Economic visionaries and reality

The collusion between government agents and business people threatens America’s once free-enterprise system—changing capitalism into cronyism and, ultimately, endangering our personal freedom of choice. Yet, self-serving “experts” peddle false economic views that lead down that path.

Recently, Jay Garner, president and founder of Garner Economics based in Atlanta, spoke to a Wilmington, North Carolina Chamber of Commerce meeting. He gave a “keynote address” and was featured in a Wilmington StarNews article as an “economy expert.” His message: “Public, private sectors need to unite.” (link)

No, they don’t; nor should they.

Reporter Wayne Faulkner began his report: “Private and public leadership determines the winners and losers in the economic development world.” Unfortunately, that’s true; and that’s also the problem. Government colluding with selected businesses results in contaminating capitalism; interfering with our natural inclinations to engage in commerce. Some call it “crony capitalism.”

Government is authoritarian power; power that forces outcomes to benefit it and selected interests. A freely competitive market, without government interference, is a “very efficient system” used to transmit accurate information about prices, writes Dr. Thomas Sowell in a chapter titled, “Visions of Power,” in his 2007 book “A Conflict of Visions.”

Dr. Sowell, a scholarly economist, contrasts two basic ideological visions—constrained and unconstrained—at odds in our “political struggles.” Of course, we all have visions. Sowell says they are “indispensable—but dangerous.” They threaten us when “we confuse them with reality.” Fundamentally, they relate to the nature of mankind: our moral limitations and our “egocentricity.”

The renowned eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher-economist Adam Smith expressed best the constrained vision as described by Sowell. We are to make the best of our social challenges within the constraint of the “facts of life,” rather than spend our energies trying to “change human nature.”

By contrast, Sowell cites William Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, published in England in 1793, that clearly, consistently and systematically, writes Sowell, “elaborated the unconstrained vision”: “man’s understanding and disposition were capable of intentionally creating social benefits.”

The problem with this vision, for political conservatives, is that modern subscribers usually try to manipulate coercive government to force support of their social and economic agenda. Thus, I disagree with Jay Garner and other “experts” with his unconstrained vision. Socialist central planners try to change our human nature because of their desire for control.

Garner’s comments to the Wilmington business group included his belief that success of economic development includes “a common vision by the populace about what your community should be.” This is utter nonsense. Garner confuses meaningless rhetoric with reality. There is no such thing as a “vision by the populace.” That’s like saying “everyone had the same dream.”

Social planners and government activists frequently use the term “community” to promote a collectivist notion of society: that we all presumably want to live illusions that in reality reside with only a very small group (or an individual). A “community” is an abstraction. It can’t have a “vision,” or make decisions or act on someone’s views of the world—only individuals have that ability.

The constrained vision, as Sowell describes it, “sees market economics as responsive to systematic forces—the interaction of innumerable individual choices and performances—rather than deliberate power shaping the ultimate outcomes to suit particular interests” (or organizations). Garner’s vision promotes the power of government that interferes with individual decisions. The unconstrained political class will favor interest groups, euphemistically and deceptively, it calls “community.”

Mr. Garner confirms his blurred vision in the statement: “Incentives are still a major driving force for a community.” If “community” means all of us, that’s not true. His unconstrained meddling economic vision promotes power concentrated with government and a few corporate interests. Markets work best for all with decisions “scattered among millions”—government serving only as a limited arbiter of accepted rules.

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About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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