Freedom Friday: A Win for Free Market Capitalism

This  blog post was originally posted by our editor at www.ValMuller.com as a “Fantastic Friday” story, but we liked the freedom angle so much, we decided to repost it here “Freedom Friday.”

“Fantastic Friday: Capitalism”
By Val Muller

This week, 7-11 gave out a free small Slurpee to all customers. Then, Chick-Fil-A celebrated the next day with “dress like a cow” day. All customers who dressed “cow-like” were given a free entrée.

Without trying to be too political for a Fantastic Friday post, I wanted to celebrate the wonders of capitalism. I know that sometimes our system of “crony capitalism” rubs people the wrong way (as it should, when certain businesses are given favors by corrupt government officials and politicians). But while I was on a road trip the other day, I listened to an NPR story about what’s happening in Venezuela, about how the instability in the country is forcing talented young folks to leave if they are able. Their socialist economy has collapsed, and people cannot secure even basic essentials. In some cases, people are so desperate for food that they wait in line even while witnessing a murder—because they cannot afford to lose their place in line.

Juxtapose that with two businesses in the course of a week vying for customer business by giving away goods. Here’s a picture of the small 7-11 parking lot, which is never crowded. This time, I had to park in a lot next door because there were no spaces left.711-license plates blurred

Are all the customers who received a free drink or a free entrée going to return and patronize those businesses? Probably not. But you can bet a good deal of them will (I’ll be one of them, but I love Chick-Fil-A’s lemonade and sweet tea so much that sometimes I dream about them!).

I’m building a gate in my back yard, and it’s amazing that I can go to Home Depot and secure a handful of various-sized screws and bolts (not sure which I’ll actually need) for a relatively inexpensive cost, along with a bag of pea gravel, a square, various sizes of wood, and several other odd but available items. All there for me at a moment’s notice. And on the way home, if I get hot or thirsty, I can stop at any convenience store or drive-thru and purchase a beverage for a dollar or two and a minute of my time.

It strikes me that capitalism—pure, unadulterated, free market capitalism—is the most hopeful type of economy. It puts faith in human beings who want to serve others the best they can and rewards them—monetarily—for doing so.

The employees at Chick-Fil-A were all friendly and seemed happy to be there, enjoying looking at customers’ strange cow costumes. And the customers were all happy, even despite a line that wove to the end of the restaurant. When we saw how long the line was, my family and I could have easily gone down the street to McDonald’s or KFC, but everyone in line was friendly, and the employees succeeded in moving the line along in record speed—even though most of the items being ordered were free. In exchange, customers gladly spent extra money to add items to their free entrees.

I believe it was John Stossel who mentioned on one of his shows that a capitalist economy is the only one where you will have both customer and vendor say “thank you” to each other—because in free market capitalism, it is truly a system that works to the mutual benefit of both parties.

When humans are left alone, they strive to please each other to mutual benefit and mutual pleasure. And that’s something to celebrate.

Fighting for Freedom From Fortress Bastille to “The Fortress” in the Vercors

Prise_de_la_BastilleToday marks the 227th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, a prison in Paris that became a symbol of the corrupt authority of the French monarchy during the rule of Louis XVI. The storming and fall of the Bastille would become marked as one of flash points of the French Revolution.

In the spirit of freedom and the fight for individual rights, we thought it an appropriate occasion to announce our latest acquisition, a novel called The Fortress by debut author Madeleine Romeyer Dherbey. The novel takes place during WWII France:

The occupation has not made much of a difference in Alix’s life. Her father has seen to it that she grow up, unaware but safe in her tiny village under the cliffs of the Vercors. All around her he has built a fortress whose walls he defends-until the 27th of April, 1944. That day he makes a stupid mistake up on the edge of the cliff, and the walls come crashing down. The war breaks into Alix’s life with unrelenting violence, unforeseen possibilities. Whom then on, every decision she makes will mean life and death.

We’re excited to share the novel because at the heart of it lies everything Freedom Forge Press is all about: an individual’s search for freedom in a world that seems it will never be free. We asked Madeleine to write a bit about what inspired her to write the novel:

(Sharing the post from Madeleine’s website:)

madeleineromeyerdherbeyLand of revolutions and invasions, France has a deep, almost intimate relationship with the fortress, whether it stands in the way of tyranny or freedom. Two hundred and twenty-seven years ago, the people of Paris rose and stormed the Bastille fortress, a symbol of oppression and corruption, and took the first steps to claiming their God-given right to chart their own destiny. Seventy-two years ago on the same fateful date, Vassieux-en-Vercors was destroyed by the Nazis, sealing the fate of that last of French fortresses, the Vercors libre. To commemorate the occasion, I wanted to reflect on the reason I wrote The Fortress.

It started when I looked around one day and realized things were no longer making any sense. First I thought, maybe it’s me. My internet is slow, I don’t have satellite TV or a cell phone, I must have missed the Hi Tech revolution. The change, the hope, the promised land.

And then I thought again. It was not me, it was really the world that was changing fast, much too fast for me or anyone to understand. Maybe all of us, safe, successful, and inclined to look the other way, had missed, or rather ignored, what is really happening.

“What are you going to do about it?” my husband said. “It’s too late for America.”

Because he was right, I started writing. And because he was wrong, I kept on writing.

I had to go back two generations, to a time when strong women liked strong men, people knew which bathroom to use, and we weren’t killing babies, in order to find the broken thread. Two generations ago we could name our enemy and look him in the face. Two generations ago we knew what it took to stay free. But even then we waited till it was almost too late. The reckoning was painful—an absolute concept if there are any. We had to be routed first, utterly crushed before we understood what we had lost. When that handful of men came to the Vercors Mountains, they were beyond debating the meaning of life and moral purity. They had nothing left, no friends, no allies, no hope of ever succeeding. Dying an honorable death to redeem the shame of defeat was their last dream, and the Fortress was their last stand.

Today we don’t have to die, but there’s something to be said for Resistance. Uncompromising, vigilant, always rational, the indestructible belief that the last spark of light will conquer darkness. Maybe it’s called Faith.

Which brings me to my main point. The past, the present, the future, nothing is accidental. We build tomorrow, one individual at a time, one decision at a time. An act for freedom, an act for servitude. An act of resistance, or surrender. Neither Alix nor Marc, the two protagonists, set out to change the world when the war breaks into their lives. They finally find the point beyond which life is no longer worth living, and stop backing up.

Whether the world makes any sense—has it ever? We all find that point, the starting point of our resistance. Agree, stand down, shut up—or not. How we choose to resist remains our decision, and ours only. Our dream, our fortress, our spark in the darkness.


PHOTO CREDIT
Prise de la Bastille (The Storming of the Bastille) by Jean-Pierre Houël via Public Domain

Of Sparklers and Property Rights: A Libertarian Reflection

2550178805_5afb1b72c0_oBy Val Muller

My favorite Independence Day memory involves me running around the backyard, catching fireflies, and waiting until it was dark enough to light sparklers. While waiting, we ate through courses of burgers, ‘dogs, and s’mores. I didn’t have to wear shoes, I didn’t have to worry about bedtime for school or how many burgers I could eat or how sticky my hands got from the melted and flaming marshmallows.

It was kid freedom.

When I reflect about what went into making my favorite memory, I realize at the core of sticky marshmallows and burgers was a more durable principle: property rights. It’s one of the pillars that makes this an exceptional country.

Property rights gave us all a sense of pride. Even though our yard was small, it was ours; and we took care of it. The small but well-loved garden in the corner always bloomed in the spring and yielded bountifully in the summer, fed by the compost pile that we willingly made in the opposite corner of the yard from grass clippings and food rinds.

Even in a simple Independence Day celebration, this right was mirrored in my childhood experience. One year, I was given my own property: a box of sparklers. My sister was given the same. We were allowed to use our sparklers “whenever” we wanted—just not in the house. I don’t remember which of us it was, but we were so excited that one of us lit a sparkler before it was even dark out. Though it was sparkly and awesome, we saw what a waste it was to light them in the daylight. We learned this at the cost of our own sparkler, and it made us treasure the remaining sparklers all the more.

I treated each sparkler like gold, using it only when I had planned out the exact way I wanted to consume it. One, I decided, I would stick in the sandbox and just watch as it burned down. Another, I would race back and forth across the yard with, seeing how many times I could make it before the sparkler burned out. For another, my sister and I coordinated, deciding to write words in the air with the glowing sparklers.

Though a silly childhood story, the larger point is this: people take care of the things they own. But if everybody (and thus nobody) owns something, the experience would have been different. Our sparklers were special because they were ours and there was a limited supply. How would we have acted differently if we could bully our neighbors into giving us their sparklers after we lit off a bunch of them during the day? The sense of ownership and pride naturally led my sister and me to take care of our things, a lesson learned that went far beyond sparklers and summer kid fun.

And what is true at an individual level is repeated hundreds of millions of times over for a nation. Property rights are a pillar of what made America exceptional. Glossed over in school history books – if discussed at all – is the story of New World settlers to America. Both Jamestown and Plymouth colonies flirted with collective property, seeing that each person received what he needed from “the common stock.”

The experiment failed in Plymouth, as Governor Bradford noted people faking illness and not working the “common” farm plots. Communal property was abandoned in favor of individual property rights.

The Jamestown colony was a more vivid and cautionary tale: the colonists also tried communal property and farming and nearly starved themselves to death. Of a colony of nearly 500 in the winter of 1609-1610 only 60 survived, the rest (nearly 90 percent!) perished from starvation. Some resorted to cannibalism or digging up graves to consume the corpses of their fellow colonists in order to survive.

Modern examples exist, too.

Private ownership saved the American buffalo population. When individuals were given ownership (and therefore incentives) to raise buffalo, they did. Now, 90% of the 500,000 buffalo in this nation exist under private ownership, whereas collectively “owned,” they neared extinction.

In Europe, the Landmark Trust rescues historic buildings that would otherwise be lost. Under private ownership, the Trust rents out the properties, using profits for maintenance.

When things are owned by the government or the public at large, “everybody” owns it. So if the US population is 319 million, then you have an ownership stake of 0.00000000313%. And how much do you care about maintaining 0.00000000313% of anything? Everybody owns it and so nobody truly does. And that means nobody takes care of it quite like it would be if it had been owned by an individual.

Consider the federal budget and the fact that the government’s chief auditing agency (GAO) published a report estimating that the number of “improper payments” in FY 2014 was $124.7 billion. These are by the government’s definition simply put, “any payments that should not have been made.” (Examples include Social Security or other benefit payments made to dead people; most improper payments are connected to abuse of an entitlement program.)

To put that into perspective, if “Improper Payments, Inc” were a US corporation, it would be the 15th largest on the list of wealthiest US companies. If it were a country, its annual GDP would be larger than 131 other countries on a ranking of economic output.

But who “owns” the US Treasury? It’s a public federal agency. We all do. So nobody takes the care needed to avoid wasting over $100 billion in tax revenue on an annual basis. What privately-owned company could operate in this manner? Perhaps more depressing to think about, is what other things could have been done with the money wasted on improper payments? Cancer research? Fixing the crumbling infrastructure? Or better yet, returning the money to private hands.

Now grown, I own property myself, and I hope to teach my daughter the same sense of pride and ownership, that good things come when we understand our resources (and their scarcity) and make plans based upon careful study (essentially, the opposite of what our government does!). So as I listen to the fireworks for another Independence Day, I remain thankful for my freedoms, and most of all for my property rights.

PHOTO CREDIT: 

“Sparkler” by Stuart Heath, via Creative Commons License

The Importance of Independence

It seems you hear everyone say “Happy Fourth of July!” At Freedom Forge Press, it’s one of our favorite holidays, but we prefer “Independence Day.” To us, understanding the importance of independence is essential in preserving liberty and an empowering way of life.

This “Man on the Street” video from Mark Dice would suggest that many people don’t know why they’re celebrating the Fourth of July:

Of course you can argue selective editing. Not everybody is as clueless as many people in the video (it finally ends on a positive note!). But a Rasmussen poll of 2014 found nearly 1 in 5 Americans don’t know why we celebrate Independence Day.

One of the reasons we founded FFP was to provide a forum for people to share stories about the importance of independence. It’s no coincidence that many of the authors we talk to have stories from other countries or other times in history, ones that long or longed for the freedoms offered by the United States. These authors are all passionate to share their tales, victorious or cautionary, to help future readers understand what is truly at stake when a loss of freedom is involved.

And really, what makes America exceptional is our independence. Here we believe that humankind is born free and that it’s government’s job to protect our freedoms – not take them away or bargain them back to us. There really is nothing more effective in fostering the potential of the human spirit than a liberal helping of independence. When people are left to their own devices, they find the passions that drive them. And when they’re forced to work for someone else’s passion, they typically deliver the minimum needed to get by.

In schools, children are more routinely passionate about project-based learning—projects they are free to choose themselves— rather than assigned tasks such as rote memorization of dates and locations.

The film 300 effectively illustrates this concept too. A group of 300 passionate Spartans volunteered to defend their homes against impossible odds—a huge army numbering over 100,000. In fighting to the last man, they inflicted significant losses and halted the Persian advance to allow for the organization of a more forceful defense. In one scene, the Spartan king says to the Persian king, “You have many slaves, Xerxes, but few warriors. It won’t be long before they fear my spears more than your whips.”

In America, independence is essential to keep—and, in some ways, to rekindle. Free markets—not crony capitalism or corporate welfare—allow buyers and sellers to meet and determine value by voluntary exchange. There are no political favors owed, no secret agendas hidden from voters and buried deep in the bowels of an innocent-sounding-titled law, tucked away inside another “must pass” law such as an emergency or disaster response package or “‘Murica Good, Terrorists Bad” law.

When people are free to determine their own course, few things can hold back their ingenuity, aspirations, and drive to excel. The #LearnLiberty campaign recently collected the results of improving the independence of free people with government policies increasing personal freedom and independence and illustrates how the lives of people across the globe have improved:

  • Health Savings Accounts in Singapore were enacted in 1984, giving its people independence to plan for health care needs. Today it boasts an infant mortality rate 70% lower than the US, has a life expectancy of 82 and one of the lowest health spending as a percentage of GDP.
  • Botswana is rated as one of the freest economies of the African continent. It has one of the fastest growing economies in the world with a per capita GDP that grew from $70 in 1966 to $16,400 in 2014.
  • Irish taxi deregulation in 2000 led to shorter wait times, greater taxi availability, and reduced prices.
  • Guatemala removed its monopoly on phone lines in 1995. Phone ownership rose from one phone per 37 people to 1.5 phones per person in 10 years.
  • France removed regulations of its mobile phone providers in 2009; prices fell 30% in two years.
  • New Zealand is the only industrialized country that has zero farm subsidies. Agriculture accounts for 2/3 of the country’s exports.
  • England and Wales eliminated laws regulating closing times for pubs (11pm?!)  and allowing them to stay open until 5am. Traffic accidents recorded on Friday and Saturday nights fell by a third.

Independence gives people the power to solve their own problems, far more effectively than can be done for them on their behalf by a self-appointed expert in a distant capital passing ineffective laws that restrict freedom of action.

Although we enjoy celebrating freedom–and our Independence–this weekend, maintaining and increasing our freedoms against power hungry do-gooders, politicians, dictators, and the like, is a constant battle. It’s one we’re passionate about fighting every day because we believe the proper state of humanity should be that of free individuals interacting peacefully and willingly to foster the best we have to offer each other.

And that is always worth fighting for. We invite you to join us!

 

Freedom Friday: Freedom Briefs

high resolution 3d rendering of a compass with a freedom icon

high resolution 3d rendering of a compass with a freedom icon

For this Friday, we’d like to celebrate with five quick celebrations of freedom. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the news these days and feel that the world is on a downward track to oblivion (who are you voting for in November: bad, or worse?). Even though blood is what sells, we thought we’d end the week on a positive note by highlighting some of the more celebratory stories we have encountered. It’s good to know there are still lots of instances of increased human freedoms despite everything else going on.

A Civil Forfeiture Victory

For those not familiar, civil forfeiture is when the government decides it has the right to grab property or money that belongs to an individual. Usually, this occurs when an individual is pulled over or discovered to have large amounts of cash. Law enforcement often assumes the worst and confiscates the cash, subscribing to a guilty-until-proven-innocent philosophy. The government is many cases does not have to even prove the owner’s guilt )or even bring charges) in order to keep the property. Critics (which should include everyone!) of civil forfeiture note that departments often seem to be on the lookout for large assets to seize as a way to raise revenue. It often affects cash-only businesses, such as restaurants, often with the least ability (time, resources) to fight the red tape that allowed their money to be stolen in the first place or to recover their property from the government.

In a recent case, The Institute for Justice launched a case on behalf of a Burmese Christian rock band against police in Oklahoma—and the case was dropped in record time—that same day. In this case, the band was raising money for charities in Burma and Thailand and was found with $53,000 of cash in their car. Although no drugs were found in the car, police jumped to the conclusion that the band had made that money selling drugs, and seized the group’s assets.

According to the Institute for Justice, Oklahoma has some of the worst civil forfeiture laws: in some cases, they can keep 100% of the proceeds from these forfeitures. This case required international outreach and knowledge of the law. We’re glad, as always, for organizations like the Institute for Justice, fighting for rights and reform that support individual freedom, property rights, and due process.

Human Progress

HumanProgress.org is a fun site to read if you are looking for reminders of all that is good in the world. A favorite section of the site is the “data” feature, in which you can access interactive maps that compare various elements of human progress over the last several decades. For instance, you can view this handy chart to see how deaths from cancer among males has been declining.

Labyrinth

And speaking of human progress, we’d be remiss if we didn’t recognize this week as the 30th anniversary of the release of Labyrinth, starring David Bowie, of course. At Freedom Forge Press, we love stories almost as much as we love freedom (which is why we believe freedom-themed stories are so vital!). Labyrinth is such a fun, whimsical film while still fulfilling all the tick-boxes of an archetypal journey. We especially like how protagonist Sarah falls prey to her life of relative privilege but learns by the end to appreciate what she has.

And Speaking of Appreciating What We Have…

We enjoyed reading in Reason magazine that in absolute terms, the upper-middle class has been growing since 1979. There seems to be a myth perpetuated by vote-grabbing politicians in this country that Americans are getting poorer and it’s the fault of the rich. But the numbers just don’t support that.

And thinking about it, we have made progress in the last forty years. Computers used to be room-sized devices for geeky men in laboratories. Now, almost everyone can afford one, and they’re small enough to fit on your wrist. We can access information in record time, and we can usually acquire food, gas, and entertainment on-demand without shortages or lines.

As much as we hate the idea, we sometimes feel that Americans don’t or won’t appreciate what they have until it’s gone.

And this:

There’s really nothing more we need to say :)