--Thomas Sowell, Stanford’s Hoover Institution
"even if a government were superior in intelligence and knowledge to any single individual in the nation, it must be inferior to all the individuals of the nation taken together."
--John Stuart Mill (19th century)
“The end of American exceptionalism will come not when we run out of gas, wheat or computers, but when we end the freedom of the individual, and, whether for evil or supposedly noble reasons, judge people not on their achievement but on their name, class, race, sex or religion -- in other words, when we become like most places the world over.”
--Victor Davis Hanson
How about this story from the Economist about former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who died this week:
As she prepared to make her first leader’s speech to the Conservative Party conference in 1975, a speechwriter tried to gee her up by quoting Abraham Lincoln:
“You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
"You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
"You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer.”
When he had finished, Mrs Thatcher fished into her handbag to extract a piece of aging newsprint with the same lines on it. “It goes wherever I go,” she told him.The Economist called Lincoln’s words “a fair summation of her thinking:”
Thatcher believed that societies have to encourage and reward the risk-takers, the entrepreneurs, who alone create the wealth without which governments cannot do anything, let alone help the weak. A country can prosper only by encouraging people to save and to spend no more than they earn; profligacy (and even worse, borrowing) was her road to perdition. The essence of Thatcherism was a strong state and a free economy.A free economy, individualism, individual responsibility. True in the 19th century, true in the 20th, true today. A conservative path out of economic morass that grips our nation and Europe, along with an understanding--now 80 years old--that we owe our less fortunate a social safety net.
What’s truly, completely old fashioned today is the idea that our “betters” should rule over us ordinaries. Again, from Thomas Sowell:
Implicit in the wide range of efforts on the left to get government to take over more of our decisions for us is the assumption that there is some superior class of people who are either wiser or nobler than the rest of us. Yes, we all make mistakes. But do governments not make bigger and more catastrophic mistakes?
Too many among today's intellectual elite see themselves as our shepherds and us as their sheep. Tragically, too many of us are apparently willing to be sheep, in exchange for being taken care of, being relieved of the burdens of adult responsibility and being supplied with "free" stuff paid for by others.And from Arthur Brooks, president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute:
America's poor people have been saddled with generations of disastrous progressive policy results, from welfare-induced dependency to failing schools that continue to trap millions of children.
Meanwhile, the record of free enterprise in improving the lives of the poor both here and abroad is spectacular. . . the percentage of people in the world living on a dollar a day or less. . . has fallen by 80% since 1970. This is the greatest antipoverty achievement in world history. . . billions of souls have been able to pull themselves out of poverty thanks to global free trade, property rights, the rule of law and entrepreneurship.Thatcher and Ronald Reagan believed in progress, in the individual, in a better future. What is big government--progressivism, liberalism, social democracy--but an historic, outdated response to the Great Depression disaster; an overreaction influenced by Stalinist Russia’s and Nazi Germany’s 1930s economic gains, as both geared up for war?
The West, reduced to slow growth by the 1970s, saw real progress from 1979-83, after Thatcher and Reagan got a grip on their respective economies. Progress continued through the 1980s and 1990s as Soviet Communism collapsed, then Britain under Tony Blair and the U.S. under Bill Clinton and a Republican congress kept government restrained and achieved unparalleled prosperity.
Muslim extremism set back Western progress after 2001, again justifying big government and its ruling class ever alert to new reasons for hanging onto power. Though big government is once more choking economic growth in America and Europe, the hopeful movement toward individual freedom in politics (democracy) and in economics (capitalism) not only remains the logical alternative to stale Western social democracy, it is also the combination bettering lives, at least economically, in much of Asia, Mexico, and Brazil.
Hope and change.