In Monty Pelerin’s article “A Class of Economic Zombies, Another Triumph of Socialism,” Pelerin provides the following quote from Benjamin Franklin:
“I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”
It made me think further about the socialist slope Americans are sliding down, and what Benjamin Franklin would think about the country he founded now in regards to its financial order.
Trying to imagine the mind of one of the greatest thinkers, inventors, philosophers, and statesmen of history on what he would think of government spending from an altered 300-year perspective is like trying to imagine what God thinks of Nazis. We may think the answer is obvious, but all we can really do is apply principles or “virtues” that guarantee good over evil, wealth over debt, and individual liberality over government welfare.
In 2010, I published my book, Wealth Virtues, which describes how anyone at any income level can define and create their own wealth, and secure their own future using the virtues of Dr. Benjamin Franklin. It is a path I follow every day for every financial decision. It is these virtues that have left me debt free, with more money flowing in than flowing out and a hefty retirement savings. Our family is also a single income family with a modest income. If every American followed the virtues of Franklin and applied them to their own personal economics, America would be the wealthiest nation in all of history. However, three misperceptions get in the way:
• The false perception that we deserve things beyond our own economic means.
• The false perception that government should and will provide for us.
• The false perception that free market economics is bad and that overpaid government bureaucrats with little or no business acumen know what is best for us as individuals.
Without going into great detail, there is some disturbing information in regards to the so called “entitlements” programs. I also despise the term entitlements as it implies that we are deserving of what the government says we will get. If I took all the money I have paid into the Socialist Security system and invested it on my own, the paltry $24,000 a year I will receive at age 67 would instead be around $60,000. Why am I “entitled” to less?
Social Security is now running at a loss. In 2009, benefit payout exceeded revenue into the system. In February 2011, Senior Democrats claimed that Social Security does not contribute “one penny” to the federal deficit. That’s not true. The fact is, the federal government had to borrow $37 billion last year to finance Social Security, and will need to borrow more this year. The red ink is projected to total well over half a trillion dollars in the coming decade. [source: FactCheck.org http://www.factcheck.org/2011/02/democrats-deny-social-securitys-red-ink/]
The data from the Medicare “Hospital Insurance” fund, which helps pay for inpatient medical care, home health programs and hospice care, showed that the program spent $247.9 billion in 2010, which was $32.3 billion more than it brought in through taxes and other revenue [source: therubins.com http://www.therubins.com/socsec/solvency.htm]
As of now, Social Security will be completely depleated by 2033. By 2024, Medicare’s trust fund won’t be able to cover hospital benefits for seniors.
In essence we are looking at sanctioned Ponzi schemes backed by the U.S. Government’s ability to raise its debt ceiling and create more money. And regardless of what you think of Obamacare, more retirees and baby-boomers living longer may lead to longer waiting periods for medical care and perhaps some form of rationing.
So who is to blame? If “We the People” are truly the basis for the Republic, then take a look in the mirror. If we continually elect individuals who tell us that we will get our “money for nothing and chicks for free” [source: 1985 hit single from the British band ironically named Dire Straits], then we deserve what we get. My personal belief which I believe closely mirrors that of Dr. Franklin, if you are a fool with your own money, then you will elect fools who will continue to do foolish things with your money.
Wealth Virtues was written at the individual level, but the virtues espoused by Franklin, and I use in the book to help individuals become wealthy should be applied at a national level by the people we elect. The results are exactly the same whether you are cutting credit card debt, or the national debt. If we go through a few of Benjamin Franklin’s virtues and apply them to how elected leaders should take steps to make individuals more responsible for their future instead of the “Economic Zombies” Monty Pelerin envisions, they would probably read like this:
Franklin expanded on the meaning in that “it tends to procure the coolness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up, and guard maintained against the unremitting attraction of ancient habits.” Rarely to individuals look at gluttony as a vice which inhibits wealth. However, in an era of inflationary healthcare costs, Temperance is one of the best virtues to improve. Nobody can predict our health needs of the future, but through proper care of ourselves in both body and mind, we can mitigate unnecessary health issues. Perhaps our elected leaders should allow insurance companies to not be liable to their customers who smoke and get lung cancer. Harsh perhaps, but it allows the individual to decide their own future. It is fortunate that Franklin’s virtue of Moderation still allows us a measure of compassion for those that truly need it.
“Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time,” was Franklin’s definition of Order. This virtue allows us to remove worry in matters that are small to concentrate on the bigger picture. If our elected officials focus on the minutia only for the purposes of being reelected, they will never understand their true role as our representatives and will preside over a failing America.
“Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.” How many of the newly elected Republicans failed in their promise of drastically cutting the 2011 budget. They failed in their resolution. Now the entire U.S. Congress need to understand the peril of spiraling Medicaid and Medicare costs. Paul Ryan gets it, and only a few others. They know, like Franklin, that if you keep feeding the monster, the monster grows and wants more.
$15 Trillion + in debt and growing by $4 Billion a day. Enough said.
For Dr. Franklin, Industry was focused at the individual, and defined as “Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.” We are losing time (and money) every day that the government fails to act. Instead of focusing on government solutions as the Socialists in the Democratic Party espouse, we need to put our trust back into the industry of America. Remember that government never put a man on the moon, American industry did. It is the free market unencumbered by ridiculous rules about selling insurance across state lines that drives up cost.
Financial Sincerity has its roots in Frugality and bears the fruits of Justice, Moderation and Humility. Franklin’s virtue of Sincerity is “Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.” When government provides the means to increase a person’s dependency on it for survival, that person has become a little more than a serf. True sincerity by our elected officials would allow them to recognize Franklin’s truth that when more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer.
Franklin understood that Justice was to “wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.” Justice uses the qualities of trust and truthfulness built with Sincerity to allow us to achieve more for ourselves while operating in an environment of fairness. A congress that fails to lower the national debt and fails to act on reining in the costs of government funded care programs are creating a grater injustice to all citizens by not performing their duty.
Benjamin Franklin believed in, and was a practitioner of Liberality. Not to be confused with the socialist “Liberalism”, it is the act of giving freely of your own self-earned wealth. It is not dictated by the government, but rather by the individual. Franklin never sought patents for any of his inventions as he was one to believe that they were for the benefit of all and to be improved upon by anyone. His choice. I also understand that in the eyes of God and the U.S. Constitution, we are all equal. The reality is that we are not. Everyone has weaknesses, and some to the point where they do require assistance from the government. Moreover, it is the government’s role to ensure an unbiased opportunity for each individual to pursue happiness. However, the preamble of the Constitution of the U.S. Constitution has been twisted by the socialist left to misconstrue the term “promote the general Welfare” to administer various bloated entitlement programs.
Perhaps Benjamin Franklin would admonish the current batch of Socialists in Congress, and advise them that the 10th amendment reinforces the notion that general Welfare was not to ensure federal entitlement programs. It ensures a free society where free, self-responsible individuals – rich and poor, bankers and shopkeepers, employers and employees, farmers and blacksmiths – would enjoy “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”