Saturday, April 16, 2011


by James Craig Green

Part 8 - Henry Hazlitt

Economics in One Lesson

Henry Hazlitt (1894-1993) was an economist, journalist, and educator. He cut through the confusion surrounding fiscal and monetary issues, stating elegant, timeless economic principles. Profoundly influenced by Frederic Bastiat, Hazlitt recognized the practical limits of the irrational decisions large collectives often make. The contribution of Hazlitt’s book was a wide focus on the consequences of public policies rather than the limited perspectives commonly used to promote and expand them.

In the introduction to Economics in One Lesson, Hazlitt packs a big punch with a handful of words to summarize what the book is about:

While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds (emphasis added) to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.

In addition to these endless pleadings of self-interest, there is a second main factor that spawns new economic fallacies every day. This is the persistent tendency of men to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.

After introducing his general thesis, Hazlitt proceeds to illustrate it with his first example, updated from Bastiat’s essay That Which is Seen, That Which is Not Seen.

Hazlitt uses the example of a brick thrown through a baker’s window. As often occurs in today’s short-sighted public policy discourse, it is easy to see that breaking the window creates new business for a glazier to fix it, plus additional spending by the glazier that would not have occurred without the broken window. From this, one could (incorrectly) conclude that the act of breaking the window stimulated the economy, since it resulted in more work for the glazier and others.

This common perspective, focusing on only what is seen, is only part of the picture, and the least important. Unseen is what the baker would have done with, say, the $300 he spent fixing the window, if he didn't pay the glazier to fix it. If, for example, the baker planned to buy a suit with the $300, the loss of the window would have reduced the tailor’s income by the same amount that the glazier gained. The gain to the glazier came out of the pocket of the baker, as did the second, third and further gains recycling the glazier’s new money. But, wouldn't these gains be offset by the second, third, and other lost opportunities from the baker’s spending on the suit, had the window not been broken? Since it is so easy to show the gains to the glazier and others after the window was broken but so difficult to say what would have happened had the window not been broken, the false conclusion that the economy is stimulated by breaking the window is easily sold to anyone who doesn’t consider the wider, unseen perspective.

In this example, the baker’s loss is a net loss to the economy because his choice to buy a suit was taken from him—no different than if the Commissar of Glaziers forced him to replace an unbroken window to help create jobs. Even if you assume that the glazier’s gain is equal to the tailor’s loss—and so on down the line—the baker still loses his choice to spend money, and the economy is worse off.

Hazlitt also explains how this fallacy is multiplied by other mistakes, such as the confusion of need and demand (demand requires purchasing power which may not exist). Another common fallacy pointed out by Hazlitt is that purchasing power doesn’t mean dollars, which can be created out of thin air by the Federal Reserve. All expanding the money supply does is to reduce the value of every dollar, without an increase in production (real wealth). Those who benefit from getting the first of the new dollars are seen, but the cost to everyone else whose dollars lose value is not seen.

Through such succinct examples, Hazlitt presents economic principles in plain English, hoping that the public at large will begin to take notice of the way so-called experts try to dupe the American people. For Hazlitt, economics is not about line graphs and calculus. It is about common sense. It does not take a PhD to understand supply and demand. It takes an engaged public willing to stand up to government and its tyranny.

Unchain the Builders - Again

This series of articles has celebrated the work of seven relatively unknown builders, pioneers all, each a champion for the cause of human freedom. I encourage you to read the books and other works by these authors to better understand the ideas that made the American Republic a unique and beneficial experiment in human action.

Bastiat’s simple message in The Law shows why the American Republic has declined so much over the last century. Once the law started transferring wealth by force, its primary purpose – the protection of people and their property – was violated, and became secondary, even trivial. Since it is easy to vote for someone who will take others’ property and give it to you, the steady trend has been to avoid long term economic consequences, and give people what they want now – seemingly endless government programs at someone else’s expense.

If there were more people today like Locke, Paine, Madison, Bastiat, Thoreau, Lane and Hazlitt, the public debate on individual freedom and the purpose of government would take quite a different turn than it has since the New Deal socialism of the 1930's. Though some voices today praise the rights of the individual against the collective, few will stand up to the crowd, which is what each of these builders did. Government's most dangerous narcotic - easy money - must always be taken from someone else by force, whether immediately by taxes, or later by inflation and public debt. This always results in a net loss to the economy and produces increasing tyranny at the expense of freedom and responsibility.

If you paid attention to Rose Wilder Lane (The Discovery of Freedom), you now know a secret most people never learn. Builders don’t have to be unchained - they just have to unchain themselves.


PREVIOUS - Rose Wilder Lane

Friday, April 15, 2011


by James Craig Green

Part 7 - Rose Wilder Lane


The Discovery of Freedom

Rose Wilder Lane (1886-1968) was a remarkable woman. Because of her time spent in hardship both in the United States and abroad, she, better than most, understood the threat to liberty from the unchecked power of government and blind obedience to it by those who should know better.

Born the daughter of Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose was actually credited as her mother’s editor or co-writer for many, if not all, of these famous stories about Laura’s frontier childhood and rugged American individualism. But prior to this, Lane traveled the world extensively, spending time as a Red Cross publicist in post-World War I Europe, then later in the Balkans, the Middle East, and finally, as a Vietnam War correspondent. But by far, the most impressionable of these experiences was working as a young writer in the newly-formed Soviet Union. After flirting with communism during her time there, she quickly became disillusioned with it and later became one of the most important influences in the modern libertarian movement.

In 1943, Lane wrote an insightful book called The Discovery of Freedom. In it, she wrote that individuals have always had control over their freedom from living authorities, but most choose not to exercise it. She said:

Every human being, by his nature, is free; he controls himself. But in the Old World, men believe that some authority controls them. They cannot make their energy work by any such belief; because the belief is false…The history of every group of men who ever obeyed a living authority is a history of revolts against all forms of that Government.

Lane then described three historical attempts to establish societies based on individual choice and responsibility, rejecting kings, priests, and other human authority figures. First was Abraham, who led ancient Hebrews by saying a man controls himself and is free to do good or evil. The Muslims came second by bringing their science and art to Europe during the Middle Ages, creating universities where each individual decided what he wanted to learn (like Jesus, Muhammad rejected clerics who set themselves up as intermediaries between God and man). Third, according to Lane, was the American Revolution, where individual rights were asserted by a group of rebellious colonists in the Declaration of Independence and later codified in the Bill of Rights.

She wrote on the subject,

The Revolution is a struggle of knowledge against blind superstition; it is the American revolutionary recognition of the fact that individuals are free; pitted against the ancient pagan superstition that Authority controls individuals.

However, the principles established by Abraham, Muhammad, and the founders of the American republic did not survive long. Their teachings—that men should reject the false promises of human authority—became corrupted by supposed followers, who stole the concepts to further their own political ambitions. Lane soundly rejected such intellectual theft, writing on to explain that individuals must not allow themselves to be controlled by others, particularly by governments; instead, they must learn to control themselves:

The control of human energy is individual control... Since every individual is self-controlling, he acts in accordance with the standard of values in which he believes.

Put another way, Lane believed each person is responsible for his own life and actions. Only he can know what is best for himself. It is up to him to adhere to his own values, to control himself, not to let himself become a slave to what the Dutch philosopher Spinoza called passions. Today we call these addictions.

This commitment to self-control and individual freedom formed the foundation of Lane’s political beliefs. As such, she opposed all forms of social and political control, whether by a mob or king. She was as skeptical of democracies as monarchies. To her, both political systems involved surrendering one’s self-control to a ruling authority. Both required viewing government as the ultimate benefactor: in the former, by sacrificing yourself to the irrational will of the mob; in the latter, to the will of a despot:

If men believe that Government is responsible for their welfare, the increasing poverty increases their demand that men in public office control the individual’s affairs. This demand increases the use of force against productive energy. This use of force must progressively destroy all the protections of an American citizen’s natural human rights, and eventually—if at last he protests—his life.

This theme of self-control versus state control dominates The Discovery of Freedom, which became a libertarian classic and made Rose Wilder Lane, along with the prominent twentieth-century authors Ayn Rand and Isabel Patterson, one of three founding mothers of today’s libertarian movement.

Our last builder brought an elegant simplicity to the understanding of economics applied to public policy, picking up where our earlier heroes left off. Unchain the Builders concludes next with Henry Hazlitt and his brilliant, seminal book, Economics in One Lesson.

Freedom is self-control, nothing more, nothing less - Rose Wilder Lane


PREVIOUS - Henry David Thoreau

NEXT - Henry Hazlitt

Thursday, April 14, 2011


by James Craig Green

Part 6 - Henry David Thoreau

 Many people can read, understand, and agree with the common sense principles of individual freedom and limited government presented by our builders thus far. But too many sympathetic to these ideas are convinced that in today’s United States, with the awesome power of government and its minions, they are impossible to implement, and if they are to be implemented, it will only be through violent revolution. This simply is not true, as Henry David Thoreau demonstrated.

Thoreau (1817-1862), although famous for his writings on nature and the tranquillity of isolation, made his most important mark in his essay Civil Disobedience. He inspired and continues to inspire generations of Americans, teaching liberty-minded individuals that grand results can be brought about by peaceful means, through the practice of civil disobedience.

Most Americans, educated in government schools, begin their adult lives thinking government is inevitably powerful and necessarily legitimate. It is rare that someone indoctrinated into this submissive and conformist frame of mind actually discovers his or her own power as a rational, thinking individual to the point of going against the crowd. For most people, the illusion of security is more important than good conscience or the confidence that comes from being an independent thinker. But, as Thoreau showed us, it only takes a minority of people thinking they own themselves for whole societies to change.

In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau wrote: That government is best which governs least, and That government governs best that governs not at all.

These were revolutionary statements in Thoreau's time, and even more so today, when governments are at least twenty times larger and hundreds, or thousands of times more numerous.

Too many of our fellow countrymen are tricked into believing they owe allegiance to a bloated, top-heavy government that, in actual practice, acts as if it owns them. Ironically, they also seem to think as citizens, they control government, which is clearly not the case. One election every two years is not control, nor is one vote in 67 million. Being forced to pay for something you don’t want or need is not control. Yet cries of patriotism, religious fervor, mass hysteria, and plain, old-fashioned fraud have silenced would-be dissenters, and millions of Americans believe not going along with government edicts will inevitably lead to jail or is not worth the inconvenience. Thoreau taught us otherwise.

In July 1846, while spending time near Walden Pond, Massachusetts, Thoreau ran into a tax collector, who demanded he pay six years of delinquent poll taxes. Ever committed to his principles, Thoreau refused because of his opposition to slavery and to the Mexican-American War. He consequently spent a night in jail. Against his wishes, he was freed the next day after his aunt paid his taxes. But like all traumatic experiences, imprisonment, even for a night, had a lasting impact on Thoreau. He went on to lecture and write about his experience, abuses of power, and the rights of the individual.

Civil Disobedience, or Resistance to Civil Government as it is also known, is a masterwork of individualist philosophy in which Thoreau lambasts the state, its abuses, and the fallacies that accompany so-called legitimate governments. However, regardless of one’s belief about the nature of government, the main idea with Thoreau is the power of the individual and his ability to take action.

Thoreau eloquently writes:

Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men, generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, do better than it would have them? Why does it always crucify Christ and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?

There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly.

Thus, for the Walden author, it is the individual who must peacefully take action against immoral governments. The essence of civil disobedience is not anarchy or chaos, but standing up to tyranny, toward which all governments gravitate. Governments inevitably grow beyond legal or constitutional chains that voters naively believe protect them, until someone has the courage to say No!

This was elegantly demonstrated by Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. Her single act of defiance against local laws of racial segregation inspired the famous boycott against the Montgomery Bus Company, led by a young, unknown preacher by the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. This boycott powerfully demonstrated the effectiveness of Thoreau’s ideas.

Thoreau also inspired Russian author Leo Tolstoy (author of War and Peace) and served as a strong inspiration for Mohandas Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King’s successful implementations of nonviolent civil disobedience as a means of social change. While I am not a pacifist, there is no reason such examples cannot continue to serve the struggle against tyrannical government in America.

As Thoreau put it:

This American government—what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity...this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way...the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted to rule is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest.

As an out-of-control federal government constantly escalates its intrusions into our daily lives, yesterday’s unthinkable could become tomorrow’s necessity. We cannot let that happen. We must take a lesson from Thoreau and stand up for the rights of that smallest and rarest of minorities: the individual.

Our next builder, Rose Wilder Lane, who provided the world with an elegant definition of freedom, explained that we all have the freedom to choose—if only we would exercise it. She also happened to have a very famous mother.

Law never made men a whit more just - H D Thoreau


PREVIOUS - Frederic Bastiat

NEXT - Rose Wilder Lane

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


by James Craig Green

Part 5 - Frederic Bastiat

Once the American Republic was up and running, several challenges presented themselves to the American people. The constraints of the Constitution were too easily exceeded for popular causes, as the beast apparently contained by James Madison and colleagues proved adept at expanding itself in a series of democratic orgies.

The Law and Other Essays

Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) was a French statesman, philosopher and economist. After Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848, Frederic Bastiat wrote his most well-known work, The Law, in 1850—the year of his death. It was a shining light for freedom, in a new Europe where socialism was in the process of taking over everything. It is even more important and relevant today than it was then.

Bastiat’s thesis in The Law was simple—the law stops protecting people when it begins to transfer wealth. According to Bastiat, the primary purpose of law is to protect people and the fruits of their labor (property, after Locke). This protection mechanism fails when the law is used to force, at the point of a gun, the transfer of wealth from those who produce it to those who don’t. Marx’s socialist tide gained popularity in Europe and later, the U.S. There’s nothing like the promise of a free lunch to get voters and politicians excited about something. When somebody else appears to be paying the bill, government jobs, government contracts, government regulations (“protecting industries”) and government everything else seems like a good deal. You will see why this ultimately doesn’t work when I get to Henry Hazlitt, the last of our freedom builders.

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of Bastiat’s The Law, which points out that collective rights depend entirely on individual rights:
Each of us has a natural right—from God—to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? If every person has the right to defend even by force—his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right—its reason for existing, its lawfulness—is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force—for the same reason—cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.
Bastiat wrote many things relevant in today’s world, including essays criticizing the popular practice of mercantilism (government subsidy of business) as did Adam Smith in his famous Wealth of Nations. Legislatures are ever suckers for giving public monies to some private enterprise or individual, hoping to “stimulate the economy,” but all these ever do is simply make the recipients weak, inefficient and dependent on government aid, as with social and other well-intended, but misguided, programs.

In an essay called Abundance and Scarcity, Bastiat, with sarcastic humor, pointed out that when workers or businesses lobby for restrictions on trade, what they are really doing is displaying their fear of abundance and celebrating scarcity:
How does it happen that in the eyes of workers, of publicists and of statesmen, abundance seems dangerous and scarcity advantageous? I propose to trace this illusion to its source.

We observe that a man acquires wealth in proportion as he puts his labor to better account, that is to say, he sells at a higher price. He sells at a higher price in proportion to the shortage, the scarcity, of the type of commodity produced by his labor. …we conclude from this that scarcity enriches him.

The same holds true for abundance. We observe that, when a product is plentiful, it sells for a low price; thus, the producer earns less. If all producers are in this plight, they are all poverty-stricken; hence, it is abundance that ruins society.
In Money Prices, Bastiat said,

Do you wish to decide between trade and protectionism? Do you wish to appreciate the significance of an economic phenomenon? Inquire into the extent of its affects upon abundance or scarcity of commodities, and not upon a rise or fall in prices. …Beware of thinking in terms of money prices; they will lead you into an inextricable labyrinth.

Is it not true that restrictive measures, by impeding change, by limiting the division of labor, by forcing workers to compensate for hardships due to geographic situation and climatic conditions, ultimately diminish the quantity produced by a given amount of labor? And what difference does it make that the lesser quantity produced under the protective system has the same nominal value as the greater quantity produced under conditions of free trade? Man does not live on nominal values, but on commodities actually produced; and the more he has of these quantities, regardless of their price, the richer he is.
Bastiat's brilliant and logical defense of property under the law made him one of the most passionate, articulate and effective advocates of human freedom I have ever known. But to my knowledge, he never proposed the controversial tactic for which our next builder, Henry David Thoreau, is remembered.

Government is the great fiction by which everybody expects to live at the expense of everybody else - Frederic Bastiat


PREVIOUS - James Madison

NEXT - Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


by James Craig Green

Part 4 - James Madison

 Following John Locke’s ideas on property and Thomas Paine’s incendiary pamphlet Common Sense, the Declaration of Independence was co-authored primarily by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The shooting war had begun in April 1775 and continued until 1781 with the improbable but decisive defeat of occupying British forces by General George Washington’s army.

This period of American history is well documented elsewhere, and its heroes are widely known. Our next not-so-well-known builder, James Madison, convinced Americans the new national government should be a constitutional republic, and not a democracy.

No Democracy for America

Upon signing the Constitution, Benjamin Franklin left Independence Hall in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. He was asked, Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy? He answered, A Republic, if you can keep it.

James Madison (1751-1836), “Father of the Constitution,” primary author of the Bill of Rights, and later, the fourth President of the United States, argued strongly in the Federalist Papers that America should not be a democracy. In Federalist No. 10, he explained the simple reason why democracies inevitably fail—majorities tyrannize minorities.

That’s why Madison proposed a bicameral (two-house) legislature called Congress. The House of Representatives was to be elected every two years, directly by voters, as the “democratic” house in Congress. The Senate, on the other hand, was designed to represent the (then sovereign) states equally, so the most populated states would not be able to bully those less populated as they can in the house. Also, the President was to be elected by an electoral college rather than directly by the people. These measures were necessary to maintain the balance of powers between three independent branches of government and to limit the influence of powerful special interests.

Read Federalist No. 10 to understand the essential difference between a democracy and a constitutional republic. Here’s an important excerpt—arguably, the most important paragraph ever written about the original vision of the proposed U.S. government as it was being created:

From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert results from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party, or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is, that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed, that, by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.

Madison knew that all historical democracies had failed, and one reason was that majorities can easily bully smaller groups into submission, just like kings. Another reason was democracies’ tendency toward ever-greater public spending and debt, which inevitably led to financial ruin from debasing the currency. Democracy, according to Madison, was not the path to freedom, but the blind repetition of past mistakes.

The U.S. Constitution was written without a Bill of Rights because the Continental Congress didn’t think it necessary. However, anti-federalist sentiment in some states, especially Virginia and Connecticut, demanded one, so James Madison went back to work drafting twelve amendments, of which ten were adopted to become the Bill of Rights. This was the part of the Constitution that most resembled the Declaration of Independence, to guarantee protection of individual rights against government power.

The Tenth Amendment in particular limited the authority of the U.S. government to only those tasks specified in the Constitution. Unfortunately, the popular socialism of the New Deal in the 1930s led to a series of Supreme Court decisions that many legal scholars believe destroyed the Tenth Amendment. Today, the Tenth Amendment is being revived by states and individuals who have recognized that it may be the most tyranny-limiting part of the Constitution as originally modified by the Bill of Rights.

Please understand - although the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly made rulings that have re-interpreted the Tenth Amendment to the point of being meaningless, none of the ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights has ever been changed - not even one word.

Years after the Constitution was in place, Madison’s wisdom could be seen by comparing the results of the American Revolution with those of the French Revolution. The American Revolution produced freedom and prosperity, not just from defeating the British, but from a cultural respect for individuals and their property. American colonists were farmers, merchants and others who endured severe hardships to build strong, independent societies from a wilderness. Americans had to be tough and independent, or die.

By contrast, the French Revolution was not based on protecting individuals from government. It was based on the superiority of the collective over the individual (the opposite of the American Revolution), and therefore degenerated into the quagmire of mob rule. This was pure democracy in action and a forerunner of socialism. The American Revolution produced the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The French Revolution produced the Reign of Terror, the guillotine and eventually, the Emperor Napoleon.

Our next builder explained the difference between legitimate law, as a surrogate for the individual right of self defense, and illegitimate law that violates it.

Justice is the end of government - James Madison


PREVIOUS - Thomas Paine

NEXT - Frederic Bastiat

Monday, April 11, 2011


by James Craig Green

Part 3 - Thomas Paine

In Part Two, I described the Englishman John Locke’s revolutionary ideas on property and government, especially their influence on the American Declaration of Independence. However, such a revolutionary document was not seriously considered in the colonies until another Englishman arrived to stoke the fires of revolution.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) convinced Americans to declare their independence from England instead of continuing their status as British colonies. In his pamphlet Common Sense, he called King George III the Royal Brute of Britain as he listed multiple reasons for independence. More than anyone else, Paine turned a minor tax revolt into one of the most important and beneficial social revolutions in history. Thomas Paine was by far the most popular author of the 18th century and Common Sense was the first of his three blockbusters. The Declaration of Independence, promoted by Paine in Common Sense, contained many of Paine’s ideas, including a three-paragraph anti-slavery clause in an early draft (later deleted) remarkably similar to Paine’s 1775 essay on the subject.

Common Sense proposed the Declaration of Independence when most Americans angry at British tyranny stopped short of such a dangerous and treasonous separation. It had the highest per-person distribution rate of any book in American history. It inflamed the passions of Americans against Britain in a way that no local authors or representatives could accomplish. The pamphlet sold 500,000 copies in its first year. Paine did not make a penny from Common Sense, preferring instead to donate it to the cause of America.

Thomas Paine was an Englishman whose trip to America was financed by Benjamin Franklin. He was a drunkard, offensive in his speech, a failure at business and life in England, and had a pervasive habit of overstaying his welcome. But he was the right person at the right time to light the fire of revolution in the colonies. After the revolution, John Adams (co-author of the Declaration of Independence and second President of the United States) would say:

History is to ascribe the American Revolution to Thomas Paine… Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain.

Despite his personal dislike for Paine, Adams paid his ultimate compliment to the man who most effectively promoted independence in early 1776.

The Declaration proposed by Paine in Common Sense contained what I call the four most important words in America. Those words, consent of the governed, were found in a phrase that spread Locke’s and Paine’s principles like wildfire throughout the Colonies:

…Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it…

Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration, said he referred to no book or author when writing it. But, anyone who had read Locke or Paine at that time could see their influence. The Declaration of Independence did what no document has done before or since—it abolished a government without replacing it with another. Eleven years after the Declaration, in 1787, the U.S. Constitution would come along, which some influential Americans like Patrick Henry and John DeWitt thought was an instrument of tyranny and plunder, not freedom. In fact, the Bill of Rights was largely the result of this anti-federalist sentiment as explained in The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates by historian Ralph Ketcham.

Paine was the first to write the phrases Declaration of Independence and United States of America. His pamphlet Common Sense turned a tax revolt into a revolution of ideas and deeds that would shock the world.

When it came time to establish a permanent government for the United States however, another builder would have his say. James Madison was the man who convinced America not to build a democracy.

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly - Thomas Paine


PREVIOUS - John Locke

NEXT - James Madison

Sunday, April 10, 2011


by James Craig Green

Part 2 - John Locke

The first of our builders, not only in time but in importance, was the English philosopher John Locke. He described the essential nature of private property to establish and preserve the proper relationship between the individual and government. John Locke’s elegant ideas on property would find their way into the American Declaration of Independence almost a century after he presented them.

In Two Treatises of Government, published in 1689, John Locke (1632-1704) set forth revolutionary principles of society and government that would shake the world, including the principle that government exists to serve people, rather than the other way around. Other astounding views he expressed at the time were equal rights for women, the right of the people to rise up and cast out government that does not serve their purposes and ideas of private property that would help fuel the independent spirit of the American Revolution.

In a chapter entitled, Of Property, Locke summarized his ideas on the subject:

Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a ‘property’ in his own ‘person.’ This nobody has any right to but himself. 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 it, 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 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.

Locke’s ideas on property came from his wider philosophy on the relationship between man and government. His idea that government should be based on the consent of the governed was widely known by the time the Declaration of Independence was drafted, although Thomas Jefferson claims to have not referred to any source when drafting it.

In early 1600's colonial America, when the Jamestown (Virginia) and Plymouth (Massachusetts) colonies were founded, property rights were communal instead of individual. This meant that everyone who produced food, for example, was required to place it into common storage for use by anyone who wanted it. Because the communal system prohibited the people who produced food from allocating it, there was little incentive to produce food just so someone else could have it without (or for less) labor. As a result, starvation was the most common cause of death until a system of private property was implemented, which immediately solved the problem. Because food had to be produced before it could be used or distributed, early American settlers quickly learned (the hard way) the need for the private property rights that Locke would later champion in England.

A growing American economy prospered, with little interference by the British government at first. But, that interference would grow, causing a resentment that would eventually erupt in violence. The British government would increase taxes, tariffs and other trade restrictions on the Americans, until Locke’s revolutionary ideas would take hold in the 1700s, reminding them that their relationship with Britain was a losing proposition.

John Locke defined property in a different way than kings, conquerors and tyrants had historically viewed it, more consistent with the hard lessons learned by early American pioneers. His idea was that it took one’s own labor to create property and that legitimate claims to property should be limited to one’s ability to use it. He promoted the elegant but revolutionary idea that you own yourself, including your labor. This was the basis of his idea that governments should exist only for the purpose of protecting people and the fruits of their labor (property), and that citizens have the right to abolish any government destructive to these ends. If these sound familiar, it's because the same sentiments would be repeated in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, almost a century after Locke’s treatise.

Our next builder, Thomas Paine, proposed that such a document be written, at a time when it was very dangerous to do so. He lit the fuse under the powder keg that was the 13 British colonies in America.

The great and chief end... of men's uniting into commonwealths... is the preservation of their property - John Locke

PREVIOUS - Introduction

NEXT - Thomas Paine

Saturday, April 9, 2011


by James Craig Green

Part 1 - Introduction

Builders are people who get things done. They speak when others are silent, act when others speak and build when others destroy. They include the producers and thinkers of society, from whom all wealth and prosperity flow. They don’t expect bailouts, trade restrictions against competitors or other government subsidies. Instead, they want to be left alone to do what they do best - support their friends and families and serve customers willing to pay for their products and services. They can accomplish anything imaginable, but are increasingly reviled, insulted and persecuted for their notions of self-motivated freedom and productive work. They are frequently outvoted in political elections by their polar opposites.

In this series of articles, I will present the ideas of seven freedom builders who contributed to the spirit of the American Revolution and the republic it created. My magnificent seven made great strides in thinking about freedom; especially the relationships between individuals and their governments. These builders are not as well known as many other contributors to the cause of America, but each made a revolutionary and important contribution.

The unprecedented, liberating success of the American Republic resulted directly from its founding principles, including respect for private property, acceptance of personal responsibility, free markets and their necessary consequence, economic risk. This government, unlike any that came before, was created with limited powers and the foundation of a legal system to protect individuals and their property, but not much else. During the last century however, these elegant ideas have been reversed in a fog of collectivism – regressed back to the ancient idea that individuals exist to serve the state instead of the other way around.

Today, governments are bogged down with the hopeless dependency and despair of the welfare state, the final destruction of dishonest fiat currencies like the dollar, and unprecedented levels of public debt which can never be repaid. Today’s government-dominated societies all promote the insane idea that everybody should be responsible for everybody else, but not themselves. This reversal of the Founders’ American spirit must stop, and will stop, because it cannot sustain itself with such anti-human principles and policies. The present course must be reversed immediately, peacefully and smoothly, or it will be reversed later, violently and catastrophically. Government, now a weapon of mass destruction by citizens against other citizens, must return to its protective and dispute resolution functions only, which have become diluted and trivialized by its unmanageable size, complexity and unending contradictions. Most of what government does today is driven by the opposite principles from those upon which the Republic was built.

A first step toward reviving the Republic’s founding principles is to restate them and explain why they were so important. In recent decades, I have been struck by the wide divergence of American governments’ current paradigms from those once considered necessary for prosperity and freedom. Private property has become increasingly regulated, confiscated and restricted. Constitutional limits on government power have been ignored or destroyed while government spending and public debt grow at unsustainable rates. Most Americans have become dependent on government largess at the expense of private property, fiscal responsibility and freedom. This is a recipe for disaster, from which the 2008 financial collapse was only the first, modest installment.

The seven freedom builders discussed in this series demonstrate the American spirit, though only four were Americans and some wrote after the Republic’s founding. Each fought conformity and popular opinion to present principled and courageous views defending freedom and encouraging action against the brutal repression of government. My favorite freedom builders are John Locke, Thomas Paine, James Madison, Frederic Bastiat, Henry David Thoreau, Rose Wilder Lane and Henry Hazlitt. Most were well-known in their time, but not now because their writings don’t support the collectivist groupthink that dominates American schools, media and government, including both major political parties.

Ideas from each of these important authors build upon each other - from Locke’s property to Paine’s fighting words; from Madison’s anti-democracy to Bastiat’s legal and economic theories and Thoreau’s rebellious disobedience. And finally, from Lane’s empowering, self-realized liberty to Hazlitt’s economic public policy. These brave, productive individuals inspired millions of Americans and others to live as free people relying on the free markets that sustain them; with government limited to protection by defending their individual rights. Government cannot be a provider without violating its most sacred trust, which is protection.

I will begin with the Englishman John Locke, the first of my magnificent seven, whose elegant ideas of property and government inspired the Declaration of Independence 85 years before it was a twinkle in Thomas Jefferson’s eye.

The American Republic will endure until Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money - Alexis de Tocqueville

NEXT - John Locke

Friday, April 8, 2011

Solar Jobs

The following article by Senior Fellow Craig Green was published by the Independence Institute, Denver Daily News, the Greeley Tribune and Pueblo Chieftan in July of 2009.

Solar Job Claims Rely on Exaggeration and Faulty Economics

In promoting Interior Secretary Salazar's plan to "expedite" solar energy projects on 670,000 acres in Colorado's San Luis Valley ("Solar farms could help U.S. to energy independence"), the Denver Post said the plan "has the potential to create much-needed jobs." This is a confused but popular promise, based on faulty economics and frequent exaggeration.

Creating new jobs by force of law instead of entrepreneurship often results in the loss of other jobs and increased costs; especially high wind and solar costs.

In his classic book, "Economics in One Lesson," Henry Hazlitt pointed out the common fallacy of counting new jobs created by money taken from taxpayers without considering how they would have spent that money on other things. He pointed out that many public projects are promoted without explaining the negative effects of penalizing productive, efficient enterprises by subsidizing their more costly, less efficient competitors. This results in a net LOSS to the economy, not a gain.

Hazlitt's theory was recently confirmed in Spain, a European leader in producing millions of new "renewal energy jobs" since 1997. Gabriel Calzada Alvarez, PhD of the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, published a study in March of 2009 ("Study of the effects on employment of public aid to renewable energy resources") that shows more than two jobs lost for every new job created. Spain spent more than 500,000 Euros to create each "green job" since 2000, not counting an additional million Euros in subsidies per wind industry job. Also, two-thirds of these jobs were in construction – jobs that would be eliminated once the facilities are up and running. The study also found that customers' electricity rates will have to be increased by 31 percent to pay off more than 28 billion Euros of new debt to finance the projects.

Does this sound like an economic windfall, which is the impression the promoters of such projects want you to get?

Exaggeration of job numbers is also used to make losing projects look like winning ones. As Vince Carroll pointed out [in the Denver Post] last October, Governor Ritter's announcement of 90,000 new jobs in Colorado exceeds the total number of cops, firefighters, security guards and prison guards in the entire State, and twice the number of all waiters and waitresses in Colorado.

Ritter's figure came from Boulder's American Solar Energy Society and included all jobs in the "energy efficiency" industry, even non "green" jobs.

The deceptive way "green" jobs are promoted by politicians and the press is the political equivalent of selling your business by listing only revenues, without expenses. You can honestly tell a prospective buyer that your company takes in a million dollars a year, which might impress a novice. But, if it turns out that your expenses are two million dollars a year, you have a losing business, like so many public works projects that drain the public purse after promises of "new jobs" and other benefits without mentioning costs or tradeoffs.

Hazlitt summarized his theory by saying, The art of economics consists in… tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups." Isn't this the essence of what public policy should be, instead of political manipulation in favor of special interests?

Markets are very good at creating wealth and maximizing its productive use because they are based on voluntary transactions in which both buyer and seller must consent before a deal is made. Government routinely takes money from some by force, giving it to others, which destroys essential price communication between supply and demand. Government-subsidized jobs are frequently promoted in clouds of confusion and exaggeration necessary for political success. Sound economics however, suggests a more careful investigation of tradeoffs for wiser public policy decisions.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Craig Green's LIFEPOWER

James Craig Green   "Student of All, Disciple of None"

Fusing Eastern and Western thought, Green presents a dynamic personal philosophy that challenges conventional 'communitarian' thought - Free Market Net, October 1997

A personal philosophy of life, knowledge, spirit, nature, harmony, conflict and - most importantly - adventure...

The following pages reflect my post-Libertarian Party consciousness in the early 1990's. During this period, I was most influenced by Ayn  Rand, Andrew Galambos, Robert LeFevre, Rose Wilder Lane, Frederic Bastiat, Lysander Spooner, Carl Watner, Frederick Mann and his new cyber-country, Terra Libra.

Links below to the LIFEPOWER sections of my website,, have been placed in the following order to present a more logical progression of ideas reflecting the most profound intellectual growth of my life, but before the study of its most important subject, general semantics under Dick Jones, MD, JD.

I recommend returning to this page after reading each LIFEPOWER page (use BACK button), to maintain the order of presentation.

LIFEPOWER Introduction:










Spontaneous Creation of Justice:


Carpe Centuria - "Sieze the Century"

9/11 Suspect to be Tried at Guantanamo

So, they are going to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in military court at Guantanamo instead of in civilian court. It's no surprise even though Candidate Obama had promised otherwise. So, why the reversal? It's to control the flow of information. You see, whatever role Khalid Sheikh Mohammad had in 9/11 was certainly not the crux of the event. 9/11 anomalies, such as the obvious demolition of the Twin Towers and Building 7 (which wasn't even hit by a plane), the absence of plane wreckage at the Pentagon (the govt is being sued right now by a Pentagon employee who walked out through the hole in the building but saw no plane), and the crash site in Pennsylvania with, again, no plane, point to a very sinister involvement of dark government forces and lies, lies, lies. With the 9/11 Truth Movement strong and growing stronger, they can't take the chance of an open trial. It's heartening that right now Donald Trump is determined to get to the bottom of the birther conspiracy. He's sent his own private detectives to Hawaii to investigate Obama's past and the claims that have been made about it. But hey Donald: when you're done with that, why don't you tackle something that's even more important: 9/11 Truth. Come on; you're a New Yorker. They did this to your city. If you want to save America and take it back from the clutches of the globalists, start with 9/11 Truth.