All human beings are constructed of various degrees of mental-spiritual strength, or what can be termed an innate inner resolve that determines how they contend with reality. And a great deal of this inner resolve is given to us at birth. In other words, we are born into the world with an assortment of strengths and weaknesses that drive us to become the persons we ultimately end up as. Such an assortment is not a blueprint of predestination for us. Rather it is a directing potential. It is the seed, that when mixed with the fertilizer of ideas and the soil of circumstance, will determine what our lives turn into. What is being ignored in our politically correct world today is that this seed has a lot to do with what kind of government we end up forming.
There is a scene from my youth, forever etched in my mind, that gave me a profound insight into this crucial “inner resolve” that drives some men and women to readily sanction statism and other men and women to vehemently reject it.
It was a chilly winter day in 1956, and one of our family cats had just given birth to her litter in the basement of our house. Mom hustled my two brothers and I downstairs to view these newborns after their arrival, and I will always be grateful to her for doing so. I was very young at the time, but I learned about one of the great truths of existence, and I don’t mean the birth process. What I learned took place in the days and weeks immediately following.
There were six kittens that came forth that snowy afternoon, and within a matter of days, two of them were crawling their way out to the sides of the box that had been fixed up for them and actually attempting to climb over the edge. It didn’t take them too long to make it over the edge either and begin investigating the entire basement. They were aggressively curious and wanted to know what was on the other side. Right from the start they were amazingly assertive, willing to tackle life, to find out, to fend off whatever was in the way. Another two of the kittens were mildly curious and went about investigating the center of the box, but never attempted to scale the sides. The last two kittens hung back and remained under their mother’s stomach all the time, never venturing out to even the center of the box, let alone to the world of wonderment beyond. They remained close to their mother’s womb for weeks, tremulous and content only to be taken care of.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but these newborn kittens were providing me with my first lesson about welfare state mentalities. Is not the kittens’ example of assertive curiosity vs. passive dread one of nature’s analogies for political-economic man? The free enterpriser wishes to venture out, “to climb over the edge,” to find out what the world is all about — while the welfare statist compulsively seeks a womb of security for his adult years by erecting a massive Nanny State bureaucracy to care for himself and those of like disposition.
What else could motivate men and women to willingly fork over more and more of their basic freedoms to the government every year? Are not such men and women fleeing from the rigors of a free-market reality?
Womb-Seekers and Misguided Idealists
Is it unfair to describe statist mentalities in such a way? Not at all. Of course, not all advocates of statism are “womb-seekers” fleeing from reality. Some are just “misguided idealists” unable to work their way out of the collectivist brainwash they received in college. But I think it is fair to say a sizable portion of statist mentalities are subconsciously seeking a shield to protect themselves from the unbearable anxiety they feel in face of life’s vicissitudes. They remain throughout their lives like the two kittens that preferred the security of their mother’s womb.
Which of these statist archetypes — the “womb-seeker” or the “misguided idealist” — is more predominant among human beings is impossible to say. But whenever you’re dealing with big government advocates, there’s a good way to find out which archetype you’re involved with. See if you can get them to read the opposing literature of freedom. How they respond will be a clue to their nature. If they’re the misguided idealist type, they will almost always take a stab at reading what you offer. If they’re the womb-seeker type, they will almost always find a way to avoid reading what you offer. This is because the misguided idealist is basically in search of the truth, and can often be reached. Reason moves him. He wants to know what is the best kind of society. Justice and individual rights mean something to him.
The womb-seeker, however, is fleeing from the truth. He seeks only support for his previous convictions and shuns any literature that could potentially upset his yearnings, his need to believe that capitalism is evil, that massive statism is necessary for society. Blind emotions move him — the primary one being fear. He’s not interested in what is the best kind of society. Justice and individual rights are things to pay lip service to only. What drives the womb-seeker is the pervasive dread he feels in face of a society in which he will be required to stand on his own. What drives him is the hatred he feels for a society that, early in life, he sensed was never going to reward his levels of ability and risk tolerance with the abundance of riches and status he sees others achieving. What drives him is his desire to level down the dynamic achievers he sees around him so as to assuage the animosity he feels toward those he subconsciously deems as superior. What drives him is his need to find a scapegoat on which to blame his lack of success. Marxist political theory offers him that scapegoat.
Very early in life he embraces the Marxian myth that capitalism has exploited him. “Whew! My failures are not my fault,” he reasons. “It’s this evil system. If only America was built upon a purer form of political-economic organization. Then I would be accorded my rightful status in life. This damn indifference society has for me would no longer exist. I would have respect. If only America was built upon a socialist system where the wealth and status of men and women were not dependent upon how much they individually produced! Then those with purity of heart like me would be able to live the life we deserve.”
Even though capitalism gives him a standard of living unparalleled in history, and one that he could never attain in a collectivist dominated society, the womb-seeker concentrates only on the disparity between himself and the more dynamic achievers he sees around him. He remains totally oblivious to the fact that a free, capitalist society creates thousands of times more wealth for everyone than does the controlled, socialist society. Envy consumes his waking hours. He blanks out on the fact that being low class in a capitalist society is far better than being high class in a socialist society. And he tells himself that the confiscation of wealth he votes for is for the poor people, not for any leveling of the dynamic people. This is why all replies from this type of statist are laden with bromides like, “Something has to be done for the people in Third World countries,” and “We cannot tolerate the disparities of wealth we find in America.” This is how he justifies the theft and leveling through taxation that he espouses, and how he is able to avoid confronting the debilitating envy that drives him.
The womb-seeker never bothers to try and understand that a rising standard of living for society can only take place through continual “capital accumulation,” which can only take place if men and women are allowed to retain their profits. He never bothers to understand that the freer from government a society is, the higher its level of capital accumulation will be, and therefore the more prosperous its people will be (which means we need to teach Third World countries about capitalism rather than redistribute American citizens’ wealth to those countries).
This means that a free society’s disparity of income because of differences in merit is good, for it is such freedom and differences that create the rising tide that lifts all boats. Only when income is left up to the natural differences in individual merit is there any incentive for men and women to be productive. This is why socialist systems become wastelands; they stifle entrepreneurial freedom and wealth based upon differences in merit, and thus “capital accumulation” for society.
[“Capital accumulation” to the economist means investment in productive assets such as machinery, technology, tools, factories, farms, schools, etc. — anything that will produce products, services, education, wealth, jobs, improvement in human life. It is this increase in capital assets and equipment that increases realwages for workers because it raises their productivity per man hour. A man with a tractor can plow far more acreage, and thus produce far more, than a man with a hand-held hoe. This continual increase and diversification of capital, and its resultant productivity, is what allows industrial employers to pay higher and higher wages and still stay competitive. This is why Marx was 180 degrees wrong in his prediction that capitalism would drive wages down to the barest subsistence levels. Just the opposite is the case. Capitalism continually raises real wages higher and higher through “capital accumulation.”]
To those who claim that it is unconscionable for corporate CEOs to earn $10 million per year while laborers earn $40 thousand, why shouldn’t CEOs make such money as long as their salaries come honestly (as with Bill Gates) instead of fraudulently (as with Jeffrey Skilling)?
CEOs, owners, and entrepreneurs reap immense earnings in a free economy because they possess the mental creativity that produced the capital that brought the business into existence in addition to the sales expertise that keeps it thriving in face of competition. Moreover, they often risk their own savings (perhaps their life savings). Laborers are not creative thinkers, they lack sales expertise, and they do not risk any of their own savings. Thus they are compensated at a lower level. This is the “natural aristocracy of talent and virtue” that Jefferson spoke of, and which must be left alone if we are to have a free, prosperous and just society.
Free enterprise always pays the most for what is in greatest demand proportional to its scarcity. The nature of human life is that creativity, expertise and risk tolerance are always in great demand and are always scarce. Therefore, those individuals who possess these attributes in abundance will always earn far more money than those who possess less.
Since he remains ignorant of the vital economic necessity of “capital accumulation” with its entrepreneurial requisites of creativity, expertise, and risk tolerance the womb-seeker becomes easy prey for the demagogues of the left whose preachments cater to his hatreds and his envy. His rational faculties become corrupted, and he readily accepts the politics of enslavement. He votes for more and more progressive tax rates, more and more suppressive regulations of the dynamic achievers around him. In the process, he creates less and less capital accumulation and prosperity, rather than more. Witness Castro’s Cuba and the tribal primitives of Africa. Their leaders drive ’57 Chevies, wear ammo belts around their waists, and spout Marxist jargon about the need to build a new society devoid of “capitalist accumulators.”
I realize that Karl Marx laid down a heavy piece of propaganda about the “labor theory of value” and how entrepreneurial profit is theft of the worker’s contribution. But any man past the age of thirty-five who has participated in any form of business endeavor, who could buy into such a preposterous premise, is simply not an honest person. It doesn’t take a genius to see that brawn goes nowhere in a business until those with brains have come up with the innovations and the methodologies that will lead to consumers coming in the front door to patronize the business. And it doesn’t take a genius to realize that our vast accumulation of productive tools and technology was not created by muscles; it was created by innovative minds free to keep their profits.
That three successive generations of intellectuals could ignore the “creative mental component” of business endeavor and buy into the Marxian fallacy that the laborer’s input is what determines the value of an enterprise’s output is testament to the fact that very few scholars in the ivory towers know anything about the real world of business. One can only wonder how many of such intellects themselves are womb-seekers instead of misguided idealists.
Life of Security at Any Cost
Ever since I was able to think in an adult manner, it has always amazed me — this susceptibility of so many men and women to the irrationalities of the left and thus their willing acceptance of confiscatory taxation by politicians who advocate their enslavement through more and more centralized government. Why would anyone willingly vote away his freedom, his rights, and his earnings?
There are several motives for such servility. Ayn Rand pointed out perhaps the most powerful one, which is altruistic guilt about self-interest. But in light of the above, I think we can conclude that another very important motive is the desire of timid and slothful humans for a life of security at any cost. Such individuals are subconsciously seeking relief from the relentless anxiety of living in a free society. They are simply not comfortable without the womb of the state to shelter them, just as the two tremulous kittens I observed in my youth were never comfortable straying away from proximity to their mother’s stomach.
But it is not only relief from anxiety that the timid and slothful seek. As the famed Ludwig von Mises showed so tellingly in The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, there will always be large numbers of humans who loathe the fact that a free society demonstrates their inability to rise as high as the dynamic achievers they see around them. Washington’s massive welfare state, thus, becomes their buffer both economically and psychologically. It offers those who are lacking in “inner resolve” a political nanny to succor them in face of the rigors and disappointing realizations that often come with freedom.
The welfare state offers them an excuse for their failure to realize their ambitions of matching the wealth and status they see others attaining. By voting for higher and higher taxes, the womb-seekers gain a sort of vengeance on the dynamic achievers who they have grown to despise. In the womb-seekers’ perverted thought processes, if society could only be leveled down to total material equality, then they would not have to go out into the marketplace every day and be reminded by the dynamic achievers of their failure to realize their ambitions. This is what spurs a great deal of the venom so many have toward capitalism. They perceive themselves as failures when they compare their status to those who are richer; and they dream of eliminating the reminder of this perceived failure.
But even if they cannot eliminate this daily reminder with a totally socialist society, the womb-seekers still extract large measures of gratification in whatever leveling they can convince the government to enact because this gives them a feeling of retribution, of punishing those snobbish achievers who radiate so much confidence and get all the wealth, recognition, and status in life. Every time wealth is confiscated from such achievers, womb-seekers are able to assuage some of their hatred and envy.
Creative Daring Is Sacrificed
The tragedy of all this is that the monster welfare state that the womb-seekers erect is paid for through a squashing of the rights of those who are energetic, innovative and productive — the intrepid ones who strive “to climb over the edge.” That which is creative and daring is sacrificed to that which is dull and craven. This is the legacy of collectivism that has come down to us from the massive statism of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, John Maynard Keynes, and their modern day spawn of Demopublicans. Those who are by nature “climbers over the edge” must now fight to keep the dull and craven from overwhelming them.
After numerous years of wrangling with those on the political left, I have concluded that it is a waste of time to try and reach the womb-seeker types. Their tremulous natures in face of reality will never allow them to see the truth. It’s not that they can’t understand it; most truth is easy to understand with a little effort. But accepting it requires one to possess that innate inner resolve toward reality that they were just not given at birth. This is what overwhelms the womb-seekers — the necessity to accept the hard truths of existence, truths that tell them that meaningful life comes through personal travail, not social egalitarianism; and that their duty on earth is to live in freedom and allow their fellow men to do likewise.
This human tendency toward servility appears to be forged into certain people at birth. Thus, there is little that can be done to rectify it other than inspire these more timid segments of humankind to rise above it, while maintaining a tax structure that prohibits them from confiscating the wealth of their neighbors.
Where is this to end? It does not look too favorable for the intrepid souls at this juncture in history. The advocates of collectivism outnumber them, which is making it more and more difficult in America to “climb over the edge” to a free world of accomplishment. The motives of enslavement consume more and more of our citizens with each passing decade. The statist womb of security that lures the craven, and the philosophical lies that deceive the naïve, drag us all into bondage. The “womb seekers” and the “misguided idealists” are blindly obsessed with building an ever larger Nanny State, while those of us who see life as an exhilarating crucible to relish in an independent way begin to think more and more of rebellion in face of the death of freedom that looms up ahead.