The free-market economy is not only the correct choice over big government, it is the moral choice, according to Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media and two-time presidential candidate.
Forbes appeared locally at the Aug. 7 meeting of the Conservative Forum of Silicon Valley to deliver that message, the thesis of his latest book, “Freedom Manifesto: Why Free Markets Are Moral and Big Government Isn’t” (Crown Business, 2012). He co-authored the book with communications specialist Elizabeth Ames, who also addressed the crowd.
A packed house at Mountain View’s Portuguese Hall – more than 470 by one organizer’s count – heard Forbes turn around the myth that government morally does the right thing while those in private enterprise are greedy and can’t be trusted.
“It’s not greed – it’s about transactions,” he said. “The free market meets people’s needs and wants. … Free markets encourage cooperation. No one’s in charge – that’s why it works.”
Meanwhile, big governments “always thrive on conflict,” he said, and get away with what would normally be considered criminal activity.
“Social Security – look how they handle it,” Forbes said, noting that the system is supposed to hold $2.5 trillion in reserves.
In reality, Forbes said, the coffers are empty because the money has been spent.
“IOUs from the Treasury Department – think what would happen if you took money from workers, spent it, then gave them IOUs. You’d be in jail. But that’s government in action,” he said.
Forbes said free markets, on the other hand, encourage positive attributes like innovation and collaboration with a diverse array of people to achieve goals, optimism and responsibility.
“Economists describe the economy as the allocation of scarce resources. … It’s (really) about the creation of resources,” he noted. “Oil itself is glop. It’s human ingenuity that makes this glop something we can’t do without.”
Meanwhile, big government represents a threat to freedom, he said.
No big fan of the IRS – Forbes has long pushed for its abolishment and the establishment of a flat tax – the recent revelations of the agency’s prying into people’s private lives was one of several examples he gave. Another was the One Bay Area proposal that would concentrate housing on 5 percent of regional lands.
“That’s the Soviet Union – determining where you live,” he said.
He emphasized that his problem is not with government itself.
“If all of us were all angels, we wouldn’t need government,” he said. “But we’re not.”
But Forbes has no use for big government, which he characterized as becoming bloated, ineffective and losing track of its original purposes.
Forbes said the United States is still the most prosperous country on earth.
“We’ve had the environment no other country has had,” he added. “We must not lose it.”
For more information on the Conservative Forum of Silicon Valley, visit theconservativeforum.com. For information on Forbes’ book, visit crownpublishing.com.