Paul Jacob

To the degree we have a government that protects our rights to engage in commerce freely and fairly, each individual does have “a chance to get ahead,” to earn a living through hard work. The problem is that Mr. Obama favors a government that not only does everything for us, without some of us having to work hard (or at all), but that also stands in the way of people — especially poor folks — entering the marketplace and expressing their entrepreneurship.

Regulations obstruct us — but obstruct the poor even more. Mandates and minimums (such as higher minimum wages) require too much, prohibiting the achievable. Taxes and licenses and all other weapons of modern bureaucratic governance are going strong, too strong, even as the economy falters. The problem with recent times is not that we’ve had too much freedom in markets. It’s that we haven’t had laissez-faire at all. (To pretend, either from the left or the right, that because Ronald Reagan said he liked free markets, and because Bill Clinton said “the era of Big Government is over,” that we’ve had limited government since is absurd. Counterfactual. A fantasy.)

And over and over we hear of all the benefits we can reap if only the government taxes the rich more. This is the envy part. The malice. It is there to distract our attention away from what we can do to better ourselves.

It also tempts us to the worst elements of socialism — the mass expropriation that historically has even led to mass murder (“liquidate kulaks!”; “eat the rich!”; “kill the Jews!”) — and derails the kleptocracy from the tricky calculation of thieves’ canny wisdom: you don’t want to run out of victims. But a robust “social democratic” state can indeed run out of such folks. At least, run out of enough rich victims to satisfy the demands of a growing legion of moochers.

And, of course, the anti-capitalism of this all forgets where capital is (those who own it and invest it), and that taking it and turning it all into consumption can kill the “material productive forces” upon which we all rely. Pure socialism doesn’t work for the same reason pure thievery doesn’t work. Taking capital from the capitalists and squandering it on consumer items liquidates the capital and, in the end, makes us all the poorer for it. If not dead.

President Obama wants to assure us that he’s not a pure socialist. I sure hope so. But he’s pure something, and the something he and his followers are for is not as good as freedom and responsibility.

Stop feeding envy. Or covetous vice. We’ve a lot to gain: social peace, personal pride, greater wealth, and, yes, freedom.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.