The Essence of the Road to Serfdom (in Cartoons!)

By F. A. Hayek

In 1944, F.A. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom rocked the English-speaking world. The book argued that there can be no political or civil liberty without economic liberty as a first principle. Every step away from economic liberty takes us closer to authoritarian control over the whole of society. With central control comes corruption, servitude, and relative impoverishment. The difference between the Reds and Browns, Hayek argued, matters in theory but not in practice: both paths lead to serfdom. 

This argument shocked a generation of intellectuals who — very much like now — refuse to consider the integral relationship between liberty generally and freedom in the economic realm.

The timing of the book is significant. The world had been at war. Even countries with relatively free economies turned to economic planning and political centralization for the duration. Hayek regarded this path as deeply dangerous, one that threatened to convert free nations into the very thing they were supposedly fighting.

Popular wisdom regards this book as a warning against socialism, which is true enough, but a closer look reveals something striking: its primary warning concerns not Soviet-style socialism but rather the fascist form that was then sweeping Europe. Hayek sought to show that fascist forms of economic organization were not peculiar to the "German mind" or limited to rarified times and places but rather represent a grave danger to the whole world. 

In 1945, the Readers Digest released a masterful reduction of the book for a popular audience. The Foundation for Economic Education has made this reduction available online in HTML and in PDF

In addition, a magazine called Look, distributed by General Motors, released a much-reduced version of Hayek’s argument in the form of cartoons. It tells the dramatic story of a society dealing with economic decline in wartime turning to unworkable political fixes, authoritarianism, and eventual control of the whole of economic life. It’s a chilling presentation.

The Foundation for Economic Education is happy to present this work to a new generation. The dangers about which Hayek warned are ever present.

The Man Who Almost Stopped Julius Caesar

By Lawrence W. Reed

Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.


In the estimations of many historians, two men hold the honor as the most notable defenders of the Roman Republic. Marcus Tullius Cicero was one. Marcus Porcius Cato, or “Cato the Younger,” was the other.

Since there was a “younger,” there must have been an “elder,” too. Cato the Elder was the great grandfather of the younger. Both men, separated by more than a century, were influential in public office. Think of the elder as the social conservative, concerned in his day with preserving the customs and traditions of Rome. The younger was one of history’s early libertarians, interested more in personal and political liberties because he believed that if they were lost, nothing else mattered. It is this second one to whom I refer in the balance of this essay as simply “Cato.”

Cato the Younger was one of history’s early libertarians.

 

By the time of Cato’s birth in 95 BC, the Roman Republic was long in the tooth. Founded four centuries earlier, it had risen from obscurity to political and economic dominance in the Mediterranean. Rome was easily the world’s wealthiest and most powerful society. It wasn’t a libertarian paradise — slavery was a part of its makeup, as it was even more brutal everywhere else — but Rome had taken liberty to a zenith the world had never seen before and wouldn’t see again for a long time after it finally fell. The constitution of the republic embodied term limits; separation of powers; checks and balances; due process; habeas corpus; the rule of law; individual rights; and elected, representative legislative bodies, including the famous Senate. All of this was hanging by a thread in the first century BC.

Cato was just five years of age when Rome went to war with its former allies in the Italian peninsula — the so-called “Social War.” Though the conflict lasted just two years, its deleterious effects were huge. The decades to follow would be marked by the rise of factions and conflict and local armies loyal to their commanders instead of the larger society. A “welfare-warfare” state was putting down deep roots as Cato grew up. The limited government, personal responsibility and extensive civil society so critical to the republic’s previous success were in an agonizing, century-long process of collapse. Even many of those who recognized the decay around them nonetheless drank the Kool-Aid, succumbing to the temptations of power or subsidies or both.

Before the age of 30, Cato had become a supremely disciplined individual, a devotee of Stoicism in every respect. He commanded a legion in Macedon and won immense loyalty and respect from the soldiers for the example he set, living and laboring no differently from day to day than he required of his men. He first won election to public office (to the post of quaestor, supervising financial and budgetary matters for the state) in 65 BC and quickly earned a reputation as scrupulously meticulous and uncompromisingly honest. He went out of his way to hold previous quaestors accountable for their dishonesty and misappropriation of funds, which he himself uncovered.

Later he served in the Roman Senate, where he never missed a session and criticized other senators who did. Through his superb oratory in public and deft maneuverings in private, he worked tirelessly to restore fealty to the ideals of the fading Republic.

Since the days of the Gracchus brothers (Gaius and Tiberius) in the previous century, more and more Romans were voting for a living to replace or supplement having to work for one. Politicians were buying elections with expensive promises to distribute free or subsidized grain. Cato saw the debilitating effect such cynical demagoguery was exacting from the public’s character and opposed it at first. The one time he compromised on this issue was when he supported an expansion of the dole as the only way to prevent a demagogue named Julius Caesar from coming to power. It was a tactic he hoped would be temporary, but it ultimately failed, becoming the only blot on an otherwise virtuous and principled public career.

It was Cato’s fierce and relentless opposition to Julius Caesar that made him most remarkable. He saw in the ambitious, power-hungry general a mortal threat to the republic and tried to block his every move. He filibustered for hours on end to prevent a vote on Caesar’s bid to attain Rome’s highest office, the consulship. Caesar eventually got the job, but while in office, Cato vexed him more than any other senator. Caesar even ordered Cato dragged from the Senate in the middle of one of his orations, whereupon another senator declared, according to historian Cassius Dio, that he “would rather be in jail with Cato than in the Senate with Caesar.”

Cato saw the ambitious, power-hungry Julius Caesar as a mortal threat to the Republic. 

 

In Rome’s Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Caesar’s Mortal Enemy, authors Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni underscore Cato’s implacable resistance:

It had been an unprecedented year of obstruction and deadlock, all spearheaded by Cato. Never before had a senator brought forth such a range of legislation to the same dead halt in a matter of months. The tax contracts, the postwar plans for the East, the land reform, Caesar’s triumph (a costly public spectacle), Caesar’s bid for a strong consulship and a provincial command — Cato had not stood against them alone, but he was the common thread between each filibuster and each “no.”

Cato stood in the way of Caesar’s ambitious agenda but couldn’t prevent his postconsulship appointment as a provincial governor. In that post, Caesar mustered his forces for an assault on the very republic he had governed as a consul. In 49 BC, he famously crossed the Rubicon River and headed for Rome to seize power.

As a sign of strength and magnanimity, Caesar might have pardoned his old foe. Some contemporaries and present-day historians believe that was, in fact, Caesar’s intent and would have been a politically smart thing to do. Quoting again from Goodman and Soni:

But Cato would not give Caesar the gift of his silence; he had scripted his own scene. He would not recognize a tyrant’s legitimacy by accepting his power to save. As Cato saw it, Caesar broke the law even in offering pardons, because he offered them on no authority but his own. To accept forgiveness would be conceding Caesar’s right to forgive, and Cato would not concede that.

So in April 46 BC in Utica, using his own sword to do the deed, Cato committed suicide rather than live under the thumb of the man whose power lust was about to extinguish the old republic. While Cato lived, write Goodman and Soni, “every Roman who feared that the traditional virtues were guttering out, who saw the state’s crisis as a moral crisis — as the product of terrifyingly modern avarice or ambition — looked, in time, to Cato.”

With Cicero’s death three years later under the orders of Caesar’s successor, Marc Antony, the Republic died and the dictatorship of the empire commenced.

More than 17 centuries later, in April 1713, Joseph Addison’s play Cato: A Tragedy debuted in London. Depicting the ancient Roman as a hero of republican liberty, it resonated for decades thereafter in both Britain and America. George Washington ordered it performed for his bedraggled troops at Valley Forge during the awful winter of 1777–78. Congress had forbidden it, thinking its sad conclusion would dispirit the troops, but Washington knew that Cato’s resistance to tyranny would inspire them. And thankfully, it did.

“Few leaders have ever put ambition so squarely in the service of principle,” write Goodman and Soni. “These were the qualities that set Cato apart from his fellows — and that made posterity take notice.”

Putting ambition in the service of principle instead of one’s own glory or power or wealth: now that’s a virtue to which every man and woman in public office — in any walk of life, for that matter — should aspire today.

For further information, see:

How Life Finds a Way in the Regulatory State

By Sandy Ikeda

In the 1993 movie Jurassic Park, a mathematician played by Jeff Goldblum says,

If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us, it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but … life … finds a way.

Not long afterward, dinosaurs that were bred to be sterile start reproducing and running amok.

There are plenty of examples of how life finds a way, not only in nature and in Hollywood blockbusters but in a host of recent market innovators who have found a way to circumvent legally privileged and special-interest groups. Many of these developments fall into what people refer to as the sharing economy, which harnesses the power of the Internet and includes businesses like Airbnb, Uber, and Kickstarter.

First, Some Basics

Each of us has preferences — narrowly selfish, other-regarding, or something in between — that we seek to satisfy with the resources at hand. We take action in pursuit of those goals, whatever our motivation. When coordinated with other similarly motivated people, human action can become an unstoppable force for social change. Whether that change improves human well-being or not depends a great deal on the rules we’re expected to operate within.

Rules that promote private property, fair play, and trust tend to facilitate peaceful interaction and to foster innovation and creativity. As a consequence of those rules, over the past 200 years, US per capita income has grown from $3 a day to $130 a day in constant dollars, and that growth doesn’t even account for the breathtaking increases in the quality and variety of what we can now buy with those dollars.

Rules that unduly constrain economic liberty, however, tend to impoverish and exploit, as we see today in places like Venezuela and Greece.  But human action can — over time, like water in a riverbed — find ways around bad rules, and sometimes even alter them, to let ordinary people better follow their aspirations.

One approach to economic development argues that innovation is the result of “differentiation emerging from generality.” Stones become hammers, hammers become axes, axes become saws. Adding machines become calculators, calculators give way to computers, computers enable the Internet, and so on. Each differentiation becomes the new generality, a new platform, from which new and unpredictable differentiations emerge.

This process suggests that at some point back in the mists of human social evolution, the concept of sharing, in which tightly connected people jointly or alternatingly use a valuable resource, differentiated into trading, in which strangers exchange with one another for mutual gain. The habits and knowledge acquired at one stage of development enable people to experiment, discover, and implement the next stage. The term “sharing economy” suggests, however, that development is going in the opposite direction, from trading to sharing. But that’s the result of poor word choice.

Instead of calling it the sharing economy, perhaps a better name for these phenomena might be the “gap economy” — the economy that grows like a weed in the interstices of regulated markets and incumbent cartels.

Filling the Gaps

In an interventionist, mixed economy, it’s not hard to find examples of both “differentiation from generality” and “life finds a way.” It’s in the spaces left free from arbitrary government constraint and meddling where the ingenuity and resourcefulness of ordinary people are comparatively free to do extraordinary things.

The government intervenes, but it unintentionally leaves spaces for smart entrepreneurs to differentiate their innovations from businesses that have adapted themselves to the mixed economy.

 

Take Uber, for example. In cities around world, this company has found a way to successfully challenge the entrenched interests of local politicians and the taxi industry. In New York City, for example, in order legally to run a business picking up passengers on any curb, you must own a taxi medallion. But the government hasn’t significantly increased the number of yellow-cab medallions since the 1930s, even though rising incomes have steadily increased the demand for taxis. As a result, the market price of a medallion now runs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is good for those who own them. (Partly because of Uber, however, the price has been falling from a peak of over $1 million per medallion.)

Uber got around this legal barrier by cleverly positioning itself not as a provider of transport services, but as an intermediary that connects drivers of private cars to customers with a special app on their smartphones. Combined with a pricing system where riders pay less during slack times and more during peak times, and background checks on the drivers, Uber and similar businesses (such as Lyft) offer a service that’s typically cleaner and more comfortable than a government-regulated taxi. A driver/passenger rating system keeps things remarkably safe and friendly. I use Uber myself. It isn’t perfect, but it’s found a way to become a multibillion-dollar company by satisfying unmet demands in the regulatory-gap economy. The company even recently won a significant victory over political interests in New York City, but it remains vulnerable to political cronyism down the road and in other cities.

You could tell a similar story, and relate similar struggles, about other interstitial products and services.

Like Uber, Airbnb uses Internet technology to enable regular homeowners (as well as commercially minded providers) to rent their apartments for short periods without the costs and regulations of a conventional hotel. Entrenched hotel interests have been using their political clout to regulate this service into submission.

Smokeless, so-called e-cigarettes deliver nicotine-infused water vapor to the user without the harm of secondary smoke that regular cigarettes are said to produce. Nevertheless, in New York City, e-cigarettes are banned wherever “smoking” is prohibited.

And the popular crowdfunding organization, Kickstarter, has found a way to raise money for “creative projects” (rather than purely commercial ventures) that avoids the hassles of highly regulated financial markets. While operating in the gap economy may not be its main motivation, the government seems to be eyeing the way Kickstarter gets around the taxes and financial regulations that hamstring traditional ways of lending.

(Incidentally, some like to argue that the Internet itself would not exist without the US Department of Defense’s ARPANET, developed back in the 1960s. Even if they’re right, no one can reasonably claim that the extent, complexity, and utility of what evolved and differentiated into today’s Internet could have been the result of anyone’s overall design.)

The government intervenes, but it unintentionally leaves spaces for smart entrepreneurs to differentiate their innovations from businesses that have adapted themselves to the mixed economy. While the growth of government around the world is discouraging, and the struggle to break free goes on, the inventiveness of clever, creative people who "find a way" is a source of hope.

The Gig Economy Makes Karl Marx’s Dreams Come True

By Max Borders

When Joe Average steps out of his car after completing his shift for Lyft, he does so on his own terms. Nobody tells him when to start. Nobody tells him when to stop. The siren song that is prime time pricing might have coaxed him off the couch, but ultimately it was his call. And with the rest of his day, he’s going to go fishing. You see, Joe loves to fish — even more than he loves making money. After dinner, he might take some time to criticize the second season of True Detective.

Would ole Karl Marx have been happy with this result?

In The German Ideology, Marx wrote,

For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.

Marx should be delighted — oh, except that it’s capitalism, not communism, that’s allowing Joe to be a fisherman and a critic on his own terms.

The sharing or “gig” economy is not only disrupting the way people live and work; it’s dividing the left considerably.

On the one hand, you have the nostalgic leftists who want Joe to work a nine-to-five job and skip the fishing. You know, like people did in the 1950s. As Freeman columnist Steve Horwitz writes, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

longs for a time like the 1950s when workers had the structure of the corporate world and unions through which to lobby and negotiate for pay and benefits, rather than the so-called “gig” economy of so many modern freelance employees, such as Uber drivers. “This on-demand or so-called gig economy is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation,” Clinton said, “but it’s also raising hard questions about workplace protection and what a good job will look like in the future.”

Joe already told us what a good job looks like. It’s one that lets him spend time fishing and criticizing.

More confusing (or confused, perhaps) is Paul Mason’s writing in the Guardian. He lauds “postcapitalism,” which has all the hallmarks of a society Clinton is worried about:

Postcapitalism is possible because of three major changes information technology has brought about in the past 25 years. First, it has reduced the need for work, blurred the edges between work and free time and loosened the relationship between work and wages.

Bingo. The gig economy. But does it make sense to give capitalism a different name? I suppose one could. After all, Marx coined the term. But Marx’s definition of capitalism is a system based on private ownership of the means of production. Has that dynamic fundamentally changed?

Far from it. The sharing economy is simply decentralizing power by allowing ordinary people to use their own small-scale means of production. By solving coordination problems and lowering transaction costs, technology is augmenting capitalism.

By solving coordination problems and lowering transaction costs, technology is augmenting capitalism. 

 

When Joe drives for Lyft, for example, his car is still his car. And now more of his time is his, too. Capitalism, even as Marx defined it, hasn’t fundamentally changed. But the use of technology to awaken sleeping private capital is allowing the system to evolve — and rather nicely if you’re Joe Average, or one of thousands of other workers like him.

Now, I’m not saying that there is nothing interesting going on in the electronic commons. Ideas are being configured and reconfigured in the networked economy. Many of those ideas are being taken out of the intellectual-property regime, thanks to open sourcing, and this can be a good thing. There are fierce debates about whether intellectual property (claims to property in ideas and in nonscarce goods) is justifiable. But passing over those debates, more and more open-source technologies are coming online for exploitation by everyone.

Do open sourcing and the creative commons take us to postcapitalism?

I don’t know. But fundamentally, as long as the process is voluntary and carried out peacefully by a community of cooperators, who cares what you call it? Should we be upset that the guy who founded Lyft is getting rich from the tech? Some people are, because they see the accumulation of wealth as taboo. But Joe’s life is better than it would have been in the absence of Lyft. The company allows him to live more of the life he wants to live.

As long as Joe Average is happier, who cares what Hillary Clinton thinks?

Tom Brady’s agent: ‘Appeal process was a sham’

(MIAMI.CBSLOCAL) — In light of the NFL deciding to uphold Tom Brady’s four-game suspension after appeal, it doesn’t appear Brady’s team is backing down, as evidenced by a statement from his agent, Don Yee:

“The Commissioner’s decision is deeply disappointing, but not surprising because the appeal process was thoroughly lacking in procedural fairness.

Most importantly, neither Tom nor the Patriots did anything wrong. And the NFL has no evidence that anything inappropriate occurred.

The appeal process was a sham, resulting in the Commissioner rubber-stamping his own decision.

Is Politics Obsolete?

By Jeffrey A. Tucker, Max Borders

Hillary Clinton talks of cracking down on the gig economy. Donald Trump speaks of telling American corporations where they can and can’t do business abroad. Bernie Sanders says we have too many deodorant choices. They all speak about immigrants as if it were 1863.

What the heck are these people talking about?

More and more, that’s the response many people have to the current-day political speeches and rhetoric. It’s a hotly contested election, somewhat like 2008, but this time around, public engagement is low, reports Pew.

That’s no surprise, really. Whether it’s the leftists, the rightists, or everyone in between, all of these politicians seem to be blathering about a world gone by — one that has little to do with the 21st century. If they’re not tapping into people’s baser instincts of fear and nativism, they’re dusting off 20th-century talking points about creating “good jobs.”

Maybe there was a time when the political culture seemed to keep up with the pace of innovation. If so, those times are long gone. The rhetoric of electoral politics is exposing the great rift in civic life.

The tools we use every day, the technologies we love, the way we engage each other, the means by which our lives are improving are a consequences of innovation, markets, community, and globalization — that is, by the interactions of free people. Not by politics. And not by the systems politics creates.

The political election is a tired old ritual in which we send our hopes and dreams away to distant capitals. Why do we outsource them to politicians, lobbyists, and bureaucrats: people who are trapped in a system that rewards the worst in people? What’s left of governance is logrolling, spectacle, and unwanted interference in the lives of everyone else.

Politicians seem more concerned with putting the genie of innovation and entrepreneurship back in the bottle than doing anything meaningful. After the election, we try our best to ignore them and get on with life.

Politicians seem more concerned with putting the genie of innovation and entrepreneurship back in the bottle than doing anything meaningful.

In 2012, US voters reelected Barack Obama, and now we’re gearing up to elect someone else. Candidates will talk about their visions and their wonderful plans for the country. But in the last three years, virtually none of the incredible, beautiful upheaval we’ve seen has had anything to do with the presidency or with any politician’s plans.

In fact, when you think about what government has done for us in recent years, only one new program comes to mind: Obamacare. Opinions vary on whether that program has been deeply disappointing or an unmitigated disaster.

Now, take a step back and observe the evolution of commercial society and how it is bringing us unprecedented bounty. The digital sector of emergent, market-generated, people-driven, technology-fueled innovation is fulfilling human aspirations and spreading useful services to people in all walks of life. National borders seem ever more arbitrary. Surprises await us around every corner. Our political systems can claim credit for none of it.

And yet, we are once again being asked to turn to politicians to drive progress.

Consider how much our lives and technologies have changed since the last presidential election. Smartphone ownership has gone from 300 million to 2 billion, meaning that most of the population of the developed world — and large parts of the rest — now have access to a wireless supercomputer in their pockets. As a result, we are more in touch than ever.

There are now dozens of ways for anyone to keep in contact with anyone else through text messaging and video, and most of the services are free. Transportation in cities has fundamentally changed due to ridesharing and app-based systems that are outcompeting municipal taxis. Traditional travel lodging has been disrupted through mobile applications that turn every empty room into a hotel, and finding permanent lodging is easier than ever. You can find the ratings for any service or establishment instantly with a click or a tap, long before you purchase. You can feasibly shop for and buy a house without ever having stepped inside of it.

Cryptocurrency is becoming a viable alternative to national monies, and payment systems on distributed networks are being customized for peer-to-peer exchanges of property titles.

The mass distribution and availability of mobile applications with maps means that you are never lost, and, moreover, that you can be intensely aware of everything around you, wherever you are or wherever you are planning to be. Extended families that are spread out over large geographic regions can stay constantly in touch, chatting and playing games.

The way we help our neighbors and communities is improving. We can contribute to charitable causes with just a click. We are closer to our neighbors and their needs — whether it’s a missing cat, a call for a handyman, or childcare for Saturday night. We can be on the lookout after a break-in and share video of the perpetrators instantly.

The way we consume music has fundamentally changed. We once bought CDs. Then we downloaded particular tracks and albums. With Internet everywhere, we now stream a seemingly endless variety of genres. The switch between classical and indie rock requires only a touch. And it’s not just new music we can access, but vast archives and recreations of music dating to antiquity. Instantly.

Software packages that once cost thousands are now low-cost downloadable apps. Many of us live in the cloud now, so that no one’s life is ruined by a computer crash. Lost hardware can be found with built-in tracers — even stealing computers is harder than ever.

Where we work no longer matters as much. 4G LTE means a powerful Internet connection wherever you are, and WiFi on airlines means staying in touch even while above the clouds. Online document signing means total portability and the end of the physical world for most business transactions. You can share almost anything — whether grocery lists or whole writing projects — with anyone and work in real time. More people than ever work from home because they can.

News is now crowdsourced through Twitter and Facebook — or through mostly silly sites like BuzzFeed. There are thousands of competitors, so that we can know what we want to know wherever we are. Once there was only “national news”; now a news event has to be pretty epic to qualify, and much of the news that we are interested in never even makes old-line newspapers.

Edward Snowden revealed ubiquitous surveillance, escaped prosecution, and now, thanks to technology, has been on a worldwide speaking tour, becoming the globe’s most famous public intellectual. This is despite his having been censored and effectively exiled by the world’s biggest and most powerful state. He has a great story to tell, and that story is more powerful than any of the big shots who want him to shut up.

Pot has been effectively legalized in many American cities, and the temperature on the war against it has dropped dramatically. When dispensaries are raided, the news flies all over the Internet within minutes, creating outrage and bringing the heat down on the one-time masters of the universe. There is now a political risk to participating in the war on pot — something unthinkable even 10 years ago. And as police continue to abuse their power, citizens are waiting with cameras.

Oil prices have collapsed, revealing the fallacy of peak oil. This happened despite pressure in the opposite direction from every special interest, from environmentalists to the oil industry itself. The reason was again technological. We discovered better and cheaper ways of drilling, and, in so doing, exposed vastly more resources than anyone thought accessible.

At the very time when oil and gas seemed untouchable, we suddenly saw electric cars becoming viable options. This was not due to government mandates — regulators tried those for years — but due to some serious innovation on the part of one remarkable company. It’s not even the subsidies, such as they are, that are making the difference; it’s the fine-tuning of the machine itself. Tesla even took it a step further and released its patents into the commons, allowing innovation to spread at a market-based pace.

We are now printing houses in one day, vaping instead of smoking, legally purchasing pharmaceuticals abroad, using drones to deliver consumer products, and enjoying one-day delivery of just about everything.

In the last four years, the ebook became a mass consumer item, outselling the physical book and readable on devices within the budget of just about everyone. And despite attempts to keep books offline, just about anything is now available for download, putting all the world’s great literature, in all major languages, at our fingertips.

Here we go again, playing “let’s pretend” and electing leaders under the old-fashioned presumption that it is politics that improves the world and drives history forward.

 

And speaking of languages, we now have instant access to translation programs that allow us to email and even text with anyone in a way he or she can understand regardless of language. It’s an awesome thing to consider that this final barrier to universal harmony, once seen as insuperable, is in the process of melting away.

These are all ways in which the world has been improved through markets, creativity, and free association. And yet, here we go again, playing “let’s pretend” and electing leaders under the old-fashioned presumption that it is politics that improves the world and drives history forward.

Look around: progress is everywhere. And it is not because we are electing the “right people.” Progress occurs despite politics and politicians, not because of them. 

Yes, I Can: Home Economics from My Family to Yours

By Sarah Skwire

I taught myself to can the year that I got divorced. My life felt a bit beyond my control, so I wanted something to do that would provide immediate results and distract me in the evenings after my kids went to bed. Though this skill had always intimidated me, some googling around and a great little book called Food in Jars persuaded me that I could probably manage to learn this skill. So I bought some fruit and some jars, and got to work.

These days, I have a set of shelves in the basement that’s loaded with jams, salsa, and pickles. For me, that stash of deliciousness is plenty of justification for my hobby. But as with my other hobby — knitting — I occasionally run into people who cannot imagine why I’d take the time to can when grocery stores are able to provide me with delicious pickles and preserves for a fraction of the cost. Sometimes I explain myself by handing them a spoon and a jar of homemade jam. Sometimes, though, they need more of an explanation. For those folks, and for other canners who face the same questions, here are some of my answers.

Canning is a consumption good. That doesn’t just mean that I consume the jams and pickles that I can. (Although I do, and they’re yummy!) It means that I take a lot of pleasure in the process of making jam, or in discovering that it’s possible to make pickled summer squash out of the overabundance that appears in my garden every summer. The time spent in the kitchen, canning food, is leisure time for me. I enjoy using it this way. I “consume” my canning time in much the same way that I’d consume time spent at a summer movie or tanning by the pool.

It’s a sign of how wealthy we are as a society that we can think of canning as consumption rather than production.

For thousands of years, preserving food during harvest seasons in order to have it during fallow times was a matter of life and death, not of leisure. Adam Smith knew this would happen. He points out in his Wealth of Nations that “hunting and fishing, the most important employments of mankind in the rude state of society, become in its advanced state their most agreeable amusements, and they pursue for pleasure what they once followed from necessity.” Or, as economist Steve Horwitz has pointed out, “We’re rich enough to play at being poor.” Like knitting, or having backyard chicken coops, or camping, canning food is a pleasure that used to be a necessity.

Though I know I’m only doing it for fun (and for an endless supply of jam for my morning toast), I also like the feeling of independence that canning gives me. With fairly regular governmental attempts to crack down on such insidious and detrimental practices as front yard vegetable gardens, rainwater collection, and urban composting, canning my own food at home — especially if I grew it in my own garden — feels just a little rebellious. The liberty revolution won’t plant its flag on a barricade built of pint jars, but it’s fun, every once in a while, to imagine that it might.

While I don’t homeschool, I do appreciate the opportunities that canning has offered for exploring a whole range of intellectual questions and pursuits with my kids. We have learned what makes jam gel and what to do when it doesn’t. We have explored flavors that go together well and badly. We have talked about the fallacy of composition as a way to explain why blueberry jam is great, and dill pickles are great, but blueberry and dill pickle jam is awful. We do math every time we double a recipe or divide our pickling spices among three jars. We talk about the importance of not wasting food, of eating things that are healthy and delicious, and of cooking for people we love.

 

Canning gives me the chance to nurture the intimate order, the “micro-cosmos” that Hayek contrasted so usefully to the macro-cosmos of the marketplace. 

Perhaps most pleasurably, canning gives me the chance to nurture the intimate order, the “micro-cosmos” that Hayek contrasted so usefully to the macro-cosmos of the marketplace. My daughters and I are building memories and creating family stories whenever we preserve food together. I always have a gift on hand to bring to a friend or to a sick neighbor. The girls have apple and honey jam to give their teachers for Rosh Hashanah. And every time we do those things, we strengthen the bonds that make communities worth having.

If you have canned, you know that it takes a surprising amount of fruit to make a fairly small amount of jam. Three pounds of berries and five cups of sugar produce just three small jars. But there’s a lot more in that jar than fruit. And I get a lot more out of it.

Capitalists from Outer Space

By B.K. Marcus

When the aliens stop trifling with crop circles, bumpkin abduction, and indelicate probes and finally introduce themselves to the rest of humanity, will they turn out to be partisans of central planning, interventionism, or unhampered markets?

This is not the question asked by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, but whether or not the institute’s scientists realize it, the answer is crucial to their search.

Signs of Intelligent Life

The SETI Institute was founded by Frank Drake and the late Carl Sagan. Its scientists do not believe we have been visited yet. UFO sightings and abduction stories don’t stand up under scientific scrutiny, they say. Nor are they waiting for flying saucers. Because the aliens’ signals will likely reach Earth before their spaceships do, SETI monitors the skies for transmissions from advanced civilizations orbiting distant stars.

The scientific search for evidence of advanced alien societies began in 1960, when Drake aimed a 25-meter dish at two nearby stars. The previous year, the journal Nature had published an article called “Searching for Interstellar Communications,” which suggested that distant civilizations might transmit greetings at the same wavelength as the radio emission of hydrogen (the universe’s most common element). Drake found no such signals, nor has SETI found any evidence of interstellar salutations since. But it’s not giving up.

The Truth Is Out There

Before we can ask after advanced alien political economy, we must confront the more basic question: Is there anybody out there? SETI has been searching for over half a century. That may seem like a long time, but there are, as Sagan underscored, “billions and billions of stars.” How many of them should we expect to monitor before finding one that’s transmitting?

In an attempt to address, if not answer, the question, Drake proposed an equation in 1961 to summarize the concepts scientists think are relevant to any educated guess.

Here is how Sagan explains the Drake equation in the book Cosmos:

N*, the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy;

fp, the fraction of stars that have planetary systems;

ne, the number of planets in a given system that are ecologically suitable for life;

fl, the fraction of otherwise suitable planets on which life actually arises;

fi, the fraction of inhabited planets on which an intelligent form of life evolves;

fc, the fraction of planets inhabited by intelligent beings on which a communicative technical civilization develops;

and fL, the fraction of a planetary lifetime graced by a technical civilization.

The End of the World as We Know It

Sagan expounds on all the terms in the equation, but it’s that last one that absorbs him: How long can an advanced civilization last before it destroys itself?

Perhaps civilizations arise repeatedly, inexorably, on innumerable planets in the Milky Way, but are generally unstable; so all but a tiny fraction are unable to survive their technology and succumb to greed and ignorance, pollution and nuclear war.

Sagan wrote Cosmos toward the end of the Cold War. He mentioned other threats — greed, ignorance, pollution — but the specter of mutual annihilation haunted him. When he imagined the end of an advanced society, he pictured something permanent.

“It is hardly out of the question,” he wrote, “that we might destroy ourselves tomorrow.” Perhaps, Sagan feared, the general pattern is for civilizations to “take billions of years of tortuous evolution to arise, and then snuff themselves out in an instant of unforgivable neglect.”

The Rise and Fall of Civilization

We cannot know if the civilizational survival rate on other planets is high or low, and so the final term in the Drake equation is guesswork, but some guesses are better than others.

“One of the great virtues of [Drake’s] equation,” Sagan wrote, “is that it involves subjects ranging from stellar and planetary astronomy to organic chemistry, evolutionary biology, history, politics and abnormal psychology.”

That’s quite an array of topics to inform an educated guess, but notice that he doesn’t mention economics.

Perhaps he thought politics covered it, but Sagan’s political focus was more on questions of war and peace than poverty and wealth. In particular, he considered the end of civilization to be an event from which it would take a planet billions of years to recover.

The history of our own species suggests that this view is too narrow. Yes, a nuclear war could wipe out humanity, but civilizations do destroy themselves in less permanent ways.

Yes, a nuclear war could wipe out humanity, but civilizations do destroy themselves in less permanent ways. 

There have been two dark ages in Western history: the Mycenaean-Greek and the post-Roman. Both were marked by retrogression in technology, art, and literacy. Both saw a drop in overall population and in population density, as survivors left towns and cities for a more autarkic existence in the countryside. And both underwent a radical decline in foreign trade and the division of labor. Market societies deteriorated into disparate cultures of subsistence farming.

The ultimate causes of the Greek Dark Age are a mystery. As with the later fall of the Roman Empire, the Mycenaean demise was marked by “barbarian” invasions, but the hungry hoards weren’t new: successful invasions depend on weakened defenses and deteriorating infrastructure. What we know is that worsening poverty marked the fall, whether as cause, effect, or both.

The reasons for the fall of the Roman West are more evident, if still debated. Despite claims of lead poisoning, poor sanitation, too much religion, too little religion, and even, believe it or not, inadequate central planning, the empire’s decline resulted from bad economic policy.

Civilization cannot advance in poverty. Wealth and civilization progress together.

 

To help us see this more clearly, Freeman writer Nicholas Davidson suggests in his magnificent 1987 article “The Ancient Suicide of the West” that we look to the signs of cultural and economic decline rather than to the changes, however drastic, in political leadership. While the Western empire did not fall to the barbarians until the fifth century AD, “The Roman economy [had] reached its peak toward the middle of the first century AD and thereafter began to decline.” As with the Mycenaean Greeks, the decay was evident in art and literature, science and technology. Civilization cannot advance in poverty. Wealth and civilization progress together.

How to Kill Progress

“The stagnation in all aspects of society,” Davidson writes, “was associated with a continuous extension of governmental functions. Social engineering was tried on the grand scale. The state relentlessly expanded into commerce, industry, and private life.”

As we look to our own future — or anticipate the politics of our alien brethren — we can draw on the experience of humanity’s past to help us appreciate the economics of progress and decline. Over and over, we see the same pattern: some group gains a temporary benefit from a world in flux. When further social and economic changes check those advantages, the old guard turn to the state to protect them from the dynamism of a healthy society. Adaptation is stymied. Nothing is allowed to evolve. The politically privileged — military and civilian, rich and poor — sacrifice their civilization in a doomed attempt to ward off change.

The Sustainable Society

Evolutionary science, economic theory, and cybernetics yield the same lessons: stability requires flexibility; complexity flourishes under spontaneous order; centralization leads to stagnation.

To those general lessons, economics adds insights specific to the context of scarcity: private property and voluntary exchange produce greater general wealth, longer time horizons, and ever more investment in the “luxuries” of scientific investigation, technological innovation, and a more active stewardship of the environment. Trade promotes peace, and a global division of labor unites the world’s cultures in mutual self-interest.

If, as Sagan contends, an advanced civilization would require political stability and sizable long-term investment in science and technology to survive an interstellar spacefaring phase, then we should expect any such civilization to embrace a planetwide system of free trade and free markets grounded in private property. For the civilization to last the centuries and millennia necessary to explore and colonize the stars, its governing institutions will have to be minimal and decentralized.

The aliens will, in short, embrace what Adam Smith called “the system of natural liberty.” Behind their transmissions, SETI should expect to find the invisible hand.

Scientists versus Freedom

When we do make contact, “the consequences for our own civilization will be stunning,” Sagan wrote. Humanity will gain “insights on alien science and technology, art, music, politics, ethics, philosophy and religion…. We will know what else is possible.”

What did Sagan himself believe possible? Had he survived to witness first contact, would he be surprised to learn of the capitalist political economy at the foundation of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization?

Neil deGrasse Tyson, who remade the Cosmos television series for the 21st century, recommends reading Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations but only “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”

We shouldn’t assume that Tyson represents Sagan’s economic views, but when Sagan did address questions of policy, he advocated a larger welfare state and greater government spending. When he talked about “us” and “our” responsibilities, he invariably meant governments, not private individuals.

Sagan wrote, “It may be that civilizations can be divided into two great categories: one in which the scientists are unable to convince nonscientists to authorize a search for extraplanetary intelligence … and another category in which the grand vision of contact with other civilizations is shared widely.”

Why would scientists have to persuade anyone else to authorize anything? Sagan could only imagine science funded by government. It was apparently beyond credibility that less widely shared visions can secure sufficient funding.

Sagan could only imagine science funded by government.

It’s a safe guess, then, that when he talks of civilizations that are “unable to survive their technology and succumb to greed,” Sagan is talking about the profit motive.

And yet, it is the profit motive that drives innovation, and it is the great wealth generated by profit seekers that allows later generations of innovators to pursue their visions with fewer financial inducements. Whether directly or indirectly, profits pay for progress.

Self-Interested Enlightenment

Why does it matter if astronomers misunderstand the market? Does SETI really need to appreciate the virtues of individual liberty to monitor the heavens for signs of intelligent life?

Scientists can and do excel in their fields without understanding how society works. But that doesn’t mean their ignorance of economics is harmless. The more admired they are as scientists — especially as popularizers of science — the more damage they can do when they speak authoritatively outside their fields. Their brilliance in one discipline can make them overconfident about their grasp of others. And increasingly, the questions facing the scientific community cross multiple specialties. It was the cross-disciplinary nature of Drake’s equation that Sagan saw as its great virtue.

Scientists can and do excel in their fields without understanding how society works. But that doesn’t mean their ignorance of economics is harmless.

 

The predictions of the astronomer looking for extraterrestrial socialists will be different from those of someone who expects the first signals of alien origin to come from a radically decentralized civilization — a society of private individuals who have discovered the sustainable harmony of self-interest and the general welfare.

After that first contact, after we’ve gained “insights on alien science and technology” and we get around to learning alien history, will we discover that their species has witnessed civilizations rise and fall? What was it that finally allowed them to break the cycle? How did they avoid stagnation, decline, and self-destruction?

How did they, as a culture, come to accept the economic way of thinking, embrace the philosophy of freedom, and develop a sustainable civilization capable of reaching out to us, the denizens of a less developed world?

Obama: ‘I’m the 1st Kenyan-American’ president

obama-shush-625x330

President Obama

President Obama took time during his Kenya visit to drag out the birth-certificate issue again – just as he did in April and in March – and do some drive-by mocking of those who still question where he was born.

He said, during a 45-minute speech to the country that focused mostly on economic development: “I am proud to be the first American president to come to Kenya. And of course, I’m the first Kenyan-American to be president of the United States. That goes without saying.”

Previously, Obama delivered remarks that contained self-deprecating statements about his origin of birth.

At the dinner sponsored by State officials, Obama said: “I suspect that some of my critics back home are suggesting that I’m back here to look for my birth certificate.”

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After the crowd laughed, he intoned: “That is not the case.”

This is the third time in just a few months Obama has brought up the birth-certificate matter at a very public venue. During the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April, Obama spoke through comedian Keegan-Michael Kay to assure, in angry tones, “I have a birth certificate. … I have a hot diggity, daggity, mamase mamasa mamakusa birth certificate, you dumb-ass crackers,” Breitbart reported.

And a month earlier, Obama used his Gridiron Club dinner platform to speak of his longtime friendship with Clarence Page, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

He said then, as WND previously reported: “[We go] way back. Before he took office, he felt comfortable asking me for tips on being a successful black president. And I told him, you want to keep your birth certificate handy.”

As WND has also reported, a range of politicians and American figures, from billionaire and presidential candidate Donald Trump to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, from Arizona, have questioned the authenticity of the birth certificate Obama’s team has presented to the public.

See the comments from Kenya:

Ben Shapiro has assembled the details you need to know here: “The People Vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against the Obama Administration.”

Liberty Still Has a Fighting Chance

By Lawrence W. Reed

This speech was delivered at FreedomFest in Las Vegas, Nevada, on July 8, 2015.

Over a nine-month period beginning in 1831, a 26-year-old Frenchman visited nearly every corner of what were then the 24 states of the American Republic. He traveled from New England to the upper Midwest to the Gulf Coast in the Deep South to the mid-Atlantic. Then he wrote a great book full of amazing insights. It made its appearance 180 years ago, in 1835. Perhaps nobody before or since has defined the essence of America better than he did; but then, no other nation in history offered an essence so profoundly exceptional.

Less than half a century after the ratification of the Constitution, America was still an infant nation, but Alexis de Tocqueville sensed the stirrings of greatness. He praised our entrepreneurial drive and initiative, our self-reliance and personal independence, and our vibrant civil society institutions and voluntary associations. He felt that our ideals would eventually lead us to lead the world. He believed that America had placed two sacred principles — freedom and equality — on a higher pedestal than any previous civilization had. They were, he said, our most defining characteristics, the sources of our strength. But he also feared that we would carry one to an extreme that would undermine the other. Milton Friedman was echoing Tocqueville when he said in the 20th century, “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”

Tocqueville’s appreciation of freedom knew few bounds. Here is perhaps his most eloquent endorsement of it:

Even despots accept the excellence of liberty. The simple truth is that they wish to keep it for themselves and promote the idea that no one else is at all worthy of it. Thus, our opinion of liberty does not reveal our differences but the relative value which we place on our fellow man. We can state with conviction, therefore, that a man’s support for absolute government is in direct proportion to the contempt he feels for his country.

He masterfully described how the growth of government could smother our freedoms:

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the government then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence: it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Tocqueville’s view of equality is more nuanced. He had no issue with the ideal of equality before the law or even equality of opportunity. He hated slavery and any unwarranted discrimination. He agreed with the words of our Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.” But he had no illusions that individuals were thereafter equal in their energies, their talents, their ambitions, their intellect or their character. He was afraid that our egalitarian impulses might someday get the better of us.

Here we are now, decades into the very egalitarian welfare state Tocqueville warned would be the death of American exceptionalism.

“I have a passionate love for liberty, law, and respect for rights,” he wrote. “Liberty is my foremost passion. But one also finds in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to want to bring the strong down to their level, and which reduces men to preferring equality in servitude to inequality in freedom.”

This issue is so critical to our freedoms and our future that I want to dwell on it for a moment.

Remember this: Free people are not equal, and equal people are not free.

Put another way, in terms of economics, think of it this way: Free people will earn different incomes. Where people have the same income, they cannot be free.

Economic equality in a free society is a snare and a delusion that redistributionists envision. But free people are different people, not programmable robots, so it should not come as a surprise that they earn different incomes. Our talents and abilities are not identical. We don’t all work as hard. And even if we all were magically made equal in wealth tonight, we’d be unequal in the morning because some of us would spend our newfound wealth, and some of us would save it.

To produce even a rough measure of economic equality, governments must issue the following orders and back them up with punishment and prisons: Don’t excel or work harder than the next guy, don’t come up with any new ideas, don’t take any risks, and don’t do anything different from what you did yesterday.

In other words, don’t be human.

Economic inequality, when it derives from the voluntary interaction of creative individuals and not from political power or connections, testifies to the fact that people are being themselves, putting their unique skills to work in ways that are fulfilling to themselves and of value to others. As Tocqueville himself might say, Vive la différence!

People obsessed with economic equality do strange things. They become envious of others. They covet. They divide society into two groups: villains and victims. They spend far more time dragging somebody down than they do pulling anybody up. They’re not fun to be around.

And if they make it to a legislature, they can do real harm. Then they not only call the cops — they are the cops.

If economic inequality is an ailment, punishing effort and success is no cure in any event. Coercive, envy-based measures that aim to redistribute wealth prompt the smart or politically well-connected “haves” to seek refuge in havens here or abroad, while the hapless “have-nots” bear the full brunt of economic decline. A more productive expenditure of time would be to work to erase the mass of intrusive government that ensures that the “have-nots” are also the “cannots.”

People obsessed with economic equality do strange things. They spend far more time dragging somebody down than they do pulling anybody up.

Another superb alternative to coercive redistribution would be to work on our character — each of us, one at a time — so that we’re not only good enough for liberty, but good enough to earn a living instead of voting for one.

This economic-equality thing is not compassionate. When it’s just an idea, it’s bunk. When it’s public policy, it’s compulsory insanity. To those who can’t understand how different or unequal we are as individuals, I say, “Get over it!”

Tocqueville warned that this unhealthy obsession with economic equality, combined with an erosion in the respect for liberty and property, would produce what we today would call the welfare state. Let me offer you a description of the welfare state. Somebody once said that it got its name because in it, the politicians get well and the rest of us pay the fare. Just picture people in a giant circle with each having one hand in the next person’s pocket.

The whole notion of the welfare state rests on this really dumb proposition: since people are not decent and compassionate enough to assist their deserving fellows in distress, we must expect them to elect politicians who are more decent and compassionate than they are. How ridiculous! Those politicians then take money from us under threat of imprisonment, launder it through an expensive bureaucracy, and spend what’s left not to actually solve the problem but to manage it into perpetuity for endless dependency, demagoguery, and political gain. And then the advocates of the welfare state compliment themselves for possessing a monopoly on compassion and totally ignore the destructive results of their own handiwork.

So here we are now, decades into the very egalitarian welfare state Tocqueville warned would be the death of American exceptionalism. It threatens to make us like all the other forgettable welfare states that languish in history’s dustbins, Greece included. Should we just assume it’s inevitable and go along for the ride? Or should we muster the character that built a nation and that Tocqueville identified as quintessentially American?

If you’re pessimistic, then you’re no longer part of the solution. You’ve become part of the problem. What chance does liberty have if its supposed friends desert it in its hour of need or speak ill of its prospects?

Ask yourselves, What good purpose could a defeatist attitude possibly promote? Will it make me work harder for the causes I know are right? Is there anything about liberty that an election or events in Congress disprove? If I exude a pessimistic demeanor, will it help attract newcomers to the ideas I believe in? Is this the first time in history that believers in liberty have lost some battles? If we simply throw in the towel, will that enhance the prospects for future victories? Do we turn back just because the hill we have to climb got a little steeper?

This is not the time to abandon time-honored principles. I can’t speak for you, but someday, I want to go to my reward and be able to look back and say, “I never gave up. I never became part of the problem I tried to solve. I never gave the other side the luxury of winning anything without a rigorous, intellectual contest. I never missed an opportunity to do my best for what I believed in, and it never mattered what the odds or the obstacles were. I did my part.”

Remember that we stand on the shoulders of many people who came before us and who persevered through far darker times. The American patriots who shed their blood and suffered through unspeakable hardships as they took on the world’s most powerful nation in 1776 are certainly among them. But I am also thinking of the brave men and women behind the Iron Curtain who resisted the greatest tyranny of the modern age and won. I think of those like Hayek and Mises who kept the flame of liberty flickering in the 1940s. I think of the heroes like William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson who fought to end slavery and literally changed the conscience and character of Britain in the face of the most daunting of disadvantages. And I think of the Scots who, 456 years before the Declaration of Independence, put their lives on the line to repel English invaders with these thrilling words: “It is not for honor or glory or wealth that we fight, but for freedom alone, which no good man gives up except with his life.”

As I think about what some of those great men and women faced, the obstacles before us today seem rather puny.

This is a moment when our true character, the stuff we’re really made of, will show itself. If we retreat, that would tell me we were never really worthy of the battle in the first place. But if we resolve to let these challenging times build our character and rally our dispirited friends to new levels of dedication, we will look back on this occasion someday with pride at how we handled it. Have you called a friend yet today to explain to him or her why liberty should be a top priority?

Nobody ever promised that liberty would be easy to attain or simple to keep. The world has always been full of greedy thieves and thugs, narcissistic power seekers, snake-oil charlatans, unprincipled ne’er-do-wells, and arrogant busybodies. No true friend of liberty should just roll over and play dead for any of them.

Take an inventory every day of what you’re doing for liberty. Get more involved in the fight. There are plenty of things you can do. If your state isn’t a right-to-work state, work to make it so. Support people and organizations like the Foundation for Economic Education that are teaching young people about the importance of liberty and character. Get behind the Compact for America and its plan for a balanced federal budget and an end to reckless spending and debt. Work for school choice in your state to help break the government monopoly on education. And be the very best example for liberty and character that you can possibly be in everything you do.

Whatever you do, don’t give up no matter what. Remember these words of the great US Supreme Court justice George Sutherland: “The saddest epitaph which can be carved in memory of a vanished liberty is that it was lost because its possessors failed to stretch forth a saving hand while yet there was time.”

Can Tocqueville’s American exceptionalism be restored? Can it last? You bet it can. The American Dream still lives, in the hearts of those who love liberty and refuse to meekly surrender it. So let’s wipe the frowns off our faces and get to work. Our future, our children’s future — liberty’s future — all depend on us.