Do We Need a Big Brother or a Big Father?

February 28, 2017
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Throughout history, a government has always been established in any society and civilization, to the point that today a government is considered a necessity to function and create a superior society. However, the question throughout time has always been which type of government society needs. With this question in people’s minds, history has shown the most authoritative governments, but it has also shown the most lenient governments. Now according to George Orwell in his book 1984, he calls the government “Big Brother” (for reasons of his own); but does society need a big brother who is laid-back and supportive, or a big father who is assertive and controlling. That is the real question, one which must be explored. While a big government - the nickname for a controlling government - does sound like a utopian ideal, it does come with a seductive falsehood which, true to its meaning, restricts a society’s true potential. On the other hand, a less controlling government is the most effective, one that allows for economic prosperity and a society more superior than any other created, all while benefiting the individual - the basic unit of society. With less government rule, a society, such as the United States’, is ironically allowed to extend to places never reached before by mankind.

Economic prosperity is a core factor which defines a society for how successful it is. A society with economic prosperity is in essence one which has a laissez-faire government - a hands-off government that is not very restrictive. Adam Smith, a famous French economic analyst who is credited with the creation of laissez-faire, stated in his famous book The Wealth Of Nations “It is the highest impertinence and presumption… in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expense... They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expense, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will” (Adam Smith Institute). Adam Smith believed that an unauthoritative government would allow for an economic system created by the people, the consumers and producers, which would in turn be more superior than one created with state influence. He believed in his “Invisible Hand” theory (which will be expanded on later): the idea that an invisible hand connects everyone in society where each person’s individual actions for their self-gains indirectly helps the economy. He believed that this invisible hand, a hand of the people, guides the economy forward, not the government. Thus it is through laissez-faire policy that a superior economic system is created, for in any society it is the companies and businesses and individuals generating wealth and fueling the economy, not the government (Bartholomew). Through laissez-faire, the economic power is put into the hands of the people and society; and with that power the society will perform wonders since the people  are directly involved and influenced by it rather than being apathetic. 

Throughout history and even in the current world, times of economic prosperity are tied with laissez-faire governments, and vice-versa. In history, the most prominent example of this is the First and Second Industrial Revolution. During these times, there was little to no government control on the economy, and thus the people worked together to create economic prosperity in the European countries, Japan, and especially in the United States. It is through little government interference that power and control is put into the hands of the people, and it is through the power being with the consumers and producers that industrialization and thus economic prosperity occurs in any society; whether it was in Europe during the 1800s, the United States in the 1900s, or today in China. It was only with the rise of socialism or communism - which always occurs in any country after some time of industrialization - that the true economic success of a society is hindered due to state control. As Max Eastman stated in his book Reflections On The Failure Of Socialism, “But it is not only the Communists, it is in a more subtle way the Socialists who are blocking the efforts of the free world to recover its poise and its once-firm resistance to tyranny” (“The Alluring Falsehood of Socialism”). It is with socialism or communism, whichever one invades a society first, that government control comes about. With increased government control, the power and authority is taken away from the people and put into the state’s hands; there, economic prosperity is hindered since the government controls the economy’s actions instead of the people. This is why communism (extreme government control) has repeatedly failed in exchange for a more capitalistic system and why countries which previously economically prospered during their industrialization now lag behind due to socialist and authoritative policies, as seen with the United States’ rust belt.

Even in today’s current world, there are countless examples where little to no government interference proves to facilitate economic prosperity on such a massive scale. Great examples of this are current-day Spain and Switzerland. As stated by analyst James Bartholomew, “But the economy [Spain’s] seems to be taking a different view of the matter. It is bowling along more breezily than in a long time. The growth rate during the final quarter of last year was an annualised 2.9 per cent, which, in these days of dismal Euro-growth, is a star performance… Unemployment has fallen month after month… much better showing than in most EU countries…. Switzerland probably has the weakest central government in all Europe. Yet Switzerland is the most successful of all the European economies…” (Bartholomew). Due to extreme political splits in Spain, by the end of 2015 the Spanish government had become non-existent, for it did not have a prime minister and could not make nor enforce its policies (Caparrós). Therefore, for about a year and a half the Spanish lived without a government, but it was also during this time that economic prosperity came about once again as Spain soon gained the highest European GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth rate and unemployment fell, all while the Spanish were completely fine with their society free of the government. It seemed like that people were taking care of themselves, yet working together indirectly to create an economic system superior to any created by the state, just as Adam Smith theorized. Some other good examples included Switzerland, which has the weakest central government, and the U.A.E., which employs strict laissez-faire. In these countries, companies and millionaries trust their money and headquarters, respectively, in these areas because they are the most effective systems: with Switzerland’s banking and security controlled by the individual banks and companies allowed to pay low corporate tax in the U.A.E. Therefore, laissez-faire economics is not a thing of the past; it is something which still can be implemented today to advance a society’s economy - an opportunity that the United States had to take.

Now to expand on Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand theory. According to Mr. Smith, with a laissez-faire government, economically a society will self-manage and create an economic institution superior to which any state could provide. As he stated in his his book The Wealth of Nations, “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things” (Adam Smith Institute). Smith believed that a society’s economy can be self-dependent and self-managing, where success and peace occurs through mutual agreements between the people, which he claimed to be the invisible hand over the economy. For example, he stated that there is a relationship between producers and consumers in a free-trade society: “When governments decide on prices, they make them too high or too low. So either you get a wasteful surplus or else shortages and rationing. Prices set by a free and competitive market are much better at matching supply and demand” (Bartholomew). As rephrased by a Smith admirer, Adam Smith basically theorized that producers would make a product and then set a price, and once in the market the consumers would decide if it is too expensive or cheap by either over-buying it or not buying it. Lack of profit by either low or high sale price causes the producer to raise the price. This cycle continuously occurs until a mutual agreement, or a point of equilibrium, takes place; hence a self-dependent and managing economy based on mutual agreements between producers and consumers. However, Adam Smith was very limited in applying his Invisible Hand theory to economics, for it can be theorized and proven that this theory also has a social aspect.

The Invisible Hand theory does not just apply to the economic aspects of a society, but it can apply to all aspects of a society, thus creating not just a superior economic system but also a superior society than any government influenced one. As Adam Smith stated on his Invisible Hand theory, “The natural effort of every individual to better his own so powerful, that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity,... Public services are never better performed than when their reward comes in consequence of their being performed,...” (Adam Smith Institute). The Invisible Hand theory can be extended to society as a whole, where without government interference a society can be self-dependent and self-managing, and where mutual agreements between the people rather than laws made by the government and for the people creates a more superior and worthier society; like an invisible hand guiding society and pushing it in the right direction for its people. Rather than having government officials decide what is best for the people, if each person advances to achieve their self-interests, they indirectly help society as a whole by creating mutual agreements with others; thus organization and peace and happiness comes naturally rather than forcefully with government intervention. For example, maternity-leave in the United States of America is a prominent example. Instead of having the government decide how long a woman has a right to be on temporary paid leave due to pregnancy, letting the employer and employee mutually make an agreement about maternity leave which suits both of their interest would make the perfect compromise instead of a government-made one. This situation can be applied to any social problem for which a law exists, whether it be discrimination or welfare. Again, just as James Bartholomew stated, “When governments decide on prices, they make them too high or too low. So either you get a wasteful surplus or else shortages and rationing” (Bartholomew). Mutual agreements are stronger than government-made laws since they are decided and created by the people rather than by the government, thus naturally bringing about a well-supported society in all aspects. With a laissez-faire government, the power is given to the people, who will make strong logical mutual agreements - and thus a logical society - since they are the ones directly involved in the society. After all, it is the individuals in the end who run and make up society, not the government.

This ideal society is one where everyone benefits, and for everyone to benefit each individual has to benefit, which one can do by pursuing their own self-interests. It has always been thought in any capitalistic democratic country, such as the United States, that  the individual is important and the basic unit of a society; thus the individual should benefit and prosper. However, for a country that strongly believes in this, the United States’ approach of attempting  to achieve this is the wrong way: “There is no crime punished by death in this world, save this one crime of speaking the Unspeakable Word” (Rand 49). According to the United States Constitution, the government’s purpose is to "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” (National Constitution Center). Now the definition of liberty, the core belief of America, is the power or scope to act as one pleases (Google Search). The United States believes in the pursuit of self-interest and liberty, yet the government encourages this by enforcing strict rules and policies, creating an oppressive government where many rules forcefully control the society just like the collective government in Ayn Rand’s Anthem. Therefore, although the intention of these rules and policies are to allow people to pursue their wants and give them liberty, instead all they do is restrict people from accessing their full potential. Basically, the socialist big government is telling Americans that they can do whatever they want, but if they do this or do that or say this or say that and so on, they will be punished. However, if the United States’ government instead employed a restrictive-free policy by lifting up all these laws, then the individual would have true liberty where they would be able to do whatever they want without worry of offending another person or breaking a rule which only protects an extremely small minority.

Furthermore, with this idea of mutual agreements, the society would prosper from a less-restrictive government because the individual would also be able to achieve their desires by making mutual agreements with others where everyone benefits. For example, if a restaurant-owner chooses not to serve a person, that person could go to another restaurant, causing the first-restaurant-owner to change his mind and allow the other person to eat in his/her restaurant due to the loss of customers, and so on until a mutual agreement is met where both individuals benefit. This scenario can represent all situations, basically showing that in a perfect society, mutual agreements between the people are made where everyone benefits. Another fact is that people are by nature individualistic and care of their self-interests: “I was seeking Brahman, Atman, I wished to destroy myself, to get away myself, in order to find in the unknown innermost, the nucleus of all things, Atman, Life, the Divine, the Absolute. But by doing so, I lost myself on the way” (Hesse 38). As seen in Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha and even in Ayn Rand’s Anthem, individuals want to focus on their own wants rather than the wants of the group, and by pursuing self-interest the individual helps the society, just like how Siddhartha learned that in order to enter the universal soul one must first learn about themselves (Hesse 38-39). Furthermore, there are things in life that people must learn by themselves: “I will learn from myself, be my own pupil; I will learn from myself the secret of Siddhartha” (Hesse 39). Just as Siddhartha learned that teachers couldn’t teach him everything, there are some things that the government cannot teach nor enforce on the individual, and thus the individual must follow their interests, instead of being restricted by rules, in order to prosper and benefit the most - truly live up to the American dream. Therefore, if Americans truly want to benefit and achieve their individuality and liberty, the United States government must take an alternative route in governing.

However, some may argue that society, especially American society, needs extreme government control and regulation - also known as a ‘big government’. People argue that a government is necessary in order for a society to function, to the point where the government needs to influence every aspect of society either directly or indirectly. Some people argue that a big government promotes the collective interests of society and protects everyone in order to guarantee each person the perusement of self-interests: “There is a real possibility that increased government efforts could do much more to improve our [Americans’] lives in significant ways…. In today’s world, we need a well-funded public sector that will do more to reduce the risks we face and to improve the lives of all Americans” (Amy 1-4). While it is true that with a big governments society improves, it also restricts the society’s full potential. Under a big government a society is seen as improved if compared to a third-world violent society, but it doesn’t prosper like that of a laissez-faire society. A big government also tries to encourage liberty and individuality - an individual’s pursuit of self-interest - the wrong way: “We are one in all and all in one. There are no men but only the great WE, One, indivisible and forever” (Rand 19). As stated earlier in Ayn Rand’s imaginative yet realistic society, a government that engages with strict laws in order to protect everyone’s right to pursue their self-interests will result in an oppressive government where the collective interest is eventually placed above the individual interest. The individual interest will gradually fade away, for people will be afraid of pursuing their desires in fear that they might break one of the many rules enforced by the government to (as seen with anti-discriminatory policies). Furthermore, with each individual not pursuing their own interests, consequently, society does not really improve nor benefit as the smallest minority - the individual - cannot benefit nor improve. Furthermore, having a society based on mutual agreements between people rather than government created policies can fabricate even more superior institutions for health-care, welfare, and anti-discrimination. Therefore, it is obvious that having a big government, as currently seen in the United States, is unnecessary and ineffective when there are better and finer systems available.

Since the beginning of civilization, the question and debate of what type of government is the most effective has always popped up, leading to clashes between people where one group wants a big government while another group wants a less-restrictive government. Even in the United States, people are debating on whether a big government or less restrictive government is needed to create a more superior American society, consequently leading to the creation of two separate political parties which have conflicted for years. However, it is finally obvious that in order to save the United States, and other socialist post-industrial societies, and again bring them back to prosperity and superiority, a less restrictive and intervening government is needed; one that will create a superior economic and social system all while benefiting the individual by granting liberty and individuality - two ideologies that many people, including Americans, hold dear to their hearts. It was for those reasons that Americans and other countries revolted against their oppressive governments in the past, and now it is again that people must start a revolution by changing the current norm, the current system, and implement a new radical system which will prove to be the best and take humans to the next level. As Max Eastman stated in his book Reflections On The Failure Of Socialism, “We are still beguiled by this other fairy tale: that a group of liberal-minded reformers can take charge of the economy and approximate a free and equal society” (“The Alluring Falsehood of Socialism”). That is exactly what socialism, or basically a big government is: it is a fairy tale - something imaginary, something that is impossible to truly carry out. However, a laissez-faire government has proved to be a reality - an effective machine that produced champion societies in the past and can and will have the same effects today. If this situation is applied to the average household, a child would appreciate the supportive, fun, and laid-back big brother rather than the controlling and demanding big father. Hence, for societies to grow and prosper, especially American society once again, a less-restrictive government must be employed for the good of the society and the good of the people.

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