Thursday, December 01, 2005

Europe's Tangled Economic Web

Another professor today let slip his anti-American tendencies in class, subtly circulating them into the material he was teaching. What made this experience even more irritating than most is that he attempted to weave a correlation between President Bush’s refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol and the string of hurricanes that struck the United States this past summer. Hence, America got what it deserves because of Bush. I finally aired my views and reminded him that Bill Clinton too, could have signed onto Kyoto, but fortunately he didn’t, and with good reason. It’s the same song for the radical Leftists of the world, whenever something bad happens in the US, certain corners rejoice. To take a line from Rush Limbaugh, bad news for America translates into good news for the rest of the world. I fault this particular professor, among others, not so much for disagreeing with me, as for their lack of originality and inability to think maturely outside the framework of their Socialist infested borders. Americans are constantly criticized for being ignorant, narrow-minded, etc., but please find me a European that thinks “outside the box” of Marx’s Manifesto and the political heresies that flow from his pen. Walking through a Border’s or Barnes and Noble back in the States, one can find books of every political persuasion, but peruse the selection at Feltrinelli, Italy’s answer to Barnes and Noble, and one sees only propaganda of the most radical Leftist uniformity up and down the shelves. Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and Al Franken are among the more popular selections offered, as they cater perfectly to what their Socialist cousins across the pond want to hear: America is greedy, Bush is stupid and evil, (before Iraq, he was just stupid) 9-11 was carried out by Washington for oil, the list goes on and on and on. More irritating than the actual lies spewed from incurables such as Moore is the fact that so many people here in Europe are taken in by them, regardless of evidence to the contrary. This is the recipe for ideology, and the lifeblood of ideology is not the truth, but sophistry. Socialists care more about advancing their agenda than truth. For the Left, Rush reminds us, “it’s not the nature of the evidence, but the seriousness of the charge” that matters. Whatever the accusation, or whether or not it’s true, is irrelevant. As long as the charges jibe with what they want to hear, they will believe it. Europeans will swallow anything that supports their biases, no matter how outrageous or contrary to reality it may be. They want to believe it, so it is, period. I know many good people here who are not Socialists, but are taken in by the same lies and calumnies. But what’s to explain for this phenomenon? Why do such hostilities toward America permeate European air? I think the principle reason is rooted in economics, and Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises reminded us that economics is the study of human action and behavior. Many have the idea that economics has more to do with undecipherable charts and confusing numbers than with philosophy and human choices. The debate between those advocating a free-market and those arguing for Socialism is nothing less than a battle between two competing visions of the human person and society.
The free-market encourages personal responsibility, hard work, specialization, cultivation of talents, and competition. All of this is dependent on a government that, more or less, maintains a hand’s off policy. The less power the government has to impose burdensome taxes and meddle in the affairs of citizens, the less powerful that government will be. As a result, the individual has more freedom to do as he wishes with any surplus wealth, whether to invest it, donate it, or spend it. Obviously, if the government can rob more than its just amount through taxes, it will swell to become a Leviathan monster. As Thomas Jefferson so accurately phrased it, “the government that is powerful enough to provide everything will be strong enough to take everything away.” The hands of the individual will be more tightly tied because his choices will be limited as a result of having less of a surplus. The free-market is also accompanied by a realism that avoids utopian dreams of creating the “perfect” society on earth. The correct definition of equality merits great attention. Advocates of the free-market agree that all persons are equal in dignity. No one is inherently “worth” more than another. However, we are realistic in recognizing that people are endowed with talents and abilities that differentiate them from one another. This inequality in ability fosters the need among individuals for interdependence within the community. People will specialize in what they are naturally gifted in doing. Goods are exchanged based on everyone’s ability to specialize in various fields and create the best possible product.
As we look at Socialism, we must understand equality strictly in material terms. The pivot on which humanity either progresses or falls back is based solely on a materialist philosophy. Everything about the human person is defined and understood in the context of a misconstrued notion of egalitarianism. The existence of natural inequality in talents and ability is scorned by Socialism. It goal is to stifle specialization and competition, as it falsely characterizes the two as catalysts to inequality and social injustice. Competition, according to Socialists, is fueled by greed. It becomes the responsibility of the government therefore to impose material equality, top-down. It is seen as unfair that others have more (again, equality is limited only to the material) so it’s the “just” thing for the government to force material equality through overtaxing the “wealthy.” The State thus assumes the persona of a benevolent father and redistributes wealth according to its arbitrary but absolute determination. Precisely what income level constitutes the wealthy class is, of course, defined by the State. Moral responsibility is transferred from the individual to the government, and politicians will use the fa├žade of implementing “social justice” to reap exorbitant amounts of money from the citizenry. In government nowadays, the goal is power. Money translates into power, and power leads to influence.
The United States is seen as the world’s most powerful exporter of free-market principles and as a result is scorned by the Socialist-entranced countries of Europe. The Kyoto Protocol is nothing but an anti-free market scheme crafted by rabid Socialists bent on crippling the American economy. The guise of wanting to save the environment is a smokescreen meant to conceal the true agenda of Socialist intriguers. It’s the “social justice” rational all over again. Countries that would fall outside the restrictions and guidelines of the agreement, China and Brazil principally, would be allowed to continue producing unregulated amounts of toxins that would eventually surpass the output of such gasses currently attributed to the United States. As it is, America has one of the most well constructed systems for guaranteeing that contamination is kept at a minimum, we have our laws and they’re actually enforced, which is more than can be said for many of the worlds sadly run, pageant-governments. Much of the rhetoric impugning the United States for wreaking havoc on the environment is just that, rhetoric. The economic damage that would result from signing the Kyoto agreement would be enormous. President Bush is right not to sign it.