Progressives fall for siren songs

The great irony surrounding today’s anti-capitalists, evident in many of the Occupy protests, is that the system they rail against is one of their own ideological making.

Even though we have edged closer to their socialistic ideal for years, they seem to be highly unhappy with the results.

To them, the negative outcomes that follow each step taken do not represent logical consequences of the perversion of a voluntary, market-based economy.

Instead, they represent further proof that the underlying capitalist system is to blame and that further reform is needed.

But to call our current system capitalism, and refer to current markets as free is at best ignorance, and at worst a deliberate and utter aberration of the truth.

The creature that is our current social and economic system is a product of more than a century of increasing government meddling, control, intervention and redistribution.

In fact, using the term capitalism is really only valid in that it retains an essential property that the left has not yet been able to demolish — a price system that conveys information and coordinates goods in an economy.

But even that function has gone haywire in some industries where market forces have become so perverted by state intervention that it no longer works correctly. Read: health care, housing and finance.

But rather than realize what central planning and government dictating has done to the market system, its enemies prefer to characterize our crippled, cartelized, quasi-private markets as being unfettered and recommend more robust government regulation and control.

And by robust, they usually mean unlimited.

A look at a few of the most notable activities of the national government will reveal a system that in no rational sense of the term could be described as a free market. Today, the national government spends over $3.5 trillion annually. This comprises over a quarter of the nation’s economy.

It gives cash subsidies to all manner of businesses and businessmen, loans taxpayer money to failing automobile corporations, and has multiple agencies tasked with overseeing every sector and industry of the economy imaginable.

It forces its citizens into a lousy, pyramidal pension scheme and forbids its seniors from declining to join its socialized old-age health care system. It mandates that every adult citizen of the country purchase health insurance from a private corporation whether or not they would freely choose to do so, and that insurance policy must meet standards defined by an un-elected official within the federal bureaucracy.

Finally, its central bank manipulates and counterfeits the medium by which individuals exchange goods and services, and loans trillions of dollars to companies without taxpayer knowledge or consent.

The same bank oversees bank lending across the nation and requires even your local credit union to make affordable housing loans to individuals — regardless of the likelihood that they will pay it back.

Then the loan will get passed to a government entity that will package it and guarantee it with the taxpayer’s purse.

Everything mentioned above is a scheme that has been highly criticized by free-market Conservatives and Libertarians, yet tirelessly advocated for by Progressives and Interventionists who scream that the sky is falling when it is suggested that such programs and institutions should be eliminated.

Why else would the left tirelessly seek more revenues if not to cover the costs of these hugely expensive social engineering and redistribution schemes that are far too sacred to ever do away with?

It is for these reasons that we have found ourselves in a time when the size and cost of government continues to grow, even as our economy and our liberty continue to deteriorate.

I find it chilling that the progressive solution to our malaise rests in giving even more power to the monopoly of the state.

Although its siren calls have repeatedly told us that if we just give a little more liberty we can have fairness and prosperity, the truth is, in doing so — we have found ourselves with neither.

Steven Christopher is an economics alumnus and graduate finance student in the C.T. Bauer College of Business and may be reached at [email protected].


  • "using the term capitalism is really only valid in that it retains an essential property that the left has not yet been able to demolish — a price system that conveys information and coordinates goods in an economy."

    They couldn't demolish something that was demolished long, long ago…

  • You are absolutely right Steven. We need to return to the true capitalism of 100+ years ago with its robber barons and pinkerton strikebreaking and company towns and child labor and poor labor conditions and deadly sweatshop fires and bank runs and poor farms and all of the other wonders and panics of the 18th century.

  • O snap Joshua! You really burned Steven with your archaic cliche-ridden logic. If history tells us anything, it's that arbitrary tools of coercion will be utilized and taken by those who want to ensure their status. Whether it be with a King or an oligarchy. We have never experienced capitalism in its non-distorted form.

  • Yup. It's going to be hard for someone to implicate true capitalism when the fact is we have never had it. I'm glad Mr. Joshua brought up "poor" labor conditions, because there's an interesting graph that shows the correlation between the decline of incidents from "poor" labor conditions and the passage of new, extensive labor laws here in the United States; the interesting thing about the correlation is the rate of decline did not change with these new laws, which suggests that perhaps government intervention does not deserve the credit it has been given. Advancements in technologies, best practices, and the emergence of new competition (if there ever was such a thing) and markets make the decline of "poor" labor standards essentially inevitable.

    As far as the graph itself is concerned, I'll have to look for it; it has been a good while since the last time I saw it. I believe it was from the Cato Institute. Hmmm…

  • I should also add that labor practices changed a great deal due to labor strikes as well, which in my mind, is certainly a tenant of free-market perspectives. 🙂

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