The Individual versus the State

Posted on July 31, 2017 by Robert Ringer


At the extreme edges (Freedom Caucus on the right, Bernie Sanders on the left), what the fractures in the Republican and Democratic Parties boil down to is free-market capitalism versus government control of our lives.

In the middle, however, clueless government-addicted pundits, politicians, and much of the general public are fond of saying that the government should only intervene “a little” when it comes to regulating business and helping people who do not have the means to fend for themselves.  But in real terms, what government’s helping “a little” equates to is a so-called mixed economy, which the late, great Henry Hazlitt meticulously explained, in Economics in One Lesson, does not work.

The truth be known, all Western countries have long had mixed economies — i.e., socialism mixed together with just enough capitalism to keep tax revenues flowing in to pay the welfare tab (both social and corporate welfare).  Among other things, the capitalism portion of a mixed economy also produces the wealth that provides a cushy lifestyle for politicians and millions of government employees, subsidizes countries who hate us, and fights a McCain/Graham-promoted war here or there whenever the political need for a manmade conflict arises.

The liberty/tyranny pendulum tends to swing back and forth in Western countries, though for the past fifty-plus years the overall move has been toward tyranny.  In the United States, in particular, the pendulum has been moving at an accelerating pace toward tyranny since Barack Obama’s attempt to fundamentally change the United States of America.

Now the question is, Is there any hope that the pendulum will swing back toward liberty any time soon?  Unfortunately, no one knows for certain, but what we do know from a study of history is that if the pendulum swings too far in the direction of tyranny, there’s a danger that it might get stuck there for fifty to a hundred years.  (Think Russia, Cuba, North Korea, and China, with Venezuela on the verge of a similar fate.)

That said, let’s get back to the basic question of “a little bit of government” versus a lasses-faire society.  This fundamental question goes back centuries — probably as far back as the Roman Empire, which closely resembled the United States of today with its seeming determination to destroy itself from within.

Many books have been written about why capitalism is the best economic system ever devised, not only for people in general, but specifically for those on the lowest rung of the income ladder.  In the short space I have available here, I’ll zero in on just a few of the most important reasons for this.

First and foremost, government, by its very nature, is inherently corrupt.  It’s a theft-driven gravy train for the most self-righteous, nefarious, unethical individuals among us (read, politicians).  Even those who come to Washington with good intentions soon realize they have only two choices:

  1. Do the bidding of those who contribute to the campaigns that keep them in power …


  1. Be voted out of office.

People who believe that in certain cases the government has to do something in order to help “the needy” and keep both large corporations and entrepreneurs from raping and pillaging the masses are either naïve, knowledge challenged, or suffering from a bad case self-righteousness.  As a result, their emotion-driven actions are forever on autopilot.

The facts all speak against government and for a free society — especially when it comes to helping the poor.  That’s because in a free society people are free to give their money to whomever they believe to be in need.  It’s a subjective decision that corrupt politicians in Washington are not in a moral position to make for anyone else.

But morality aside, there’s a practical aspect to capitalism, what Henry Hazlitt referred to as “the invisible aspect.”  By this phrase, he meant how much more consumers would benefit from a truly free market.

If, for example, you and I wanted to start a cable company and could raise the necessary money necessary to do so, the existence of our service in the marketplace would force cable company monopolies to lower their prices and improve the quality of their services.  The marketplace is a much more effective regulator and far better protector of consumers than government could ever hope to be.

Andrew Carnegie’s Carnegie Steel Company (which ultimately became part of U.S. Steel Corporation) and John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Co., among other giants of their day, enjoyed near monopolies, but never total monopolies, because there was always competition lurking on the economic horizon.  The result was that they drastically lowered the price of steel and oil to fend off competitors, which made steel and oil products affordable for the common man.

The plain truth that low-information and self-righteous voters have trouble accepting is that these men reduced their prices for purely selfish reasons.  They were smart enough to understand that by lowering their prices, they could sell more of their products and make greater profits.  That, in turn, brought the invisible hand of the marketplace into play, which resulted in a better life for consumers and the creation of millions of jobs.

Taking all this into consideration, regardless of how bad things get in the U.S., if you care about yourself, your family, and those suffering financially as a result of our printing-press economy, you should be vigilant about thinking and acting as an individual.  The collective is a progressive fantasy that entices people who not only lack knowledge, but tend to think with their hearts instead of their heads.  That, in turn, leads to fewer jobs, lower wages, and a more difficult life for most everyone.

Also, never forget that groups do not have minds, so avoid the temptation to become drawn in by group-think.  Groups are composed of individuals with individual minds, individual likes and dislikes, individual morals, individual skills, individual wills, and individual views of the world.

Though I’ve never met you, I can say without hesitation that I trust you, as an individual, more than I trust a group of politicians and bureaucrats whose main focus is on keeping their jobs and leading the good life at the expense of millions of taxpayers.  It doesn’t take a village for a country to prosper.  What it takes is millions of individuals seeking their own happiness.

As to the centuries-old question of those who kneel at the altar of the omnipotent state, “But what would happen to the poor in a totally free society?” it is to our good fortune that human beings have the unique capacity to transcend themselves and feel empathy for others.

In a totally free and rational society, people would think of family first, friends second, and “the poor” third.  Those in the last group not only would be helped by others through a wide variety of charities, they would also gain two important assets that they lack in a government-controlled economy:  self-esteem and a path to upward mobility.

If you loved the American way of life before it was fundamentally transformed into a hodge-podge of government regulations and politically correct insanity, the most positive thing you can do is think and act as an individual and not allow yourself to be intimidated by those who lack the knowledge or intellect to understand the evils of big government and the efficacy of individualism.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

20 responses to “The Individual versus the State”

  1. RealitySeeker says:

    Another great read.

    Unfortunately, the carbohydrates and circus won't stop until the American Empire collapses and splits apart. Any other hope of reversing the pendulum is wishful thinking and a pipe dream. The situation Americans now find themselves in won't change by some voluntary cutback of calories and circus and war. Just take a look around: sometimes I wonder who took a bicycle pump and blew up two thirds of the population into fat-assed balloons. The healthcare cost of and by itself to take care of the fat asses is going to end the Empire as we know it… how soon? — nobody knows.

    The "printing press economy" won't be able to print fast enough in order to keep up with supplying food and basic services to dozens of major cities full of welfare collecting fat asses… I'll tell you this, straight up: the coming shit storm will be Malthusianism in reverse, i.e., death by being fat, dumb and dependent on government. Then, as the pendulum swings the other way it'll slice right through all of the fat like a razor sharp butcher's knife, and the American system of Calories & Circus will collapse into poverty, starvation and violence.

    So let's hope that The Donald can keep the calories flowing, the circus going and the fat asses growing… Because when his mother goes down, she'll go down one hell of a lot faster than the Roman Empire did…

    • thebacksaver says:

      Reality Seeker:
      You've touched on a very important issue with your comment. Many believe that the enormous costs of healthcare are due to the high expenses associated with cancer treatments, automobile accidents, trauma, etc. However, this is not all the case. By far the 3 most expensive issues in all of healthcare go to only 3 maladies: 1) Diabetes, 2)Ischemic Heart Disease and 3)Spinal(lower back) Pain. At least 2 of these are directly lifestyle related.
      The cost, to public health systems, employers, workers comp, etc (All of which costs end up getting "socialized". Read: You and I end up paying the bill.) for the "lifestyles" of a large segment of society are staggering and completely unseen by most.

      • RealitySeeker says:

        Yes, what you say is true.

        Furthermore, healthcare (sic) eats up nearly 20% of all spending in the American economy. It employs millions, and for every one doctor there are ten administrators. It has become so Kafkaesque that Kafka himself would be speechlessly shocked.

        America is a very sick and ignorant country. The Federal Reserve recently issued a report that stated in one instance over 50% of applicants failed a drug test and/ or a basic math test preventing one company from filling positions. Yeah, it's that bad….. 70% of Americans have been prescribed at least one drug during 2016 and 20% five or more drugs. The American Empire is full of fat, sick, drugged out and nearly useless citizens … Some are so fat and lazy that their joints are being destroyed prematurely by debilitating obesity. It's hopeless. Really hopeless for tens of millions of people who are either fat pigs or fat heads or both.

        Prepare for a historic crash landing, and pray that Trump can delay it for as long as possible.

    • Phil says:

      I am pretty much on the same page with you. Had hope for a while. Not so much anymore. Just important to be intellectually and spiritually prepped as things grow increasingly nonsensical.

  2. Bob Harrison says:

    Luckily for us, we have, at our very foundation, the principles of property ownership, free speech, free will and individualism. They will always be here, no matter how corrupt our country becomes. And there will always be a chance that one person or entity will once again champion those principles and demonstrate their natural virtues and reinvigorate them within our society. That's my light.

    • David DaveB says:

      Just how strongly do you believe in those principles?
      Property ownership is a myth, at least for the majority of "property owners". Just how sacred is your property ownership? What happens if you don't (or can't) pay your property taxes? What happens to your property when the state decides to build a road through it using the guise of the greater good, eminent domain?
      What happens when the state devalues your currency causing you to chose between feeding the family or paying (feeding) the bank?
      And just how free is free speech? People are assaulted by the state and the public (special interest groups) for exercising their right to free speech. All it takes is for someone to claim your words incited violence, were racist or sexist, or anti name a religion???
      The only things the state can't take, though they can severely curtail, are your free will and individualism. But what exactly can you do with them when you haven't the means to obtain and secure your property and speech?

  3. larajf says:

    Many of the greats helped the poor. But history is being rewritten and people are getting more self-absorbed (oh, the government will take care of that).
    I hope we can wake up in time. There are so many better ways to help the poor other then the current ways which are to hurt the poor but feel so good about yourself because you did something. (hopefully my wryness is coming through)

    • Jim Hallett says:

      Since govt., by definition, is always involved in Third Party transactions, quality and price (cost) never enter into the picture, which is why you always get lousy results with govt. – including helping the poor. Aside from the moral supremacy of individual voluntary behavior, the results are MUCH greater. The USA has always had many generous individuals and on a per-capita basis generally out-give any other place on Earth, and that is despite the confiscatory behavior of our immoral govt. Some are indeed wide awake, but they are not the majority, and when the masses are in slumber – led there by the liars in media, govt., public schools, etc. – the result is likely to be unpleasant for most. I hope I am wrong on that, but for too long, the basic economic principles, not to mention human nature, have been violated by collectivist crap, so there are not enough THINKERS around to reverse the tide.

  4. sam239 says:

    Thanks but am not convinced that pure individualism can win over collectivists. Like here in my Democratic-mob-run city, the rulers have a solid 2/3 of the vote, and the people who vote for them are reproducing much faster than the 1/3 minority. That 2/3 lives in squalor (most of the areas of the city are actually going backwards, from 1st world to 3rd world status) but are effectively bribing the politicians with their vote, and getting rewarded for it with food stamps, welfare, baseball stadiums, etc. I don't see how free-thinking rational individuals can win over that thinking purely in terms of self-interest. We'll need some form of tribal thinking to defeat the collectivist parasites and maintain a first-world, free civilization for our children and grandchildren.

    • Phil says:

      Oh, it is pretty much done. I live in Texas, and people are beginning to note the huge increase in immigration not just from Mexico (illegally) but form California, etc. – places where capitalism is almost completely unknown. As Texas turns blue, so does our change of reforming our govt. into something free again. Our electoral votes are the final chance to elect a real conservative.

      The best hope is that we crash and burn so hard that the chaos gives rise to opportunities for states to split off, etc. Or go back to federalism.

      But just turn your eyes to Venezuela. Probably our future.

      • Rick G says:

        Totally agree. You said it all. Amen.

      • Guest says:

        James O'Keefe actually uncovered a group in Texas that was pulling illegal stunts. It was called "Turn Texas Blue." Love him …. They've turned our once-great state blue, too [CO — which stands for the State of Confusion.]. The corruption in our state government is appalling. It's to the core. Even in Personnel, where they change Personnel records. Can't get much higher than that, when the governor appoints the Personnel Director ….

  5. GMH says:

    Regulated capitalism can produce enormous benefits and allow enterprising individuals to reap the well-earned rewards of effort and ingenuity. Unregulated capitalism will revert to its prime directive which may well be to devour the earth and turn it into money.

    Standard Oil and Carnegie Steel responded well to competition because they weren't allowed to send out death squads to exterminate rivals and grab their businesses. Corporations can't keep slaves and work them to death on starvation diets. They can’t dump noxious poisons directly into our water supply. They can't sell food laced with filth or untested drugs promising to cure terminal cancer in a week or cut down the last redwood to make bar stools. They can't murder a region's population so they can snatch up the valuable land nor can they make seven-year-olds work in the mines. Child labor laws and other government regulation works to prevent such practices which were all enthusiastically embraced in the past and there are many who would gladly revert to them if they could get away with it.

    A famous president once said that the government was of the people, by the people, for the people. In other words, the government is you. If you think the government is bloated, corrupt, owned by donors and headed for tyranny, isn’t it your civic and patriotic duty to fix it? Kick the bums to the curb and replace them with honest, capable people able to steer the country out of the ditch. In fact, if wealthy donors are free to purchase governments, isn’t that unregulated capitalism in one of its most dangerous forms?

    • Jonathan R Mayer says:

      Reminds me of the view that politics draws strange and dangerous personalities to itself. The US Constitution is a document not based on the philosophic goodness of men, but the tragic confession of the opposite view.
      Believed to be attributed to David Mammet

  6. Rick G says:

    My biggest fear is that the pendulum has now swung so far to the left in this country that it may never swing back. It would take a Bernie Sanders wrecking ball administration to fully implement his complete collective agenda that would crash our economic system into a Venezuela-style country to cause a massive revolt by American voters to reject socialism and favor capitalism..Ameticans could never fathom the thought of eating out of garbage cans and rumning out of toilet paper.

  7. gcorradino says:

    Thank you, Robert.

  8. Sean says:

    Capitalism is not a system. A system implies that it was implemented from above or committee. Capitalism is freedom pure and simple. People free to exchange for their personal benefit. The resulting prosperity and wealth creation Karl Marx called "Capitalism".

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