In every presidential campaign, we are subjected to the same line from the candidates: “Elect me because I will manage the economy better than anyone else.”
There are two things to note about that pronouncement: First, it reflects the candidate’s belief that it’s government’s role to manage an economy. Second, it fails to recognize that no one is capable of managing an economy.
Consider the concept of “free enterprise.” Contrary to popular opinion, that term doesn’t mean a better-managed economy. It means an economy where economic enterprise is free of government management, regulation, and interference.
That shocks a lot of Americans because all their lives they’ve been taught that America has a free-enterprise system. In their minds, free enterprise means a government-managed economic system, one in which people get to elect the best manager of the system every four years.
Many Americans believe that their economic system is superior to, say, that of Cuba simply because American public officials are better at managing an economy than Cuban officials are.
Yet, on close examination there are remarkable similarities between Cuba’s economic system and America’s.
Examples: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, public (i.e., government) schooling, a Federal Reserve System, income taxation, occupational licensure, economic regulations, subsidies, travel controls, trade restrictions, immigration controls, fiat (i.e., paper) money, drug laws, welfare, and a government-managed economy.
They are all part and parcel of Cuba’s economic system. They are also part and parcel of America’s economic system.
It wasn’t always that way. For more than a century, the American people had an economic system without most of those programs. They had a system that, even with lots of imperfections (e.g., slavery, tariffs, corporatism, and land grants to the railroads), was one based on genuine free enterprise — that is, a system in which enterprise was free from governmental interference — one in which no one managed the economy. That’s what made America so different from other countries. With its radical system of genuine free enterprise, America was, indeed, exceptional.
Modern-day Americans have become so accustomed to a government-managed economy (even while believing that America still has a free enterprise system) that they rarely ask themselves what an opposite type of system would look like.
The opposite system is where the president and other federal officials play no role in managing economic activity. It is one in which everyone instead manages his own life, including his economic affairs, in accordance with his own wishes.
Another question that modern-day Americans rarely ask is: What should be the role of government in a free society?
Should it be to manage an economy?
Should it be to take money from some people and give it to other people, as with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, corporate bailouts, and foreign aid to dictatorships (e.g., Egypt)?
Should it be to punish people for ingesting harmful substances?
Should it be to control where people travel and trade?
Should it be to educate children?
Should it be to control the issuance of money?
Should it be to police the world?
Should it be to spy on, incarcerate, torture, and assassinate people, all without trial?
The federal government, as we all know, has assumed all those roles.
But that wasn’t always the case. Since our American ancestors believed that such things did not fall within the legitimate functions of government, they lived under a system where the federal government was precluded from doing most of those things.
That raises the concept of corruption in government. In every election cycle, there is the perpetual quest to elect “better people” to public office. This phenomenon, of course, takes place not only here in the United States but all over the world. People get sick and tired of corruption among public officials and there is the periodic quest to clean things up by putting “better people” into public office.
Of course, it never works. Even when “better people” are elected, during the next election cycle, the same thing happens again.
That’s because people fail to distinguish between corrupt people and a corrupt system. When you’ve got a corrupt system, it doesn’t matter how many “good people” are elected to run it. It still is going to be corrupt by its inherent nature.
And that’s the fundamental problem with America. It has a corrupt economic system, one based on a government-managed economy, a welfare state, and a warfare state — a system that is based on electing a president to manage the economy, on the IRS taxing people in order to give the money to others (i.e., a welfare state), and a national-security state (i.e., Pentagon, CIA, and NSA).
No matter who is elected president, things are only going to get worse. That’s because the system is bad, not because the person who is elected is bad.
So, what’s the solution to all this? A return to fundamental principles about the role of government in a free society. Adopting a system where the president and every other federal official is prohibited from managing the economy, where people are free to keep everything they earn and decide for themselves what to do with it, and restoring a constitutionally limited government republic to our land. That necessarily entails a separation of economy and the state, much as our ancestors separated church and state, as well as a dismantling (i.e., not a reform) of the welfare-warfare state apparatuses that have been grafted onto our original federal system.
Adopting a genuine free-enterprise system — one in which all economic enterprise is totally free of government management, control, and interference — is the only way to achieve a society characterized by ever growing economic prosperity, harmony, and peace. Adopt a system based on economic liberty and most people won’t care who is elected president.