By Leonard E. Read
Note – Frequent readers of BANKNOTES are aware of my relationship with Leonard E. Read and my admiration for his works during his lifetime. In the following issues I will be sharing his book, VISION, one chapter per month. It was written in 1978. What a privilege it was for me to know this great man! – R. Nelson Nash
The guaranteed life turns out to be not only not free – it’s not safe – Maxwell Anderson
A way of life neither free nor safe is to be shunned; a way of life, as free and safe as reality permits, is to the sought!
Few there are who will disagree with these obvious truisms as to what should be shunned and what sought. Agreement with the obvious is within nearly everyone’s range, yet, only one in thousands is aware of the fakery implicit in the promises of a guaranteed life – a political hoax rapidly on the increase. And the citizens who are making helpful contributions to a reversal – or even thinking about it – are still fewer in number. Indeed, most people in all walks of life are quite unconsciously working not only against their own but against everyone’s self-interest. So, Maxwell Anderson’s theme of several decades ago would seem to warrant some renewed observations.
Perhaps the “guaranteed life” here at issue can best be introduced by a brief commentary on the promises men do and do not – can and cannot – live by.
Whether or ot a promise is constructive or destructive depends on what is promised. Those who promise to pay their debts, keep their contracts, and exchange their goods and services as represented – assuming fulfillment – are constructive. In the absence of such honesty, life could be diminished and reduced to misery – if indeed it could continue at all.
What I call destructive promises are those that cannot and should not be kept. They make certain, if continued on a large scale, that life will be diminished and miserable. Who are those who make such promises? They are the millions, in and out of office, who propose ideas impossible of fulfillment. The lie at the root of the guaranteed life, a way of life that is not only free – it is not safe!
There is no way to explain the extent to which the guaranteed life has grown. A 1000-page book, Encyclopedia of U.S. Government Benefits1 – at least hints at this political rampage, and favorably. There are over too headings from Arial Photographs to Zoological Pare, from Social Security to Venereal Disease and so on. Further, there are many subheadings, particularly under Business Aids, Education, Farming – depressingly lengthy in all.
The above, however, relates only to the Federal handouts of “benefits.” Bear in mind that there are 78,000 state and local governments, nearly all of them offering variations of the guaranteed life.
What are the destructive promises, the ones that cannot and should not be kept; promises that are a sham, a hoax and a sin? The Bhagavadgita states what I believe to be a truthful answer:
Sin is not the violation of a law…or convention …but ignorance…which seeks its own gain at the expense of others.
This truth poses two questions that require answers; (1) What is the nature of this “sinful” ignorance? And (2) What is the gain and at whose expense?
All of us are ignorant in more ways than we can count, but the unawareness of this very fact is the ignorance here at issue. Those who suffer this blight – not knowing that they know not – innocently believe that they can run our lives better than we can – an all-too-common naivete! Nor can the victims of this sinful ignorance be persuaded that they are wrong. Might as well try to enlighten robots!
In any event, these millions comprise the guaranteed life tribe. Their promises, while a hoax, a sham and a sin, are believed by them to be the guidelines of heaven on earth. What if their promises could be kept? All of us, in that event, including these victims of false expectations, would be no more than shadows of a sinful ignorance. Indeed, in all probability we would not be here.
What is the gain these poor souls expect for themselves? They find their greatest glory not in wealth – monetary gain but in casting others in their images; the do-as-I-say syndrome. Thousands times thousands of them have “solutions” to every conceivable problem”
All “solutions” vary except in one respect: these know-it-alls get laws passed coercively to enforce this and that brain storm. So much for the “gain.”
The energy problem the safety problem
The pollution problem the old age problem
The over-population problem the transportation problem
The unemployment problem the urban problem
The poverty problem the rural problem
The health problem the problem of the South
The banking problem the problem of the North
The farm problem the education problem
The housing problem the immigration problem
The balance of payments problem problems ad infinitum!
The above-mentioned “gain” is in the form of power – having one’s way over others. As to expense, however, that is monetary in the sense that the goods and services by which we live and prosper are measured monetarily, that is, in dollars. As the guaranteed life increases, the costs of government rise beyond what can be collected by direct tax levies. What is the “solution” by those who sponsor this way of life? Inflation, that is, a dilution of the medium of exchange. As the government creates additional dollars to bid goods out of the market place, each dollar buys less and less.
Back in California in 1927, my wife spent one dollar each day of food for ourselves and two sons. Lettuce, for instance, 5 cents. Today? Fifty cents. Let the guaranteed way of life go its ridiculous way and eventually we’ll wind up as did Germany in 1923 when 5 billion marks wouldn’t buy a loaf of bread!
There is yet another expense – the most costly of all – for which there is no yardstick. This cost is in terms of life’s greatest value; the freedom to act creatively in whatever way one chooses. Freedom of choice is thus diminished and lost. It should be obvious that these expenses are destructive not only of the good life but of lie itself, the perpetrators being as mush the victims of this depravity as are others.
Finally, those of us who condemn this greatest of all social evils and believe in freedom, should make certain that our actions do not contradict our beliefs. If they do, we are contributors to the mess we deplore.
For one of countless examples, observe in the Encyclopedia mentioned earlier, the many subheadings under “Aids to Business.” Most of these are special privileges sought by avowed believers in the free market way of life. These businessmen, no less than educators or farmers or others who seek special privileges are a part of the problem – seekers of the guaranteed life!
When one understands the fallacy, the evil and the consequences of the guaranteed life and its many underpinnings, such as power and special privileges, complete rejection will follow. So, the challenge before us is to gain and share this understanding.
The guaranteed life not only is not free—it is as far from being safe as man can get!
1 Wm. H. Wise & Co., Inc, Union City New Jersey. Under title in frontispiece. “A Complete, practical and convenient guide to United States Government Benefits available to people of America. Written by a group of Government Experts. Edited by Roy a Grisham, Jr. and Paul D. McConaughy.”