Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ayn Rand on the Lessons of History and Economic Crisis

The Wall Street Journal has a piece up from The Reason Foundation, a reprint of a 1962 essay by Ayn Rand. As with her novel, Atlas Shrugged, she could have been writing about the present day. It seems the politicians never learn. A couple of the key points:

Colbert, chief adviser of Louis XIV, was one of the early modern statists. He believed that government regulations can create national prosperity and that higher tax revenues can be obtained only from the country's "economic growth"; so he devoted himself to seeking "a general increase in wealth by the encouragement of industry." The encouragement consisted of imposing countless government controls and minute regulations that choked business activity; the result was dismal failure.


Regardless of the purpose for which one intends to use it, wealth must first be produced. As far as economics is concerned, there is no difference between the motives of Colbert and of President Johnson. Both wanted to achieve national prosperity. Whether the wealth extorted by taxation is drained for the unearned benefit of Louis XIV or for the unearned benefit of the "underprivileged" makes no difference to the economic productivity of a nation. Whether one is chained for a "noble" purpose or an ignoble one, for the benefit of the poor or the rich, for the sake of somebody's "need" or somebody's "greed"—when one is chained, one cannot produce.

There is no difference in the ultimate fate of all chained economies, regardless of any alleged justifications for the chains.

Read the whole thing.

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