Monday, January 27, 2014

Liberty & Productivity

Liberty and Productivity


Tibor R. Machan


Statists routinely suggest their distrust of human initiative.  This is why they keep advocating government stimuli instead of free markets.


In a free market, one which prohibits government intrusions, regulations and regimentation, it is understood that when men and women are free of such intrusions, they will most likely--though never certainly--engage in entrepreneurial initiative, the main result of which is productivity.  No guarantee exists that free men and women will innovate and produce but that is most likely.  Indeed, while slaves can be scared into work, free men and women will usually see the point of work and engage in it with gusto.


Statists, of course, deny this and claim that only if government creates artificial incentives or issues threats will citizens become productive.  That is the basic theory behind stimulus packages, tax breaks, subsidies and so on.


But notice that all this omits the issue of why would bureaucrats and politicians be motivated to work?  Why are they exceptions to the rule that statists assume, namely, a lethargic citizenry? How can we trust government agents to go to work, to produce, to innovate, etc., but not free men and women? Statists never address this as they advocate pushing citizens around, nudging them, stimulating them, etc.  Who will nudge the nudgers?


At the heart of this issue lies a basic philosophical dispute: are free men and women capable of initiative, of getting to think and work on their own or must they be dealt with like barnyard beasts that need to be  driven to work by masters? Statists see people as such animals, incapable of innovation, of initiative, of creativity, so they need to be pushed around by bureaucrats and politicians.  Yet this is completely inconsistent with the powers they grant to themselves.  Why would only those running government possess the power to undertake productive, creative projects while the citizenry is deemed too passive?


Actually, a better way of understanding this is to realize that statists want to reserve to themselves the prerogative of spending resources on various projects--public works, they like to call them--and rob the rest of the citizenry of their resources to do as they judge sensible, prudent, and wise.  


In short, the statist wants to be in charge of what projects get to be undertaken, use everyone’s labor or property for these and not permit the rest of us to allocate our resources, including our labor, to projects of our own.  

1 comment:

Scott A. Landers said...

Who on earth believes that “only if government creates artificial incentives or issues threats will citizens become productive”? This seems a bizarre view that might be held by this or that insane, megalomaniacal dictator (a Hitler or a Stalin, perhaps) or extraordinarily cynical and arrogant boss, but is certainly not held by anyone else. You claim that “statists” believe people must “be dealt with like barnyard beasts that need to be driven to work by masters,” and that “Statists see people as such animals, incapable of innovation, of initiative, of creativity, so they need to be pushed around by bureaucrats and politicians.” Who on this planet advocates such views? As I understand it, "statist" is a derogatory term used primarily by libertarian and anarcho-capitalist writers either in a narrow sense to refer to those who believe in full economic control by a central government (virtually no one these days believes this is workable) or more broadly to refer to anyone who believes that government of some sort, or a "state" of some sort, is good for certain things (such as providing for civil law adjudication of disputes, enforcing criminal law, developing consumer protections, etc.). But are you really trying to fight those who believe a government needs to get people up in the morning and motivate them to work? Like Polyphemus in Homer’s Odyssey, surely you are trying to attack “No Man.” Against "statists" in the broad sense (i.e., non-libertarians, essentially), your argument has zero force.