Free-Market Incentives Can Help Restore America
by Michael D. Hume, M.S.
There are two kinds of person out there, and in the heat of campaign season in America you can really see the difference. Candidates pander to “victims,” promising more and more goodies from the government coffers. “Entrepreneurs,” on the other hand, seem to be running their own campaigns, attempting to convince candidates to use their borrowed power to free the market and bring America back to strength and prosperity.
You’ve heard it before – the two groups of people “out there” are mirrored by the two types of person within each of us. Our inner Victim needs to be taken care of; he’s critical, political, and cynical. Our inner Entrepreneur seeks to take care of himself, and of others; he’s courageous, collaborative, and adventurous. Each of us will be dominated by the inner image we “feed,” and though we might visit both sides of ourselves throughout our lives, we tend toward one side or the other most of the time. But because we can change, politicians learned long ago they can appeal to one side or the other of the inner nature of the masses. So the nation, in turn, is dominated by the personality most nourished in a larger sense by mass influence.
That’s where the progressive statists come in. There are two types of politicians out there, too, and it should be no surprise that the two types mirror our inner Victim and Entrepreneur.
Statists appeal to (and nourish) the inner Victim of the nation. They believe in a huge, all-controlling central state government which “takes care” of the masses. Statists use whatever means they can to make their case, appealing to our love of “fairness” and “equality” to rationalize such systems as liberalism, socialism, fascism, and communism (all roots of the same statist tree). Most statists don’t believe in God, and they don’t want you getting religion, either; they want you to look to the government for help, not to some Supreme Being. The key, defining element of statism is a push toward more and bigger government.
Statists are opposed by Constitutionalists – those who believe, as did America’s founders, that “that government governs best which governs least.” While there are lots of examples throughout history of statist regimes, there has been only one grand experiment in limited-government, free-market Constitutionalism: The United States. Most Constitutionalists believe in God, and trust that Heaven will provide for mankind in a general sense; but here on Earth, they believe people can mostly govern themselves, and that state government is not a protection, but a threat. The key, defining element of Constitutionalism is a push toward less and smaller government.
Because America’s Constitutional founding (and the commensurate system of individual liberty and free markets) has generated more strength and prosperity than has any other system in history (indeed, the entire world is made more strong and prosperous because of the existence of the American experiment), the statists have found it difficult to foment “revolution” here. Shortly after bloody coups in places like the old Soviet Union and National-Socialist (“Nazi”) Germany, statists discovered that abrupt changes to statism will always eventually fail. So their strategy changed to one of long-term “evolution.” The statists’ best opportunity lies in the generational forgetfulness of Americans… as Ronald Reagan, a staunch conservative Constitutionalist, once said, freedom is not passed down to the next generation in the bloodstream. So if the statists could win the war of influence – if they could “progress” to a generation which didn’t remember any of the triumphs of Constitutionalism (or the failures of statism), they might be able to wrest power for themselves. They might finally topple the giant.
Toward this end, the statists began over a century ago to slowly take control over institutions of influence in America. At first, there was one nutty professor in the university Sociology department who actually believed in collectivism… one goofy writer who couldn’t keep steady work at newspapers but whose socialist appeals could be disseminated through novels. It took generations before those opinion-leaders were able to multiply themselves, but they got excellent help at times from politicians who campaigned as “centrists” but, once in power, governed as statists (Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Barack Obama chief among them). Today, statists enjoy nearly total control of all traditional institutions of influence in America, from the shop floor to the movie theater, and from the classroom to the newsroom.
“Working” on them since elementary school, the statists have succeeded in making a large chunk of the current voting generation believe things most of their parents (and certainly their grandparents) knew to be fallacious. That capitalism is bad, and only benefits the greedy “one percent.” That socialism is good, and is only fair. That the government can and will take care of them. That when the attempt is made to redistribute wealth earned by others, that you won’t run out of money, and everyone will be better off. That an all-powerful government is a benefit to the governed.
This, of course, is a complete vandalism of our Constitutional republic. As a result, today’s Constitutionalists are really, as I’ve argued, “restorationists.” America is now like a vandalized building, and what’s needed is restoration.
Good news: there are many great restoration projects underway right now, and we can each choose a project that fits our particular gifts and join the effort. When you see a politician on TV, pushing big government and playing to your inner Victim, you might now also hear an Entrepreneur on the radio pointing out what the true consequences of big government would be. For every solidly-socialist faculty on campus, there now rises up a freshly-informed student group to oppose the march toward statism. Union leaders keep trying to buy politicians, but they have an increasingly difficult time convincing their hard-working rank-and-file members to vote the way they think they should. People are starting to get it, to speak out, and to get back into the war of influence.
We’re working hard to restore America. It starts by opposing the statists within the institutions of influence where they enjoy such widespread control. Restoration projects are underway in government, business, media, entertainment… almost any institution of influence you can name. In addition, though, one thing in great need of restoration in America is the right kind of incentive.
It’s simple, really. Victims are incentivized by free goodies. Entrepreneurs are incentivized by free opportunity. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that, over time, if you incentivize a population with free goodies, the mass of people will not be motivated to work, create, or innovate. This perpetuates a permanent underclass of victims in society – people who need to be taken care of – and that’s exactly what the statists want (indeed, their plans critically depend on dependency). If you limit government, though, and provide lots of free-market opportunity, people will be motivated to activate their inner Entrepreneur, and to pursue those opportunities.
Medical practice is a perfect example of this. If you are a doctor in a government health care system, you’re a government employee, and your only incentive is to put in your time and keep costs low. Eventually, with no one motivated to create much in the way of new, groundbreaking science, you lose your “edge” and virtually forget how to do the things you got into medicine to do (heal, innovate, and create solutions to health problems). You report to a bureaucrat, who is also not motivated to do more than the “government minimum” for patients. If, on the other hand, you’re a doctor in the free market – well, you could get rich practicing GREAT medicine. You could get by on average medicine, but there is an incentive there, every day, to do your best. In fact, every day, you’re motivated to do better than what your best was yesterday.
By the way, if you do get rich, you’ll do business with merchants, you’ll hire more people, you’ll spend tourism dollars, and you’ll do a lot for the people who depend on the robust economy you and your rich friends create. Many of those folks, in turn, will be motivated to do their best (to get more of your dollars)… and eventually, many of them might just join you on the next luxury cruise.
And that’s why the free market has created so much strength and prosperity. If we can restore free-market incentives, we’ll go far toward restoring America.
What can you do? You could start a business and pursue your own opportunities, but even if that’s not for you, ANY entrepreneurial project will help. Many Entrepreneurs don’t own businesses, but work their leadership mission in the service of another organization. There are even Entrepreneurs who work for the government – they’re the ones working to get government out of your way (and that’s a TOUGH job for which those folks deserve our deepest gratitude).
You can take on a restoration project aimed at restoring free-market incentives, and you could even do it in the realm of politics. Simply by voting for the candidate (in any race) who comes across as less of a statist – who speaks to the inner Entrepreneur, at least occasionally – you can help. To go further, work to influence your candidates to join the restoration (and abandon statism). Electing a different brand of statist will not solve the problem. Entrepreneurs need to continue campaigning their elected officials after the election, holding them accountable for keeping government small and limited, pushing for lower taxes and fewer regulations, arguing for the free market and the incentives upon which it (and the nation) depends.
The voters do the campaigning? That might sound backwards to you – but that’s because the statists have had a hundred years to make it seem that way. America, as originally founded, was a clear departure from the standard government-leads-you-follow systems of history. In America, the people are supposed to lead, and the government’s supposed to follow. We are in charge, not they. We influence, and they vote… not the other way around. And that’s the America we need to firmly restore today.
Give some thought to how you can help restore the right kind of incentives in the people around you… and in yourself. We need the best of each of us to make America work the way our nation’s founders knew it could.