An alternative to the Obama vision for America: Free markets

Tue, 04/21/2009 - 3:02pm
By: Letters to the ...

I recently had a friend suggest that I take action and let my voice be heard on the Obama budget plan because, “it’s a bold plan that confronts the long-term threats to our prosperity and builds a new foundation for economic growth by investing in energy, health care, and education.”

I respectfully replied that I do NOT support the plan and that I WILL urge my congressman to oppose the plan. That was how I would let my voice be heard. My friend made the following reply: “What plan, ideas or suggestions on how to fix this mess do you have, or would you support? It’s easy to be opposed to something ideologically, and it is okay to agree to disagree. And if you don’t have a plan, why not offer support, suggestions and ideas on how to improve what is already on the table?”

It is true that opposition for opposition’s sake is easy. It takes thought and effort to devise an alternative to that which one opposes. Too few people, these days, are willing to put forth such an effort.

This country was founded by the thoughtful efforts of men who took the time to earnestly ponder their words through serious study and discussion before committing those words to paper for all to see. Today those who take the time to study the work of the men we call The Founding Fathers are often astonished by the breadth of their knowledge and the genius of their inspired documents.

I write this preamble in order that you will gain some insight into the foundation upon which I build my thinking. I place great stock in the work of the Founders but fear that we are quickly losing the battle to honor those documents and the government created by them. I fear that this republic may be soon lost.

The progressive centralization of power and control in the federal government is precisely what the Founders feared. Nowhere, in my studies of the founding documents or the discussions that created them, do I find authorization for such centralization. Quite the opposite. Centralization of control and power is not supposed to happen here.

There is no constitutional authority for the creation of federal (central) control of energy, health care, education or any of several dozen other federal agencies. Prosperity and economic growth can never be built on a foundation of government control.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, and his wife Rose, clearly stated the case that a free abundant society can work, if we let it. Their 1980 book, “Free to Choose,” clearly stated that government needed to stay in the background and let the producers do what they do best — produce.

Time and time again we have witnessed attempts by the government to step in and take control of a problem. It is a crisis, they tell us, and only the government can fix it. (I thought we were a country of rugged individualists.)

Recall the sky-high interest rates of the Carter years as an example of government involvement in the marketplace.

More recently we had the drought crisis here in Georgia. We were told we must conserve water, even to the point of the water police stalking our neighborhoods. We conserved, and then we were told that because we did not use enough water that our rates were going to increase. NO competition of suppliers here, only a central government monopoly for a water source for most people.

Now we have the mortgage lending crisis. My college degree is in business finance. I spent years in the banking and mortgage industries, and it is my observation that this “crisis” was not created in a free market environment. It was created by federal government efforts to control the marketplace.

For years, lenders had exercised prudent qualification controls on those to whom they would lend money. These controls safeguarded the industry against large losses from unqualified borrowers.

In steps federal legislation mandating the reduction of those prudent lending standards. Big money was lent to a new market segment called sub-prime. For a time all appeared fine, but appearances deceive. Fine cracks existed in this market segment.

It took only a couple of bumps in the road to break these cracks wide open. A couple of big corporate screw-ups, a big jump in gasoline prices and, oh yeah, more efforts at government control, the latest and biggest being the auto industry.

So the bottom line is I don’t need to spell out what I support. That has been done in numerous books, pamphlets and articles: Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations”; Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and “Anthem”; Milton and Rose Friedman’s “Free to Choose”; George Gilder’s “Wealth and Poverty.”

Each makes the case for our free market republic capitalistic society. This is a society which allows productive people to engage their entrepreneurial energies with as little government interference as possible.

As long as we stop looking for a government solution to every perceived crisis, and once again become a country of rugged individualists, this country will survive the threats to our prosperity that currently confront all of us.

Tom Jenkins

Peachtree City, Ga.

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