American Writer, Politician, Financial Consultant and Libertarian Activist
Harry Browne, fully Harry Edson Browne
American Writer, Politician, Financial Consultant and Libertarian Activist
Only free people have an incentive to be virtuous. Only people who bear the consequences of their own acts will care about those consequences and try to learn from their mistakes.
The Constitution isn't written in Chinese, Swahili or Sanskrit. It's in plain English.
The proposed flat tax is big and flat, because there’s no reduction in the size of the federal government. They say you’ll be able to file your tax return on a postcard. But there’s nothing to stop the IRS from demanding proof that the number you put on the postcard is correct. A better arrangement-one that honors freedom and privacy-is a flat 10% tax on all income. No deductions, no exemptions. The 10% would be withheld from your paycheck and forwarded to the government by your employer-without your name attached. You would not have to file a tax return because you’ve already paid your tax. The same would be true of all dividends and interest you earn; the company paying you would withhold 10% and forward it to the government. The estate, gift, Social Security, and capital gains taxes would also be abolished. The government wouldn’t know how much you make, where you keep it, or what you do with it. Your financial life would be private, as it should be in a free country.
For those looking for security, be forewarned that there's nothing more insecure than a political promise.
If we shrink our government from its current yearly budget of $1.5 trillion down to just its constitutional functions, we could get by with a budget of only $100 billion a year plus the interest that has to be paid on the national debt (about $285 billion in 1995). Does $100 billion seem to little? Consider this: In 1950, the total budget of the federal government, excluding interest, was only $241 billion (inflation-adjusted). In 1950 there were no Departments of Education, Energy, Housing, or Health and Human Services, no EPA, no War on Drugs, no National Endowment for the Arts, and no Equal Opportunity Commission. There were very few of the thousands of federal programs that today regulate our lives and monitor our every activity-and cost so much.
Learning, as measured by Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores, steadily declined throughout the 1960s and 1970s. [I attribute this to] the federal government’s heavy hand transforming the public schools and the private schools as they became dependent on it. Yesterday’s schools focused on reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and geography. Today’s schools spend much more time teaching children: To be citizens of the world. To be sensitive to people who are different than themselves. To pester their parents to recycle cans and bottles. To understand how western civilization destroyed a peaceful North American continent. To report their parents if they catch them using drugs. To practice safe sex. Since none of those subjects shows up on the SAT tests, it’s not surprising that SAT scores declined so much.
Our government, taxes, and ideas of freedom are already duplicates of the Old World. Our politicians determine how we should live our lives - and our individual liberties are sacrificed for the benefit of the Fatherland.
The Constitution specifies only three federal crimes-treason, piracy, and counterfeiting. And yet the Congress has passed federal laws against kidnapping, gun ownership, drug use, “hate crimes,” discrimination, fraud, carjacking, vandalism, pornography, and dozens of other activities that have no national significance. Federal laws interfere with local police work and violate the Constitution. They also allow government to circumvent the Bill of Rights and subject citizens to double jeopardy. If a jury acquits someone of violating a state gun-control law, for example, he can be re-tried for violating a federal gun-control law-even though the second trial is for the same act. The federal government has no special wisdom, no special authority, and no special ability to fight crime. The Founding Fathers thought that would be a terrible idea. The past 35 years have confirmed their wisdom. The federal government’s involvement in local law-enforcement has helped the guilty and hurt the innocent.
The seeds of today's runaway government were planted when it was decided that government should help those who can't help themselves. From that modest, compassionate beginning to today's out-of-control mega-state, there's a straight, unbroken line. Once the door was open, once it was settled that the government should help some people at the expense of others, there was no stopping it.
Forcing people to be generous isn't humanitarian, effective, compassionate or moral. Only acts that are truly voluntary for all concerned can be truly compassionate.
If younger people see older people who haven't planned ahead and have to rely on charity, the young will be more likely to provide for the future. Today when someone plans poorly, the only consequence people see is a demand for more government.
Left-wing politicians take away your liberty in the name of children and of fighting poverty, while right-wing politicians do it in the name of family values and fighting drugs. Either way, government gets bigger and you become less free.
Politicians describe foreign trade as though it were a war between countries-with winners and losers. But, for example, every one of millions of Japanese cars was bought by an American who wanted it. Providing what someone wants isn’t aggression. Barring Japanese companies from selling cars is forcibly preventing Americans from getting what they want-which is aggression. Most politicians miss the whole point of international trade. It isn’t a game or a war. Each transaction benefits both sides.
The crime wave of the past 30 years isn’t a result of soft-on-crime attitudes. I believe there are 5 steps needed to lower the crime rate substantially and bring back the peaceful society America had 35 years ago. All 5 call for less government. Stop locking up non-violent offenders. Prison facilities should be reserved for those who murder, rape, assault, and rob. End Washington’s War on Drugs. If drugs were legal, there would be no drive-by shootings, no unjust entries or arrests, and no pushers hanging around schoolyards. End property seizures. Asset-forfeiture laws invite law-enforcement agencies to finance their activities by taking property on flimsy pretexts. Repeal gun-control laws. The laws start by banning something no reasonable person is likely to want-and then become more and more restrictive, until the ban is total. Keep the federal government out. All crime is local; it occurs in the jurisdiction of some police department or sheriff’s department.
The Social Security tax has risen from a combined employer-employee rate of 2% in 1935 to today’s combined tax of 15.3%. And there’s no reason to believe the tax rate won’t continue to rise. As administered by politicians, Social Security is inherently unworkable, because the politicians always spend the money they take in. As the retired population grows, it requires higher taxes to pay the benefits the politicians have promised. Most people think Congress would never renege on its promises to Social Security recipients-no matter how bad federal finances become. But when the only alternative is to raise the Social Security tax rate to 35% or 40%-or to cut off food stamps to the poor-there may be no choice but to cut Social Security benefits. Millions of people depend on Social Security today. They worked for decades. Their plans assumed that Social Security would provide for them when they retired. I believe these people must be taken care of. But I don’t trust the government to do it.
Four worries drive most of the opposition to immigration: JOBS: A new immigrant brings with him a need for products and services-which his job gives him the money to buy. So the immigrant has no net effect on the competition for jobs or the level of wages. Immigrants don’t take jobs away from Americans. They increase the demand for labor and they help meet that demand. WELFARE: The answer is to stop providing taxpayer-supported welfare to anyone-immigrant or citizen. CULTURE: The answer to the culture problem isn’t to keep immigrants out, but to restore the America of free individuals, each responsible and self-governing. Immigrants will embrace our culture more quickly when government stops trying to dissolve it. NOT ENOUGH ROOM: The US is still a country of wide open spaces. America could triple its population without our existing cities growing any faster than they do now.
I'm for a flat tax -- as long as the flat rate is zero. The object is to get rid of big government, not find a new way of financing it.
Libertarians know that a free country has nothing to fear from anyone coming in or going out - while a welfare state is scared to death of poor people coming in and rich people getting out.
Raising children is a moral challenge. But it’s a practical one, too. Your chances of success would be much greater if government left more money in your pocket. If the income tax were abolished from your life: You could send your child to a private school that teaches the kind of values you cherish-or at least doesn’t oppose those values. You could afford to have one parent remain home as the children grow up, so that most of their moral education comes from you. You could afford more leisure time and longer vacations-during which the family could do things together. If you can imagine how much repealing the income tax would do for your family, imagine as well what it would do for other families-how much it would help children everywhere to grow up to be decent, peace-loving citizens.
The crusade against victimless crimes reaches the apex of absurdity in the War on Drugs. It is the quintessential example that government doesn’t work. Government has failed completely to stop people from taking drugs. It can’t stop drugs from coming into the country. It can’t even stop drugs from getting into its own prisons. And yet the politicians keep telling us that the next freedom taken from us will be the price that finally pays off in getting drugs off the streets and away from our children. It ought to be obvious by now that this War will never be won. Government can’t stop the supply, it can’t reduce the demand, and its strong-arm tactics don’t work. We have paid for this fruitless crusade in billions of tax dollars, the corruption of police forces, the loss of civil liberties, soaring crime rates, and gang warfare. The War has served only to undermine our protections against reckless law enforcement-and to make life easier for violent criminals.
The success of private schools-even private schools on skimpy budgets-has inspired the idea of “school choice” or “vouchers.” I understand well the attraction of this approach. And it might be an improvement over today’s poor schooling. But government doesn’t work. And giving government control over education-in any form-is dangerous. A voucher program means requires a government bureaucracy to administer it and government “experts” to decide which schools are “qualified” to accept the vouchers. It is especially dangerous to have the federal government administer such a program or set the rules for it. The Feds are too far removed from local school issues to have any competence in education. It is far better to lower the tax burden so that parents are financially able to buy the education they want-with no rules imposed by government. Then each family could send its children to any school they want-or teach them at home.
A Libertarian society of unfettered individualism spreads its benefits to virtually everyone - not just those who have the resources to seize political power.
Before the 1960s, a person who needed help appealed to a local charity (such as the Salvation Army) or to the town government. The downtrodden individual had to explain how he got into trouble and how he intended to work his way out of it. He was monitored closely to assure that he was telling the truth and that he stuck to his plan to get back on his feet. And he knew that the money he received came from the pockets of his neighbors. Federal welfare requires nothing more than filling out a form.
A little government involvement is just as dangerous as a lot - because the first leads inevitably to the second.
But, actually, it is only Americans who say that our freedoms and prosperity are the reason foreigners hate us. If you ask the foreigners, they make it clear that it's America's bullying foreign policy they detest.