On February 11, on his Fox Business show, John Stossel told the stories of a young Arizona restaurant owner and a Los Angeles food vendor, both of whom had to cope with pervasive government regulation and obstructionism. The restaurant owner was fined $100,000 for allowing outdoor dancing while the vendor had to serve jail time for selling hotdogs that weren’t been approved of by the city health department. These are signs, said Edward Hudgins, former executive director of the Atlas Society, that America is “on the road to serfdom.”
“The road to serfdom is not necessarily going to take the form of a Stalin or a Hitler,” according to Hudgins. “It will be all of these little small things.” Denying Americans the freedom of enterprise and subjecting them to meddlesome laws and taxes that make it near impossible to turn a profit are the warning signs of statism. Bureaucrats have become “obsessed with regulating everything,” notes Hudgins,
Denying people their natural rights, property rights foremost among them, but the freedom of enterprise close second, is at the root of the problem.
The 2010 Index of Economic Freedom published by the Washington-based Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal earlier this year warned that, “Government interventions in financial markets and the automotive sector have raised concerns about expropriation and violation of the contractual rights of shareholders and bondholders.”
And for good reason. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina writes in The Washington Times that the federal government intends to “seize more than ten million acres from Montana to New Mexico, halting job-creating activities like ranching, forestry, mining and energy development.” The president, he knows, could enact these plans “with just the stroke of a pen.”
As states’ rights are threatened, some are taking preemptive action. Rethinking the United States reports that there are states which have passed non-binding resolutions reaffirming their Tenth Amendment right to regulate all affairs not provided to the federal government in the Constitution. “Others like Montana, Utah and Tennessee have passed laws like the Firearms Freedom Act declaring all firearms produced and purchased in state only are free from federal regulation.”
The threat of expropriation comes with an increased regulation of enterprise. Combined with the traditional ambiguity of antitrust law, this leaves American business in limbo. The Index of Economic Freedom attest that the “uncertainties caused by ongoing regulatory changes and politically influenced stimulus spending have discouraged entrepreneurship and job creation, slowing recovery.” Yet predictably, many policymakers in Washington demand that even more money is spent to “stimulate” the economy out of recession.
Add to that: health-care reform. Mark Steyns, in an article for the National Review, predicts that it will redefine “the relationship between the citizen and the state in fundamental ways that make limited government all but impossible.”
Obamacare represents the government annexation of “one-sixth of the American economy” — i.e., the equivalent of the entire British or French economy, or the entire Indian economy twice over. Nobody has ever attempted this level of centralized planning for an advanced society of 300 million people.
Government health care is “not about health care,” writes Steyns; “it’s about government.” It won’t matter if the Republicans return to power after it’s passed. Such an immense expansion of government will create a “vast left-wing bureaucracy” with the ability to “cruise on regardless” of political change.
These, are many more, infringements upon personal responsibility are premised upon the same paternalism: that government knows what’s best for people; that security and wellbeing are more important than liberty; that each man is his brother’s keeper and government, the ultimate caretaker. This is the doctrine of altruism.
Sadly, both major parties in the United States have made law according to the same code of morality, with few exceptions (Congressman Paul Ryan is one). The recent Tea Party movement and the return to true conservatism are encouraging signs that resistance to “big government” is mounting. But people are also fighting on the individual level.
On Stossel’s show, Hudgins spoke of many individuals and businesses fleeing the state of California for neighboring Nevada and Arizona where taxes are lower and government regulation is less intrusive. People may not easily “go Galt” but men of ability will always resist being punished for their success.