When I debate my points regarding free markets and free societies I often find myself being criticized by my more left-leaning rival debater for being “heartless” and having no compassion for my fellow man. If I may be so blunt, I find my positions to hold the highest possible moral ground. Allow me to explain.
Many people associate morality and compassion with self-sacrifice. I can completely understand the position; it is admirable when people help others even though it may seem that they are giving something up to do so. All debates aside regarding whether by giving a bum $20 I am gaining at least $20 worth of satisfaction, thus eliminating any self-sacrifice, self-sacrifice itself is not an enemy of free markets and free societies. However, because it is debatable whether there is such a thing as voluntary self-sacrifice, we will just call it charity for the remainder of this article. Charity actually holds a very important role in free markets. Charity is a great way for free markets to effectively alleviate the human/emotional side of us all within a free society. An example would be the charities and religious organizations that, with the help of private donations, are able to assist the poor and homeless that may not have been assisted by a profit-seeking entity.
However great charity is, the morality gets perverted when we mistake government for charity. If I decide it necessary to donate money to a food kitchen while my neighbor decides to donate his money to a university, we will be unlikely to quarrel over our donations and will certainly not demand that the other give to an unfavorable charity or face physical consequences; we both give to charity voluntarily and with zero coercion. However, government does just the opposite. A group of people – sometimes small, sometimes an overwhelming majority – decide for society as a whole which governmental policies and programs are good, and force everyone to pony up to support those policies and programs. For example, I do not believe that giving farmers subsidies is a good policy, but I cannot decide not to give to those farmers, I am forced to by the threat of physical force. The small group that does enjoy farm subsidies is effectively using the government to extort money from me to line their own pockets. Farm subsidies may be enjoyed only by a small percentage of us, but the story is the same for policies and programs that most of us voted for or utilize. Take roads and freeways, for example. I utilize the roads and freeways and I thank all of those of you that do not drive as much as I do but still pay for me to use the roads. Is it moral for a person that is “going green” and riding her bike to work every day to still have to pay for me to drive my huge, gas guzzling, carbon fuming truck to and from work and all around town all day? Is it moral for an anti-war protester to pay for a brand new M4A1 assault rifle that will blow off the head of a man in Afghanistan?
Conversely, the free market ensures us that we will get what we pay for, pay for only what we want, and be left alone outside of that. The morality of this is self-explanatory. The trouble people have with the morality of free markets and free societies is on the fringe – when a man cannot go to college because he cannot afford it or get a surgery he needs but cannot afford or face death. Thankfully, without big government, each of us would have a great deal more money to give to charity. Granted, some people may abstain from giving and spend their tax money on a yacht, but most people find it in themselves to give to what they believe in; especially when they know Uncle Sam won’t pick up the slack. Some of the most charitable people in history have been those that utilized the free markets to create gigantic levels of wealth. What’s more, most large charities operate at efficiencies that are completely unheard of in government and even impressive when compared to companies with profit-motives. The free market would divert more money to these charities and leave the government with money only to provide protection and justice.
The argument of compassion and morality ultimately comes down to a core set of beliefs all relating to theft. If you are one that believes theft is a means that can be justified by an end that you find to be just and moral and you believe that the state has the right to utilize theft and the threat of physical force, then you will likely stand on the left side of the aisle. If, however, you are a believer in the freedom of every man and woman to his or her life, body, and property then you will likely stand up for free markets and free societies. Call this an oversimplification if you will, but the debate between the left and the right, between wrong and right, always comes down to how one values freedom versus theft and physical force.
Freedom is daunting and intimidating. With freedom comes self-responsibility and self-responsibility is something we have all become less and less accustomed to. However, by stripping someone of their self-responsibility and thus stripping them of their freedom, you are doing them no favors. The worst of us are those that claim it is not only good to steal from most to give to some, but necessary and morally superior to freedom. Do not fall into the trap of believing that there is a just reason to steal – there never is. Just as an exercise, next time you speak to someone that is for public health care ask them what percentage of last year’s income they gave to health care organizations that benefited the poor. Most will not have given anything, and those that gave probably gave far less than you will end up paying in additional taxes. If it is indeed the case that they have not put their money where their mouth is, ask yourself, “Whose money will they put where their mouth is?” Where is the morality in that?