|Montréal, 9 décembre 2000 / No 73||
by Edward W.Younkins
Ideas rule the world. Especially important are the philosophical ideas that determine conceptions of the human person in relation to the world in which he lives. Throughout history, the philosophy of individualism has played a critical role in man's progress. Each person is a discrete one with a unique mind and a distinctive set of abilities, desires, and motivations. Each person is a self-responsible causal agent who has the capacity to pursue his well being through his intellectual and physical actions. By nature, each person has the right to have the opportunity to develop his potential as a free, individual human being. People are happier when their lives are lived in freedom. When people exercise their freedom they enter the arena of morality as responsible free agents.
For centuries the philosophy of freedom and individualism has underpinned
the political and economic order that characterized the American way of
life. Unfortunately, beginning in the 1930s, American society has become
more and more collectivized. Special interest groups have increasingly
persuaded the government to grant them special privileges. People form
political coalitions in order to be better at obtaining government favors.
People implore the government for assistance. As government has become
more dominant and has produced programs to meet our needs, it has also
corrupted people's values and made them dependent on government.
There has been a growing tendency for government to expand and undermine personal freedom and responsibility. The doctrine of statism has been driven into the minds of children throughout the 20th century through public education and the media. The idea of security itself has changed over time. The classical idea of security of the person, of possession, and of exchange has been broadened to provide for people's
How do we go from our current interventionist political and economic system
to a society of laissez-faire capitalism? We cannot just wait for
the state to wither away. On the other hand, prospects for one monumental
step to a free market society are not realistic. Many intermediate, transitional
and incremental steps are more likely to take us to our destination.
As change agents, we must convert people's political and economic philosophies to the philosophy of freedom. Movement toward a free society must be preceded by an educational campaign. To recruit others to the philosophy of freedom, we must educate, persuade, and convert. We need to convince a sufficient number of people of the rightness of our ideas. When we are communicating our ideas to others, we must be able to apply abstract principles to concrete situations, to recognize principles in particular cases, and to apply and support consistent courses of actions across various issues.
Building a free society is an intellectual adventure requiring a great deal of courage. We must be dedicated to preserving and strengthening the ideological and moral foundations of a free society. We must engage a large number of people who understand that free enterprise must be defended on moral and conceptual grounds and who are dedicated to doing so. We need to be willing to work for an ideal, adhere to the principles of a free society, and fight for their full realization. Capitalism needs its teachers, defenders, champions, and exemplars.
What can we do to move toward our destination? First of all, each of us has to order and integrate his own thoughts and make certain that they are consistent, to the best of our ability and intelligence. We must be able to explain what capitalism is and the reasons why any rational person should respect it and support it. We must fight apathy and affection for the state. In addition, we must be able to recognize and refute collectivist errors so thoroughly that even collectivists themselves are able to recognize and acknowledge them, and perhaps even abandon their beliefs. We must also be able to assault intellectual obstacles to a free society such as public education, antitrust laws, regulations, social security, the welfare state, communitarianism, cultural relativism, environmentalism, and so on. And certainly, we must not take actions to seek out government protection and subsidies for our own businesses and industries nor spend time and effort in order to obtain personal favors from the government.
We must call people's attention to the conceptual and moral principles of a free society and convince individuals to support these principles. We can talk to our friends and associates, write articles and books, take part in conferences and seminars, give lectures, organize campus youth, arrange non-violent demonstrations against governmental injustices, write letters to the editor, and take part in other peaceful activities that have a libertarian society as their ultimate goal.
Although we need to always keep our ultimate goal in mind, realism is required. Even though we should urge the immediate elimination of most government activities, their gradual eradication is more likely. Short run or intermediate goals (e.g., tax cuts or tax reforms such as a flat or sales tax that reduces tax revenue) that have a good chance of near-term adoption are acceptable as long as we realize that they are only transitional steps toward our final goal. A compromise such as funding schooling through vouchers or tax credits would at least be an incremental step away from totally publicly run schools. Likewise, we should welcome the piecemeal privatization of any of the government's operating activities except, of course, for defense against both external and internal aggression.
The gradual breakdown and crises of the reigning welfare-state paradigm enhance our future prospects for a free society. Only a free society is compatible with the true nature of man and the world. Capitalism works because it is in accordance with reality. Capitalism is the only moral social system because it protects a man's mind, his primary means of survival and flourishing. Truth and morality are on our side. Our battle is intellectual and moral. Our message should appeal to all individuals and groups across the public spectrum. Let us hasten the demise of statism and the establishment of a free society by working individually and in concert with others to educate, persuade, and convert people to a just and proper political and economic order that is a true reflection of the nature of man and the world properly understood.
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