Go Forth and Multiply: Flourish with Freedom
Too few of us have been able even to conceive of the evil of our destroyers. Too many of us in our third generation comforts have given our oppressors every benefit of the doubt. We have thought, "Certainly they - in their cries of social justice, equality and common welfare- mean well. Certainly they simply do not understand that their commonism succeeds only in extinguishing the breath of purpose, creativity and dignity that self-ownership and pride of stewardship achieves. Certainly these would-be-rulers can see that Nature's glorious diversity created the very inequalities of the human skill-set that foster the fruitful divisions of all labor. Certainly these pretenders-to-thrones are men, also, who hold sacred a love of life as we do."
What were we thinking?
The collectivists' coercive assaults reveal that they, in fact, do not cherish human life at all. Nature's Rule is Mutate, Migrate, Adapt, or Die. Humans are part of Nature, are we not? Central Planners prevent us from mutating, from migrating, and from adapting. Their policies lead to our collective death. Is the mandate of man's life "coerce and kill?" Or is the human mandate "Go forth and multiply?" We know the answer. Humans have been commanded to "Go forth and multiply" in the universe. Exactly how are we to do that?
Frederic Bastiat, that great 19th Century thinker whose slender book THE LAW gave us the phrase, and the understanding of "legalized plunder," knew just how essential economic and political freedom is to humans being able to go forth and multiply. Bastiat wrote:
"God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish their destinies. He has provided a social form as well as a human form. And these social organs of persons are so constituted that they will develop themselves harmoniously in the clean air of liberty. Away, then, with quacks and organizers! Away with the whims of governmental administrators, their socialized projects, their centralization, their tariffs, their government schools, their state religions, their free credit, their bank monopolies, their regulations, their restrictions, their equalization by taxation, and their pious moralizations! And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty: for liberty is an acknowledgment of faith in God and His works."
Bastiat's wisdom was voiced in 1848. In our own generation and in our own country, Murray Rothbard of the Ludwig von Mises Institute propounded and expanded upon Bastiat's libertarian values:
"All socialism is immoral - a system of institutional aggression carried out by the state against free human action. All coercion against the actor prevents him from developing what is his most essential, natural, and typical characteristic - the innate capacity to create new ends and means and to act in order to obtain them. To the extent that state coercion prevents entrepreneurial human action, the human being's creative capacity will be restricted, and neither the information nor the knowledge necessary to coordinate society will emerge. That is why socialism and central planning goes against human nature and is intellectually bankrupt, since it is impossible for the governing body to generate the information it requires to coordinate society through commands."
As if the country claimed both Bastiat and Rothbard as their own sons, New Zealand has been trying liberty. New Zealand has peeled away stifling layers of government to permit freedom to breathe and flourish. Rolling Back Government: Lessons from New Zealand by Maurice P. McTigue, former New Zealand Cabinet Minister, is a blueprint for going forth and multiplying. McTigue's educational lecture is reprinted, in parts, by permission from IMPRIMUS, the national speech digest of Hillsdale College.
NEW ZEALAND SPENDING REFORMS
The impressive list of spending reforms that New Zealand has accomplished includes: Created purchase contracts with senior executives of government agencies that clearly delineated what was expected in return for the money; Chose the heads of government agencies on the basis of a worldwide search, and those selected received term contracts - five years with a possible extension of another three years; Made non-performance the only ground for removal, so new administrations did not simply throw them out; Purchased policy advice from each agency about how to reduce hunger and homelessness; Made it clear that what is important is not how many people are on welfare, but how many get off welfare and into independent living.
The reform government asked each agency those two vital questions: What are you doing? And what should you be doing? Then it told each agency to eliminate what it should not be doing. Reforms reduced the number of government employees with the department of transportation from 5,600 to 53. The number of parasitic employees with the forest service was slashed to 17 from 17,000. McTigue, himself, used to be the Minister of Works. He ended up being the only employee when the process was applied to its 28,000 employees. As McTigue says, most of what that department did was construction and engineering, and there were plenty of people who could do that, without government involvement.
Did New Zealand's new flexing of freedom's muscle kill all those jobs? No. Government just stopped taxing producers to transfer to those employees. The need for those jobs still existed, and private companies happily employed those skills. Freedom allowed those workers to earn three times as much, and be 60 percent more productive.
Reform freed up the things government was doing that had no reason for being done by government. New Zealand's wave of freedom sold off telecommunications, airlines, irrigation schemes, computing services, government printing offices, insurance companies, banks, securities, mortgages, railways, bus services, hotels, shipping lines, agricultural advisory services, and more. Productivity rose; costs dropped.
The government roll-back determined that other agencies should be run as profit-making and tax-paying enterprises by government. Reforms made the air traffic control system into a stand-alone company, gave it instructions that it had to make an acceptable rate of return and pay taxes, and told it that it could not get any investment capital from its owner (the government). The accountability reformers did the same thing with about 35 agencies - agencies which had cost producers about one billion dollars per year, now, instead, produced about one billion dollars per year in revenue and taxes.
The institution of high levels of transparency and significant consequences for bad decisions had the following results: the size of government was reduced by 66% measured by the number of employees; the government's share of GDP dropped to 27 from 44 percent; surpluses were produced; the surpluses were used to pay off debt; the debt dropped to 17 from 63 percent of GDP; the remainder of the surplus each year was used for tax relief; the income tax rate was reduced by half, and incidental taxes were eliminated.
NEW ZEALAND SUBSIDIES, EDUCATION AND COMPETITIVENESS
"We need to recognize that the main problem with subsidies is that they make people dependent; and when you make people dependent, they lose their innovation and their creativity, and become even more dependent. Reform took all government support away from the New Zealand sheep farmers. The process changed the farmers' position from a receipt of about 44 percent of its income from government, to zero subsidies. In 1984, lambs' market was $12.50 per carcass. By 1989, producing a different product, processing it in a different way, and selling it in different markets delivered $30. By 1991, the product was worth $42; by 1994, it was worth $74; and by 1999, it was worth $115. Rolling back government let the New Zealand sheep industry go to the marketplace to find people who would pay higher prices for its product. Such reform delivered a loss of only three-quarters of one percent of the farming enterprises - and those were people who should not have been in farming. Instead of a turn to corporate farming, family farming expanded. Freedom demonstrated that if you give people no choice but to be creative and innovative, they will find solutions."
Thinking differently about government, New Zealand eliminated all the Boards of Education in New Zealand. Every single school came under the control of a board of trustees elected by parents of the children at that school, and by nobody else. The new accountability gave the schools a block of money based on the number of students that went to them, with no strings attached. All schools were converted to this system on the same day. Privately-owned schools were funded the same way. All of a sudden, teachers realized that if they lost their students, they would lose their funding; and if they lost their funding, they would lose their jobs. New Zealand moved from being 15 percent below its international peers to 15 percent above.
Freedom knows that the challenge of competitiveness is worldwide. Capital and labor can move so freely and rapidly from place to place that the only way to stop business from leaving is to make sure that your business climate is better than anybody else's.
NEW ZEALAND TAXATION AND REGULATION
New Zealand's reform government decided that social services and changing behaviors do not have any place in a rational system of tax collection. So they selected only two methods for gathering revenue - a lowered tax on income, and a flat tax on consumption. All other forms of taxation were eliminated, period.
Deregulators rewrote the statutes on which all regulations were based. All environmental laws, tax codes, farm acts, occupational safety and health acts - the whole lot, every single one. Laws that were 25 inches thick were reduced to mere hundreds of pages. New statutes repealed all of the old. The goal was only the best possible environment for industry to thrive.
NEW ZEALAND'S VISION IMPORTED TO AMERICA
The Honorable Maurice P. McTigue has been willing to share New Zealand's positive story with our own Congress and he reports that some great things are happening along these lines in the United States today. I did not know it, but back in 1993, the United States Congress passed a law called the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) to take effect in 1999. Responses are just now beginning to be weighed. GPRA orders government departments to identify in a strategic plan what it is that they intend to achieve, and to report each year what they actually did achieve. The fresh emphasis is on "quantifiable" and "outcome-related" results. The Forest Service draft 2000 Revision failed to create a plan that encompassed outcome-related goals and objectives, and almost no goals were quantifiable. Our Forest Service appears to have chosen the wrong outcomes and goals to quantify. Two years ago, President Bush brought to the table a President's Management Agenda which sifts through these reports and responds. It is happening. Freedom's promise is there, in these mechanisms, if used properly.
BE OPTIMISTIC; BE INSPIRED
Be optimistic for people and the planet. Be optimistic for the same reasons that Murray Rothbard always was. Markets work, and governments do not. Why Capitalism is Inevitable by Joseph Stromberg and Jeffrey Tucker of the Mises Institute recently argued:
"Left and right can define terms however much they want, and they can rant and rave from the point of view of their own ideological convictions, but what must achieve victory, in the end, is the remarkable influence of millions and billions of mutually-beneficial exchanges putting relentless pressure on the designs of central planners to thwart their will. To be optimistic about the prospects for capitalism requires only that we understand Mises's argument concerning the inability of socialist means to produce rational outcomes, and to be hopeful about the triumph of choice over coercion."
In conclusion, be inspired. Be as inspired as the protagonist John Galt in Ayn Rand's classic work of libertarianism, Atlas Shrugged. Galt urged:
"In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind, and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all."
Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, and it's yours. But to win it requires your total dedication, and a total break with the world of your past, with the doctrine that man is a sacrificial animal who exists for the pleasure of others. Fight for the value of your person. Fight for the virtue of your pride. Fight for the essence of that which is man: for his sovereign rational mind. Fight with the radiant certainty and the absolute rectitude of knowing that yours is the Morality of Life and that yours is the battle for any achievement, any value, any grandeur, any goodness, and any joy that has existed on this earth.
Floy Lilley is an attorney with Shroads & Lilley, P.L., Amelia Island, Florida, and is Vice-chair of Sovereignty International.
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