VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS
One of the smartest men who lived in the twentieth century was Leonard Read (1898 – 1983). He was a Libertarian social and economic philosopher with a profound insight into the damning effect of socialism and inflation. Naturally, he was ignored by the media. Nevertheless, in a half dozen short books this kind and gentle man demolished modern liberalism and big government on the basis of its morality.
He saw that government resorted to force and coercion to take the earnings of unwilling citizens. He knew that if you don’t pay taxes someone from the government will eventually come with a gun. Many years ago they came to my company with their guns so I know it to be true. Mr. Read’s condemnation was harsh. He said there was no moral difference between a pickpocket and a tax collector. He condemned coercion as destructive to freedom. To him forcing citizens to do what they otherwise would not do if left alone was a form of extortion. He called it socialized dishonesty.
This coercion Leonard Read railed against had consequences. Since it was an evil act it would bring retribution. Only bad could come from it. He claimed there was no greater dishonesty than feathering one’s nest at the expense of another. He insisted that no person could benefit by living off this confiscated income. It would not improve one’s character or growth. To live on the money that government provided was as evil as them taking it in the first place. He saw a terrible end for those who lived on other people’s earnings.
What’s happening today bears him out. The more money we give to the subsidized the more money they demand and the worse they behave. The more entitlements they receive the more they feel entitled to them. We even hear vague threats to our safety if they don’t get a bigger cut. We hear endless complaints about the raw deal our society gives the welfare class. To add insult to injury those who the government takes the most from are vilified and cursed. The most affluent taxpayers who finance the bulk of the welfare payments are hated because they supposedly don’t pay enough. Leonard Read was right to argue that this process could only have a bad ending.
Of the tax collectors, government regulators and bureaucrats he wrote, “I cannot indulge in my own upgrading at the same time I am inhibiting someone else’s creative action. Therefore, to the extent that one’s life is spent in using force to coerce others, to that extent is one’s life destroyed and its higher purpose frustrated…Nothing creative is induced by compulsion.”
Leonard Read suggested that private charity was instrumental in making a society great. Under capitalism the charitable acts of private individuals would grow and flourish thus eliminating many of societies’ ills. But with income redistribution these bonds of brotherhood are crushed by government compulsion. Bureaucrats decide who gets what at the expense of private giving and charity. This kind of socialism, he suggested, would cause our nation to “fly apart.”
Because socialism relies on compulsion, Leonard Read stood firmly against it. He wrote, “Socialism takes and redistributes wealth, but it is utterly incapable of creating wealth.” He warned, “Man cannot feign the role of God without finally playing the devil’s part.” His most profound criticism of government regarded its constant inflating. “Inflation makes the extension of socialism possible by providing the financial chaos in which it flourishes. The fact is that socialism and inflation are simultaneously cause and effect; they feed on each other!”
As if firing a warning across the bow of Washington and Wall Street he quoted a wise man. “Ultimately with God’s aid, truth always emerges and finally prevails supreme in its power over the destiny of mankind, and terrible is the retribution for those who deny, defy, or betray it.” That’s how Leonard Read saw it. Big government and socialism would cause our economy to disintegrate. Unfortunately, this nearsighted nation ignores any such warnings. It behooves each of us to give Leonard Read’s disturbing arguments the most careful thought.