Forbes has an Ayn Rand follower attacking Obama for his comments about the limits of the free market's ability to address problems. As usual with these folks, it's riddled with distortions of the truth, particularly about our Founders beliefs.
I responded to some of these falsehoods and it took me a while to do. So I wanted to share it and preserve it for posterity be posting it to Daily Kos. I hope others find it useful.
1. Declaration of Independence did NOT say that securing rights is the ONLY purpose of government. http://www.archives.gov/...
2. The constitution itself, in the preamble, lists seven purposes. "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty." http://www.archives.gov/...
3. The view that the meaning of general welfare is broad and refers to any purpose that might improve the general welfare of the country was supported by founder Alexander Hamilton AND George Washington, whom the author suggests was a believer in an Ayn Rand type economy. He was not. He and Hamilton, in fact, put in the place the first government intervention in the economy with the creation of a national bank -- something Jefferson and Madison strongly opposed but eventually came to support. Washington was also a strong supporter of the Commerce Clause, which regulated interstate commerce and was one of the primary motivations for the creation of the Constitution.
4. Public education, which the author suggests is part of the unconstitutional expansion of government, was supported at least in part by Thomas Jefferson. Other founders, like Benjamin Rush, supported government education even more strongly. http://www.libertarianism.org/...
5. Yes, the value of the dollar has gone down over time. So what. Economists see a low level of inflation as a necessary part of an expanding economy. Deflation usually means recession and is extremely hard on debtors, but great for creditors, which is why banks and people with lots of money push for deflation and oppose inflation. Arguing for deflation is arguing for the interests of the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.
6. Never in the thinking of Americas founders, did freedom ever mean the right to do whatever you want regardless of the consequences to others. Nor did it mean, the right to exercise economic power over others in an unfettered manner. John Locke, who strongly influenced the thinking of our founders, said this:
"Freedom then is not what Sir Robert Filmer tells us, Observations, A. 55. a liberty for every one to do what he lists, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied by any laws: but freedom of men under government is, to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it; a liberty to follow my own will in all things, where the rule prescribes not; and not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man: as freedom of nature is, to be under no other restraint but the law of nature."
7. Property was certainly an important right in the founders thinking, but the idea of property was also strongly tied to labor. Again Locke is instructive:
"The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others"
The first thing a person owns is his own body and his own labor and the products of that labor. Capitalism is a system whereby the powerful and wealthy appropriate the labor of others and the product of that labor for themselves.
This is why capitalists are only concerned with freedom from government and not freedom in general while the working man is concerned with the creation of any power, governmental or economic or social, that can become strong enough to take away his rights. For example, the use of economic power to take away his right to associate -- to create a union with others in order to negotiate a better price for his labor.
The wealthy use their economic power and other means of interference to try to take away this right to associate. The fact that the government doesn't interfere in this right is meaningless if the end result is still that the right is undermined.
8. Over the last 30 years and particularly in the Bush years, the country has adopted a greater anti-union stance causing union membership to plummet, pushed deregulation and cut taxes as well as government services for ordinary people. True, this doesn't reestablish the more free market oriented policies of 100 years ago, but the fact that even moving more toward such policies has left American workers worse off economically than before is still a relevant point to consider.
9. But as the President said, we don't really even need to look at the experience of the last 30 years. We can go back and look at the 100 year ago period when the author tells us free market policies were more in dominance. The fact is, the generations of those days rejected those policies then because they saw their effects. The progressive movement starting at the end of the 19th century was a direct response to the results of laissez faire capitalism. It didn't work for most people -- only the few.