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Milton J. Madison - An American Refugee Now Living in China, Where Liberty is Ascending

Federalism, Free Markets and the Liberty To Let One's Mind Wander. I Am Very Worried About the Fate of Liberty in the USA, Where Government is Taking people's Lives ____________________________________________________________________________________________ "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Tolerance in the face of tyranny is no virtue." -Barry Goldwater-

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

First Thanksgiving....

As some of you may know, last Thursday was the American holiday of Thanksgiving, where American give thanks to God for the bountiful harvest of the previous year. This purely American feast was founded upon the first celebration by the Puritans in Plymouth Massachusetts in the year 1623. One has to keep in mind that the Puritans landed in 1620 and were beset by starvation and disease for the time in between.

As I recently read, the original Puritan colony was a communal living arrangement and was unsuccessful at growing enough food or capturing the abundant wildlife to feed the small population. Until Governor William Brandford considered how to increase the production of food in order to feed the starving population, he put his thoughts in his diary....
"began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length after much debate of things, [I] (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land."
A socialist economy gave way to private property ownership where the benefits of the production upon the land granted flowed to those that produced the goods. Therefore, the early puritans were able to produce enough food to feed themselves and were able to indulge in the first Thanksgiving feast. Thanks to the Puritans and to good capitalist principles.

This early example of the failure of socialism being solved by individual work effort illustrates the troubles associated with what economists call "the tragedy of the commons." This is.....
The Tragedy of the Commons is a type of social trap, often economic, that involves a conflict over resources between individual interests and the common good.

The "Tragedy of the Commons" is a structural relationship between free access to, and unrestricted individual demand for a finite communal resource. The term derives originally from a comparison noticed by William Forster Lloyd with medieval village land holding in his 1833 book on population. It was then popularized and extended by Garrett Hardin in his 1968 Science essay "The Tragedy of the Commons". However, the theory itself is as old as Thucydides and Aristotle, the latter of whom said "that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it."
Even Aristotle, 2,000 years ago recognized the inherent problems in socialism. Socialism is an interesting and attractive offering to those that identify social ills and problems that appear to exist without easy solutions. However, it has proven to be difficult to administer and nearly impossible to be effective. At the end-of-the-day, who is the caretaker? Who is the one that decides to whom scarce resources are allocated? As Milton Friedman so eloquently explained below [see the youtubes], even the government's or benevolent dictator's self-interests take precedent over the interests of the population in general. Also, as modern socialists desire, they lazily identify a problem, assign the problem to a government to solve and tax someone else to pay for it. All the while thinking that they have done some good. I argue that liberalism is laziness and that problems need to be solved by the communities that face them.

My feeling is that socialism solves a near-term problem but creates longer-term less attractive problems that prove to be even more difficult and costly to get rid of. Its a cheap short-term answer to a problem. Also, socialism ignores simple principles of rewards being tied to effort to produce them. Greater-and-greater handouts have to be created to satiate the lazy. For an example of this, just look at the popular Social Security program in the US, where working people are taxed to pay benefits to the wealthiest generation of people that ever lived. This illustrates that what was originally designed to solve poverty in the elderly in the 1930's has now transformed into a Frankenstein monster and one that will prove to be an impossible problem to solve equitably. This current inequitable redistribution of wealth, from working people to those that live in leisure, will collapse without fundamental changes in benefits. People will not get what they think that they have been promised and furture receipients most likely will ultimately pay much more for what they will get then what they could have achieved investing on their own. However, current recieptiants receive the handouts that they never deserve. Government should nover be in invloved in utopian wealth distribution programs no matter how popular or in need they are.

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