November 24, 2012
By Jeremy Egerer
already heard Obama praised, repeatedly, for saving GM, and having
witnessed both presidential candidates show support for the company,
I've decided that it's time to explain -- not in emotional terms or statistics,
but in simple philosophical truths -- what exactly it was that Obama
saved. For when the matter is closely examined without national
prejudice, it turns out that what Obama did by "saving" GM was actually
fully explain my position, it's necessary to start at the very bottom
of the matter: the existence of businesses and production in general.
We must look at the business not as the politician sees it -- not as a
series of intertwined careers, benefits, and retirement plans -- but as
an idea, beginning in the mind of a single man, to benefit himself by
benefiting another person. We must envision the entrepreneur looking
about and applying his intellect to his surroundings, seeking to produce
not simply something, but rather something another person
wants or needs. Supposing that his assumption is correct, and another
person does want the goods for the set price, an exchange is made, and
the entrepreneur profits. He gives, and another gives something else
back; in essence, everyone wins in a moral exchange.
there's another side of the coin entirely. Supposing the man builds
things that nobody wants; supposing he gives himself unsustainably high
wages; supposing he even charitably promises that employee wages will be
so high, that he cannot price competitively any longer, what happens is
that he begins to consume instead of produce. Instead of producing for
the happiness of consumers, he produces solely for his and his
compatriots' own happiness; instead of thinking about exchange, he
becomes more concerned with getting.
Though he promised the world to
himself and his neighbors, he cannot deliver it; his wealth dissipates
like a passing dream, the illusion of prosperity melts before his very
eyes, and whatever cloud he believed himself to stand upon appears upon
every further second more like fog upon the pavement. Then, there he
is: not in heaven, but in the gutter.
Money, as Mises noted,
has the miraculous ability to declare in relative precision what humans
cannot perfectly discern: the benefit provided to others through
exchange. Perhaps man may be able to trade three sheep for a mule and
gauge subjective value in that way. But business cannot run on any
serious scale in sheep and mules. When a man looks at his ledger and
finds that his monetary income exceeds his expenditures, he adequately
gauges his contributions to society and contrasts them with the benefit
he receives. The ledger tells him with red ink whether he's being too
selfish, or whether he seeks out the needs of others effectively, and
whether or not he's being efficient. Profit shows him that other people
value his contributions -- that he takes, but gives adequately -- or
else they wouldn't have exchanged.
supposing he were to promise all his friends a golden medallion, and
tell them their children would be fed for life, and then, expending more
than his income, became a burden upon society instead of a benefit, the
laws of nature -- enforced by man's right to not buy -- would stop his
madness before he impoverished society at large. Immaterial dreams
grace both the successful and the unsuccessful entrepreneur; and almost
like the difference between the sane and the insane, reality corresponds
accordingly to the mind's projections. This is the world of business
-- a world of need and imagination and risk which appears as speculation
but which forms the basis of every market economy. In essence, men
must condition their minds to the reality with which they are presented
-- and if they do not, then they suffer the effects of delusion.
consider that if the opposite were true, that men could make ridiculous
promises under the pretense of generosity -- pensions, bonuses,
whatever -- but then, having hit the brick wall of reality, the boundary
which marks the line between production and consumption, they were to
force their neighbors to perpetuate an essentially selfish dream. What
would we say of such a thing? That it benefits everyone involved?
Certainly, it benefits some, but at the forced expense of the rest.
Would we say that coercion at the point of government bayonets -- viz,
taxation for the propagation of failed businesses -- is somehow a
greater moral duty than sustainable production? Does society really
have a responsibility to make good the promises of the imprudent?
Certain men argue that GM was too large and iconic to fail -- that by its failure we
would fail. Surely, the fewer delusional citizens America possesses,
the better, and likewise, the more sizable the imprudence, the greater
the resulting suffering. But supposing the great majority of people
make promises too large to fulfill and then fail miserably, we cannot
really say that fulfilling their promises at a loss benefits the
majority. We may promise every neighbor a golden car
-- but whose savings, whose earnings, what sensibly productive person's
livelihood will we have to encumber to fulfill that promise? When the
failures of other men are the burdens of the successful, what is
encouraged is not success, not sensibility, not wealth, but failure. We
do not call a man insane for failing in business, but we may call men
insane for forcefully propagating his losses.
Let us consider the matter soberly: the American auto
industry would not have disappeared forever upon GM's failure. The
company's means of production would have been purchased at an affordable
price by another entrepreneur, he would have promised his laborers and
executives realistic wages and benefits, and the United States of
America would have a new industry giant. Our cars
would be more affordable, they would be more internationally
competitive, and the worst president in American history would have lost
an emotionally powerful talking point during a crucial election. In
short, when GM survived, America lost.
politicians -- shame on them, both left and right -- tout job growth as
though consumers are negligible, as though production is a secondary
concern, as though the market isn't run by individual givers with
materialized dreams, but rather bolstered by America's most wasteful,
destructive, confiscatory state since King George III's England. If
coercion is the way Americans enjoy enterprise, then so be it. But
should they continue to believe the fanciful -- that the greater the
insanity, the greater the social duty to reward it, like a deluded man's
friends pretending in his presence that he actually is Napoleon
Bonaparte -- they will suffer greater and greater poverty until poverty
results in sobriety, or until it finally results in socialist tyranny.
Jeremy Egerer is a convert to biblical conservatism from radical liberalism and the editor of the Seattle website www.americanclarity.com. American Clarity welcomes friend requests on Facebook.