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The Gift of Enlightened Self-Interest

| Opinion | December 20, 2018

by Stephen Smith

I have never understood why that when it comes to economics, liberals distrust business, capitalism and the free market, but have confidence in government. Just listen to the rants by Bernie and Alexandria against business. Capitalism is interested in providing consumers what they want and need in order to make a profit, the second is politicians and bureaucrats interested in doing whatever is necessary to increase and keep power. Jakub Bozydar Wisniewski of the Austrian Economic School put it like this, “Entrepreneurship is the use of self-interest in the service of others. Politics is the use of others in the service of self-interest.”

The real beauty of capitalism, competition and a relative free market is that the consumer has choice. If you distrust a specific entrepreneur or company, you can always do business with their competitor. This ability of the consumer to choose with whom he wishes to do business is a greater protection against fraud and more a guarantor of value and innovation than any government regulation or incentive.

Adam Smith, whose book “The Wealth of Nations” guided our founders to promote free-market capitalism, put it this way. “The real and effectual discipline which is exercised over a workman is that of his customers. It is the fear of losing their employment (customers) which restrains his fraud. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest … Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.”

For free-market Capitalism and a limited-government Democratic Republic to work, it requires the people to embrace two philosophical ideals, ethical monotheism and enlightened self-interest. In other words, be a people with integrity. Under capitalism, it is in your enlightened self-interest to treat and serve your customers well. If you do, you will prosper. That same goes for maintaining a Democratic Republic. The secret is the consumer of goods and policies are given a choice. That cannot occur under a strong central elitist run government or under monopolies. Thank you, competition.

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The Jewish people’s centuries old preservation of “The Book” with its advocacy for ethical monotheism was their greatest gift to Western Civilization. By giving us Mosaic Law and the remarkable “Ten Commandments” and later the teachings of Christianity, man was given instructions on how to best treat each other and live in a civil society. Through Judeo-Christianity, we are taught about what good behavior is in this life and we learn there may be consequences for bad behavior in the next life. These two traditions taught us what it means to have integrity. This basic idea allows us to make contracts, be expected to keep our promises and treat our customers well. These standards are necessary for capitalism to function. We have the Judeo-Christianity to thank for stressing the importance of goodness in the administration of all our affairs. It is fundamental to the proper function of capitalism and our Democratic Republic. There is little wonder why that the leftist-progressives who seek to replace our system of governance with a utopian vision of a dominating socialist central government have been so dedicated to removing the 10 Commandments from the public square.

In the years following our country’s founding, the American people seemed to have a strong grasp of what really made the United States a beacon to the world. What we were accomplishing did not go unnoticed.

From Alexis de Tocqueville’s remarkable observations on our nascent Democracy, “Democracy in America” 1835:

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did, I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”

“Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”

“Society will develop a new kind of servitude which covers the surface of society with a network of complicated rules, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate. It does not tyrannize but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”

“There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.”

“Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.”

-Alexis de Tocqueville

Philosophers have often quoted from Ecclesiastes 1:9, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” With the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution something very new was born. Skousen called it “The 5000 Year Leap.” Marxism, socialism, fascism and monarchies are just a rehashing on the same old failed ideas. I hope you take the time to learn about our remarkable system designed for the most people to prosper and live in liberty.

I can think of no greater gift than the remarkable heritage left to us by our founders. I can then think of no better resolution for the New Year than to discover the miracle that is America.

Merry Christmas and a happy and free New Year!

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