one, subsidized its production, or killed all of the horses, the automobile became popular because capitalist innovation and efficiency brought down the cost of production and people desired them.

The Role Of Government

Now I am not saying that there is never a need for minimal government involvement in the economy. There is still a place for intelligent and common sense laws, regulations, and oversight in the economy–when such are designed to protect people from criminal abuse, fraud, and corruption, while still allowing for enough economic freedom to create an environment conducive for economic growth, development, prosperity, and opportunity. The role of government should therefore be to protect the rights of the individual, while at the same time protecting the sanctity of the free-market. It is can be a balancing act, but it is not a zero sum game. Both can absolutely exist at the same time. Like I said, that is ultimately the point of the free-market in the first place, to limit government and preserve the inalienable rights of man. It is when the government tries to overtly control and plan the economy in the name of “fairness” and “reform” that the individual loses their rights, property, and opportunity.

This is also not to say that there is never a need for government spending within a free-market capitalist economy. Contrary to the ridiculous progressive straw-man arguments about conservatives not wanting to fund roads, hospitals, and firefighters, no reasonable person is arguing for zero government spending. There is clearly a role for legitimate, intelligent, and responsible—as well as constitutionally intended—government spending.

Besides, it is not even the infrastructure and discretionary spending in the first place that is breaking the federal budget, and bankrupting and drowning the nation in debt. Nor is it the military and defense budget, as the progressive socialists often like to falsely claim. As the numbers—and facts—above clearly illustrate, it is the progressive socialist reformist welfare state that is bankrupting the nation. It is the progressive redistributive social programs which are fiscally insolvent and unsustainable, not the common sense and legitimate necessary spending which a Libertarian such as myself can support.

But I digress to my main point—what is the true nature of economic greed?

Entitlement Is True Greed

It should be abundantly clear at this point, that I support the free-market. Not because I am an entrepreneur, or white collar corporate guy, or Wall Street investor, or venture capitalist, no, I am nothing more than a blue collar slob who values my freedom and believes that I deserve to keep more of the money that I work hard to legitimately earn. Is that greedy? Is it greedy to think that I deserve to keep as much of my paycheck as possible? Is it greedy and heartless to oppose the government redistributing my money to pay for others who refuse to work? Is it greedy to look down on those who cheat and abuse a system while I work my ass off?

Let me explain what real greed looks like. Real greed is the greed of entitlement. Progressive socialists can call a free-market supporter greedy all they want, but true greed is demanding and expecting that others work and pay to support you. True greed is believing that it is the government’s job—and therefore the taxpayers’ job–to pay to support you. True greed is choosing to remain on government benefits and assistance instead of working, because you have made the conscious decision that you can make more money that way. True greed is refusing to even get a job, because you don’t want to risk losing your benefits if you become no longer eligible. True greed is being an able bodied individual who abuses disability in order to collect benefits. True greed is possessing the entitlement mindset that the government should pay to support you, while being totally ignorant or unconcerned about where that money even comes from. True greed is essentially an economically unproductive person demanding to be supported and sustained by the economically productive.

Progressive socialists believe in the redistribution of wealth. They justify this greed and theft of others property through either their false notion of “fairness”, or with the Marxist ideology that those with wealth must of somehow obtained it unjustly, and should therefore be punitively punished. Even if the punishment of those with wealth does not make the poor wealthy, it is more about the retribution than it is about the achieving of true equality.

They also believe that only a centralized authoritarian government can best redistribute the wealth–even if it means taking it from others and destroying individual liberty and rights in the process–and that it is the job of the government to “take care” of people. It goes back to the concept of positive and negative rights—which I have already written about—and the expectation of government. The greed of the entitled comes from the fact that they expect and demand that the government grants and provides them with positive rights. These “rights” and entitlements—include things such as free housing, free food, free healthcare, free childcare, free college, free birth control, etc—are benefits that someone else must pay for through their production, contribution, and taxation into the economy. There is no such thing as free government money. The centralized socialist government is of course more than happy to provide these things, because it ensures dependence and servitude to the government.

In Conclusion

Through empirical data and numbers, we can see that the US is no longer a free-market capitalist economic system. Although capitalism is not a perfect system, it was the economic system most conducive towards protecting the inalienable individual rights and liberty of man against an ever intrusive government. Free-market capitalism is therefore not about money and wealth, but rather the preservation of liberty and the equality of opportunity for all men willing to pursue it. No, capitalism is not always fair, but it is not about fairness. The critics of a free-market and limited government can cry foul at the inequalities of such, but their true motives lie in the reformist and redistributive Marxist state. Is there greed and corruption in a free-market, yes, but it pales in comparison to the corruption and oppression of concentrated government power. On that same token, the greed of the entitled and dependent mindset does not even compare to the honest desire of the productive to keep what they have worked for and earned. Yet in the end, it is not even about money. When all is said and done, and economic theory is put aside, it all comes down to individual liberty.

© 2014 By AB Nihilist, All Rights Reserved

 

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