Opportunity vs Outcome

By Gary Alder             2-26-2009

Government should be the facilitator of free exchange.  The force of government should be used only to inhibit the violation of rights.  This force is only applicable after due process of law.  There is no presumption of guilt.  There is no ability to preempt crime.  It is only the malefactor’s fear of punishment that keeps him from using unlawful force imposed by action or fraud.  This provides each individual only an opportunity to try-not a guarantee of success.  When the government applies force in the name of freedom, to cause an outcome instead of allowing free exchange, then of necessity the government must violate the rights of some to guarantee the outcome for others.  When government sets by fiat the value (price) of something, how can either one of the parties in an exchange exercise his God-given right to value (determine the worth for himself) either an item which he has to trade or an item he wishes to obtain?   

This leads to the protected class concept which belies the egalitarian economic doctrine of the Marxists.  There are those of the Marxian bent who quote the words of the Declaration of Independence “all men are created equal” and from there draw the conclusion that the under-achievers (those who are not producing as much value for exchange) have equal right to the proceeds of the efforts of the high-achievers.  Perhaps Dr. W. Cleon Skousen says it best in number 7 of his Principles of Liberty “The proper role of government is to protect equal rights not provide equal things.”

The most common way that we see this concept expressed is by a twisting (sometimes called hi-jacking) of the terms so that the right words can be equated with the wrong concepts.  Examples abound in the use of this type of word manipulation, but for our purposes we will take from the words of one of our presidents this sample.  This extract is about “rights”.  In the following example first determine what the correct definition of a right is, then repeatedly ask the question “is this a right?”  This methodology works well for every statement on rights that you are ever called upon to evaluate)

With your definition of “right” in mind let us proceed to evaluate the statement of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made on January 11, 1944 in his State of the Union address.

It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people-whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth-is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This sounds like what you might hear in church doesn’t it?  While this is noble and good, your response to this noble invitation to look after the needs of the poor and unfortunate should be totally voluntary.  Key number 2 of our Keys to Understanding the Paradigm of the Founding Fathers states “God is the source of freedom.”  Even though God and his ministers encourage you to love your neighbor, He will not force it.  Persuasion, not coercion, is His method of operation and influence.  Whether or not to follow God’s teachings has to be your decision.  Does your church have the power to enforce those teachings?  Your government does!  That is why we must be extremely careful.

There are many of the “separation of church and state” crowd who would fault a president for saying anything that might be construed as pertaining to the religious realm of our lives.  I do not take that position.  As long as the president does not invoke force (the force of law) or attempt to influence legislators to so act, we support his free speech right to encourage us to righteous (voluntary) works.  Even calling for a day of prayer is totally his prerogative as long as coercive force is not invoked or implied.  The determining criterion is not whether God was mentioned but whether force is invoked for a “cause” (even a “good” cause) rather than reserving force to restrain crime.

With that background let us return to Mr. Roosevelt’s speech:  

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights-among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

Do all of these uses of the word right or rights still fit the definition of the word “right” that you used to begin with?

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however-as our industrial economy expanded-these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

He uses the words “pursuit of happiness” and confirms the equality but did you notice that “inadequate to assure” phrase slip in there.  Are you starting to get the idea that “political rights” are unenforceable?  It would appear that Mr. Roosevelt wants some rights with more enforceability.  Did you notice that while we are talking the language of freedom we are being sold the doctrine of force?

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.

Mr. Roosevelt has labeled the statement “individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence” a fact.  Will this “fact” stand up to scrutiny?  Is not economic security what you get in payment for providing value at your “job”?  If so, it would have to be an outcome rather than a prerequisite.  If you want economic security to be a prerequisite rather than an outcome why would someone go to work if he has the security that he can not be fired for low performance or even non performance.  This all boils down to the “results before effort” argument.  Apparently the match is supposed to light before we strike it.

“Necessitous men are not free men.”

This is true and if you use the words “dependent men are not independent” it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out.  I would reverse this statement to say “Free men are not necessitous men.”  The reason that the statement is true in this form is that free men understand that personal responsibility is the key to their success and will take the steps to make sure that they overcome the obstacles to their success.

So why not have the poor organize?  That will certainly solve the problem.  The poor man’s plunder.  This is illustrated by Frederic Bastiat:

“Thus, since everyone else uses the law for his own profit, we also would like to use the law for our own profit. We demand from the law the right to relief, which is the poor man’s plunder. To obtain this right, we also should be voters and legislators in order that we may organize Beggary on a grand scale for our own class, as you have organized Protection on a grand scale for your class.”     [The Law pp. 13-14]

Now to return to Mr. Roosevelt’s speech:

People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

Famines and large scale unemployment are created by and used by political leaders past and present for just such results.  Those who are true free men will take responsibility for their lives; the rest will sign up for socialism and look for a government that will solve their problem.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident.

That is the problem.  Erroneous premises lead to erroneous conclusions even when using impeccable logic.  Everything is self-evident until you look at it.

We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all-regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

Now what is the definition of a right?  So now we have a right to a job.  Who must create that job?  Are we going nationalize the industries, shops, farms, and mines?  Who gets to decide if the job is useful, and if it meets the qualifications to be remunerative?  Who’s qualifications?

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

Now what is the definition of a right?  One of the dangers here is the definition of “earn”.  What is to stop anyone from earning any amount of money?  It looks like “earn” is being used as a euphemism for receive without really earning.  Who decides how much is enough and who pays for it?

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

Now what is the definition of a right?  The only way for a government to implement this is through price fixing.  Are we going to make the consumers of farm products the slaves of the farmer to give him a decent living?  Who sets the standard for decent?

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

Now what is the definition of a right?  If you took the word “unfair” out of this statement it would be as invalid as the rest of the “rights”.  Can you take the unfairness out without getting rid of competition and potential domination?  Are monopolies the only ones who are to be labeled unfair?  Only the government can create a coercive monopoly.

The right of every family to a decent home;

Now what is the definition of a right?  How about the definition of decent home?  Who decides and pays for that?

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

Now what is the definition of a right?  Perhaps if the problem is that we don’t have enough doctors and the shortage of doctors forces prices up.  The answer to that seems to be that we could dub those in the unemployment lines “doctors”, license them and solve both problems at once.  If exercise is part of what we need for good health, who is going to force us to exercise?

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

Now what is the definition of a right?  Do we intend to protect from fear or are we able to avoid old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment in some way?  These are risk based items and insurance is designed to deal with them.  But who will pay for the premiums?  Savings is another way to deal with these issues.  But who has the right/obligation to save for our needs?

The right to a good education.

Now what is the definition of a right?  Are we talking education in terms of knowledge or in terms of degrees and diplomas?  How about an education in the school of hard knocks?  We all have a right to that.

All of these rights spell security.

Yes.  It is spelled quite differently than freedom isn’t it?  Nobody has the level of job security that a slave has.  They can’t be fired, they have to be sold.  And then they have a new job.

And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

This sounds like guarantee of outcome rather than an opportunity to pursue happiness.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.

Now what is the definition of a right?

[Source: The Public Papers & Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt (Samuel Rosenman, ed.), Vol XIII (NY: Harper, 1950), 40-42]


Lest we paint FDR to be foolish beyond his time or ours in his proposals, these same proposals were put in the Democratic Party platform of 1960.  We hear no end of these same type of “rights” even today.

I would have to say “perhaps freedom is so dangerous that it must be considered a controlled substance.”