No matter whether it is their intention or not, almost anything that the rich can legally do tends to help the poor. The spending of the rich gives employment to the poor. But the saving of the rich, and their investment of these savings in the means of production, gives just as much employment, and in addition makes that employment constantly more productive and more highly paid, while it also constantly increases and cheapens the production of necessities and amenities for the masses.
There are millions receiving government payments who have come to consider them as an earned right, who of course find them inadequate, and who are outraged at the slightest suggestion of a critical re-examination of the subject. The political pressure for constant extension and increase of these benefits is almost irresistible.
All loans, in the eyes of honest borrowers, must eventually be repaid. All credit is debt. Proposals for an increased volume of credit, therefore, are merely another name for proposals for an increased burden of debt. They would seem considerably less inviting if they were habitually referred to by the second name instead of by the first.
The monetary managers are fond of telling us that they have substituted 'responsible money management' for the gold standard. But there is no historic record of responsible paper money management ... The record taken, as a whole is one of hyperinflation, devaluation and monetary chaos.
All subsidy measures, all schemes to redistribute income or to force Peter to support Paul, are one-eyed as well as shortsighted. They get their immediate appeal by focusing attention on the alleged needs of some particular group of intended beneficiaries. But the inevitable victims - those who are going to be asked to pay for the new handout in increased taxes (which directly or indirectly means almost everybody else) - are left out of account. Only one-half of the problem has been seen. The cost of the proposed solution has been overlooked.
The whole gospel of Karl Marx can be summed up in a single sentence: Hate the man who is better off than you are. Never under any circumstances admit that his success may be due to his own efforts, to the productive contribution he has made to the whole community. Always attribute his success to the exploitation, the cheating, the more or less open robbery of others. Never under any circumstances admit that your own failure may be owing to your own weakness, or that the failure of anyone else may be due to his own defects - his laziness,... Read more »
Government relief tends constantly to get out of hand. And even when it is kept within reasonable bounds it tends to reduce the incentives to work and to save both of those who receive it and of those who are forced to pay it. It may be said, in fact, that practically every measure that governments take with the ostensible object of 'helping the poor' has the long-run effect of doing the opposite.
Once the premise is accepted that poverty is never the fault of the poor but the fault of 'society,' or of 'the capitalist system, then there is no definable limit to be set on relief, and the politicians who want to be elected or reelected will compete with each other in proposing new 'welfare' programs to fill some hitherto 'unmet need.'
In a free enterprise system, with an honest and stable money, there is dominantly a close link between effort and productivity, on the one hand, and economic reward on the other. Inflation severs this link. Reward comes to depend less and less on effort and production, and more and more on successful gambling and luck.
When people who earn more than the average have their 'surplus', or the greater part of it, seized from them in taxes, and when people who earn less than average have the deficiency , or the greater part of it, turned over to them in hand-outs and doles, the production of all must sharply decline; for the energetic and able who lose their incentive to produce more than the average, and the slothful and unskilled lose their incentive to improve their condition.
The vital consideration of incentives is almost systematically overlooked in the proposals of agitators for more and bigger government welfare schemes. We should all be concerned about the plight of the poor and unfortunate. But the hard two-part question that any plan for relieving poverty must answer is: How can we mitigate the penalties of failure and misfortune without undermining the incentives to effort and success.
The only way we could remember would be by constant re-reading, for knowledge unused tends to drop out of mind. Knowledge used does not need to be remembered; practice forms habits and habits make memory unnecessary. The rule is nothing; the application is everything.
You cannot make a man worth a given amount by making it illegal for anyone to offer him anything less. You merely deprive him of the right to earn the amount that his abilities and situation would permit him to earn, while you deprive the community even of the moderate services that he is capable of rendering. In brief, for a low wage you substitute unemployment. You do harm all around, with no comparable compensation.
When each of us is free to work out his own economic destiny, within the framework of the market economy, the institution of private property, and the general rule of law, we will all improve our economic condition much faster than when we are ordered around by bureaucrats.
The larger the percentage of the national income taken by taxes the greater the deterrent to private production and employment. When the total tax burden grows beyond a bearable size, the problem of devising taxes that will not discourage and disrupt production becomes insoluble.
The most obvious and yet the oldest and most stubborn error on which the appeal of inflation rests is that of confusing ‘money’ with ‘wealth’…Real wealth, of course, consists in what is produced and consumed: the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the houses we live in. It is railways and roads and motor cars; ships and planes and factories; schools and churches and theaters; pianos, paintings and books. Yet so powerful is the verbal ambiguity that confuses money with wealth, that even those who at times recognize the confusion will slide back into it in the course of... Read more »
The first (lesson) which we meet again and again in history, is that once the dole or similar relief programs are introduced, they seem almost inevitably - unless surrounded by the most rigid restrictions - to get out of hand. The second lesson is that once this happens the poor become more numerous and worse off than they were before, not only because they have lost self-reliance, but because the sources of wealth and production on which they depend for either doles or jobs are diminished or destroyed.
The quickest and surest way to production, prosperity, and economic growth is through private enterprise. The best way for governments to encourage private enterprise is to establish justice, to enforce contracts, to insure domestic peace and tranquility, to protect private property, and to secure the blessings of liberty including economic liberty - which means to stop putting obstacles in the way of private enterprise.
We are so accustomed to the miracle of private enterprise that we habitually take it for granted. But how does private industry solve the incredibly complex problem of turning out tens of thousands of different goods and services in the proportions in which they are wanted by the public? ... It solves these problems through the institutions of private property, competition, the free market, and the existence of money - through the interrelations of supply and demand, costs and prices, profits and losses.
The capitalist system has lifted mankind out of mass poverty. It is this system that in the last century, in the last generation, even in the last decade, has acceleratively been changing the face of the world, and has provided the masses of mankind with amenities that even kings did not possess or imagine a few generations ago.
The State, of course, is absolutely indispensable to the preservation of law and order, and the promotion of peace and social cooperation. What is unnecessary and evil, what abridges the liberty and threatens the true welfare of the individual, is the State that has usurped excessive powers and grown beyond its legitimate function - the super-State, the socialist State, the redistributive State, in brief, the ironically misnamed 'Welfare State.'
It is often sadly remarked that the bad economists present their errors to the public better than the good economists present their truths. It is often complained that demagogues can be more plausible in putting forward economic nonsense from the platform than the honest men who try to show what is wrong with it.
There may have been somewhere, as a few eighteenth-century philosophers dreamed, a group of peaceful men who got together one evening after work and drew up a Social Contract to form the state. But nobody has been able to find an actual record of it. Practically all the governments whose origins are historically established were the result of conquest-of one tribe by another, one city by another, one people by another. Of course there have been constitutional conventions, but they merely changed the working rules of governments already in being.
A man with a scant vocabulary will almost certainly be a weak thinker. The richer and more copious one's vocabulary and the greater one's awareness of fine distinctions and subtle nuances of meaning, the more fertile and precise is likely to be one's thinking. Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them grow together. If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing.
Competition always tends to bring about the most economical and efficient method of production. Those who are most successful in this competition will acquire more capital to increase their production still further; those who are least successful will be forced out of the field. So capitalist production tends constantly to be drawn into the hands of the most efficient.
Some champions of ever-greater governmental power and spending invent the theory that the taxpayers, left to themselves, spend the money they have earned very foolishly, on all sorts of trivialities and rubbish, and that only the bureaucrats, by first seizing it from them, will know how to spend it wisely.
The envious are not satisfied with equality; they secretly yearn for superiority and revenge. In the French Revolution of 1848, a woman coal-heaver is said to have remarked to a richly dressed lady: 'Yes, madam, everything's going to be equal now; I shall go in silks and you'll carry coal.'
In practice [monetary management] is merely a high-sounding euphemism for continuous currency debasement. It consists of constant lying in order to support constant swindling. Instead of automatic currencies based on gold, people are forced to take managed currencies based on guile. Instead of precious metals they hold paper promises whose value falls with every bureaucratic whim. And they are suavely assured that only hopelessly antiquated minds dream of returning to truth and honesty and solvency and gold.
Government provided free tuition tends more and more to produce a uniform conformist education, with college faculties ultimately dependent for their jobs on the government, and so developing an economic interest in profession and teaching a statist, pro-government, and socialist ideology.
Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man. This is no accident. The inherent difficulties of the subject would be great enough in any case, but they are multiplied a thousandfold by a factor that is insignificant in, say, physics, mathematics or medicine - the special pleading of selfish interests.
When your money is taken by a thief, you get nothing in return. When your money is taken through taxes to support needless bureaucrats, precisely the same situation exists. We are lucky, indeed, if the needless bureaucrats are mere easy-going loafers. They are more likely today to be energetic reformers busily discouraging and disrupting production.
Government-to-government foreign aid promotes statism, centralized planning, socialism, dependence, pauperization, inefficiency, and waste. It prolongs the poverty it is designed to cure. Voluntary private investment in private enterprise, on the other hand, promotes capitalism, production, independence, and self-reliance.
The question is not whether we wish to see everybody as well off as possible. Among men of good will such an aim can be taken for granted. The real question concerns the proper means of achieving it. And in trying to answer this we must never lose sight of a few elementary truisms. We cannot distribute more wealth than is created. We cannot in the long run pay labor as a whole more than it produces.
There is a strange idea aboard, held by all monetary cranks, that credit is something a banker gives to a man. Credit, on the contrary, is something a man already has. He has it, perhaps, because he already has marketable assets of a greater cash value than the loan for which he is asking. Or he has it because his character and past record have earned it. He brings it into the bank with him. That is why the banker makes him the loan.