The Patriot Papers


The Patriot 



   Matt Patterson

On the necessity of America

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Our Republic gives freedom as a birthright to all of its citizens; perhaps it is this freedom that the Left feels is unearned.  Our free economy produces unparalleled prosperity, and perhaps they feel this, too, is unearned.

Socialism is indeed a sugary poison; it points to unfortunate things in our free system and cries, “Aha!  See that you have one man who is rich, and one who is poor.  How can you support such an unfair thing?”  A person who already loathes our free system will be drugged by this, because it echoes what he already feels about his own situation.  It is not fair, he  says to himself, that I am free and wealthy, while others are not.

This is purest sophistry.  What is ‘fair’?  In our country, it is true, some are rich, and some are poor.  But why is that?  I know a family, perhaps you know one like it, where all of the siblings were born into poverty.  They had equal social status, and equal opportunity, at least as children.  But then something happened; as they grew to adulthood, some of these siblings rose in social and economic status, becoming wealthy by the standards of their parents.  Other siblings stayed poor, rising little if at all above their parent’s level.

Now, one may say,  “Look, this proves our system is unfair,” and so it seems, at first.  Yet if we examine the siblings that rose, we can see that it was no accident that they did so.  We can see clearly that it is a direct result of choices they made.  For example, they worked hard.   They chose and maintained stable relationships.  They made sacrifices.  They saved when they could.  And so on.

When we examine the siblings who remained poor, and we can see that this, too, is in large measure a result of choices.  They had addictions.  They exhibited impulsive or antisocial behavior.  They did not work as hard.  They did not save.  Their relationships were unstable.  And so on.

The secret of those who rose is not new; it is exactly the same as described by Benjamin Franklin in his Autobiography, one of the five books with which every American should be acquainted.  Franklin rose from poverty to become one of the richest men in America, and to him, it was not a mystery how it was accomplished; “I spent no time in taverns, games, or frolics of any kind; and my industry in my business continued as indefatigable as it was necessary.”  Max Weber called this the “Protestant Work Ethic” but Franklin just called it hard work, sacrifice, and frugality. 

In a free society, people will always be free to make bad choices.  This means that there will always be poverty in free societies.  But this is a critique of human nature, not Capitalism.  If anything, Capitalism is so revolutionary because it offers people powerful incentives to break their destructive habits. 

Of course, not everyone will rise to equal heights in a free system, no matter how hard they work.  This is because people are born with different talents and interests.  A man with a talent for fixing stools will not rise as high as the man with a talent for fixing corporations.  To say that this is “unfair” is to say that Nature is unfair, for it is Nature which dispenses talent.  Capitalism, at least, can ensure that neither of these men are poor, so long as they follow Franklin’s advice.

Besides, let us consider the alternative, and decide if it is ‘fair’.  Let us say a child sets up a lemonade stand, and spends all day in the hot sun selling her drink to thirsty passersby.  At the end of the day, when she is exhausted and proud, would you, the parent, take half of her money and give it to her brother, who has spent the entire day inside playing video games?  Of course not, for the message that would send to our young entrepreneur is that work has no value.  If this happens often enough, she will get the message.

And what of her brother?  It sends the exact message to him; do not work, and you will yet receive.  He, too, will conclude that work is for suckers, and in the system that he knows, he will be quite right, for his sloth has produced precisely the same amount of wealth as his sister’s industry.  Neither child, we can be sure, will grow to be a wealthy adult.

This is exactly what we find in Socialist countries, whose citizens have learned the same lesson from their lavish welfare states.  The result; they work less than Americans; they earn less, and they produce less.   Like individuals, some counties are rich, and others are not.  And like individuals, this is largely due to the choices they make.

Let us be clear; Socialism is taking from those who have earned, and giving it to those who have not.  They say this is in the interest of “social justice”, but this is not justice, social or otherwise - it is robbery.  Abraham Lincoln once decried a system whereby one man, “...lives off of the sweat of another man’s brow.”

He called it slavery.