By José Azel

Image credit: Pixabay

 

By definition, an expanded government diminishes freedoms. Any function we ask the government to perform requires that we grant part of our freedom and our treasure. However, large segments of the population favor an expanded government, which means they favor fewer freedoms. This is exemplified in our desire for government regulation.

According to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey, 40% of the public believes that regulating business is necessary to protect the public interest. Among Democrats, the proportion rises to 57% who believe government regulations are necessary. Generally, the American public overwhelmingly supports strengthening regulations or maintaining them as they are in specific areas such as food safety and environmental protection.

From the 1930s, beginning particularly with the administration of Franklin D Roosevelt, Americans began to develop the perspective that public policy should assume a broad paternalistic role in society. Today that paternalism extends to the supervision, approval, prohibition, or control of the production, purchase, sale, and consumption of any product or service in the marketplace.

Paternalism implies the belief that people cannot be trusted to make good decisions, forcing government regulators to act. Thus, the motivation for many paternalistic regulations are the two convictions that individuals make bad decisions when left to think for themselves, and that greedy entrepreneurs defraud public confidence by cheating to increase profits.

Yes, commerce is a self-interested operation that stimulates and rewards selfish behavior. But that doesn’t mean that doing business is tantamount to exploiting customers. On the contrary, in a system of free and competitive enterprise, profits are the result of offering superior values to customers, not of exploiting them.

Government regulations entail the transfer of authority and decision-making from people to those with political power. Far removed from the “system of natural liberty” described by Adam Smith, where government would be restricted to national defense, police, courts, and a limited number of public services. Government regulations ignore the great discovery of the 18th century that when people follow their own criteria, the results for society are far greater than when governments are allowed to direct our affairs.

Another reason why many object to freedom and favor the expansion of government and fewer freedoms is because freedom is a source of inequality. In a free society we must always expect unequal results. Consequently, socialist thinking argues that the coercive power of government should be used to forcefully regulate income inequalities.

Fundamental to socialism is the belief that a person’s life does not belong to the individual, but rather to the community or society. Consequently, people do not have rights of their own and must sacrifice them to the “greater good” of society. Socialists see no problem in allowing the government to use force to obtain a predetermined distribution of wealth; even though such distribution can only be achieved by continually interfering with our freedoms.

Moreover, a forced egalitarian distribution of wealth is an unattainable goal. Even if it were possible to achieve, for an instant, a desired distribution of wealth, such a distribution would immediately begin to break down when people prefer to exchange goods and services with others, or to save or produce in different quantities.

An expanded socialist government implies the principle of double effect identified by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica in evaluating the justification of an act. Government has the harmful double effect of reducing liberties. The government’s usurpation of freedom is inseparable from any good result that is intended. Or as economist Jean-Baptiste Say put it, “…mere [government] interference is an evil in itself, even if it is useful…”.

As the government expands, our freedom is weakened. A paternalistic, invasive and coercive state violates the American conception of a just society in which citizens are assured the freedom to choose how to design their own future without governmental interference. When we support government expansion we are complaining about our freedom.

 

This article was published by Libertad.org on October 17th, 2019. Reproduced on Political Hispanic with authorization from said source. Translated by Political Hispanic.
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