M-O-N-E-Y & Influence
By: Nancy Salvato
If you want that girl
Don’t you sit around and cry
In this world
Ain’t nothing you can’t buy
– Lyle Lovett, Money
Money may not really buy love or make the world go round, but it certainly does help society to function efficiently. Money, which is assigned a value, is the item of exchange we use if we want to purchase something. The work we do to earn money is also assigned a value and the amount something costs reflects the value in producing or developing it. Most people would agree that the reward of money is the incentive they need to invest their time and labor into many of the tasks that demand their attention. While there may be additional reasons for applying ourselves to projects, a surplus of money allows us more freedom to devote our energy to additional pursuits.
In answering whether money is the root of all evil, Ayn Rand wrote, â€œMoney is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?” Money incentivizes those who produce and there is nothing wrong with that. Heritage Foundation’s Rebecca Hagelin writes that â€œwealth and economic freedom go hand in hand.â€ In countries where there is economic freedom, there is more wealth. It can be argued that there is something inherently wrong with de-incentivizing those who produce by making it more difficult to be productive or rewarded.
The Founders understood that those with property have a vested interest in protecting the fruit of their labor. When people think of the Founders, they usually think of the names most associated with writing the founding documents, however, it is just as important to remember those anti-Federalists who feared giving too much power to the federal government and who refused to ratify a Constitution without a Bill of Rights. These founders gave voice to prevailing concerns and greatly influenced what was included in the final document. Cato, in letter 62 wrote,
“By liberty, I understand the power which every man has over his own actions, and his right to enjoy the fruit of his labour, art, and industry, as far as by it he hurts not the society, or any members of it, by taking from any member, or by hindering him from enjoying what he himself enjoys. The fruits of a man’s honest industry are the just rewards of it, ascertained to him by natural and eternal equity, as is his title to use them in the manner which he thinks fit: And thus, with the above limitations, every man is sole lord and arbiter of his own private actions and property. A character of which no man living can divest him but by usurpation, or his own consent.
“The entering into political society, is so far from a departure from his natural right, that to preserve it was the sole reason why men did so; and mutual protection and assistance is the only reasonable purpose of all reasonable societies.”
It should surprise no one then that those with money would want to use that money to influence the representatives who are elected to office. It is not unreasonable that those with propertied interests would want to protect their investments and maximize their ability to produce. And well they should. It is wealth and investments that create jobs. The more freedom they have to pursue wealth, the wealthier our society will become. Those are just the facts. The Founders expected that those elected to office would understand the need to maintain a balance between the needs of the individuals and the welfare of the community, always keeping in mind the reason why anyone would willingly enter into a political society. They were not naÃ¯ve in their expectations, though.
Scott Stripling writes in The Founders’ View of Character and the Presidency,
“In the opinion of the Founders, the question of the best form of government cannot be separated from the question of human nature, for it is in human nature that government has its origin and purpose; and, the limits of human nature set limits to what may reasonably be expected from politics…”
Stripling warns us to â€œtake seriously their reservations about the capacity of human nature for self-government.â€
George Washington, himself, is quoted as saying, â€œ”Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.”
The Founders expected that those who are elected to office would take an oath to uphold the Constitution. In their role, they should be able to step back from the passion that sometimes drives the people and thoughtfully consider any and all effects of what is being asked and make a determination about legislation that may prove contrary to the Constitution or to the individual rights it was designed to protect. They also put in place a system of checks and balances to prevent any office or individual from amassing too much power. One would expect that those corrupted by their own power and influence would be voted out of office.
The Founders also expected that those with the power to vote people into office would take their civic responsibility seriously enough to elect people who understood the Constitution and whose actions would reflect this understanding. Today, it is hard to say who is more at fault, the electors or the elected, but clearly a large amount of those representing the constituents do not understand the purpose of our Constitution or are simply drunk with power and influence. How else can a stimulus package which has created trillion dollar debt and was designed to redistribute wealth be passed? How can anyone believe that giving the government more power and control over how to spend our money is what the Founders intended?
Thomas Jefferson wrote,
“To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, ‘the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.’”
Our current President believes, â€œThis is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many.â€
Ayn Rand wrote about this very idea in Atlas Shrugged, a book which foretells what would happen if those who do all the producing were incentivized enough to stop producing and all that was left were the Moochers, or as the Progressive left calls them, â€œThe Underserved.â€ Eventually, it would all come down to one man. Thus, what if Atlas Shrugged?
Or, what if everyone is just corrupt and drunk with power and stimulus money, enough to curry favors and continue their re-election to office for years and years? Mike Royko writes about this phenomenon, known as â€œMachine Politicsâ€ or â€œThe Daley Machineâ€ in Boss. People are too afraid to buck â€œThe Machineâ€ or do not have the power or influence to beat Machine politics. Read the book to understand better the corruption in politics.
While we ponder these possible scenarios, think about this. The debt we pass down to future generations will de-incentivize them. Their money will go to the government to pay for the debt we’re inflicting upon them today, money being made available to corrupt politicians for redistribution, money which will assure their re-election by those benefitting most from the dispersal of these funds. Future generations of producers (Capitalists) will not be able to accumulate the wealth or be rewarded for their industry. We can stop saddling future generations with debt and clean up the corruption now, or to borrow the words of Pink Floyd, â€œWelcome to the Machine.â€