Everyone wants to be personally prosperous. Most everyone would agree that it is easier to be prosperous when living in a society that is prosperous. This book makes it clear what prosperity is and why it is liberty that provides the prosperity of both individuals and all of society. It is the understanding that the Founders of the United States had, the understanding forgotten by those of us who are more concerned with our day-to-day lives.
Welcome to the Prosperity of Liberty website. I am Tom Wickert. During my prime earning years I developed and managed relational databases for manufacturing companies. Now, I am involved in technical stock market analysis. Being a programmer by inclination, my attitude toward this book is understandable. No computer program of any significant scope or size can ever be considered to be complete; it can only be considered to be sufficiently useful to be implemented. While, technically, I can be called the author of The Prosperity of Liberty, I consider myself to be the content editor. It is my hope that you will contribute to this blog-site. Why I hope you will contribute is best understood by how the book came to be published.
I personally discovered the works of Frederic Bastiat in the spring of 2010 and shared my discovery with an acquaintance on the Internet who, I then discovered, was active in the publishing business. He also became enthusiastic about the ideas. In the exchange of emails we arrived at the conclusion that we both wanted to learn more and that there is a national hunger to understand the economic hardships the nation is experiencing. We were both motivated, like so many other people have recently become active, to play some role in our nation's future. We decided to undertake a project. The project we began was to have three parts.
We Americans are very proud of our democracy, and rightly so; the Founding Fathers were generations ahead of their time. Unique circumstances of events, cultural traditions, and geography allowed the universally held desire for personal liberty to be politically expressed in the Declaration of Independence, and given practical form in the Constitution of the United States. When viewed in the broadest scope of human history, the American Revolution was at the beginning of the period of transition from monarchies to nation states, from agrarian to industrial economies, at the beginning of a slowly developing world trend of people governing themselves based on the principle of universally held equal rights. Previously, it was most common for some type of strongman to rule, like a king or queen, and the benefits of society were received unequally based on kinship, race, or some other classification. Today, the most prosperous nations attempt to provide some form of democracy and, once a people experiences democracy, there is general agreement that it is the best type of government to achieve the greatest general peace and prosperity. There remains no consensus of opinion, however, on how to measure the relative amounts of peace and prosperity provided by the various organizations of human society. After arriving at a plateau of thought, we have not been able to determine whether human society is best organized by a benevolent and enlightened leadership, or by the natural tendencies of the governed.
There are many words to describe how things work. Whether it is called a model, paradigm, law, or philosophy, the idea is the same; there is some abstract reasoning used to understand why things work the way they do. Sometimes there is a revelation, discovery, paradigm shift, or revolution in thought that shows us what was previously accepted to be true is, in fact, incorrect. The founding documents of the United States express the revelation that the purpose of government is for the benefit of the governed, not for those who govern. Why is it, then, that politicians continue in the ancient tradition of patronage, where political power is acquired and maintained by benefitting one group at the expense of another? If the Founding Fathers were so enlightened, why did they give us a constitution that could be interpreted to provide legitimacy for manipulating the peace and prosperity that is the responsibility of government to promote?
The Founding Fathers knew they didn't have all the answers and relied on succeeding generations to improve on the foundation they provided. No one who has a good idea expects that the principles behind the idea will be rejected in the future. While there can be unending academic dispute over who had what principles, how strongly they held these principles, or how well the principles they held were realized; there can be no dispute that what was introduced to the world was the concept that the purpose of government is to guarantee the rights of all persons equally. It was inconceivable that this could one day be reinterpreted to mean forcing an equality of material prosperity, or that justice should ever have the ancient meaning of group justice instead of individual justice. They thought they had a pretty good model of the way things worked: Natural Law. This understanding has been lost over two centuries of industrialization and man's perceived ascendency over nature. When those who govern discard Natural Law as the basis for their authority to govern, and do so without providing a new model, it does not tell us why Natural Law is wrong; it simply testifies to the fact that we have forgotten what Natural Law is or, regarding government, we are more concerned with our own lives than with verifying the principles held by those who govern.
Governments do not change themselves. They cannot change unless forced to change. In the grand scope of history, this has usually been done through violent revolution. In the United States we have, by benefit of the Constitution, the opportunity for the people to change government peacefully. This requires, of course, that a majority wants change and can agree on where that change takes us. There are political powers that believe the correct model of government is the European welfare state. Others believe the correct model is crony capitalism. Very few would openly advocate for communism, but there are still those who support the notions of that model. What I present to you is a paradigm of government based on the principle of individual liberty, where the power of government is limited and markets are free to function as unhindered as possible. This is not some new idea, it is the principle that the United States was founded on, the forgotten revolutionary idea.
There are already many books about interpretations of the intent of the Constitution. What purpose does another book about the claimed original intentions of the Constitution serve? None, if all it provides is a sentimental academic exercise of threading together and cross-referencing a collection of revered works on government and historical documents. The academics already have plenty to read and study. It is my intention to present an argument for individual liberty that is as easy to read as possible. A primer, if you will, on Natural Law. I am only able to do this without a lifetime of research because someone has already done it. A French economist, Frederic Bastiat, wrote extensively on the subject in the mid-nineteenth century. Better yet, he wrote not only to convince academics, he also wrote to convince his fellow citizens. What I offer is an argument for individual liberty that is largely derived from the works of Bastiat. It will provide a foundation upon which to build an understanding of the fundamental dynamics of every economy and the appropriate functions of government. What I present is the idea that it does not matter what I think, what Bastiat thought, or even what the Founding Fathers thought; what matters is what you think, because it is your vote that will determine how the Constitution is interpreted and will ultimately determine our shared future well-being.