You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that, my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.

– Dr. Adrian Rogers

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is now entering its second month. I guess I can’t blame the protesters for sticking around so long. It’s exciting, isn’t it? All the media attention, the celebrities and politicians fawning over them, the free food and goodies … Hey, if all it takes is camping in a park, pooping on police cars and waving signs – especially if I didn’t have to show up to anything as restrictive as a JOB for a month or more – then I might consider joining the protests, too.

But this campaign apparently is not raising the IQ of any of the protesters, because they are still incapable of coherently explaining WHY they should receive something for nothing. When asked to pinpoint specific objectives, they wilt under logical questioning about how those objectives should be accomplished.

On Oct. 19, I caught a radio program by Dave Ramsey in which he invited OWS supporters to call in and explain their goals. Almost to a person, the callers were embarrassingly vague and unclear, unable to find what exactly they found objectionable with capitalism and big businesses that couldn’t be traced back to unconstitutional government interference. The callers showed an almost frightening ignorance of basic economic concepts, including the laws of supply and demand and how wealth is created. Callers complained that wealth disparity is unfair, without being able to articulate what should be done to correct the unfairness (except to sanction government-backed theft). It got pretty funny to hear the callers start to backpedal whenever Mr. Ramsey politely asked pointed and logical questions.

Look, I’m not an economist. I’m just a rural housewife. So why am I able to grasp the basics of economics so much better than the Ivy League elites supporting the protesters? It reminds me of a toddler attitude: What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine. The OWS crowd has apparently never matured beyond the economic awareness of toddlers.

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So for all our Wall Street protesters and sympathizers, I would like to offer a primer of basic economics. I’ll call it, for obvious reasons, Economics for Dummies.

  • No one owes you a thing. No really. No one owes you food, or an education, or a car, or anything else others must sacrifice for. If you want those things, work your butt off and get them yourself.

  • Rights do not cost anyone anything. If you think you have a “right” to something (such as a free college education), ask yourself whether that something will cost someone else time, labor, or money to provide it to you. If it does, it’s not a right.

  • Along those lines, no one owes you a living. No one owes you a job or a “living wage.” If you’re not willing to work hard, sacrifice, take risks and invest your own capital, then you don’t deserve an income on par with a CEO’s.
  • The more government regulates business, the less efficient business becomes. Government regulations mean a business can’t hire as many people, or pay its employees as well, or expand as the market would allow, because it is forced to spend its resources fulfilling all the insane nitpicky bureaucratic paperwork the government requires.
  • Businesses are not in business to employ you. Businesses are in business to make a profit. If employing you will bring them a profit, they will employ you. If employing you means they will lose money, they will fire you (or not hire you in the first place).
  • Loans are not gifts. If you borrow money, you are obliged to pay it back – so don’t borrow money you can’t repay. That includes borrowing massive amounts of money to attend elite universities and not studying anything of value to a free market.
  • Along these lines, you are not entitled to anything you can’t afford. No one is entitled to a $50,000/year college education. No one is entitled to a $350,000 house. No one.
  • The borrower is slave to the lender. Whether it’s on a national scale or a personal level, debt is very, very bad news. And here’s the thing: Most personal debt is acquired on a voluntary basis. Oh sure, you can protest that you didn’t read the fine print, but it was your responsibility to read that fine print to see what you were getting yourself into. Your signature is (or should be) your sacred word. Remember, loans are not gifts.
  • Competition is good, not bad. Competition weeds out inferior products and services and expands superior products and services. Government-forced monopolies produce crap. If you doubt this, take a look at the computer industry on one hand, and at America’s public schools on the other.
  • Government redistribution programs are wildly inefficient. The amount of money reaching an intended goal is inversely proportional to the number of hands it passes through. Witness the comical inefficiency of government-sponsored “charity” programs.
  • Receiving “free” money reduces the incentive to work. This is a hard concept for progressives to grasp, but I knew very few people who want to give up “free” money by working hard instead. A research paper by Michael Tanner and Tad DeHaven points out, “The choice of welfare over work is often a rational decision based on economic incentives. Empirical studies confirm that welfare is a disincentive for work.”

  • Whining does not make you a more attractive prospective employee. Nor does dressing inappropriately, cursing, piercing every orifice, lavishly tattooing yourself, or other “personal expressions” of your individuality. Yes, you have the right to do all these things. But a business has the right not to hire you as a result.
  • Life isn’t fair. People are born with handicaps or suffer accidents or illness. The most admirable people are those who make lemonade out of their lemons. The worst thing the government can ever try to do is to make things “fair,” because in so doing, it will make things drastically more unfair for everyone else.
  • What’s yours is yours, but what’s mine is most assuredly NOT yours. It’s mine. The government may steal what’s mine and give it to you, but that doesn’t make it yours. It just makes you the recipient of stolen property.

As I’ve said before, I don’t necessarily disagree with everything the OWS protesters are protesting. But unlike them, I don’t solely blame the corporations or banks for what’s wrong in our country. I blame the government, which has spent decades making illegal (or at least, unconstitutional) deals with corporations and banks in exchange for money and power.

Strip away the unconstitutional government interference, let the free market flourish, and see how quickly prosperity and wealth return to Americans … or at least to those willing to work for it.

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