(This is the fifth in a series on Freedom, beginning with “The Agenda” archived here under “commentaries”.)

Most who are engaged in the intellectual battle over which is the right direction for America, argue for or against free market capitalism versus government controls and regulations. I would argue that the real battle is actually the fight over the rights of the individual versus the power of the State.

Where the Founding Fathers aimed to maximize individual freedom and limit the power of government, the political activists on the left advocate limiting the freedom of individuals in order to further “fairness and equality” which they argue must be imposed by the State. In almost all cases the arguments center around what will benefit society, or the economy, or the unemployed, or women, and on and on. What is absent today is any reference to the individual, even though this was the first nation in history to vest power in the individual and attempt to rein in the power of the federal government.

For example, on the subject of the minimum wage, there is one person eliminated from the debate as to whether or not to raise the minimum wage: the employer – the owner of the company. That person has nothing to say about this. Whether the employer can afford to pay more money is irrelevant. Whether he can stay in business is of no importance. It is "social justice" that is the main concern of the proponents of higher wages. After all, as President Obama said, “How can anybody be against higher wages?”

Well, maybe it’s the person that has to pay them. Maybe it's the employer who may lose his business; or not be able to expand as he hoped; or not be able to employ any new people; or worse, be forced to fire employees he would love to keep; or be forced to pass on the higher cost to low income consumers.

Click here: On Raising The Minimum Wage - PaulNathan.biz

The fact that groups are arguing about how much an employer should pay in wages, totally ignoring the fact that the money is not theirs, shows how far from freedom we have drifted. Imagine being in a room with two strangers that are arguing over how much money of yours they are going to take and how much they’ll let you keep. When you try to object, they totally ignore you, and then inform you of their decision. If that actually happened, you would want to call a cop -- but what if they were the cops! That’s what employers in this country are facing today.

Another example: The Obama Administration in the person of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and President Obama himself, has launched the concept of “economic patriotism”. They are proposing a law that would penalize companies and prevent them from protecting theirs and their shareholders money from the highest corporate tax rate in the world. They want to prevent them from buying companies abroad to reduce such taxes. Corporations do and still will pay taxes, it’s just a question of how much.

Once again notice we are arguing over how much of someone else’s money we should allow them to keep. Whose money is it then? We are talking as if the corporation’s money is the government’s money or society’s money. Evidently Mr. Obama and Mr. Lew will now determine what a fair profit is just as they propose to determine what a fair wage is.

This is called Statism. It is a philosophy that declares that the State is in charge of the individual’s life and sets the terms of how he is to live; the individual is beholden to the State for almost everything according to this political philosophy. Freedom is a permission, according to Statism. And property is to be shared. Profit is what the State allows you to keep. “You didn’t build that thing” is a notion that can only be held by those that give no credit to the individual and all credit to the State or the collective for progress. “It Takes A Village”, is another way of expressing the “virtues of Statism and  collectivism”. Individualism is said to be “passé”, and is associated with greed and selfishness. Freedom is said to be Anarchy.

Then we have Obamacare, which prevents the individual from making medical choices about his own personal health. The choice of which doctor he can have, which medical  services he can insure, and at what price, are all being reduced as the health system is now designed to cost less for some while costing more for others, and doing so by allowing a third party to make the decisions the individual used to make. Obamacare supplies us with a menu of government mandated choices and doctors to choose from. And medical decisions are now slowly passing from the patient and the doctor to the State.

Whether employer-mandated healthcare or insurance-mandated healthcare (like we used to have) or government-mandated healthcare (like we now have) the one thing that is missing from the equation is the individual. Individual determined healthcare has been outlawed. The individual is not important – it’s the system that's important. We are only arguing about which system will control the individual.  Veterans left waiting and dying for care is an eloquent example of this principal at work. And as politicians rush to propose legislation that will fix the system, has anyone suggested a way to fix the patient?

The individual, his rights and his property, are all up for grabs. There was a time when the ideal was to have equal treatment of all individuals under the law. We fought a civil war in this country to try and enforce that ideal. During the history of this country we violated the letter and the spirit of the law many times when it came to various minorities such as Blacks and Indians, Orientals and Jews. Most of those injustices have been rectified.

But not for the rich. They are still one of the most persecuted minorities in this country. From the villainization of the "Robber Barons" of the 19th century to the “1%” today, they created the industrial revolution and helped build the railroads, the shipping industry, the steel industry, the agricultural machinery that lifted millions from poverty and led us to become the greatest economic power on earth. Today’s 1% created the technological revolution and has pushed America to heights undreamed of. These are the individuals that many hold blindly in contempt.

Few names or faces are identified as the 1% like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffet for fear of alienating the masses who like these people. That’s why they are called the 1%. Protesters demonstrate against a group of anonymous businessmen, and burn unidentified billionaires in effigy. And for what? For the crime of having more money than others.

In all of the above examples, the one thing that is missing is the concept of freedom. If you asked almost anyone walking down the street, "Do you believe in personal freedom?" they would answer almost immediately “of course”. Yet most would be for taxing the rich for being rich, using eminent domain to confiscate a person’s property for the good of the community, forcing employers to pay more to others regardless of the right of an employer and employee to agree on a fair wage among themselves, preventing business from going abroad to protect themselves against the theft of taxation, and regulating and controlling people and businesses to force them to do the "right thing".

How can this be? It is by allowing oneself to divorce the idea of freedom from the individual. It is by placing the goals of society above the rights of one person…and by justifying the use of force to accomplish these goals at someone else’s expense.  When government takes away the rights of individuals to protect themselves and their property, the population becomes serfs of the State. That is how we have come to where we are today. The idea that individual freedom is the best way to solve problems and prosper is fought tooth and nail today.

The fact is that free market capitalism is the most prosperous system ever devised by man. And free market capitalism is the direct consequence of personal freedom. Stop freedom and the right to make free choices and act on them peacefully and you stop progress. Statism and all its derivatives, socialism, fascism and communism are the direct consequence of trying to build a better economic system and a fairer society at the expense of individual rights. Throughout history, there is not one example of a nation rising to the heights of America employing these systems. On the contrary, systems like those of the Soviet Union, Communist China, Cuba, Venezuela and others, all failed and continue to fail. But more importantly they deprive their citizens of their freedom.

Prosperity is the result of millions of people waking up each day and trying to improve their lives. It is the culmination of millions of ideas, new choices and approaches, instead of one entity telling all of us what to do, how to do it, when, where, and by how much.

America has unfortunately turned down the same road that other statist nations have, and stagnation and poverty is beginning to return to this country en masse. For the first time in 30 years, poverty is once again an issue. Unemployment has become structural and stagnation has replaced the booming dynamic economy of the past.

The missing link to prosperity is individual freedom; freedom from both government force, and from the coercion and fraud of other individuals. Whenever you hear someone say why wouldn't anyone be for higher wages, or better and cheaper healthcare, or help for those who need it -- ask "at who’s expense?" For once the precedent is established that we can take anything from anyone for the good of society, or the system, or the economy, it's all over but the long downward spiral into stagnation and despair.

Paul Nathan