The Myth of Legislating Prosperity

A persistent myth one encounters among leftists is that government action via legislation leads to prosperity. In fact, I would argue this is the defining characteristic of a leftist, albeit to some extent many among the Alt-Right; government is the source of wealth and economic development. The private sector is a necessary evil at best through which the state can create it, but it must be restricted, controlled, and regulated like a wild animal.

Examples abound. As they would have you believe it, minimum wages raise a worker’s economic status, the 40-hour work week and the end of child labor was made possible only by mandate. Without these laws on the books, we’re supposed to assume, tomorrow everyone would be paid pennies and have five-year-old children slaving away in apple fields.

All of this completely and totally ignores the actual reason why employees have 40-hour work weeks and why kids attend school today rather than work in sweatshops. Technological advances increased the productivity of workers and/or the value of a product to the point where they didn’t need to work more than 40-hour work weeks to put food on the table, nor did children have to work in tactile factories in order to help feed their families. The wealth generated by the adults, typically the father, was now sufficient.

If passing laws and regulations are what makes countries improve economically, why does the United States send billions overseas in foreign aid to Third World nations? Why do they not simply pass the same laws that we’ve had on the books for decades?

This video from Learn Liberty explains how a man’s invention of the containership drastically reduced the cost of shipping cargo around the world. All of this was accomplished through one man’s cleverness, not by a bill or regulation.

Ironically, those opposed to these positive changes to global trade were politicians and organized labor.

Years ago, Jeffery Tucker correctly identified modern progressives to be regressive technologically and economically; they don’t want to raise people’s standards of living. They don’t actually want progress to occur. Quite the opposite; they want everyone to return to “former, simpler” times, which translates into ordinary people living in squalor while a few, chosen elite get to enjoy all the benefits of a system they deny to all others.

That may sound cynical and pessimistic, but how many times must a system fail before people recognize its inherent failure? You either acknowledge your preferred policy doesn’t work and try something else, or you have ulterior reasons for pushing it apart from the “official” justification.

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