A Different Kind of Exploitation: A country’s decline begins only when initiative and excellence are no longer valued by society
A country’s decline begins only when initiative and excellence are no longer valued by society. The US middle class is not exploited by the free market but by the rhetoric of redistribution and fairness that has taken hold in America.
In modern American politics, complaints about “economic inequality” have long been a staple of the Democratic Party. During the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt perfected the complaint, purporting to speak for the “little guy.” Barack Obama today champions the “middle class,” ironically undercutting the complaint - apparently, the “little guy” has moved up. But the unquestioned premise endures: out of fairness, economic inequality is a problem government must address. Really?
We inherited a much narrower sense of equality. Indeed, it’s the premise of our founding document. The Declaration of Independence, rejecting the political inequalities of the Old World, proclaims that “all Men are created equal.” But in so writing, Jefferson meant simply that we all have equal rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” plus the right to secure those rights - the right of self-rule - through governments whose just powers are grounded in “the consent of the governed.”
If self-rule is to be enjoyed equally, however, government must be limited. It can pursue neither equality of result nor equality even of opportunity through redistributive schemes - not if people are to be free to pursue happiness as they wish, alone or in association with others. We’re born with equal rights - to pursue happiness, not to happiness. What we do with those rights is up to us. We can be industrious, or not; beneficent, or not - indeed, we may be lucky, or not.