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What Bigger Slave than the One Who Thinks He’s Free?


Yesterday’s New York Times had an interesting article about North Korea that described how desperate life is in that socialist country.

The question, of course, is: Why are economic conditions so bad in North Korea?

The answer is: Because North Korea is a socialist country. That’s what socialism does to a country. It guarantees that people will be mired in poverty and destitution.

As I pointed out in my recent article “Why Don’t American Statists Move to North Korea?” this is the road that American statists have been leading America down for decades. The North Korean socialists have simply applied, fully and completely, the economic principles that American statists hold dear.

Obama and other American statists pump out their chests in pride over their nationalization of U.S. automobile companies and banks. They’re proud that the federal government owns and runs Amtrak. They’re happy that the federal government nationalized income with the federal income tax. They’re pleased that the federal government equalizes income by taxing the rich and giving the money to the poor. They can’t imagine life without the federal government owning and operating the Federal Reserve System. They hate excess profits, speculation, exploitation, and greed. They rail against free markets.

So why stop there? Why not go all the way and nationalize everything? Why not have just one employer in society — the government? Everyone would then have a guaranteed job. No more unemployment. Everyone equal. No more price gouging. No more middle men. No more speculators. No more private property. No more free markets.

Well, that’s precisely what North Korea did. It took the economic principles of American statists and applied them consistently and completely, carrying them to their logical conclusion.

That’s why the North Korean people are on the verge of starvation. They’ve discovered the hard way the cause of poverty.

What’s funny is that American statists, when faced with the North Korean economic situation, remain mute. They can’t blame the crisis on “deregulation,” as they do here in the United States. Why? Because everything is owned and operated by the government. And they can’t blame it on speculation and greed because, again, the government owns and operates everything.

The New York Times article points out that things are so desperate in North Korea that the government-owned companies lack the monies to pay their employees. So, the employees secretly and illegally pay their companies money to report on their books that the employee has worked that day knowing that the employee is actually at home to try to eke out a living. That’s how the state-owned companies are able to make a bit of money!

And how are people eking out a living? You guessed it! Markets! They’re going out selling and trading little things, anything to stay alive. Needless to say, what they’re doing is illegal. North Korean officials revile the free market as much as American statists do.

North Korean authorities recently committed a heinous monetary act, one that would have surely made U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the father of America’s modern-day welfare state, proud. They suddenly devalued the currency, which drastically reduced the value of people’s savings. One family’s life savings of $1,560 was suddenly reduced to $30.

You’ll recall that that was what Roosevelt did when he was foisting Social Security and the rest of the socialistic welfare state onto the American people. He not only devalued the U.S. dollar, he also forced the American people to deliver any gold they had accumulated in their life’s savings to federal authorities.

No doubt that it’s as illegal for North Koreans to own gold as it was when Franklin Roosevelt was president and for several decades after that. North Korean officials, just like U.S. officials, know that gold provides a way for people to protect themselves from the legalized plunder associated with inflation and devaluation.

Because of indoctrination, especially in government schools that North Koreans are forced to attend as children, the average North Korean no doubt considers himself a free person.

But doesn’t the same hold true for the average American, who also is forced to subject himself to a state-approved “education”? Doesn’t the average American honestly believe that the welfare-warfare society in which he lives provides him with freedom? Hasn’t his mind been molded into believing that government control and regulation are really just free-market “reforms”? Isn’t he convinced that the failure of free enterprise brought the Great Depression? Doesn’t he believe that life would be impossible without Social Security, Medicare, and other socialist programs? Doesn’t he believe that when U.S. troops are killing and dying overseas, they’re doing it in the protection of American rights and freedom and in the support of the U.S. Constitution? Doesn’t he live in constant fear that the terrorists are coming to get him and carry him away?

Goethe once observed that the best slave of all is the one who honestly thinks he’s free. His observation could easily apply to both North Koreans and Americans.

The good news is that a few North Koreans are breaking through the indoctrination and seeing reality as it is. The same holds true for many Americans. That would be us libertarians.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.