Prosperity is essential to human happiness. The control of wealth is the control of life itself. We are allowed and encouraged to be prosperous. A directed economy, on the other hand, must be totally controlled by a dictator because of all the complex interrelated activities to be coordinated. Socialists freely admit this – but they offer the consolation that they mean control over only economic matters, so people are free to pursue the higher aims of life, above the inferior, sordid pursuit of money. Hayek mows down this nonsense in Chapter 7 of The Road to Serfdom. It’s obvious that human ends are never the pure pursuit of money. Money is just a way of achieving future ends, which have yet to be specified.
Economic ends are ends over which we have a choice. If you remove money, somebody still has to dole out life’s rewards (privilege, power over others, better housing, finer food, travel, entertainment, culture). Government controlling “merely economic” ends means that we as individuals no longer have those choices. It would deprive us of the right to value and prioritize what we want most out of life.
Economic concerns, it is argued, are less important than higher human values (health, intelligence, virtue, honor, peace of mind). But economic concerns are less important precisely because we have a choice. Money is the way we prioritize our values. The phrase “it’s only money” comes to mind. My integrity is more valuable to me than cheating somebody. If the State controlled “merely economic” matters, it would totally control everything and everyone.
High minded idealists object to the fact that almost everything in society has a price. But to argue against bringing higher values into the “cash nexus” is to suggest that we should not be allowed to sacrifice lesser needs for higher values. Somebody still has to make the tough choices. Life is full of bitter choices, but you cannot deny that choices exist or should be taken away from people because they are difficult. For example, we could eliminate all automobile deaths, but the costs and sacrifice would not be worth it, so we don’t. I could make more money by spending all my time at the office, but I value time with family, friends and other pursuits more, so I don’t.
Freedom and prosperity are two sides of the same coin. Socialists argue that political freedom is meaningless without economic freedom. But economic freedom cannot be freedom from economic decisions that socialists promise. It must be freedom of economic activity, with the right to choose our ends; even if that right carries with it individual risk and responsibility. Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017 from The Estate Planning War Chest.