By Art Robinson
Our country’s future, the future of the American people – and indeed the future of the world’s people as they emulate the American example – could well be so spectacularly wonderful that the phrases “shining city on a hill” and “American exceptionalism” are one day looked back upon as historical understatements.
There is no greater gift – no greater secular value – than the opportunity to live a human life upon the Earth, no matter how disadvantageous our circumstances. (As for spiritual values, we “see through a glass darkly” now and look forward to experiences beyond our comprehension.)
But human “circumstances” are improving with breathtaking velocity and acceleration:
- Nuclear energy technology, by far the greatest technological advance in human history, has given us access to unlimited electrical energy at negligible cost. Energy is the currency of technological progress. Energy underlies every scientific and technical advance we have made and will make.
- Communications technology now makes possible instant conversation between everyone on Earth – at a cost that diminishes and a bandwidth that increases almost daily.
- Medical technology is closing in on an ability to assure that every human being has an opportunity to live his 100 years or so in excellent health, while biochemistry is studying ways by which to markedly increase that number of years.
- Computer technology is providing us with the ability to never forget information, to recall information in numerous useful and comprehensive ways and to use information with ever increasing effectiveness.
- Chemical technology is providing a seemingly endless parade of new substances to improve our lives.
And, scientific knowledge is intrinsically – just by possessing the knowledge – enriching our lives. Surely, walking through a forest and sharing it with plants and animals is a blessing. It is an even greater blessing also to be able to “see” not just the living things, but also the living molecular architectures of which they are comprised.
Our lives are now enriched by viewing and experiencing tiny wonders too small for ordinary eyesight and astronomical wonders too large for that eyesight.
And, of course, all of our ordinary needs for food, clothing, shelter and transportation are being met in ways that are steadily advancing and freeing our time and energy for other things.
Why are all of these wonderful things becoming available to man? Especially since every man stands in the presence of his Creator with the plea, “please be merciful to me, a sinner”? We cannot be worthy of these wonders, and yet we are further blessed by being permitted – “privileged,” as Albert Einstein put it – to be a part of bringing these things about.
As economist Julian Simon observed, people always produce more than they consume and always better the human condition of themselves and their neighbors – if they are free to do so. Why was Simon able to make this observation based on American experiences and other more brief episodes in human history?
The answer to this question is elegantly described by George Gilder in his book “Knowledge and Power: The information Theory of Capitalism and How It is Revolutionizing Our World.” Gilder teaches us about the “economics” of human advance.
Establishment economics is, of course, a somewhat murky forest of “supply” and “demand” and “micros” and “macros” and all sorts of other abstractions. Within economics has arisen a sort of political contest as to whether “demand” or “supply” is most important. Does the market respond to “demands” for certain sorts of goods, or are goods unexpectedly “supplied” to the market by inventors and entrepreneurs – as surprises which then create market demand themselves?
It is clear that the “supply” side trumps the “demand” side in this controversy. As George Gilder elucidates, potential advances – products and other goods – arise first in the minds of entrepreneurs who, using information, existing tools and skills in assembling and utilizing capital, bring these advances to the market. If the entrepreneur is right about the demand that will arise when his new product becomes available, he is rewarded with the fun of providing it and with profits.
In order to do this, the entrepreneur needs a relatively quiet, noise-free environment, where the information comprising his innovation can express itself. His environment needs easily available capital in the hands of free men, so that he has rich opportunities to seek that capital and utilize it.
The entrepreneur also needs a system of justice that protects his efforts and his coworkers. He needs a system of individual liberty where the capital he needs is not confiscated by oppressive taxation and regulation. He needs an environment that is free from corruption, so that he can do his work. And, he needs a free market where people can chose to use his product if it pleases them.
In short, the supply of new unexpected goods from innovators requires a stable, fertile socio-political environment in which these goods can be created, produced and used.
It needs freedom. It needs liberty. It needs an environment like the one protected by America’s Founding Fathers in our Constitution and Bill of Rights and perpetuated by an ethical government populated by men and women of integrity who obey these rules.
Ours has been a human experiment in which a constitutional republic was created that, aside from its moral and legal rightness, also created an environment in which entrepreneurs could flourish. The results of this experiment have been spectacular. Our lives and the lives of people throughout the world have been enriched by this experiment.
We do not, however, advance by means of political processes driven by the politics of envy that seek to redistribute the things we already produce in politically “equitable” ways (except, of course, for the distributors who receive larger shares). Medical care does not advance by redistributing 75-year-old methods by socialist means.
Energy technology does not advance within a confused populace that elects corrupt politicians who perpetuate their own power by controlling misled voters with fear. And, communications and information storage technology do not advance if they are impeded by a suspicious people whose government uses these technologies against those people.
We live in the greatest country on Earth. If we can keep those words true, if we can continue to provide a stable, reliable playing field for our entrepreneurs – a playing field that is not corrupted by ethically challenged career politicians and their retainers – then the opening paragraph of this article will be realized.
We are now in a very imperfect political battlefield, on which we are striving to save a constitutional republic by democratic means. Historically, our odds are poor. All democracies in history have ultimately failed. All have descended into mob rule. This is the reason our founders did not give us a democracy. We must be the exception.
At present, the situation is in doubt. Our president refuses to follow the rules of our constitutional republic; the self-interested cowardice of too many of our members of Congress prevents them from disciplining the president; and our courts are politicized as well. Moreover, many elements of our government are running amok, such as the Federal Reserve with its printing presses and the Environmental Protection Agency with its unending search for more power for itself.
As Gilder shows in “Knowledge and Power,” the real advance of knowledge and power to improve human life depends upon a benign human society in which entrepreneurial advance can flourish. He explains this in political terms and in the scientific terms of information theory.
Both explanations find a fertile field in the minds of those involved in entrepreneurial advance. More importantly, thousands of years of human history assure us that the desire for these elements of liberty and justice are built into the heart of every human being.
It is the fact that the truths we need to follow have been put into our DNA – put into the hearts of every human by Providence – that assures our ultimate success.
We must do our best, as quickly as possible, to reach into the hearts of our fellow Americans and revitalize these aspects of human nature. Every day that passes before we succeed will be marked by unnecessary human suffering and stagnation. Every day that passes after we succeed will be marked with entrepreneurial advances that increase the quality, quantity and length of human life.
The preceding is reprinted from the July 2014 issue of WND’s monthly Whistleblower magazine, “THE REAL AMERICA: The world’s most awesome engine of prosperity and freedom is waiting to take off once again.”
Art Robinson is research professor of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, chairman of the Oregon Republican Party, and Republican candidate for Congress in the 4th Congressional District of Oregon. He may be reached at [email protected]