Limited or Unlimited Government Control: A Political Tug-of-War

Sydne Long Period 7 Honorbound

When I was younger, I used to despise whenever my mom told me how she thought I should fix my hair. I would respond to her demands of wearing my hair a certain way with a sassy remark such as “I am a big girl; I know how to do it.” I would say something along the lines of that phrase in order to ensure that my mom understood that at the sprightly young age of four, I knew it all.

On the other hand, some argue that the more outside control we have, the more prosperous we will become. The proponents of stronger external control believe that if someone else helps guide our lives down the road to success, then the possibility of failure is taken away, thus leaving room only to be successful. They argue that if someone is there looking over your shoulder and controlling some aspects of your own life , thus helping you choose the options that will allow you to succeed, how can you go wrong?

However, as I have gotten older, I have seen that the idea of wanting less and less outside control over our actions applies to the real world. We, as adults (or approaching adulthood), feel as though we know what is best for us as an individual, and do not take it very fondly when a stranger tries to tell us what to do and how to do it. A stranger might approach you on the street and reprimand you for your screaming child, but after the scolding you feel angry that someone who did not even know you tried to take control of a situation that you were attempting to control, and wish that person would mind their own business. We feel angry, or maybe even incapable when someone (especially a stranger) tries to dictate the events of our personal lives. As a result, we respond by trying to limit the amount of outside control that governs our individual and personal lives. We feel that the more control we have, the more successful we will be.

Ludwig von Mises, in his work Liberty and Property, stands for this side of the controversy that believes limited government control over the people is the perfect way to permit the people to be as advantageous as possible. He argues that government “is the opposite of liberty,”[1] thus stating that the government, and the act of the government controlling the actions of the people by forcing them to follow strict rules and regulations, takes away the liberty of the people. The government is a means to which the people can coexist in a peaceful manner, but that simply just ensures a peaceful structure of society, not a successful or content one.[2] To Mises, true freedom is only obtained “in the sphere in which government does not interfere,” solidifying his argument that individuals should have the choice of how they want to contribute to society, not the government.[3] Extensive government control hinders the rights of the individual, which would then lead to a society that was hampered by oppression, rather than prosperity. The common man, the consumer, the majority of the capitalistic system, benefits therefore from a system of less government control, and would profit from a government structure that permits the individual to “plan for themselves”[4] in society, rather than one that takes away the rights of its own people through oppressive interference.

“But how would this lead to economic success?” the haters might ask. Well, Mises would respond, if the individual takes advantage of the capitalistic system, and utilizes the use of private property that this “debarbarize[d]” system offers, then the individual has at his or her disposal the tools to “save, to accumulate capital, and to invest.”[5] With these abilities, the individual is granted the opportunity to be successful, and are allowed the opportunity to expand their economic standards based on their personal needs, rather than the government determining their personal needs for them. And since these tools are open to the masses through a non-restrictive system, the society as a whole will prosper, taking away any hindering government intrusion. Although the opponents of limited government control, like the famous philosopher Karl Marx, believe that it is through private property and capitalism that a society will meet its doom[6] and that the masses must be controlled in order to prevent rebellion and be on the path towards a progressive society, ultimately, the people will be oppressed and will work only to fulfill their civic duties, not to increase their economic or personal gain.

This is especially evident through the analyses of different kinds of countries whose government solicits complete control, opposed to those that exercise a political system based on limited government that allows the society it governs to exercise economic liberties. So let’s take a little walk around the globe to prove that the economic prosperity of a limited government is increasingly stronger than a country whose government solicits absolute control.

Cuba is one of the few countries today that has a government that has complete control over its people and its economy. Therefore, the communist government of Cuba does not allow for the people to exercise their individualism in terms of trading or economic participation. The government controls the economy and owns businesses, prohibiting the common man from owning private property, and more importantly the tools to succeed as an individual. To many, this sounds repressive and strict, but to Marx, this is the ideal society, one where the government interference in the lives of the people trumps the power of the individual. But when you take into consideration the views of Mises, this system of government that is “opposed to innovation”[7] is not one that can be economically successful, which describes the struggling economy of Cuba. Cuba’s economy is “one of the world’s least free” [8] economies with the government enforcing strict regulations and oppressive control over the people. The Cuban economy suffers from a decreasing freedom from corruption and an even steeper decline of fiscal freedom[9] establishing that the way in which a country is governed is incredibly influential in regards to how successful the economy of that country is. If the government controls business and does not implement the use of private property, than the people will not be able to exercise any individual rights in the realm of business which can hamper the economy increasingly as they will be forced to abide by the strict regulations of the government. This complete government control leads to a lack in investments along with an absence of competition in the markets meaning the economy suffers tremendously.[10] It is through this example of the Cuban government that we see the consequences of a government that is unlimited in regards to its control over the people, which demonstrates that a more communist country is less advantageous in regards to economic success and the rights of the individual, and that perhaps a government that is limited in the lives of its people, like that of the European country of Romania, can find superior economic success with the practice of private property and individual power.

The country of Romania is among a multitude of countries that has a political system based on limited government interference matched by an economy that neglects the communistic approach of strict government regulations and oppressive government control. Romania, a country in Southeastern Europe, is ruled by a government defined as a Republic harmoniously accompanied by an expanding economy. The Romanian economy, due to the government interference being minimal and the people not being subjected to intense regulations in areas such as investment, has seen an increase in aspects such as business freedom, trade freedom, and escalating freedom from corruption.[11] These increasing freedoms in the economy signal that a type of limited government or a government more revolved around the people’s rights is one that benefits from significant economic gain rather opposed to downfall, thus proving Mises’ point that economic power should be primarily in the hands of the consumers, rather than in the hands of the government.[12] With more opportunity for investment and thus a raise in the GDP of the country overall, the limited guidelines on the people and the application of economic tools such as private property and the accumulation of capital provide the necessary channels for the success of the people, and therefore the society overall.

Provided these caseworks of two countries from varying ends of the economic spectrum, the idea presented by Mises that argues for the importance of limited government and private property is linked to the accomplishment of a society and the affluence of the society’s economy is a vital lesson that those in power should understand when evaluating the success of their society. When a government permits its people more freedoms and provides them the opportunities to live out their liberties by not obstructing their rights through tyrannical laws and regulations, the country overall will increase in productivity and the people will feel as though they have power to control the success of the society, much like how I felt when I was younger and believed that if I had control over my own actions, than I was powerful and could truly dictate whether or not I succeeded in my actions. The idea of having control over your spending and the sense of power you feel when you can dictate your involvement in society, just like the power a child feels when they can choose what shirt they wear to school, is an idea that allows the individual to contribute to the prosperity of those around them, and accordingly, society overall.

Footnotes:

1. Mises, Ludwig. Liberty & Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2009.

2. Mises, Ludwig. Liberty & Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2009.

3. Mises, Ludwig. Liberty & Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2009.

4. Mises, Ludwig. Liberty & Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2009.

5. Mises, Ludwig. Liberty & Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2009

6. Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Manifesto of the Communist Party,. New York:

International Publishers, 1948.

7. Mises, Ludwig. Liberty & Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2009.

8. “Cuba.” Economy: Population, GDP, Inflation, Business, Trade, FDI, Corruption.

Accessed December 9, 2014. http://www.heritage.org/index/country/cuba.

9.”Cuba.” Economy: Population, GDP, Inflation, Business, Trade, FDI, Corruption.

Accessed December 9, 2014. http://www.heritage.org/index/country/cuba.

10. “Cuba.” Economy: Population, GDP, Inflation, Business, Trade, FDI, Corruption.

Accessed December 9, 2014. http://www.heritage.org/index/country/cuba.

11. “Romania.” Economy: Population, GDP, Inflation, Business, Trade, FDI, Corruption.

Accessed December 10, 2014. http://www.heritage.org/index/country/romania

  1. Mises, Ludwig. Liberty & Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2009.

Bibliography:

“Cuba.” Economy: Population, GDP, Inflation, Business, Trade, FDI, Corruption.

Accessed December 9, 2014. http://www.heritage.org/index/country/cuba.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Manifesto of the Communist Party,. New York:

International Publishers, 1948.

Mises, Ludwig. Liberty & Property. Auburn, Ala.: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2009.

“Romania.” Economy: Population, GDP, Inflation, Business, Trade, FDI, Corruption.

Accessed December 10, 2014. http://www.heritage.org/index/country/romania

Picture:

“Tug of War.” Irina Marshall Accessible Mortgages. Accessed December 10, 2014. http://accessible-         mortgages.com/2014/02/10/rrsp-contributions-vs-mortgage-pre-payments/tug-of-war/.

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2 thoughts on “Limited or Unlimited Government Control: A Political Tug-of-War

  1. This was very interesting and engaging to read, Sydne!! I especially enjoyed the first paragraph because it is relevant to all of us seniors and you were able to grab my attention and hold onto it. There was also an element of surprise because I didn’t expect that you were going to tie in the views of von Mises, so that caught my surprise and kept me engaged the whole time I was reading.

  2. Sydney I thought that the way you started the paper and the tone in which you carried through your paper was very fun and engaging. I agree with you that limited control by the government is more successful in helping society to become the best that it can be, and that the act of the government controlling the actions of the people by forcing them to follow strict rules and regulations, takes away from the liberty of the people.

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