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Vail Valley Voices: Everyone operates on self interest

Years ago, liberal talk show host Phil Donohue interviewed now deceased Nobel Prize winning economist and public intellectual Milton Friedman.

Mr. Donohue is a well-intentioned entertainer who believes it’s patently immoral for humankind to allow such a wide disparity between the world’s haves and have-nots to exist. As such he believes redistributing wealth is not only fair, but it’s also the right thing to do.

During the interview, Mr. Donohue referenced the desperate plight of millions around the globe and imputed their near hopeless situations to the concentration of power, greed and self-interest in Western democracies, particularly the United States.

When asked about this imbalance, which Donohue implied was caused by capitalism, Mr. Friedman responded by asking Mr. Donohue if he knew of any society on the planet that did not run on self-interest, pointing out that even the socialist utopian model of government embraced by the former Soviet Union ran on self-interest and greed.

As a practical matter, people pursue their self-interest. It’s called human nature. Throughout recorded history, self-interestin all its forms — whether in pursuit of money, power, love or knowledge — has marked the upward surge of mankind.

One need only to fly in an airplane, turn on a light switch or drive a car and it becomes apparent that the world’s great innovations and achievement have come from individuals pursuing their self interest. Neither the Wright brothers nor Thomas Edison nor Henry Ford were supported by a government bureaucracy. They were individuals unfettered by a meddling government.

In all of recorded history the only verifiable instances where the masses have escaped the grinding poverty that we find in places such as Niger, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia are in nations where capitalism and by extension free markets and free trade flourish. A quick glance around the world illustrates clearly that the economically worst-off societies are those that have departed from or have never accepted capitalism.

And when it comes to lifting the have-nots from the depths of privation, history has also demonstrated that no other form of economic system holds a candle to capitalism.

But the far left (those who believe that government should insert itself into every aspect of our daily lives) tells us that modernday capitalism rewards the ability to manipulate the system rather than rewarding noble virtues such as hard work and innovation.

These folks are misguided. It’s not capitalism that allows men to manipulate the system. Rather, it’s the lack of oversight. Does anyone really believe that ultra-leftists such as Kim Jung Il or Hugo Chavez reward virtue?

Interestingly, history has also demonstrated that political appointees in all governmental systems (even ours) are chosen on the basis of their influence; i.e., the amount of clout they wield.

Therefore, one must ask why the far left feels that political self-interests are somehow more noble or virtuous than the economic self-interest espoused by capitalism.

No one will argue that many greedy bankers and Wall Street kingpins took advantage of the system. But those bankers and Wall Street mavens could never have orchestrated their legerdemain if appropriate governmental oversight had been in place — a failing both political parties must take responsibility for.

When the president’s Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emmanuel declared, “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” I could hardly believe my ears. I would have more respect for Emmanuel if he had been forthright and said, “Let’s use the current economic crises to seize the opportunity to redistribute wealth and begin implementing 25 years of pent-up liberal programs.”

History is absolutely clear about what forms of government have been successful and what forms have been abject failures. Which leads one to ask why is the administration, along with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, doing their best to move us away from the underpinnings of capitalism, the theory of economics that made this nation great?

It’s widely accepted by all but ultra-left economists that FDR’s expansion of government, “The New Deal,” failed to bring us out of the Great Depression. World War II took care of that. Yet our current administration insists that being “fair” (or its interpretation of the concept), which is little more than code for wealth redistribution is more important than allowing the economic system that has served America spectacularly well for the last 230 years to continue to do what it does best — reward individuals for hard work, innovation and taking personal responsibility.

Yes, the president faces an enormous challenge. He has the responsibility to remedy the current economic downturn, and he deserves our support.

But we also have a duty to respectfully disagree, and between the so-called “stimulus package” and the White House’s proposed budget, many voters are now asking why the administration is abandoning the very concepts that made us the greatest economic power in history and instead choosing the path of social engineering that has failed in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Cuba and everywhere else it’s been tried.

Quote of the Day: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” Thomas Jefferson.

Butch Mazzuca lives in Edwards.


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