Steamboat Springs Thanks to Lynn Abbott for her letter "For the Common Good" that appeared in the Pilot & Today on May 13. The conservative editorial series that began three Sundays ago is written to illustrate the difference in thought between conservatives and liberals. Abbott's letter is a good example of the differences we've tried to explain.
Lynn's objectives are laudable, and virtually all conservatives would largely agree with her goals. You see, the myth that conservatives want to starve the poor and the elderly, pollute the planet, deny healthcare to the sick and ride roughshod over the rest of the world is just that - a myth. So how do conservatives and liberals differ? Well, Lynn merely states her lofty objectives and acts as though the discussion is over. In reality, the discussion has barely begun. The issue is how we should achieve these goals.
As Nobel laureate Milton Friedman said, "Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it." Abbott's goals won't be achieved by the government decreeing the results.
Rather, conservatives submit that free individuals in the private sector are more likely to achieve effective and lasting results than government intervention. As President Reagan said, "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem," or as Thomas Jefferson, the purported founder of Abbott's party, said, "I own that I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive."
Let's look at Lynn's concern about wages. The economic law of supply and demand determines the price of any good or service. If the supply of something increases (i.e. the labor supply increases), its price (i.e. the wage rate) will decrease. No qualified economist would deny this. Nevertheless, by turning a "compassionate" blind eye on illegal immigration, the liberals have caused the numbers of workers with limited skills to skyrocket, which has had the obvious and foreseeable effect of depressing wages in this portion of the employment market and increasing unemployment. So, we can thank liberal policy for this problem and the resultant poverty.
Abbott distorts the data on healthcare. There are not "47 million Americans without healthcare." There are a large number of Americans who lack health insurance, but many are young and do so by choice. This is much different than having no healthcare. While she correctly points out some deficiencies in the healthcare market, her solution, more government interference, is simply wrong. Who do you suppose is the largest payer for health services and has the largest influence on price? That's right. It is the government through Medicare, Medicaid and similar program. Here again, government meddling through liberal policies creates the very problems of which Liberals complain. If you don't like your current health plan, just wait until you are forced to accept the government - with all the compassion of the IRS - as your sole healthcare provider.
Space limitations prevent me from commenting on each of Lynn's points, but don't worry, we'll get to them in the course of this series. We'll also illustrate how Abbott's belief that government can expansively regulate a country with a population exceeding 300 million and be "lean and nimble" is a pipedream.
Let me conclude with two thoughts. Lynn's argument for extensive government regulation and control "for the common good" reminds me of another observation by Milton Friedman, "Unaderlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself."
Or as Benjamin Franklin put it, "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."
Rick Akin is an Attorney practicing in Steamboat Springs and Austin, Texas, a former member of the Pilot & Today Editorial Board, and a director of the Conservative Leadership Council of Northwest Colorado.