Classical Liberalism vs. Statism: Just A Difference of Opinion?


By: Dr. Charles Ormsby – July 2013


“So you think that money is the root of all evil? . . . Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?” Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual

“If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose – because it contains all the others – the fact that they were the people who created the phrase ‘to make money.’ No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity – to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality.” Francisco d’Anconia, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand


Morality has many dimensions … from making the conscious choice to exercise one’s rational faculties and then choosing non-contradictory values that sustain and enhance one’s life, to expending the physical and mental effort necessary to preserve one’s life and promote happiness. Choosing to be productive – creating products and/or services that help to sustain life – represents a profoundly moral choice.

Money is a medium that facilitates the exchange of goods and services and that provides a mechanism for storing value.

The amount of money one makes is a direct measure of productivity and therefore morality.

What is not moral is employing force or fraud to expropriate the property of those who have produced that property or acquired it by mutual consent. Doing so (or encouraging such actions) is profoundly immoral.

The primary focus of statists is to take control of the institutions of government and then use the government’s monopoly on the use of force to expropriate the property of others. To attain and sustain such power, statists use the stolen property – and promises of future loot – to bribe legions of supporters.

The statists that today control our government along with those who are the recipients of the stolen property represent a criminal alliance on a massive scale. The producers, those who are primarily responsible for the success of human life on this planet, are the victims.

Classical liberals (not to be confused with those typically described as liberals for the last 75 years) represent an antipodal philosophy. They understand that productive activity is fundamentally moral and that producers have a human right to retain and use the products of their efforts as they see fit as long as that use does not infringe on the rights of others to do the same.

They further understand that to be productive requires the expenditure of effort and exposure to risk, both of which are less likely to be undertaken if the products produced are stolen or their use subject to arbitrary restrictions.

Violating property rights is immoral. Its practical effect is to discourage production and lower a society’s standard of living. As the constraints on government thievery loosen and the grip of statist tyrants tightens, society descends into chaos and poverty.

So much for the difference of opinion between statists and classical liberals.

But is it merely a difference of opinion or is something more fundamental involved?

Let’s examine the typical reaction to election results. It often appears that election outcomes are viewed like the outcome of a sporting event. Team A won or Team B won.

But the philosophical/political battle between statists and classical liberals is not like a football game or an arm wrestling contest. The consequences are not symmetric.

Consider the following:

What if a political contest boiled down to a disagreement concerning the color that should be used to paint town hall? One side wants to paint it red and the other wants to paint it blue. Whoever wins gets to pick the color … that is symmetry.

Or, if you prefer a more substantial disagreement, suppose each side wants to steal the property of the other. If Side A wins they get to steal Side B’s property and vice versa. These outcomes are symmetric.

But the contest between statists and classical liberals is fundamentally different. If statists and their bribed supporters win, they claim the right to steal the property of their opponents. If the Classic liberals win, they don’t claim the right to steal the property of the statists or their thieving supporters; they merely get to live in peace with everyone’s property rights respected.

This is not symmetric! The statists’ gambit is reminiscent of the negotiating perspective of the Soviets during the Cold War: “What’s mine is mine; what’s yours is negotiable!”

But the difference is even more profound.

If the statists win, those who want to live in a society where their property rights are respected cannot do so.

But if the philosophy of classical liberals is victorious, statists are still free to join a commune. They can give up their property rights and assign them to the commune. The commune can then take the property of all commune members and decide how it is used or distributed based on whatever communal rules are agreed to.

Communism is legal in a free society; its reach is just limited to those who freely choose to join in. What statists cannot do in a free society is steal the property of those who choose not to join the commune.

This lack of symmetry is fundamental.

If classic liberals win the political contest, everyone has the opportunity to live in a social arrangement of their choice with others who willingly join in that arrangement.

If statists win, one group is granted a legal sanction to subjugate others and violate their basic human rights.

Don’t be fooled when statists lecture us about rights. When statists discuss rights, they are championing the right of their gang to subjugate those who oppose them and to steal the property of those they target to service the “needs” of their gang members.

There was a time when we had a Constitution that protected individual rights and that would prohibit this outcome. Those days are gone. They have disappeared in America’s rear view mirror.

We no longer live in a republic, but in a democracy where the majority rules and the minority IS ruled.

Decision making in a true democracy is rarely symmetric. When lunchtime rolls around in a democratic paradise, be sure you are the wolf … not the sheep.