If Liberty Mattered Once More, a Presidential Candidates Press Conference
by Richard M. Ebeling, February 1996
Once again, the race for the White House has begun, and once more, the candidates are offering themselves to the American public. Once again, the public and the press are transfixed over who will occupy the Oval Office for the next four years an incumbent Democratic president around whom there are suspicions of shady deals, sexual lechery, and unprincipled power-lusting; or one of a field of Republicans, each claiming to represent a conservative move to "the right" away from big government, extravagant government spending, and excessive centralized power in Washington.
And once again, alas, the cause of freedom is being compromised by many of those who claim to be freedom's friend. In the second year of the Republican Revolution, it turns out that the revolution against big government has boiled down to slowing the rate at which big government grows. The welfare state is not to be repealed, but instead made financially secure for the next century, so that the present working-age generation of Americans can feel confident that Social Security and federal-level or state-level medical care will be there to provide for them. Interventionist and regulatory agencies and programs of the federal government will not be abolished; instead, they will be streamlined made more "business-oriented" and economical. Feeding at the public trough will continue: "Just please excuse our mess at the trough while we finish our renovations to serve you better in the future."
The tragedy is that never has freedom had a better window of opportunity than now. Socialism in the Soviet-dictatorial mold is defunct; even those former communists who have come to power in Eastern Europe through the ballot box shun any return to their tyrannical past. Western Europe's interventionist welfare-states are ethically and financially bankrupt; practically every one of them is forced to accept the fact that cuts or slowdowns in spending and welfare coverage have to be introduced if their economies are not to be stuck in a permanent rut of slow growth and high unemployment. And in America, a growing number of people have become cynical and often angry about the extent to which the government intrudes into their business and personal affairs, taxes and redistributes their wealth, and tramples upon their individual liberty and private property.
Yet, among the major parties, no voice has been raised to make the principled and consistent case for liberty in the face of the ideological disintegration of collectivism. And, once again, as four years ago (see "If Liberty Mattered . . . A Presidential Candidate's Press Conference," Freedom Daily, April 1992), one imagines what a candidate might say before the nation and the press if liberty really mattered to him:
The Candidate: Ladies and gentlemen of the press, before I take your questions, I would like to read a brief opening statement. I was reluctant to enter this year's race for the White House because it seemed that for the first time in several years, a group of potential candidates were all promising to repeal the over half-century legacy of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. After carefully listening to the promises and proposals of my opponents, I've decided that none of them offers the American people a real program for freedom. Giving them the most favorable interpretation, their promises and proposals add up to agendas for slowdowns in the rate of government expansion, with a few real cuts only around the edges.
The regulatory agencies and departments that have made America a state-managed economy instead of a free market are not to be abolished. The welfare state is not to be repealed; it is to be reorganized at the federal level and partly transferred to the jurisdiction of the several states, and still partly funded at national taxpayers' expense. Looking for scapegoats for their failure to eliminate the welfare state, proposals have been made to close the door even more to the freedom of people from other lands to make America their home people who are basically no different than millions of others who have come to the United States in the past looking for the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their children.
Nor are my opponents in this campaign willing to confront the fact that the decades-long government war on drugs has not only failed in stopping the trade and consumption of various chemical substances, it has generated crime, corruption, and contempt for the law. Furthermore, the powers given to various federal law enforcement agencies as a part of the war on drugs and against "money-laundering" has created legalized robbery and murder by agents of the federal government, as well as at the state and local levels of government. Federal land ownership and land-use regulation, especially in the western states of the country, have reached a point at which vast portions of these states have become out-and-out domains of national socialism; and the private owners of land in these areas of the country are under such threatened pressure and manipulation by federal agencies that open rebellion has almost broken out.
A few of my opponents have called for the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution the income tax amendment. I can only hail their courage in calling for the end to the most repugnant tax in the country, a tax that serves as the rationale for the federal government, through the IRS, to intrude into the private affairs of every American and to potentially confiscate everything he owns. But this tax is only one arm of the government's financial oppression and manipulation of the American people. The other is the Federal Reserve System America's central bank. The capacity of the government to plunder the people will remain intact for as long as the monopoly power to create and control money remains in the hands of the state. The government's ability to confiscate and redistribute wealth towards itself and those interests it wishes to benefit at the expense of others in society will be effectively eliminated only with the repeal of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, along with the income tax amendment.
I offer myself as a candidate for the office of the president of the United States on the basis of the following program for my first term in office: The interventionist, regulatory, welfare state has, over the last seventy-five years, undermined and, in many cases, destroyed the traditional liberty of the American people. The welfare state has made several generations of Americans dependent wards of the government, unable and afraid to live free on their own. An expanding segment of the middle class has equally become dependent upon the state for subsidies of various and sundry types. Whether it be student loans, farm price supports, import protections, licensing restrictions, labor market regulations, government financing of the arts and sciences, affirmative-action programs, home-mortgage subsidy programs, and a seemingly endless number of other interventions in social and market life, the American people have become addicts hooked on the governmental habit.
Personal liberty and private property rights have never been so insecure in America as they are today. Federal agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms have become gangs of arrogant thugs with a literal license to kill. The environmental agencies trample upon and destroy the private property of thousands of people, with tactics including surveillance, confiscation, severe monetary fines, and imprisonment. The Internal Revenue Service is a law unto itself, seemingly answerable to no one not even the courts of the land whose decisions it regularly ignores when the judgments are not to the agency's liking.
These violations of liberty must end if Americans are to enjoy once again the fruits of freedom for which our Founding Fathers fought a revolution and established in this land a Constitution of strictly limited enumerated powers. What I hope to do in this campaign is to make my fellow citizens aware of just how much of their liberty has been lost and is being lost. Furthermore, I hope to make clear to them that as much as I admire my opponents in this race, they are merely proposing to reform and not change the increasingly antifreedom system that America has become during the last seventy-five years.
Therefore, if elected to the office of the presidency, I will do everything legally in my power to bring about the following:
1. The abolition of every federal department other than Departments of the Treasury, Justice, and Defense (which will be significantly downsized). The abolition of the following agencies: the Council of Economic Advisors; Office of Science and Technology Policy; Office of National Drug Control Policy; U.S. Trade Representative; and Council on Environmental Policy.
2. The abolition of most of the U.S. government's independent agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency; the Commission on Civil Rights; the Commodity Futures Trading Commission; the Consumer Protection Agency; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Equal Opportunity Commission; the Export-Import Bank; the Farm Credit Administration; the Federal Communications Commission; the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; the Federal Housing Finance Board; Federal Labor Relations Authority; Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission; Federal Reserve System; Federal Trade Commission; the Interstate Commerce Commission; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Foundation of the Arts and the Humanities; National Labor Relations Board; National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak); National Science Foundation; the National Transportation Safety Board; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission; the Peace Corps; Resolution Trust Commission; Securities and Exchange Commission; Selective Service System; Small Business Administration; Tennessee Valley Authority; Thrift Depositor Protection Oversight Board; Trade and Development Agency; United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; United States Information Agency; United States International Trade Commission; and the United States Postal Service.
3. The abolition of the following federal bureaus and agencies: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Bureau of Economic Analysis; Bureau of Indian Affairs; Federal Aviation Administration; Federal Highway Administration; Fish & Wildlife Service; the Food and Drug Administration; the Forest Service; the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Internal Revenue Service; Library of Congress (to be privatized through a closed-bid auction); National Institutes of Health; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; National Park Service; Social Security Administration; Smithsonian Institute (to be privatized through closed-bid auction); and the Surgeon General's Office.
Just to list these bureaus, agencies, departments, and commissions should itself demonstrate just how out of control government has become. What area of human life is left untouched by the state and its agents? With the abolition of these departments, agencies, and bureaus, the interventionist-regulatory, welfare state will have been brought to an end in the United States. The corruption, crime, and broken lives caused by the government's perverse war on drugs will be ended. The bureaus and agencies, whose law enforcement agents have violated and hurt innocent people's lives, will be out of business.
The right to a realm of privacy which our leftist friends say they cherish so much will have really been restored to every American, because no longer will the federal government have the authority to control, regulate, investigate, or pry into the personal, family, or business affairs of any American. Every American's original constitutional right to be secure in his life, liberty, and property from federal encroachment will have been reestablished.
During my first term in office, I will also do my utmost to bring about the following additional changes:
4. The repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
5. The repeal of all laws and statutes restricting or regulating the freedom of trade between the United States and the other countries of the world. The repeal of all laws and statutes restricting or prohibiting the freedom of movement of people into or out of the United States.
6. The privatization of federally owned land. Of the 3,540,558 square miles comprising the territory of the United States, the federal government owns 1,131,353 square miles, or approximately one-third of the U.S. Practically all of this land should be transferred to private ownership, including all national parks and wildlife preserves.
7. The end of foreign alliances and foreign intervention. The United States will inform other countries with whom it is presently a partner in political and military alliances that the U.S. is withdrawing from these treaties and agreements at the earliest possible date. Furthermore, all U.S. military personnel stationed in any areas outside of the territory of the fifty states will be withdrawn in the shortest possible time and all American military bases and facilities abroad will be returned to the jurisdiction of the host countries.
This is the platform I am running on for the nomination to the presidency of the United States. It is a platform that I believe reflects the true American tradition of limited government and individual liberty. I believe that if properly presented to the people of America, it is a platform that can and will appeal to a majority of our fellow citizens. Now, I'd be happy to take your questions.
The Nation: Mr. Candidate, if you intend, if elected, to abolish all of the progressive social legislation of the last seven decades, surely you are condemning millions of Americans to poverty and despair, injustice and discrimination. Your vision of America would take this country back to the darkest, most reactionary, and most exploitive times of the 19th century. Why should any caring, enlightened, socially aware person take your campaign seriously?
The Candidate: It is precisely because I am concerned about poverty and injustice, despair and discrimination that I want to see the end of the welfare state and the government's interventionist policies. The welfare state has had the seductive power of an attractive but addictive narcotic. Promising to offer security and protection to those in need in the society, it has weakened and undermined the individual's sense of self-worth and belief in his capacity for self-responsibility. It has created perverse incentives, punishing those who try to kick the welfare habit; the effect has been similar to the withdrawal symptoms of kicking a drug habit.
This has locked in several generations of people in the very poverty that the proponents of these programs claimed that they wished to reduce or abolish. The war on poverty through governmental means has been lost. It is time to give people hope and opportunity. The repeal of numerous government regulations and market barriers will, as one of its primary purposes, give those of modest means and limited skills the freedom to apply themselves in various ways, either through self-employment or working for another, which will begin the process of self-support.
When my grandparents' families came to America near the turn of the century, they had the freedom to start their own businesses with little capital and practically no government red tape. Minimum-wage laws and OSHA regulations did not exist, and thus the cost of hiring unskilled labor was not prohibitive. Within two generations, those who came to this country with often nothing but one or two suitcases, practically no money, and little if any knowledge of English were entering the middle class. Their children's and their grandchildren's lives became the American dream.
That is the type of freedom and opportunity, self-respect, personal dignity, and responsibility that I want those who have been born here to be able to experience, as well. But that will not be possible until the reactionary and backward policies of state dependency, state control, and state intrusiveness have been put behind us.
The Wall Street Journal: You say that you have entered this presidential race because the other major candidates have failed to present a vision of freedom. Yet, your call for eliminating various impediments to market opportunities and your appeal for a more competitive economy to provide those opportunities sound not much different from many of the conservative candidates already in the race for the presidency. Some of your opponents in this race and many members of Congress have called for massive cuts in government spending and regulation.
The Candidate: Rhetoric and reality are not the same thing. And I don't simply mean that what a candidate says and what he does can often be two different things. What my opponents are calling for in their rhetoric is, in fact, not freedom but rather reductions in the rate at which Americans continue to lose their freedoms. If an automobile is racing towards a cliff at 65 miles per hour and the driver releases the pressure on the accelerator pedal so the vehicle is now moving towards destruction at 55 miles per hour, nothing has been changed. The disastrous outcome has merely been delayed by a few seconds.
Look at the reality, not the rhetoric, of what is advocated. Whether it be the Democrats or the Republicans, what is being proposed are "decreases in the rate of increase" of government spending and taxing. Whether it will be the Democrats or the Republicans running the government, when the year 2002 arrives, government will, in real terms, be spending more, and tax revenues will be much larger than they are today. And that will be the reality whether the federal budget is balanced or not.
A balanced budget is important. Government deficit spending siphons off savings in the society that otherwise would have been used to finance private-sector investment and capital growth. Rates of interest are higher in the financial markets when there is a strong government demand to borrow; this results in some private-sector borrowers having to leave their investment plans on the shelf, because some of those private investors just cannot afford to match the interest rates the government offers to pay lenders. What government borrows today is paid for today in the form of available resources being directed away from private uses into the hands of the government through the borrowed dollars the government spends today in the market. But at the same time, today's borrowing by the government is also a claim against the future income of those Americans who will have to be the taxpayers who pay back those borrowed dollars to creditors in the future.
Furthermore, when government has the ability to borrow to cover its spending programs, it creates a perverse incentive for politicians to offer more and more benefits to present-day voting groups, with the tax cost of paying for them deferred until some tomorrow. Moreover, there will be no certainty today who those future taxpayers will be or the degree of the tax burden that each of those taxpayers will have imposed upon him when tomorrow's tax bill finally comes due. Thus, the power for deficit spending creates a dangerous illusion of the potential for increased government benefits today with the tax cost seemingly hidden until the future.
What has made the deficit and debt important issues today is precisely that the borrowings of the past have been catching up with the country in the form of the amount of collected taxes that must be used to make the interest payments on government's excesses of the past. The deficits that are looming ahead if something is not done about the extrapolated rate of government spending due to what has become so-called "entitlement" programs have forced the issue to the front burner of the political debate.
But the government deficit and debt problems will be solved only in the context of asking the fundamental issue: What is the function of government what are its essential responsibilities in society? The proposals made by my opponents all skirt this issue, which is the most important question in any political debate. Neither in any consistent political philosophy of freedom nor in the body of the U.S. Constitution is there any role for the government in redistributing wealth, regulating free-market activity, or establishing privileged "entitlements" on the basis of income level, gender, or race. In my opening statement (see Freedom Daily, February 1996), I enumerated all of the government departments, bureaus, and agencies that I believe need to be abolished.
Their abolition would, in my opinion, bring the federal government in line with a role in society more consistent with such a philosophy of freedom and the intent of the original Constitution. The function of government is to protect the life, liberty, and property of the citizens of the United States. Every piece of legislation that has moved government beyond this function has, therefore, served as a vehicle for a loss of freedom and the establishment of privileges and political benefits for some at the expense of others in the society who have been made to pay for them.
Have my opponents in this race called for the abolition of these programs and government activities? Unfortunately, no! How do they propose to solve the problem of the welfare state? The Republican Congress has called for block grants to the state governments, which would now have an enhanced responsibility for the provision and management of welfare-state activities. The federal government would still be taxing the American people, and those tax dollars would then be funneled through Washington to the state governments.
Under the principle of separation of powers among the sovereign states, the people of any of those states may choose to elect legislators who impose welfare and redistributive programs for their state. I would still disagree with the morality of and economic consequences of instituting such programs at any level of government. But I am running for the office of president of the United States. And in that capacity, I consider that the only appropriate stance should be to oppose any redistributions of wealth by the federal government, either directly through programs managed and controlled by federal agencies or via transference of tax dollars collected by the federal government to the state governments. If it is inappropriate for the federal government to tax Peter to give to Paul in general, then it is equally inappropriate for the federal government to tax the Peters in some states to give to the Pauls in other states through block-grant transfers.
To speak bluntly, the block-grant approach is a method for those who may desire to cut back government spending to avoid confronting head-on the issue of government redistributions of wealth. They talk about transferring the control over tax-collected dollars to a level of government closer to the people; and they talk about state and local governments needing to have the discretion and resources to match funds with the specific "social needs" of their respective communities. What they are trying to avoid saying is that the federal government should not be involved in such welfare schemes at all that the programs should be abolished, which, of course, would mean that the federal government would no longer need to collect the taxes to pay for the programs.
From then on, it would be up to the residents of the various states to decide whether to have such programs or not, paid for and run at the state level.
Instead, my opponents are trying to move in that direction on the sly, so to speak. This is a strategy of deception. People cannot be "fooled into freedom." This is especially the case, since by leaving the premise of redistributivism untouched, the proponents of this scheme are leaving the terms of the debate in the hands of those who think government has a role in redistributing wealth and bestowing privileges on some at the expense of others. Either the electorate accepts a change towards the free society or they do not. Too many conservatives believe that the arguments for freedom cannot be understood by people or that people are too weak to accept the rigors of the free society.
For the first 150 years of United States history, the vast majority of the American people not only understood the principles of freedom, they lived them. And they usually opposed proposals for abridging that freedom. Freedom has been increasingly lost in America, especially during the last seventy-five years, precisely because the socialist, interventionist, welfare-state advocates persuasively argued that the state should do more than merely protect the freedom of the people. That freedom will not be regained until the clear, articulate, and persuasive case is made that the socialist, interventionist, welfare-statist philosophy is morally wrong, politically dangerous, and economically harmful.
Business Week: Mr. Candidate, with such outlandish ideas as abolishing the Federal Reserve System, can you really expect any support from members of the business community? Every country in the world has a central bank. How else can a society assure itself of a stable and expanding supply of money to sustain growth and prosperity over time?
The Candidate: During the last decade, we have watched the demise of socialist central planning in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. It is now generally accepted that modern societies are simply too complex to plan and direct from "the center" by even the wisest of well-intentioned men. All that socialist central planning produced was economic chaos, material shortages, and human hardships.
If socialism was unable to provide people with the simplest of desired consumer goods things like decent food and properly fitting shoes why should we expect that monetary central planning can work any better? And it is necessary to realize that that is exactly what central banking is. The government assumes monopoly control and management of the supply of money in the society. The central bank decides how much money will be in the economy; it determines the rate at which the money supply will increase or decrease; and it dominates and manipulates the entire banking system of the economy through its powerful ability to determine the amount of loanable funds the financial institutions have at their disposal.
How can a handful of men on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System even with the most expert staff of researchers and assistants know what the value of money should be; whether the value of money should be stabilized or changed; how changes in the money supply should be introduced into the economy and to what extent; what impact such changes in the money supply should or will have on the market rates of interest; and whether such influences on the rates of interest may not, in fact, throw out of balance the entire savings and investing process in the economy?
For over eighty years, the United States has had a central bank. What have been the results? A false prosperity in the 1920s, a Great Depression in the 1930s, and a roller coaster of inflationary booms and often severe recessions in the post-1945 era. These are not "mistakes" from which the monetary central planners can supposedly learn so as to "get it right" the next time. The central monetary planners can never get it right, because central planning itself is inherently defective.
What should be the value of money? There can never be a definite answer to that question. For value can come only from the buying decisions of multitudes of people in the marketplace. How much money should be in the economy? That's no different from asking how many pairs of size 9-wide black shoes or size 42-regular brown sports jackets should be supplied on the market. No one can ever know the answers to these questions. We must simply allow the market to discover how many people want these items at various prices and how many such sizes various suppliers are willing to offer at those market prices. The market the valuations of millions of buyers and sellers is the best determinant of how much money is needed in an economy.
What, then, needs to be done? First, legal tender laws need to be repealed. People must have the freedom to exchange and contract in any money they so choose, having the agreements recognized and enforced in the courts.
Second, the Federal Reserve Act must be repealed and the Federal Reserve System must be abolished. The market which means people themselves interacting with one another will then decide what types of commodities are most advantageous and mutually beneficial to utilize as media of exchange. Based on historical experience, it will not be surprising if the market ends up selecting a commodity like gold or silver as the primary medium of exchange.
How much money will then be supplied on the market? This will be determined by the supply of and demand for such commodities in the marketplace. Supply will be affected by the profitability of supplying the commodities in monetary form, which in turn will depend upon the cost of mining, refining, minting, and transporting the commodities and the profitability of those commodities in alternative uses in the market.
The denationalization of money will also be beneficial in a number of other ways. First, it will depoliticize the money-creation process. This means that government will no longer have the power or authority to arbitrarily create money to serve its political interests to finance budget deficits, the real costs of which the politicians always wish to hide from the voting public. Second, it will eliminate the government's manipulation of interest rates and private-sector savings and investment decisions. This will do away with the primary cause of inflationary episodes followed by wasteful recessions and depressions. Third, it will improve the general financial climate for long-term growth and rising standards of living. The likelihood that dramatic fluctuations in the supply and value of money will have been minimized will create greater investor confidence for long-term investment.
It is precisely because money is such an important element for the successful functioning of a market economy that its control cannot be left in the hands of the government or any government-appointed monopoly agency. Money cannot be safely trusted in the hands of any group of monetary central planners any more than the Soviet central planners in Moscow could be trusted with the management of the Russian economy. Planners lack the knowledge and ability to do better than leaving money matters in the hands of the people themselves in the market. And the political powers controlling the monetary central planners will always be tempted to use and abuse the printing press for their own gain and that of the special interests with whom they are connected.
Jet: Mr. Candidate, how do you propose to use the government to help eliminate the underlying racist forces that continue to prevent the equal opportunities that minorities are entitled to in America? How do you propose to see that the injustices committed against minorities in the past are redressed? Your opening statement can easily be understood as a green light for racial bigotry, since you do not want government to play any positive role in race relations in America.
The Candidate: There is injustice, inequality, and denial of opportunities to all in America today. And this is causing a deep division in American society. We need to correctly pinpoint the source and causes of these injustices and denials of opportunity.
To begin with, the philosophy of freedom that I am espousing in this campaign is the opposite of all forms of racist ideologies. Freedom always refers to the rights of individuals. Freedom always refers to the dignity, uniqueness, and importance of the individual. Freedom can never refer to the rights, dignity, uniqueness, or importance of a group or a collective, because groups and collectives have no independent or autonomous existence separate from the individuals comprising them. Take away the individuals comprising a group or collective and it ceases to exist. For the advocate of freedom, what distinguishes a man is not the pigmentation of his skin, the shape of his nose, the color of his hair, or his gender. What distinguishes a man is that he is a human being a conscious, valuing, volitional, potentially creative being. These are among the essential qualities or attributes that define all men as the same and, therefore, equal and deserving and possessing of rights equal to all other similar human beings.
Yet, each man uses his consciousness, decides what things to value, makes choices among the alternatives he weighs in his mind, and applies his creative potentials in ways that are different from his fellow human beings. Hence, each man is different, unique, and unequal from all others in terms of what he makes out of himself. Due to the choices made and the outcomes that result, therefore, men are not and can never be sequal in terms of either opportunities or results.
Of course, rarely are our opportunities and outcomes independent of the attitudes or actions of our fellow men. And often the choices, actions, and beliefs of our fellow men constrain our own set of possibilities. Sometimes men judge their fellows on grounds other than their individuality. Sometimes they judge and act towards their fellows on the basis of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or language.
The question is: If some of our fellow men act towards us on the basis of such categorizations, how should we respond? We can choose to ignore them go our own way, accepting the fact that their behavior limits some options that we wish we could have, but recognizing that as free men, they also are allowed to follow their values and choices no matter how much we may regret their conduct and vehemently oppose their standards of evaluating us.
Or we can choose to try to persuade them that their conduct towards others and the standards they use in doing so are wrong and even harmful to their own long-run self-interest. By refusing to associate or exchange with some people because of their prejudice, they are making themselves worse off by forgoing potentially mutually beneficial gains from trade. We may try to demonstrate this by associating and trading with others who do not have such exclusionary biases. And our mutually acquired gains from trade may make the exclusionists rethink whether they are not making themselves, in fact, worse off by behaving the way they do.
But what is impermissible in a free society is to use private or governmental force or the threat of such force to compel either segregationist or integrationist conduct on some of our fellow men who do not share our views and values. Once the threat or the use of force is introduced into human relationships no matter how reasonable or meritorious it may seem the floodgates of coercion are opened. Who, on the same rationalizing grounds, cannot equally claim a right to apply force to achieve whatever he considers to be "good," "just," "virtuous," or "proper" behavior among men?
The injustices and denials of opportunities that have generated racial hostilities in contemporary America are due precisely to the introduction of force and the threat of force into human relationships. First slavery and then legal segregation denied those of different races from voluntarily interacting, trading, and associating with each other. And now, during the last thirty years, force and the threat of force have increasingly poisoned racial relationships through coerced integration and affirmative-action laws.
We will not begin to heal the racial tensions and hostilities in modern America until we give up the attempt to impose either legal segregation or integration on each other. To separate races or to compel their members to associate in ways they otherwise consider disadvantageous is precisely to think of, classify, and politically act towards people not as individuals but rather in terms of their racial characteristics. Both compulsory segregation and integration heighten and reinforce "race consciousness." We will diminish racial awareness and racial antagonisms only when we return to a philosophy of individualism that reminds us of those things that make us all equal, yet individually distinct and unique.
Mother Jones: Mr. Candidate, in your opening statement, you made what surely must be one of the most irresponsible proposals ever heard from a candidate in this or any other presidential election. Can you really expect the American people to take you seriously when you propose to sell off practically all government-owned land, including national parks and wildlife preserves? Do you actually want to leave the environment to the shortsighted profit motive of the marketplace, in which the green of the dollar counts for more than the green of the fields?
The Candidate: Few issues have been more misunderstood and misrepresented than the problems of conservation and the environment. One of the most vital functions performed by a free-market economy is to assist in the economizing, caring for, and maintaining of those things which people value and which are very limited in supply. Nothing is a stronger force for conservation than the profit motive.
When a person is allowed to own something, he has an incentive to think twice before he wastes, misuses, or abuses it. If he does misuse or waste what he owns, he directly suffers the cost he loses the benefits that could have been his if only he had showed more care for his property. And nothing is likely to result in greater abuse and misuse of something than when it belongs to nobody.
The tragedy of many of the policies advocated by those in the environmental movement is that they want to put control over the things that they consider most precious in the hands of those who have the least capability of making reasonable decisions about preserving those valued resources and rare gifts of nature. Government management and control of the environment is another example of that false trust in socialism that has led to so many disappointments in so many different parts of the world in our century. Indeed, in countries like Russia, which have borne the brunt of the socialist experiment in our times, the worst environmental disasters and conditions have been experienced.
What is worth preserving in nature? What are the best means and methods to care for it? Should we merely maintain what we have, or should we perhaps try to augment its amount? Have we set aside too much and, in fact, encroached too heavily on the attainment of other things we value, as well?
How are we to know the answers to these questions? Even the most die-hard environmentalist unless he is one of those few extremists who would like to see man extinct in the belief that everything is worth preserving except the human race believes that some land must also be used for residential housing, places of work, and non-wildlife recreation. To live, man must grow food, raise animals, and use resources for his clothing, his daily amenities of life, and his arts and sciences.
The advantage of leaving these problems to the marketplace is that it is then in the hands of the people themselves to decide these issues. People want more wildlife areas for aesthetic appreciation or recreational enjoyment? The greater demand for these things, as expressed in the prices that consumers are willing to pay for them, increases the profitability for owners of land and resources; thus, they use less of what they own for other purposes and instead shift their resources into these more highly valued uses; if owners fail to do so, they will miss out on the higher income they could be earning.
If an increased demand for housing and arts and crafts brings about an increased rate of deforestation, the remaining forests not yet touched by the woodchopper's ax will rise in price because of their increasingly greater scarcity. This creates incentives on the part of forest owners to think ahead and replant trees at a greater rate, so that higher profits can be reaped in the future through harvesting or other uses valued by the general public. If urban areas begin encroaching on areas of natural beauty and if members of the society value them enough to be willing to pay for their preservation in their untouched state the market will see to it that ownership of these areas passes into the hands of these people because that is where the greatest monetary returns are to be gained.
Where are the pollution problems, the ecological imbalances, the seemingly excessive depletion of natural resources, and the destruction of areas of natural beauty? They are, invariably, in those places in society in which private-property rights have not been permitted to be developed or where the property rights in existence have not been clearly delineated so there are degrees of ambiguity as to what is mine and what is thine.
In many of these cases, the land and resources in question are either in a "no-man's-land" of complete non-ownership or they are under the jurisdiction of the government. Non-ownership always produces what is known as "the tragedy of the commons." Where there is no owner, there is no one upon whom falls the cost for every excessive misuse of a resource. And with no one directly feeling the cost of his actions in the form of lost income or depleted resale value by not maintaining or better preserving the property then everyone who has access to that ownerless resource will try to get as much out of it before someone else comes along and attempts to use it up before them.
Where the property rights are not clearly specified, people often will act in ways that do not take into consideration the full effect and costs of their actions upon others. In other words, blurry property rights result in resources and land being wrongly or excessively used in various ways because the user does not have to weigh in the balance and pay for all of the consequences of his actions upon others. It is not the profit motive but rather the less-than-clearly delineated property rights that causes people to act in environmentally undesirable ways, because they aren't required to pay full costs for their resource-use decisions. This is the source of practically all the pollution problems that many people today are concerned about.
Where do too many of the most well-intentioned environmentalists turn for solutions to these problems? Unfortunately, they turn to the state. Yet, the state, precisely because it is not in the market-oriented, profit-making business, is the institution in the society least able to know how to handle these problems. Politicians running for office are concerned with the accumulation of votes from special-interest pressure groups. Bureaucrats who are delegated the authority to control and manage government-owned land and resources are concerned with bigger budgets and expanded power for themselves as part of their rationalization for remaining in existence. And special interests who lobby the state for environmental regulations and ownership by the government are interested in getting what they want at the expense of others in the society-others to whom they are unwilling to pay the real and full market price to get those others to use their land and resources in the ways that they, the environmental activists, would like to see it applied.
By politicizing environmental problems, the perverse result is to undermine the market's quiet rational and reasonable mechanism for finding out what people really value in terms of the environment and what they are really willing to pay as the actual cost to get the things they say they desire. Instead, we have today a great deal of environmental chaos. It is precisely because I think that environmental problems are both serious and important that I advocate getting the government completely out of the environmental business and putting it back where it belongs in the hands of the people themselves through private ownership and the competitive forces of the marketplace.
The New York Times: Mr. Candidate, given your out-of-the-mainstream views, can you really expect to attract more than a handful of ideological extremists like yourself? And aren't you just helping to reinforce the already unhealthy negative attitude toward government that seems to be growing in society today?
The Candidate: I find your question interesting because I consider the views I'm offering to the American people to represent a philosophy of moderation. It is my opponents in the race for the presidency, both Democrat and Republican, who in my opinion represent the extremist approach to politics in America today.
On issue after issue, what do my opponents offer the American people? Government solutions of one type or another for the supposed problems of the day. Government solutions are inevitably monopoly solutions. The government taxes the people and then imposes on them one method for tackling the problem claimed to be crying for an answer. Or the government imposes one set of rules, regulations, and controls upon all the members of the society, to which they are then made to conform and obey.
Every government solution either prohibits or narrowly restricts the application of alternative means and methods for the solution of the problems of concern to various people in the country. What can be more extremist than to claim to have "the" answer?
The fundamental answer that I am offering the American people is that the solutions to the problems that confront or concern them will more likely be found if men are free to creatively compete in an open, unhampered arena of peaceful market interaction. In the market, no hierarchy of values is imposed on all, and no single method for solving a problem is imposed on everyone. Instead, the free society is a community of men tolerant of each person following his own path, guided by his own conception of the good and the worthwhile, and left uncoerced to make up his own mind about how best to pursue what is important to him through a network of diverse and ever-changing voluntary relationships and associations with his fellow human beings.
Am I espousing a "negative" attitude or message about government in society? Yes. But only as the opposite of the positive side of the same coin. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution begins with the words: "Congress shall make no law. . . ." I believe that, especially during this century, the Congress has passed many laws that it should not have passed because they have served to limit or deny the liberty of the American people in ways that are inconsistent with the original intent of the Constitution and, more fundamentally, are inconsistent with a proper understanding of what human freedom means. In that sense, my message is "negative" since I think that these impediments to human freedom should be repealed and abolished.
But the other side of that message, indeed the essence of it, is a positive one: that each man should be free to live his own life, to choose his own ends, and to select his own means for their attainment, and to enter into those interpersonal relationships and associations that he finds most useful and supportive to make his time on earth the best that he thinks he can make it. Out of such a free society will come a more prosperous, creative, and culturally advanced community of men than any alternative governmentally restrained, controlled, or commanded social arrangement could ever produce. It is this positive society of liberty that I would like to see in America in the 21st century that is right ahead of us.
Now, ladies and gentlemen of the press, I must excuse myself, because I have an appointment at a local veterans' hospital at which I shall present my proposal for selling off all government-owned medical facilities.
The Candidate: Ladies and gentlemen of the press, now that it has become clear who my two leading opponents will be in this presidential race, I feel that my decision to run was the right one. There needs to be at least one voice defending a principled case for liberty in America today. And, unfortunately, that principled case is not coming from my opponents. Instead, what they are offering the American people are mere variations on the state interventionist and paternalistic theme that has brought us to the situation we are in today.
Let's take the issue of health care. One of my opponents, the incumbent president, tried to impose a comprehensive nationalization of health care in the United States. Not one facet of health treatment and care would have been left out of the purview of the government. If his plan had passed, the issue of life and death would have been completely politicized. The state would have determined the types of tests, treatment, and life-preserving services that would have been distributed among the people of the United States. It would have resulted in the ultimate destruction of medical care in America.
Luckily, his plan was defeated. But what have the Republicans offered in its place? They have offered gimmicks and tricks that would introduce increased control or influence over medical insurance and services, while preserving the outward appearance of maintaining a private system of medical services. Under the Republican plan, insurance companies are to be compelled to supply health insurance to any worker, regardless of any medical preconditions that may exist, when that individual changes his employment.
Let us be frank: the political party that claims its allegiance to the principles of free enterprise is commanding compulsory contracting, whether or not both parties find this mutually advantageous or not. In addition, once the government has established this precedent, the path down the slippery slope of comprehensive state control of medical care will have been traveled even further than it has been so far. The New York Times understood this clearly when, in its article of April 24, 1996, reporting on the unanimous Senate passage of a national health-care bill, it pointed out that "if Washington can set rules on 'portability' and pre-existing conditions, then logically it could someday go further by requiring lifetime benefit limits of at least $10 million, requiring equal treatment for mental health, or acting on pricing, benefit packages and guaranteed access to insurance."
But, it is claimed, America has been facing a growing health-care crisis, in which, over the last two decades, costs have been rising and the demand for health-care services have been increasing at rates that threaten the stability and reasonable availability of all medical care.
How has this crisis come about? Imagine what would happen if tomorrow people were to be told that every time they eat out at a restaurant, they were to tell the waiter that all or a large part of the bill was to be sent to Washington, D.C., for payment that Uncle Sam was now going to foot the bill. What would we expect in terms of most people's response? Let me suggest that it would not be surprising if more people started eating out and eating out more frequently or that they would start ordering more items and more expensive items on the menu. Also, restaurant owners would begin increasing the prices on their menus, and they would raise them more frequently. Why? Well, to begin with, the increased demand would require higher prices to ration seats in their establishments; furthermore, restaurant owners would not feel as constrained by the prices they charged because, now, part of the cost of the meals would be paid for by someone other than the consumers themselves and what their own wallets could directly afford to pay.
Over time, we would begin to hear about the danger of expenditures on restaurant meals becoming an increasingly larger and larger percentage of the nation's gross domestic product. Restaurant demand and prices would be claimed to be "out of control." There would be growing pressure for the government to step in and control menu prices and to set up guidelines for and limits on the types and quantities of foods that could be ordered by restaurant patrons. And, finally, there would be a call for a "national restaurant policy" to make sure that everyone had reasonably priced equal access to eating out. After all, isn't everyone "entitled" to a night out rather than having to cook? Surely it should not be a privilege enjoyed only by "the rich."
To assure "fair" pricing and a "equitable" selection of offerings on restaurant menus around the entire country, the case would be made for requiring restaurants to join regional restaurant cartels supervised by a government-approved commission. The Republicans, fearful of nationalization of the restaurant industry by the Democrats, would present legislation calling for mandatory "portability" of restaurant access for all Americans, so that they wouldn't be afraid of changing their jobs and not being able to get into a restaurant wherever they may have moved around the United States. Since most patrons at restaurants would still have to pay a "deductible" on the restaurant meals they eat, some Republicans would start advocating RSAs Restaurant Savings Accounts to act as incentives for people to have enough money set aside for their evenings out.
This is exactly what has happened under Medicare and Medicaid. The government has been increasingly picking up the costs for various types of medical care for an expanding number of people over the years. As a result, the demand for these medical services has gone up and, with them, the costs of providing these services. Government intervention in the health-care industry has been the primary cause of the health-care problem in America.
The solution is to get government out of the health-care business and to stop the government subsidies that have acted as the stimulus for a good portion of these rising costs. It is also necessary for government, at the national and state levels, to deregulate the insurance industry to permit more flexibility and competition so insurance companies in a free market can better cover the insurance needs of the general public. And it is necessary to work towards repeal of medical-licensing laws that act as monopolistic barriers to greater competition and increased supplies of doctors, nurses, and medical specialists in the health profession.
In other words, what America needs is radical privatization and free-market reform of the medical profession and the health-care industry. Government intervention needs to be eliminated, not merely reduced or reformed, in the health-care sectors of the economy if real and lasting improvements are to be made in the availability and cost of medical services in America.
Now, ladies and gentlemen of the press, I'll be glad to take your questions.
The Washington Post: Mr. Candidate, every enlightened society in the world considers it an essential task of the government to provide social services of the type you have just criticized. Are we to do less for our own people than the other democratic nations, say, of Europe, do for their citizens?
The Candidate: The dead-end of the European welfare state is exactly what I fear when I look at America's future as we move towards the 21st century. Throughout the European Union, job creation during the last several years has been almost zero; the financial burden of welfare programs has brought several of those European governments almost to financial collapse. People have become so dependent on the state for their material well-being that they cannot even conceive of a world in which they, as individuals, would take responsibility for their own affairs. Your own paper, The Washington Post , in an April 20, 1996, article about the crisis of the European welfare state, pointed out:
"Europeans are appalled by the disparity between rich and poor, lack of protection for the weak and vulnerable, and other forms of social Darwinism they see as prevalent in the United States. . . . Despite their enormous costs, [welfare state] entitlements are so popular with voters that any American-style cutbacks in Europe's extensive social "safety net" would be considered political suicide."
Let us stop and think for a moment about what kind of worldview is captured in this interpretation of the European conception of America, freedom, and the welfare state. The most fundamental assumption is that a free society is one of inequity, hardship, and inhumanity in which people get ahead by eliminating the weak. The second idea is that the mass of the population will revolt politically in the face of any attempt to deny them the redistributive handouts and financial guarantees with which they have been provided by the state until now. And the third presumption is that America is a free society in comparison to Europe.
Let's look at these in reverse order. First, America, unfortunately, is not a free society. What separates us from the Europeans is that they have traveled down the welfare-statist road further than we have in most areas of social life. But as I stated in my opening statement in my last press conference, there is, in fact, not one corner of American life not already regulated, controlled, and interfered with by the government. We are already victims of an intrusive state that refuses to leave us alone.
Second, having traveled in Europe, I can confirm, unfortunately, that for the vast majority of Europeans, the welfare state has become an addictive drug without which many cannot imagine life. After having become intergenerationally "hooked" on the welfare narcotic, many Europeans are ready to resort to social warfare rather than be denied their "fix." After the French government announced extremely modest cuts in government spending in December 1995, France was rocked with strikes, violent demonstrations, and threats of further civil strife for almost six weeks. The French government backed down on practically all of its spending proposals. This spring the German government also proposed cuts in welfare programs, including national health insurance, and the German trade unions warned of warfare in the streets.
Third, in Europe, the conception of a free society has been lost for almost all practical purposes. The idea that individuals can manage their own lives that the free market is in fact a social arrangement in which men can and do live in peaceful competition for mutual benefit and that prosperity that freedom brings improves the opportunities and conditions of the poor and those less fortunate have been erased from the European collective memory.
Rather than a model for America, I consider contemporary Europe to be an example as to what we Americans should do our utmost to avoid before we too reach the point at which freedom becomes something to be completely feared and dreaded; before we reach a point at which Americans become such dependent welfare wards of the state that they also threaten to revolt against any political step that would bestow on them any greater freedom and responsibility for their own lives.
Fortune: Mr. Candidate, your call for the repeal and abolition of all of the core programs of the welfare state is not one shared by a majority in either major political party in the United States. If, by some chance, you were to be elected to the presidency of the United States, what would you do if you could not reach agreement with a majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate?
In 1995, and in the beginning of this year 1996, the government was shut down several times, and there was a threat of the government's defaulting on U.S. bond payments that were coming due. Surely, the government's bonds cannot go unpaid without running the risk of creating a financial panic. And, surely, the government cannot just close up shop for any prolonged period.
The Candidate: The U.S. government has been propagandizing on behalf of its own bonds for decades by promising prospective borrowers that its securities are backed by the "full faith and confidence of the U.S. government." This has been double-talk. What the government has actually been saying is that bondholders could feel safe that their money would be paid back with interest because the government has the ability to obtain any amount necessary to meet its financial obligations through its power to tax the general population.
This has been nothing more than the usual ploy of taking from Peter to give to Paul. Only through this method, the government borrows from Mary to give to Paul and then later taxes Peter to pay back Mary with interest. If Peter no longer wants to be the victim of what the French free-market economist Frederic Bastiat once called "legal plunder," Paul cannot expect to continue receiving "stolen goods" in the form of an income transfer via the government.
And nor should Mary expect to receive her money back for financing the early stage of the income-redistributive process. If I lend the money that a jewel thief needs to finance a "big caper," I cannot expect to get the money back if the thief is caught in the act. In fact, in the eyes of the law, I would be an accessory before-the-fact, liable for criminal prosecution, as well. In the case of lending money to the government for purposes of funding the welfare state, ignorance of the moral law against theft is no more an excuse than it is under the civil or criminal law.
If I am elected president of the United States, I will veto any and all bills passed by Congress that involve expenditures not directly and clearly limited to those narrow constitutional duties assigned to the national government to protect the life, liberty, and property of the American citizenry. And I will most assuredly not sign any tax bill to finance the payment of principle and interest to U.S. bondholders. The only concession I would possibly be willing to make is to propose to Congress that all outstanding federal debt should be retired by selling off government-owned land and using the receipts to pay off bondholders.
What would happen if the Congress did not override my veto with the necessary two-thirds majority? There would initially be a panic in the U.S. securities market as bondholders tried to sell many of the government securities they were holding in their investment portfolios. Bond prices would fall, and probably fall significantly. There probably would also be a significant drop in the value of the dollar in the foreign-exchange market, as foreign holders of bonds sold them off and as many of them repatriated their receipts from the bond sales back to their home countries due to the immediate uncertainty in U.S. securities markets.
But as the dust began to settle, financial investors would begin to search out alternative investment opportunities in bond markets seeming to offer a more secure return and a steadier secondary market than the one for U.S. government securities. Their money would soon flow into the substitute private-sector bond market. The demand for private corporate bonds would rise and interest rates on corporate bonds would decline. Private enterprises and especially those not linked closely to either direct or indirect government spending would find it less expensive to float new bond issues. Savings in the American economy would shift from financing government spending to funding private-sector capital formation and prospective profitable investments geared towards improving the ability to better satisfy consumer demands for goods and services.
The long-run effects would be a more productive, prosperous American economy since the U.S. government would no longer be diverting the scarce savings and resources of the society into unproductive and wasteful uses. Furthermore, over time, the value of the dollar would rise on the foreign-exchange markets because foreign investors would reverse their withdrawal of funds from the American economy. Why? Because with the government off the backs of the American worker, saver, investor, and entrepreneur, no market in the world would seem such an attractive and profitable place to invest in as the United States of America.
Foreign financial capital flowing back into the U.S. would increase the domestic pool of savings, lower costs of borrowing, and expand the capacity of the American economy to grow even more. Liberating the financial markets and the goods-and-services markets from the expropriating and oppressive hands of the government would assure that America enters the 21st century as the global leader of human freedom and economic opportunity.
If the Congress has not accepted my legislative proposal to abolish the Federal Reserve System, I would use all the power and influence of the office of the presidency to persuade the central bank not to place a "floor" below the price of U.S. government securities. If the Federal Reserve were to announce a minimum price at which it would be willing to purchase any government bonds offered for sale, this could easily set in motion a dangerous inflationary process. The Federal Reserve could only offer to buy government securities offered for sale at a floor price by creating the money through which the bonds would be bought. This would not only generate all the usual harmful effects that always arise from inflations, it would also delay the "cleansing" of the financial markets of the burdensome and harmful consequences of an ocean of government debt.
As for "shutting down" the government, in my estimation at least ninety-five percent of what the national government does and spends money on should be shut down. Would lots of businesses that live off the largess of the federal government suffer from this by losing their source of revenue and profits? Yes. And they should. That is how the market works. When the goods and services previously supplied by manufacturers and suppliers are no longer needed or required, the demand for them and any profitability they have had should decrease. This serves as the market's signal that the resources and entrepreneurial talent involved in these sectors of the economy should be redirected into new, alternative productive avenues.
That same French free-market economist to whom I've referred Frederic Bastiat also pointed out that when thinking about what the government does, it is important to appreciate "what is seen and what is not seen." When the government starts to spend money on public-works projects, or introduces expenditures for welfare or the arts and sciences, or subsidizes industry and agriculture, what is seen are the men set to work, the buildings erected, the sectors of the economy that expand because of the government demand. What is not seen are all the jobs, industrial growth, research and technology, and construction that would have been brought into existence if the money the government used to stimulate these various activities had not been taxed away or borrowed from the private sector. Those taxed or borrowed sums of money would have been left in the hands of those who had earned them in the private sector, and they would have been used in ways that the citizens of America considered most valuable and useful to improve their private lives and standards of living.
The same distinction between "what is seen and what is not seen" needs to be focused upon when fears are raised about all of these government programs and spending projects being ended and abolished. What is focused upon are the jobs and profits that would be lost when the government dollars that privileged sectors of the economy have been living off is taken away. What is not thought of are all the jobs, enterprises, and investment opportunities that will begin to be created in the private sector when the government no longer seizes the income and wealth of Americans through taxation or borrowing.
Too many jobs, too many businesses, too many investment projects have been brought into existence in various parts of the economy only and precisely because of the government artificially making them profitable and sustainable. These should be thought of and seen as economic waste and massive misdirections of the society's scarce resources. Our country has been made poorer because of it, in comparison to what America could have been if not for the government's insatiable appetite for the people's income and wealth.
I would also like to point out that the Republican Party always claims in its rhetoric to espouse "free enterprise" and "free-market economics" but has shown no willingness in this presidential campaign year to take such a forthright position on the crucial issue of economic freedom versus "big government." The leaders of the Republican Party began 1996 by "blinking first" when faced with "bad press" over the budget and the charade of a supposed government shutdown. When President Clinton proposed a ninety-cent increase in the minimum wage, The Washington Post quoted then-Senate Republican leader Robert Dole as saying that you just can't get people to understand that raising the minimum wage would only cause increased unemployment. Instead, the Republican leadership in Congress offered compromises for accepting the increase; if business taxes were lowered or if the White House would be accommodative in accepting insignificant changes in some welfare programs the congressional Republicans would go along.
Then, Dole presented his "answer" to the problem of housing for the poor. Rather than government public housing, Dole suggested housing vouchers for the eligible poor, enabling them to purchase rental housing with a combination of a voucher and cash (presumably with all or a portion of that cash still coming from government welfare payments).
But if implemented as a federal policy, rental vouchers would threaten the entire housing and apartment market in the United States. Once government dollars are used to partly or fully pay for private housing accommodations everywhere in the country, it would not be long before increased federal standards and mandates are introduced concerning repair, maintenance, and construction of private apartment complexes and housing facilities, on top of the federal-level and state-level regulations already in place. Next, private owners of apartments would be prevented from choosing not to rent to people using vouchers because this would be considered discriminatory and imposing an unfair stigma of "inferiority" on voucher users. Through antidiscrimination laws and federal regulatory rules, control over private apartment housing would be, in fact, slowly but surely "nationalized" by Washington. And this is proposed as a "market solution" to a social problem by the political party that claims to carry the banner on behalf of free enterprise in America!
This is one more demonstration of the bankruptcy of the Republican Party today as a vehicle for safeguarding and restoring freedom in the United States.
The Wall Street Journal: Mr. Candidate, in your last answer, you said that you opposed Robert Dole's proposal for housing vouchers as a substitute for government-provided public housing. Yet, isn't the voucher system an effective alternative to direct government control? Doesn't it at least return a degree of control over decision making to the taxpayers themselves and reduce the power of government in directly determining social outcomes?
The Candidate: Proposals for voucher programs are an indication of how frustrated people have become over the heavy-handedness and failure of government intervention in and preemption of people's decisions concerning their own lives and the problems in society that often seem to cry out for solution. Unfortunately, voucher schemes suffer from two fundamental problems from the point of view of individual liberty: first, they are built on the premise that government has a legitimate role in these aspects of private and social life; and second, they threaten either to extend government control over areas of the private sector that have remained fairly free of governmental oversight or to increase the degree of regulation beyond what is already in place. Let's take an example.
On May 23, 1996, Robert Dole delivered a speech in Philadelphia in which he proposed what he called a "charity tax credit." He argued that the federal government's welfare programs have been a disaster that they have failed to eliminate poverty and, even worse, have severely weakened the family unit and undermined the work ethic among many of the poor. Mr. Dole argued that better ways need to be found to restore the family as the foundation of society and to devise ways of helping the poor that do not rely on the "cold bureaucracy" of big government.
He proposed that taxpayers be allowed "to earmark a portion of their annual taxes to private and religious charities . . . that spend over 75 percent of their money on poverty relief. This credit will be up to $500 for individuals," he said, "and up to $1,000 for couples."
In The Wall Street Journal a few days later, on May 28, John C. Goodman, president of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis, explained how a voucher program like Mr. Dole's might work:
"Under taxpayer choice, government would continue to force people to give their fair share [for charity] through income taxes. However, individual taxpayers rather than politicians would be able to allocate their welfare dollars to any qualified institution public or private. . . . The theory behind taxpayer choice is that individuals are required to devote a percentage of their income to the relief of poverty, but they can choose the receiving organization. In other words, government chooses the amount that must be given; taxpayers choose the recipient."
Mr. Goodman pointed out that many organizations to which people presently contribute (as a tax-deductible donation) are research institutes, public policy think tanks, and organizations sponsoring the arts. As a result, the government would have to more narrowly define which organizations would be covered under the charity-voucher program. "The goal would be to define a 'qualified charity' and to assure that all taxpayer-choice donations went to traditional welfare activities," Goodman argued. "Internal Revenue Service scrutiny would be maintained."
In making his proposal, Mr. Dole said: "Our faith in the Great Society has ended but our moral duties to the poor have not." But what type of morality is it when it is the state that shall, in Mr. Goodman's words, "continue to force people to give their fair share through income taxes" under a system in which "government chooses the amount that must be given; taxpayers choose the recipient"?
Imagine that every month after being paid, you're waylaid by a highwayman who robs you of a large portion of your income and then distributes the plunder among those who are part of his gang of followers. He assures you every month that he is doing it because those around him are needy and deserving. The only reason he robs you of this portion of your wealth, he says, is because you have a moral duty to care for the material well-being of these people; but you cannot be trusted to voluntarily give the "fair share" of your earnings that is their just due.
Sensing your growing anger at having more and more of your income stolen from you, as well as your growing cynicism about his desire to help "the poor," the highwayman becomes fearful that you might start resisting his thievery. He continues to remind you of your moral duty to help the poor.
So, he changes his procedure. When he now stops you by the road, he commands you to take the money out of your pocket and introduces you to a dozen people whom he has selected as the recipients of this redistributed wealth. You are told that you may now choose, from among these dozen people, the ones to whom you will give portions of that amount of your income you are still ordered to part with. See, the highwayman says, you are now deciding how your money is to be spent for what and for whom.
The highwayman is still guaranteeing that you are doing your moral duty toward your fellow men, but instead of his "cold bureaucratic hand" allocating the money, he has introduced "efficiency": the twelve recipients must now "compete" for portions of that amount of your income that the highwayman is coercing you to give up. As the "tax-man," the highwayman will scrutinize both you and them to make sure the money is appropriately spent for the right types of causes and for the right types of people.
But morality is an act of conscience and will. It is the conduct of a human being weighing in his mind what he believes to be "the right" and "the wrong" what is "good" and "bad" and then deciding what he will actually do. If the individual is prohibited from making this choice or is commanded to act in a certain way, his behavior no longer has its moral element in it.
In defending Mr. Dole's proposal, Mr. Goodman argued that the reason that people are coerced by government to redistribute their wealth "is that given freedom of choice, some people will try to become 'free riders' on the charitable gifts of others and fail to contribute their 'fair share.'"
But if a society is to be free, then individuals must have the discretion to "ride free" on the good works of others. To deny them the option of being a "free rider" abrogates the very foundation of a free society the liberty of the individual to decide whether or not he wishes to voluntarily contribute to and participate in various community or social endeavors. That same liberty permits others to contribute to and assist causes they view as deserving, even when they may know that some others choose not to participate and, instead, get a free ride.
Mr. Dole, in his Philadelphia speech, said: "I learned the hard way that while self-reliance is an essential part of the American character, so is that generous spirit that reaches out to those wounded in body and soul." But there is no "generous spirit," nor is there any way for it to normally or healthily develop, when the individual is confined within the false generosity of compulsory redistribution.
It is often correctly pointed out that under the welfare state, people have become more callous and less concerned about their fellow men. Why should I help Aunt Minnie now that she is old? Why should I give of my time and effort to assist in some community activity? I've paid my taxes let some government agency take care of these problems.
If implemented, Mr. Dole's "charity voucher" plan would soon become another irritating government burden for a growing number of taxpayers. As the end of the tax year approached, people would have to take the time out from other things they would rather be doing to give those "voucher dollars" to one of the government-approved charities; otherwise, they might face a higher tax liability if they failed to perform their compulsory "moral duty." The irritation would only be increased because the set of worthy causes for which the vouchers may be applied would be limited to the list of charitable organizations approved of by the state.
With every charitable cause now potentially a recipient of these "voucher dollars," how would the government decide which were the charities or philanthropic organizations eligible for such funding? What if some organization proposed a radical idea for assisting "the poor," such as an educational campaign to preach that "the Lord helps those who help themselves" or "a penny saved is a penny earned"? Would this be considered an illegitimate or "crackpot" organization not worthy of "voucher" support? Who and how shall the decision be made?
On May 23, 1996, The New York Times reported that "charitable donations jumped nearly 11 percent last year  to $143.9 billion, the biggest increase since 1986." The largest increases were in contributions to "research and public policy organizations, community development and advocacy organizations, and charities that collect goods for other charities," which saw a 17 percent increase in voluntary giving. Environmental and wildlife groups experienced the second-largest increase, with a 13 percent jump in contributions.
These were the types of associations, organizations, and groups for which people most wanted to increase their support in 1995. Yet these causes, according to Mr. Dole and Mr. Goodman, would not be eligible for "charity vouchers" because they don't fit their definitions of "poverty relief" (Mr. Dole) or "traditional welfare activities" (Mr. Goodman).
Furthermore, once added to the list of eligible charities, it is inevitable that, over time, various federal regulatory agencies would have to increase their supervision and oversight of these privileged organizations to assure that tax funds received were being used appropriately. And, as Mr. Goodman suggests, a leading federal agency for this job would be the IRS the government's most humane and rights respecting branch of power! Private charity would soon find itself far less free and far less private.
Finally, what should be each taxpayer's "fair share" in the form of "charity vouchers"? Mr. Dole proposed up to $500 for individuals and $1,000 per couple. Mr. Goodman estimated that in 1994, the federal government spent about 31 percent of all personal income taxes on means-tested welfare programs minus Medicaid; he suggested that this could be the percentage of an individual's income tax allocated to a "charity voucher."
"Fair share," then, means nothing more than a number pulled out of a politician's hat or what, at a random moment in history, the government happens to spend on redistributive programs. And that's the problem (and it's made even worse when a proponent of the free-market society uses it and gives it legitimacy): "fair share" is like "social justice" or "the general welfare" or "the common good." The phrase can mean almost anything and, in fact, means nothing, other than the floating definitions and content each and every user chooses to assign to it in a particular political context.
Each individual is not only the best judge, he is the only judge of which charitable causes if any are worth supporting. There is no value scale other than the individual's for deciding what "share" if any of the income he has earned in the marketplace should go to which charities and for what specific purposes. And there can be no morality in society other than through each individual's free choices and actions.
Taxpayer choice can be maximized by eliminating both the welfare state and the taxes upon which it is maintained. Then, the taxpayer will have been transformed into the free man. And from the actions of free men will come the real moral results of good works.
The Washington Times: In your previous press conference, you argued for the reversal of America's military commitments around the world. You said that you would notify our global allies that the United States intended to withdraw from our mutual-defense treaties, bring the troops home, and leave the rest of the world to take care of its own problems. But isn't America's own political and economic well-being closely connected with the stability of other parts of the globe? Can we just turn our back on the world, considering that there are many enemies of America, especially ones like the terrorists who exploded that massive bomb in Saudi Arabia in late June 1996, killing nineteen American servicemen and wounding hundreds of other people?
The Candidate: The loss of those nineteen lives must be considered a great tragedy. And the actions of the terrorists must be considered nothing less than barbaric. Clearly, they had hoped to cause even more deaths than actually occurred; indeed, they probably had hoped the death toll would be in the hundreds. Yet, the fundamental question for American foreign policy is: Why were those U.S. servicemen made the target of this attack? The general consensus after the bombing was that the perpetrators were "domestic" terrorists, trying to weaken the authority and control of the Saudi government.
Then why attack Americans?
Because the United States government made Americans targets by politically aligning our country with the established political authority in Saudi Arabia. Let me be clear: What I'm saying is in no way meant to be a rationale or justification for the actions of these terrorists; murder is still murder, regardless of the excuse the killers use to justify their actions. But it does enable us to understand the motives behind their actions.
By entering into military and political alliances with other countries, like Saudi Arabia, the U.S. government necessarily injects America into the domestic politics of those countries. America is seen as the defender of "the powers-that-be" the status quo. Many of the countries with which the U.S. government has formed alliances during the last half-century have been dictatorships in which the rulers have used American support to retain their power over people in their own societies. Saudi Arabia is no exception to this; it is a monarchy that severely limits political and civil liberties and monopolizes much of the wealth and many of the economic opportunities for the benefit of members of the royal family and those in favor with it. The situation in Saudi Arabia is intensified by the fact that many in active opposition to the royal government are Islamic fundamentalists who desire political power for themselves so they can impose their own version of theocratic authoritarianism. Both primary antagonists in this domestic conflict, in other words, are antifreedom in the general Western meaning of human liberty.
Attacking American forces came to be seen, by these terrorists, as an avenue to undermine their opponent. ("The friend of my enemy is my enemy.") The danger from such attacks, therefore, is inseparable from American foreign intervention, since by the very act of intervening politically and militarily in various countries around the world, the U.S. government embroils our nation into other people's domestic controversies.
What are America's interests around the world? In the eyes of the present administration in Washington, the United States has interests that include potential military engagements practically anywhere in the world. On June 4, 1996, the (London) Financial Times quoted State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns as saying: "The U.S. will continue to be involved in all the crises NATO will face in the future. The U.S. considers itself to be a European power." The same day, The Washington Post quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official as stating: "It's very difficult for us to look around the landscape and see any situation where the United States would not be involved. In the real world, when real threats develop, the United States will be there." And after the bombing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, Newsweek quoted another senior U.S. official as saying "Interests remain interests. We have some very basic interests there."
Rarely do American policymakers or policy analysts specify what defines the "national interest." It seems to be one of those things that is usually not articulated but "you know when you see it."
The national interest would be threatened, in the eyes of "bipartisan" Washington policymakers, if:
1. Another nation should gain exclusionary control over a resource considered vital to the U.S. economy.
2. Another nation should gain exclusionary control over a geographical area of the world considered essential to American trade, commerce, and investment.
3. Another nation excludes American trade and investment from its own territory, when that nation is considered important to American economic prosperity.
4. Another nation espouses or spreads an ideology considered dangerous or threatening to the political stability of the U.S. or to a country considered "of interest" to the U.S.
5. Another nation undertakes or threatens military action against a third country viewed as important or essential to American "interests."
6. Another country's government politically or militarily oppresses its own people when that nation and its internal politics are considered important or essential to America's "interests."
7. Another nation has exclusionary control over geographical areas or denies American armed forces access to such areas considered to be militarily significant for the defense of America or for American projection of its own military power to secure against any of the above points.
It should be clear that if these are among the factors that define a threat to America's "national interest," then such a list represents a recipe for what historian Charles A. Beard once called "perpetual war for perpetual peace." Nothing any other nation does, anywhere in the world, is then considered outside of the potential national interest of the United States.
What does defending America's national interest mean under these circumstances? It means interventionism political, military, and economic intervention.
But the United States has no capacity to intervene in any of these ways, or combination of ways, other than by restricting the freedom of the American people.
First, the income and wealth of the American people must be taxed to finance the expenses of projecting American "power" around the world. Second, resources in the United States must be diverted from private, productive uses to government control and use men must be either hired or drafted to serve in the military; resources and raw materials must be allocated for the production of military equipment and supplies; goods and services must be diverted from private-sector use for political and economic subsidization or destabilization of other governments. Third, to threaten, punish, or reward other nations, the United States government may have to regulate the international trading decisions of the American people or restrict the countries to which Americans may travel.
The liberty of Americans at home to keep the fruits of their labor, to utilize their labor and resources in the private marketplace, and to trade and travel wherever inclination and opportunity may lead them must be abridged if the American government is to project its power abroad in the name of the national interest.
But who shall define the national interest, and who shall determine when and to what extent the American people will be required to make these personal and financial sacrifices? Clearly this will be determined in foreign policy no differently than in domestic policy through the interactions of what economist Milton Friedman has called the "iron triangle" of politicians, bureaucrats, and special interests. The wealth, freedom, and lives of some Americans will be sacrificed for the benefit of others who use the political arena for purposes of acquiring position, power, and profit for themselves and for those with whom they manipulate the democratic process.
The "national interest" is as empty a term as "social justice," the "common good," and the "general welfare." It is a concept that can be filled with meaning by anyone who wishes to restrict the freedom of others for the attainment of goals he cannot achieve without the use of compulsion. If the national interest were to be defined in a way consistent with the free society, it would have to be confined in its meaning to the idea that the government is limited to performing its narrow, though essential, duties of protecting the life, liberty, and property of each American from either internal or external violence and aggression. When each individual's interest in having his liberty secure is maintained, then the nation's interest has been served.
Do the governments of other nations sometimes abridge the life, liberty, and property of their own citizens? Unfortunately, they do. Do other governments sometimes indulge in aggression and plunder against other nations? The history of the world is a sorry, unending record of such behavior. Can other governments do things that hinder or prevent American citizens from trading with whom they choose and traveling to where they would like? This, too, has often occurred. Might other governments attempt to monopolize and manipulate the resources and markets under their control to influence the international terms of trade for their own benefit? This, also, has often been tried. As long as forms of collectivist thinking dominate political and economic policy around the world, these things will be attempted and implemented.
The United States cannot make the world over. It cannot make the world over for two reasons. First, the world does not want to be made over. Many peoples and governments around the world, unfortunately, reject the ideas of personal freedom and real free enterprise. To try to remold the world in some American-preferred image will only generate greater resentment against the United States for trying to make people over in ways they wish not to be; and it will only reinforce the rejection of the ideas we say we are espousing precisely because the recipient peoples will often fight against those ideas being forced upon them.
Second, in attempting to remake or control the world in ways United States policymakers view as morally right or in the national interest, America is pushed further away from practicing the freedom and free enterprise we proclaim to represent. To intervene politically and militarily around the world, the United States government must practice many of the freedom-abridging policies that it claims it opposes when implemented and acted upon by other countries. As I suggested, to undertake an interventionist foreign policy requires restricting the American people's liberty at home. We move more and more towards becoming the very things we say we oppose in other places around the world.
When I entered the race for the presidency of the United States, I explained that I believed the American people needed a real choice a third alternative that would offer the option of freedom for America.
One of the greatest errors of the 20th century, I believe, has been the false notion that freedom can be compartmentalized that it is possible to divide freedom into separable categories of political freedom, personal freedom, and economic freedom. Freedom is ultimately indivisible, both in domestic policy and foreign policy. In the long run, political freedom and personal freedom cannot stand permanently on their own unless supported and grounded in respect and protection of private property, the right of voluntary exchange, and unhampered market competition. The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises once observed:
Government is a guarantor of liberty and is compatible with liberty only if its range is adequately restricted to the preservation of what is called economic freedom. Where there is no market economy, the best-intended provisions of constitutions and laws remain a dead letter.
Similarly, economic freedom is threatened and incomplete for as long as the right of individual choice and voluntary exchange is not respected in those areas of life usually covered under the heading of civil and personal liberty. And, finally, all aspects of human liberty are threatened at home if the government does not confine itself to only safeguarding the life and property of its citizens within its own territorial confines.
If elected, I will do all in my power within the limits of the presidential powers under the constitution to help restore the freedom for which our Founding Fathers fought a revolution of separation from Great Britain and instituted a constitutional order restricting the powers of the government.
And there is one other promise I will make: I assure the American people that I will hold no conversations with Eleanor Roosevelt nor will I take any advice she might want to offer me from the spirit world.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, thank you very much. It is now up to the people of the United States.
Professor Ebeling is the Ludwig von Mises Professor of Economics at Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, Michigan, and serves as vice president of academic affairs for The Future of Freedom Foundation.