Freedom Is Not Free

, Alana Goodman, Leave a comment

As pundits and politicians bicker back and forth about the cause of our country’s problems—the healthcare system, the free market, gay marriage—journalist Mark Steyn points to one root catalyst for our nation’s difficulties: indolence.

“In most of the developed world, the state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood—health care, child care, care of the elderly—to the point where it’s effectively severed its citizens from humanity’s primal instincts, not least the survival instinct,” Steyn told an audience at Hillsdale College on March 9th.

Steyn, a Canadian immigrant, knows all too well what it’s like to live under big-government control. “Once you have government health care, it can be used to justify almost any restraint on freedom: After all, if the state has to cure you, it surely has an interest in preventing you needing treatment in the first place,” he said.

The journalist gave the example of Britain’s National Health Service denying treatment to smokers and overweight people on the basis of unhealthy “lifestyle choices.”

“Smokers and the obese may look at their gay neighbor having unprotected sex with multiple partners, and wonder why his ‘lifestyle choices’ get a pass while theirs don’t. But that’s the point: Tyranny is always whimsical,” said Steyn.

Steyn also had some harsh words for his fellow journalists, saying that “for members of a profession that brags about its ‘courage’ incessantly…an awful lot of journalists are quite content to be the eunuchs in the politically correct harem.”

For the journalists who aren’t willing to toe the politically correct line in Canada and Europe, the consequences are often disastrous, said Steyn. He cites incidents of a Daily Telegraph columnist getting arrested and detained for telling a joke in a speech and an author getting investigated by the Scotland Yard’s Community Safety Unit for Homophobic, Racist, and Domestic Incidents for expressing mild concern over gay adoption.

These episodes hit close to home for Steyn, who was charged with “flagrant Islamophobia” in 2007 after publishing an article critical of radical Islam in Canada’s Maclean magazine.

Throughout the speech Steyn warned that the U.S. is now “embarking on the same grim path” as Canada and Europe. “[Barack Obama’s] multi-trillion-dollar budget, the first of many, adds more to the national debt than all the previous 43 presidents combined, from George Washington to George Dubya. The President wants Europeanized health care, Europeanized daycare, Europeanized education,” he said.

According to estimates, the U.S. national debt currently stands at over $11 trillion, CBS News reported in March.

“When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy, they also annex a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of a junkie and a pusher—and you make it very difficult ever to change back.”

However, Steyn did provide audience members with a glimmer of hope. “‘There is a great deal of ruin in a nation,’ said Adam Smith, and America still has a long way to go. But it’s better to jump off the train as you’re leaving the station and it’s still picking up speed than when it’s roaring down the track and you realize you’ve got a one-way ticket on the Oblivion Express,” he advised.

An adaptation of Steyn’s speech, titled “Live Free or Die!” was published in the April edition of the Imprimis, a monthly publication of Hillsdale College.

Alana Goodman is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.

Freedom Is Not Free

, Matt Hadro, Leave a comment

This cliché of government intervention might not be the effective long-term solution for the economy that many trust it to be. John R. Lott, Jr., PhD, author of the newly-published book Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don’t, believes that government intervention into a free market can adversely affect the economy. Lott further maintains that many so-called “market failures” actually become profit opportunities for those people who work to solve the problems.

Dr. Lott was at the Heritage Foundation last Wednesday to discuss his book and explain his thesis supporting a free economy despite its shortcomings. Lott drew upon multiple examples from his book to prove that the free market works most effectively with as little government intervention as possible, and is actually able to solve its own market failures over time, contrary to popular opinion. Also, Lott expounded upon the long-term domino effects that touch society when the government exercises sufficient power.

For example, the common consumer complaint is that in the car sales market, the corporations have a detailed agenda to rip them off. Once a new car is out of the sales lot, it loses its value by a supposed 20-25%. How can this not be a blatant example of free-market inferiority? Well, Lott began, it is actually quite easy to test this premise. By researching certain books on used cars and their values, looking at private transfer prices and transferable warranties, consulting automobile mechanics and convincing the potential buyer of the true value of the car, the consumer could very well find that the actual depreciation in value of the car is about only 4%. Though this particular case may be a specific example, it can be generally proven that through hard work and research, one can see that there is no such stone wall between consumer and corporation. After all, the businesses are accountable to the customer, because with competition in the market, they must cater to the consumer to sell their goods. Blatantly trying to cheat the consumer would be senseless in a competitive market.

In like fashion, the high prices for pharmaceutical products remain at the center of one of the most virulent economic debates today. With the threat of price controls from the government on drugs in America, the pharmaceutical industry is uncertain about its economic future. The cost is quite cheap for pharmacies to stamp and manufacture pills and drugs, but the real underlying cost sits in the drug companies’ research and development of new drugs, a process that takes years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to carry out. However, the general public does not view the issue like so, rather criticizing the drug companies for making money off of the low-income population who can not afford the high prices for American drugs. The possibility remains that the U.S. government may soon begin importing Canadian price-controlled drugs, through which the American drug companies would lose money and subsequently stall new drug development, with the full consequences taking years to completely unveil themselves. The costs aside from printing and manufacturing drugs are enormous, and yet many Americans remain ignorant of this.

“The problem is,” he continued, “we’re trying to get someone else to be altruistic rather than ourselves.” Personal accountability and incentive is the driving force of the free market, but trouble is brewing when the majority of a country’s citizens desire to pin the responsibility, and therefore the power, to solve economic problems, on the government.

“Government intervention is responsible for more than we think,” holds Lott. He shattered yet another commonly held myth when he spoke of the recent campaign finance regulations. Wishing to check the financial effects of money on elections, the government actually causes the opposite results to happen than intended. With the limits on donations to a candidate, an incumbent could very well have the advantage over a challenger if the experienced incumbent does indeed possess a longer list of donors. Since the incumbent might then be far ahead in the race, voter turnout would then drop, since a competitive contest spurs greater turnout in the voting booths.

Matt Hadro
is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.