Behind the Curtain

Recently by Charles Goyette: We Marched Right In

This article is an excerpt from New York Times bestselling author Charles Goyette’s new book Red and Blue and Broke All Over: Restoring America’s Free Economy.

The Republicans and Democrats of modern America — the red and blue faces of the state — have led us all down their yellow brick road of the welfare and warfare state. And now the curtain has been pulled back on the Great and Powerful Oz of Washington and its work of cheap flim-flammery has been revealed for all to see.

The roar of its might depended on the wealth it stripped from the people. Now it has no wealth left, only debt to burden the people with in their reduced circumstances. It promised to provide for the poor, but instead left the entire nation poorer. It promised to provide for the elderly in their retirement. But the only resources the Great and Powerful Oz had were the ones it took from them to begin with, and in so doing it altered the people's behavior so that they failed to provide for their own old age. It promised to provide for the general security. Instead it destroyed the people's financial security while it went abroad, propping up tyrants and meddling in affairs hither and yon. The security of the Great and Powerful Oz consists not of peace and tranquility, but in maintaining a perpetual state of alarm and making the people hated in far corners of the world.

And in a foolhardy finale, it sought to solve the problem of insurmountable debt by piling on still more debt. Now the state must stop. Let the final curtain close on the humbuggery of the red party and the bunkum of the blue.

A change in the way people think about the state is inevitable, just as it was inevitable that tribal chieftains, the divine right of kings, the mandate of heaven, and the rule of churches should yield to the spread of freedom. It stands to reason that the hollowness of the state's promises should thrust this reconsideration on this generation at this time.

But perhaps the generation is not equal to the demands of the age; perhaps we expect too much of a dependent, conditioned, and passive people. But if the people do miss the opportunity our economic distress provides to reassess the state, the opportunity of distress will be seized instead by those responsible for the calamity. They will use it to extend their authority and, yes, to increase the damage. As I described in The Dollar Meltdown, a command economy is an irresistible attraction to the power-seeking governing classes during economic distress. The hand of the state becomes a fist.

Will Americans continue to succumb to the ways of statism as modeled by the bloody French Revolution?

Or will they recall the lessons of our own revolution and seek again to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity?

It should be clear that the decision before us is not the one presented by the major media outlets with their breathless coverage of the election horse races. It is not the one offered by the opinion-makers with their constrained vision and tired habits of thought. It is not the choice between Republicans and Democrats that matters. It is the choice between statism and liberty.

The sound-bite commentariat would have us choose whether the red team or the blue team should manage our lives. But America is not a sporting event, and we can manage our own lives. The future we are choosing is between want and abundance. The great achievements of mankind come not from slave labor, but from the self-motivated. Except for cigars from Cuba and vodka from the Soviet Union (if even that!), nobody anywhere with a choice is ever very interested in things made by unfree people living in command economies.

Without the oxygen of freedom creativity shuts down, inventiveness suffocates. When prodded like cattle, people move and act not as inspired, but as directed. All the spontaneity that organizes new forms of production, all the unexpected ways in which human life is improved, and the serendipity that delights us with enriching new experiences and opportunities — all flourish in an environment of freedom.

Americans who know this face the task of persuading their fellows of both the self-evident moral preferability and the productive superiority of voluntary and contractual social relationships to coercive ones.

The things we have taken for granted in our material circumstances and the increase of ease in our lives — so many of the things we notice only in their absence — are the result of a free economy. So rich are its gifts, so abundant its bounty, so profuse its variety, that we have come to think of prosperity as a given. And that is a good way to think of it — as a given. Like the cornucopia, the horn of plenty that is an icon of inexhaustible abundance that seemingly springs from nowhere, prosperity is a given, coming into being in the presence of free people in a free economy.

Liberty's gifts are many. This book has focused especially on Prosperity because she appears to be slipping away from us. But Prosperity is only one of Liberty's daughters. Peace is another. And third among her daughters is Opportunity. What a plague mankind suffers in the absence of Liberty's gifts. What a cruel smothering of the human spirit to know only lack and insufficiency instead of the abundance of Prosperity; to live in a time of constant strife and war, a time without the blessings of Peace; and to experience a lifetime of frustrating limitation and futility, a world without Opportunity.

A renewed appreciation of Liberty will mean the growth of prosperity, peace, and opportunity. Her blessings await all who wish them.

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts