It is hardly lack of due process for the government to regulate that which it subsidizes.
—UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT “WICKARD VS. FILBURN”
Here is a truism, an old folk saying: “He who pays the fiddler calls the tune.” This certainly applies to the relationship between government and the citizens. When government subsidizes—pays—it regulates; it calls the tune which determines the extent of our enslavement. For it is an observed fact that the road to the Command Society is paved with dictatorial regulations: enslavement edicts.
Is “enslavement” too harsh a term? That great British thinker, Herbert Spencer, wrote in 1884 an unusual but a thoughtful and realistic definition of slavery:
What is essential to the idea of a slave? We primarily think of him as one who is owned by another. . . . That which fundamentally distinguishes the slave is that he labours under coercion to satisfy another’s desires. . . . What. . . leads us to qualify our conception of the slavery as more or less severe? Evidently the greater or smaller extent to which effort is compulsorily expended for the benefit of another instead of for self-benefit.1
Based on the authority of the Supreme Court of the United States, and deductive reasoning as well, it should be obvious that all who ask for subsidies are inviting regulations that lessen self-benefits. Such persons are asking for slavery—no less!
The same can be said of those who ask government for a monopolistic position in the market—seeking to gain by the coercive elimination of would-be competitors. When successful in such depredations, they gain by denying others the opportunity to gain. Their gain is someone else’s loss, and if that isn’t a form of subsidy-slavery, pray tell, what is!
Reflect upon the countless subsidies being sought, not merely by the socialists but by those who call themselves “free enterprisers.” Each subsidy, when granted, gives birth to not one but to numerous regulations. The number of governments in the U.S.A. approximates 100,000. Consider the many regulations spawning from each of these, and the total is staggering. All regulations that limit creative action—most of them do—explain our country’s rapid decline into the Command Society—enslavement. Along with the enslavement occurs the deadening of private ownership, a fundamental feature of the free society.
The government type of enslavement is the satanic offspring of at least three hallucinations:
1. I am wise! With few exceptions, those wielding power over others are corrupted. Authority of this nature tends to intoxicate them; they see others as fallible, but never themselves.
2. I am it! Government controls what it subsidizes. Elected and appointed holders of government office develop the mentality of L’ Etat c’est moi, I am the state. They come to believe that the funds they use to subsidize are the government’s own money, and they are the government, and thus they are it!
3. I am omniscient! This is the little-god syndrome: “Be like me, do as I say, obey my edicts, and thou shalt be graced with the good life.” The truth? Not a one of them is any more competent to direct our mortal moments than to direct our spirits in the Hereafter! This is to say that they can no more effectively direct creativity at the earthly level than they can direct Creation. Managing the creative lives of others is beyond any man’s competence. But these wiseacres don’t even know this—a hallucination, indeed!
I repeat, private ownership is a fundamental feature of the free society. The alternative is government ownership of nearly everything, as in Russia or Red China. And that’s a far cry from the free society!
Merely holding title to a piece of property does not mean ownership if control is absent. One does not own that which he does not control. In Mussolini’s Italy titles to enterprises were retained, but that fascist regime controlled wages, prices, hours worked, what goods and services could be produced, to whom sold, and so on. Titles without control are utterly meaningless.
This is a point never to forget: The millions of regulations in today’s U.S.A. are controls! Thus, to the extent that regulations exist, to that extent has government ownership replaced private ownership.
No one can or ever will list and explain all the controls now in force. Even finding out what they are would take several lifetimes. Thus, a sampling must suffice. First, a few comments on education. Government control of schooling—a grave error held over from our country’s early days—unquestionably accounts for the plethora of regulations in every other walk of life. Youngsters brought up in the atmosphere of government schooling are in danger of remaining addicted to that regulated life. With an exception now and then, Amiel’s observation is realistic:
Scratch the green rind of a sapling, or wantonly twist it in the soil, and a scarred or crooked oak will tell of the act for centuries to come. So it is with the teachings of youth, which make impressions on the mind and heart that are to last forever.
It is not necessary to examine government “education,” past and present. Merely have a look at government control of private education at the present time. At this point, I asked the prime mover of the most private of all private schools known to me about government regulations imposed on his school.2 He listed a few of the numerous controls he has to cope with.
Is he really an owner? As an illustration of control hear this: The Chairman, Department of Accreditation, State of Kansas wrote, “You exceed all of our standards, but you do not meet them.” Thus, my friend’s school is not accredited even though its standards exceed requirements. Why? Simply because they do not square with the lower standards set by the government! This is not the pursuit of excellence or of learning, but of coerced mediocrity.
Graduates of my friend’s school cannot enter a government university in Kansas without an examination. But any graduate of a government high school is automatically admitted to any government university in that state.
Here is another example of the degraded level of government “education.” The New York State Board of Regents prepares standard examinations in the social sciences (and various other disciplines) to be administered to all students taking the course in public schools throughout the State. A former colleague of mine once took one of these exams in two different ways. First, he tried truthfully to answer all questions as he thought they should be answered. An official grader for the Regents Examinations awarded him the score of 52 on the test. Then my associate took the same examination the second time, giving the answers he thought the State wanted. The same official grader awarded him the grade of 92!
I am convinced that government “education,” founded on coercive regulations, is more the cause of controls over all creative activity than anything else. Controls proliferate in nearly every enterprise and occupation, and there isn’t a better illustration of this than medical practice. When doctors obey all laws—Federal, state, and local—they must spend more time filling out forms than treating patients! Many of them are quitting.
Of course, numerous doctors—as well as people in other fields—ignore the controls and, by so doing, become, lawbreakers. Such disrespect for laws which interfere with trade and promote class warfare carries over into disrespect for all laws—including those essential to keeping the peace and invoking a common justice. Further, these same people spend more time scheming how to course around regulations than they spend discovering how to produce better goods and services at lower prices. Many of them are failing.
So, what shall we do about government “education,” the take-off point for our descent into the Command Society? My answer: Let’s have a vigorous and spirited competition in demonstrating the wonderful superiority of private education. One of these days one of us will find an explanation so clear and dramatic that the right will arise to displace the wrong. Let me share two thoughts which I find inspiring:
I am convinced that the freedom-of-choice principle is so woven into human existence that any effort to curtail it is an attempt to curtail life itself. To lose our freedom to choose is to lose our humanity.
—Professor Bertel Sparks
I am an American because I believe that the destiny of America is to be the abiding place of liberty and free institutions, and that its own practice and enjoyment of these blessings shall be to the world a beacon light which shall radiate its influence by peaceful means to the uttermost part of the world, to the uplifting of all humanity.
—J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
The procedure is simple enough: Uplift ourselves in understanding and explaining the blessings of freedom to choose and, by so doing, we will uplift humanity!