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Davis, California

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Steal This Column

When those around you begin to cling to a rotten lie, reeking of desperation, ignorance, and often times paranoia, the best course of action for a reasonable person to take is a step back and posing the question of,Why?”

A lie whose odor aptly mirrored this description was recently outlined by one of my eloquent, yet irrational peers, who claimed that a belief in the functionality of laissez faire capitalism was,designed to create disaffection with government and ideologically legitimize wealth concentration and economic exploitation in the name ofindividual rights.‘”

Such a skewed view of reality stands in glaring contrast with the fact that laissez faire capitalism is indeed the only economic system in which two people may voluntarily enter into an agreement and exit with both parties satisfied. However, any attempt by a rational person to convey such a truth to the misguided few that cling to these lies, which are based solely on their individual affections and emotional reactions, would indeed prove a difficult task. In order to respond to such watered-down intellects I will once again call upon the wisdom of another.

In the words of Nobel Prize winning economist, Milton Friedman,A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that a group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.In order to understand the origins of Mr. Friedman’s comment, one must first understand the origins of laissez fair capitalism.

The phrase first entered the American sphere of thought through the publication of George Whatley and Benjamin Franklin’s The Principles of Trade and was further expanded by Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations. Both of these works came at the height of a philosophical movement that championed liberty, reason, and natural rights, aptly titledThe Enlightenment.Out of this period came a yearning for personal freedom, and a desire to cast aside the controls of monarchy, theocracy, and all other avenues of intervention into a man’s life. Laissez faire capitalism is the economic embodiment of these very principles – the same principles that would serve as the guiding philosophical force at the time of our nation’s birth.

Over time, it would appear as if the drive to spur exterior control in favor of individual freedom had been replaced by a feeling of constant reliance upon overbearing and unnecessary governmentassistancefor its people. These unfortunate citizens, who do not believe themselves to be independently capable of excelling, have bought into the illusion that it is somehow the government’s responsibility to ensure their success.

Whether it be in the field of economics, through costly government bailouts and stimulus packages, medicine, through a state sponsored healthcare plan, or the media, through outrageous plots to extend equal opportunities to opposing viewpoints or censure a private citizen such as Rush Limbaugh, these people have adopted the repulsive battle cry offrom each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

It is this focus on wants and needs that has made laissez fair capitalism a favorite target for these simple-minded citizens. Perhaps they have seen one too many ambitious individuals fail on their first effort, perhaps they themselves have failed before, or perhaps they have yet to try but believe the path through life to be much easier if the agencies of government are made to be their personal keepers. Regardless of the reasoning, once the flawed ideology of intervention has entered into their minds it isn’t long before they find themselves believing that they are entitled to such constant government assistance. In the words of Friedman, they begin to think they,ought to want.

Those of you that remain unswayed and continue to cling to same rotten lie need only realize that it is solely in a free market that citizens may demand the situation to be mutually beneficial before voluntarily entering into an agreement. The second this stops being the case, as it does anytime the government finds its way into the picture, any illusion of freedom ceases to be a part of the equation.


Tune in next week when JAMES NOONAN will attack another band of long-haired hippies armed only with a pitchfork, a torch and his own sense of reason. Until then, he can be reached at jjnoonan@ucdavis.edu. Sleep lightly, hippies.


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