Does the Government Work for Us, or Do We Work for the Government?


In America, the federal government seems to control everything. Light bulbs, shoe leather, refrigerators, even the water strength in your shower. Your banker, your doctor, your lawyer, your computer all are regulated beyond belief. What is it in America that the feds can’t control? The answer is simple: human nature. We need to eat, and we need to move about; and that means we will use the free market in order to do so, with or without the government.

Every capable human engages in market exchanges, even in those countries where it’s illegal. Through all of history, humans have advanced civilization by building up the avenues of trade so as to increase their standards of living. When you buy a loaf of bread or a gallon of gas, you are freely choosing to engage in what remains of the free market. I emphasize “what remains” because when you buy bread, you are paying the local or state government a tax for a product that was baked under conditions set forth by the feds and one of the 50 states, and when you buy fuel for your car, up to one quarter of the cost of the fuel consists of state and federal sales taxes.

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Sales taxes constitute a grand theft concocted by politicians and bureaucrats so as to provide them with a never-ending supply of cash they can use to bribe people for their votes. Sales taxes also make items we need more expensive. And they intrude upon our privacy. Think about it. If I want a loaf of bread and you are a grocer willing to sell me one, what business is that of the government? None. What involvement has the government had? None. What has the government done to add value to that transaction? Nothing.

The protesters on Wall Street seem not to understand that free trade is a natural right — like speech, travel, religion, self-defense, privacy — and is mutually beneficial to the buyer and the seller. That’s why at the end of a transaction, each party says “thank you.” We have both benefited. It’s a win-win. I have food and fuel, and the seller has revenue. So how is it today that this natural and daily activity has become much maligned and exploited and hated by government elites?

As the global economies have collapsed in the past decade, nothing has been certain except for uncertainty. The world’s central banks, drunk on power, loaded their people up with debt and then slowly guided their economies to destruction. That’s the consequence of government control of the monetary system and means of exchange. Prices in an economy are like traffic signals, signaling where goods and resources should go and how fast. Central banks distort those traffic signals and even give the wrong signals. That’s why we get crashes — because of government traffic signals, because the government has taken “free” out of the marketplace.

But free trade does occur in the United States in some ways. The black markets are where people trade what they want for the price agreed on, free of taxes and free of government regulations, and at prices that are acceptable to the parties. Simply banning the transaction will not deter some portion of the population from attempting to acquire something — whether it’s bread, tobacco, drugs or guns — that the government doesn’t want us to have, at prices we are willing to pay. People will always trade what they have for what they want or need. That’s human nature. That’s a natural human right. The government cannot stop that. But, of course, governments have tried to stop the exercise of this right.

During World War II, for example, FDR and his cronies rationed sugar, leather, tea, tobacco, guns, coffee, fuel and many other items our parents and grandparents needed for everyday use. The stated purpose was that the troops needed these items and there was not enough to go around, so the feds would decide who got what and how much all these things would cost. But there was a black market for all these items, and there, the items were plentiful and the price was freely agreed upon. If the government had stayed out of the picture, the market could have existed in the light of day. We now know that FDR was as much interested in control of the population as in supplying the troops.

The government fears trade because it can’t control it. The feds would do well to remember the historical truth that where goods and services don’t move freely, armies will; and where goods and services do move freely, armies don’t. And when the black market becomes more prosperous than the one the government regulates, it will be time to change the government.




  • Judge Andrew Napolitano

    Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the Senior Judicial Analyst at Fox News Channel and anchor of “FreedomWatch” on Fox Business Network. His most recent book is It Is Dangerous To Be Right When the Government Is Wrong.

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