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A half century ago, the United States was an industrial colossus and poised for another era of advance. What happened?

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Who Devalued the American Dream?

A half century ago, the United States was an industrial colossus and poised for another era of advance. What happened?

A half century ago, the United States was an industrial colossus — a great monument to the productive potential of a free people. Moreover, with the advent of safe, abundant, and astonishingly inexpensive nuclear energy coupled with initial rapid advances in micro science and engineering, America was poised for another, even more spectacular era of advance. If this advance had been allowed to take place, Americans could have led all of the world’s people into a wonderful period of progress and prosperity, orders of magnitude beyond anything the world has ever known — and, as things stand now, may ever know.

What happened?  We allowed government to take away too much of our freedom.

While we see around us bits and pieces of the possible technological advance that survived, most of the new world beyond the door that opened to mankind during that period is now hidden from us.  The door closed before we could pass through it.

We walked on the moon, but could travel no further. We began the transition to nuclear energy, but then abruptly stopped. We devised technology that could have revolutionized human medicine, but then did not apply that technology. America is littered from one end to the other with the dreams of free productive people — dreams that those people were prevented from bringing to reality.

Not only did we fail to advance, but we slid backwards. Our astronauts retreated from the moon to hover in near earth orbit. Our industries shrank. Our energy system decayed until we could not even produce sufficient energy for our reduced industry. Our medicine stagnated and yet required more and more of our resources to maintain in even its primitive condition.

Why did we cease to advance and, instead, slide backward? The reason is absolutely clear — we allowed our individual human freedom to be reduced. The progress of past generations of Americans — whose accomplishments still sustain our now diminished lives — was not made possible because those people were superior. It was made possible because they were free. As Julian Simon showed, free people always produce more than they consume — but only if they are free to do so.

We were not oppressed from without. We were oppressed from within. We allowed our government — a government largely composed of people of little or no ability or real accomplishments — gradually to build a system of taxation, regulation and control, and government-sponsored litigation that has destroyed our freedom. Nor is this tyranny based only in Washington. Throughout America, state and local governments and the monopolistic arrangements that they have forged with now pseudo-public industries interfere with productive human activities at every turn.

Americans today cannot even modify their homes, make and sell electricity, or drive their cars without “permission.” And those who give “permission” can withhold “permission.”

As American productivity faltered and then slid backwards under their yokes, our masters feared we would turn surly if our prosperity diminished. So, our financial system was manipulated to allow us to buy from other countries the things we no longer produced.  They printed new money and erected upon that money an enormous pyramid of debt and other leveraged derivatives. Increasingly, Americans could no longer own their homes, but they could lease them from the government through property taxes and from the banks through loans. Loans, debt, money – money to buy perceived wealth. Money to bid up the price of stocks, commodities, homes, and all the other things Americans wanted but could no longer afford since their real wages were not also rising.

So, a nation of fundamentally impoverished “investors” — actually “speculators,” or really “gamblers” — grew up to replace a nation of producers. They were told that their economy was 70% “consumer” driven. Only 30% need still be producers — producers who are very carefully controlled and suppressed by government.

With real wages not rising, there was a limit to the debt Americans could support — a limit that was reached in 2007. At that point, the great government-created imaginary balloon of perceived wealth in the form of printed money, inflated debt, inflated stock prices, inflated commodity prices, and inflated home prices began to deflate.

The majority of Americans, however, are addicted to inflated prices and/or to the river of welfare payments being given to them by government — paid for with capital that the government has taxed away from productive Americans. So, in 2008, they elected politicians who are committed to even higher taxation, regulation, and litigation and who promise to print enough money to replace the loss of perceived imaginary purchasing power within the balloon.

If they print so much money, however, inflation will destroy the currency. Instead, they hope that the printing of part of that money and the promise to print unlimited amounts more will “restore confidence” and lead the people to borrow the rest. In other words, the balloon of imaginary wealth has started to deflate. It is wrinkling. Government proposes to re-inflate the wrinkles with printing press money and to thereby convince Americans that all is well, inducing them to resume puffing up the balloon. As 2007 showed, however, Americans — enslaved by government — are out of breath.

This cannot succeed. The only solution to American economic problems is to remove the governmental taxation, regulation and control, and litigation that has reduced the freedom of individual Americans so far that they no longer have the ability or will to produce the things they need.

Yet, those who were elected in 2008 and the millions of bureaucratic retainers who work for them have no intention whatever of increasing the freedom of productive people. They fear the productive people whom they have enslaved and fully intend to bind them with even heavier chains.

Inspiring speeches and “leadership” from those who love tyranny will not work — no matter how stridently media, academia, and other leftist institutions applaud. Only freedom will work. Until American freedom is restored, the balloon will continue to deflate.

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Written By

Dr. Arthur Robinson is President and Research Professor of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine.

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