The United States: Are we being controlled?

Anna Williams, Honorbound

How do you feel about being told what you can and cannot do?  What about being told that you cannot buy something even though you really like it?  When I am posed with these questions, I believe we deserve to decide for ourselves.  What kind of world would we live in if decisions were made for us?  Well, newsflash, these questions are very much present in the United States today whether you realize it or not.  Multiple economic policies through new regulations are increasingly restricting consumers and producers’ range of freedom, thus making the United States not a free as one believes.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto that class struggle is necessary in all societies.1 One way to create class struggle is through extreme regulations that the United States government has begun to implement, such as high income taxes on the top 40 percent earners, limits on what can and cannot be produced, and forcing citizens to buy insurance.  These actions pit social classes against each other, thus detracting from the overall well-being of the United States’ society.  Yet, the United States has not always been this way.  The government used to believe strongly in capitalism.2 The benefits of this are exemplified through Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.3 If society is not held back by the government, “wealth [will] be created in the most efficient manner possible, which ultimately raises the standard of living, increases economic opportunities, and makes available an ever-growing supply of products for everyone.”4 Ludwig von Mises agreed with Smith as written in his Liberty and Property.5 Von Mises found that capitalism allowed for wealth to grow, thus allowing the society to be healthier and happier.  Sadly, the United States’ government is rapidly distancing itself from Smith’s and von Mises’ beliefs, and instead favoring Marx’s and Engels’ class struggle views.

The current United States government’s attack on the free market is in line with Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’ hatred of the bourgeoisie as depicted in the Communist Manifesto.  The free market is a “market in which prices are not fixed or regulated; an economic system in which prices are determined by unrestricted competition between privately owned businesses.”6 Our government believes in taking steps toward creating the very class struggle that Marx and Engels address through a variety of implementations, to the detriment of the human well-being.  An example is the income tax and the heavy burden it has on almost 50% of the top earners in our society.  “The top 40 percent of income earners paid 99.4 percent of federal income taxes.”7 While it may be fair to tax high income workers more, it has gotten to the point of actual redistribution of wealth.  Marx and Engels believed that in such redistribution, citizens could better enjoy the benefits of society. Yet, redistributing wealth significantly hurts all because it takes money from people who are not necessarily rich.  How does this sound fair?  The issue is that the government apparently does not understand that not all the top 40 percent live in large mansions with 10 luxury cars.  In 2012, the threshold income for individuals in the top 50% was $36,055, which was also the starting salary for an automotive mechanic.8   It seems that people are being punished simply because the government assumes they live a certain lifestyle, which is overwhelmingly false.  Clearly, taking income away from the everyday common man is damaging to our society as a whole, yet this activity still continues.

Another instance of the attack on the free market is when the government intervenes and tells the suppliers what they are going to produce.  For example, in 2007, incandescent lightbulbs were banned because they did not meet federal energy-efficiency standards.9 The government stepped into the free market and took away a popular product, not because no one wanted it anymore, but because the government wanted to save energy as compared to other products.  Now, producers must only make lightbulbs that meet a certain standard, or they cannot sell them legally.  This is just one of many restrictions the United States government imposed on the free market, much as Marx and Engels would want.

Further limitations on the free market occurred in 2010 when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed.  Its purpose is to extend healthcare coverage to uninsured Americans.  While this sounds beneficial, it “is a textbook example of what happens when government interference in free markets reaches a breaking point”, for it forces everyone to have insurance.10 Having health insurance in the United States is no longer an option.  If one decides they do not want to buy insurance, they must pay a 2% penalty of their household income.  The penalty increases by .75% each year as long as they refuse to buy health insurance.11 What happened to making decisions on your own?  Those who are hit the hardest are young adults because while they may be healthy, they still must buy insurance.  Their premiums are the highest, thus hurting them at their most vulnerable time because they are just starting out in the real world.  The reason for this requirement is because the system needs the young to subsidize insurance for the elderly who cannot afford insurance on their own.  The Affordable Care Act hurts those that it claims to protect.  “In Illinois, [a 30 year old pre-k teacher] will spend $4,092, and also have a $5,000 deductible before their full health coverage kicks in.”12 That is an outrageous amount of money, especially for someone who may not need to buy it in the first place.  Our government no longer allows free will; instead it is aiming toward complete control.

Our American society, on the other hand, thrived with Adam Smith’s appropriate approach regarding the free market.  As described in The Wealth of Nation, Smith follows the true definition of the free market. He believes there should be no regulation of the market; instead, production should occur naturally.  In a free market, supply and demand rule, manufacturers produce up to the level that people want.  When demand ceases, the product availability simply is reduced.  This approach benefits society, because consumers determine what is supplied to them.  What they want, they can get without government interference.  Businesses succeed because they produce based on the customer’s wants and needs, thus gaining a profit.13  If the United States government returned to its former approach on the free market, then America would be better able to return to its former prosperity before the government began massive regulation.

When capitalism was established, consumers benefited.  According to Ludwig von Mises in Liberty and Property, “infant mortality dropped, the average length of life was prolonged, the population multiplied, and the average common man enjoyed amenities of which even the well-to-do of earlier ages did not dream.”5 Wealth expands to all who work for it; the individual has the ability to “save, to accumulate capital, and to invest.”5  The options are endless.  Individuals have the freedom to move up and occasionally down the social ladder.

The beliefs of Adam Smith and Ludwig von Mises have been beneficial to our society as a whole.  The idea of having a free market and allowing consumers and producers to continue naturally allows for wealth to spread as well as bring much more joy to the common man.  Instead, what we have today is more in the image of Marx and Engels, who want wealth to be distributed from the rich to the poor instead of being earned by them.  The addition of unruly regulations brings much concern as well.  Unfortunately, the United States government is straying away from allowing economic freedom, and instead, is restricting it.  Our freedom in the future is cloudy.  A continuation in this direction will result in a further decline in the overall well-being of American society.

 Footnotes

1 Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Manifesto of the Communist Party. New York: International Publishers, 1948.

2 Ramsay, Jessica. “Domestic Policy (Overview).” In American Government. ABC-CLIO, 2000-. Accessed April 17, 2015. http://americangovernment.abc-clio.com/.

3 Smith, Adam. “Of the Division of Labor.” In An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. London, 1776.

4 Blackwell, Amy Hackney. “capitalism.” In American Government. ABC-CLIO, 2000-. Accessed April 17, 2015. http://americangovernment.abc-clio.com/.

5 Von Mises, Ludwig. Liberty and Property.

6 “Free Market.” Oxford English Dictionary. Accessed April 17, 2015. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/270868?redirectedFrom=free market#eid.

7 Levin, Mark R. “On the Free Market.” In Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, 61-94. New York: Threshold Editions, 2009.

8 “Foundation.” National Taxpayers Union. Accessed April 20, 2015. http://www.ntu.org/foundation/page/who-pays-income-taxes.

9 Kiger, Patrick. “U.S. Phase-Out of Incandescent Light Bulbs Continues in 2014 with 40-, 60-Watt Varieties.” The Great Energy Challenge Blog. December 31, 2013. Accessed April 19, 2015. http://energyblog.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/31/u-s-phase-out-of-incandescent-light-bulbs-continues-in-2014-with-40-60-watt-varieties/.

10 “Free market begins responding to Obamacare” Tea Party Patriots. June 3, 2013. Accessed April 19, 2015. http://www.teapartypatriots.org/news/free-market-begins-responding-to-obamacare/

11 “The fee you pay if you don’t have health coverage” Healthcare. Accessed April 19, 2015 https://www.healthcare.gov/fees-exemptions/fee-for-not-being-covered/

12 Gottlieb, Scott. “How Much Does Obamacare Rip Off Young Adults? We Ran The Numbers. Here Are The Results.” Forbes. March 28, 2013. Accessed April 19, 2015.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottgottlieb/2014/03/28/how-much-does-obamacare-rip-off-generation-x-we-ran-the-numbers-here-are-the-results/

13 “Anticommunism,” American Government. accessed April 16, 2015. http://americangovernment.abc-clio.com/.

Biblography

“Anticommunism,” American Government accessed April 16, 2015. http://americangovernment.abc-clio.com/.

American Government, s.v. “Comparative Economic Systems (Overview),” accessed April 17, 2015. http://americangovernment.abc-clio.com/.

Blackwell, Amy Hackney. “capitalism.” In American Government. ABC-CLIO, 2000-. Accessed April 17, 2015. http://americangovernment.abc-clio.com/.

“Foundation.” National Taxpayers Union. Accessed April 20, 2015. http://www.ntu.org/foundation/page/who-pays-income-taxes.

“Free market begins responding to Obamacare” Tea Party Patriots. June 3, 2013. Accessed April 19, 2015. http://www.teapartypatriots.org/news/free-market-begins-responding-to-obamacare/

“Free Market.” Oxford English Dictionary. Accessed April 17, 2015. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/270868?redirectedFrom=free market#eid.

Gottlieb, Scott. “How Much Does Obamacare Rip Off Young Adults? We Ran The Numbers. Here Are The Results.” Forbes. March 28, 2013. Accessed April 19, 2015.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottgottlieb/2014/03/28/how-much-does-obamacare-rip-off-generation-x-we-ran-the-numbers-here-are-the-results/

Kiger, Patrick. “U.S. Phase-Out of Incandescent Light Bulbs Continues in 2014 with 40-, 60-Watt Varieties.” The Great Energy Challenge Blog. December 31, 2013. Accessed April 19, 2015. http://energyblog.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/31/u-s-phase-out-of-incandescent-light-bulbs-continues-in-2014-with-40-60-watt-varieties/.

Levin, Mark R. “On the Free Market.” In Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, 61-94. New York: Threshold Editions, 2009.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Manifesto of the Communist Party. New York: International Publishers, 1948.

Ramsay, Jessica. “Domestic Policy (Overview).” In American Government. ABC-CLIO, 2000-. Accessed April 17, 2015. http://americangovernment.abc-clio.com/.

Smith, Adam. “Of the Division of Labor.” In An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. London, 1776.

“The fee you pay if you don’t have health coverage” Healthcare. Accessed April 19, 2015 https://www.healthcare.gov/fees-exemptions/fee-for-not-being-covered/

Von Mises, Ludwig. Liberty and Property.

“Photo” The Anachronistic and Oxymoronic Tyranny of Marketing Control. Accessed April 20, 2015

http://artpetty.com/2010/09/22/the-anachronistic-and-oxymoronic-tyranny-of-marketing-control/

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