Frederic Bastiat, a French economist and theorist of the early 19th century, wrote about that which is seen and that which is unseen. Much like Henry Hazlitt wrote about in his book Economics in One Lesson, Bastiat said that a good economist does not just look at the seen benefits, but also the unseen costs of a government program.
It actually makes me a little sad to think of this in regards to today’s society. Just imagine what life could be like in today’s world without big government. Imagine if we didn’t have all of the piles or regulations, taxes, and other violations of our liberties. Imagine if we didn’t have a central bank tampering with our money. Imagine if we lived in a free world.
I suppose I should look at the glass of milk being half full. We do live in the best of times. Although the economy is rough (and probably getting worse) and it is expensive to fulfill our basic needs, we are still much better off than anyone before us. I wouldn’t trade this time period for, say, the 1950’s. Although life was simpler in a way back then, we still have many luxuries that we take for granted that did not exist 50 or 100 years ago. We have washers and dryers, dishwashers, microwave ovens, central air conditioning and heat, expanded cable, ipods, cell phones, and big screen televisions. Of course, we also have high speed computers that would have been unimaginable a couple of decades ago or less. The internet revolution has been life changing, and mostly in a good way.
All of these great things happened, not because of government interference, but in spite of it. It is hard to imagine what we would have now if we had lived the last 50 years with minimal government. We literally might be living something close to the Jetsons. We might have backpacks that we could strap on to fly to the store. We might be able to order things from the store and have it delivered within minutes with little or no cost for delivery. We might have 6 hour work days, instead of 8 or 9 hour work days. Bottom line is, we would have more free time (if that is what you wanted) and we would have more wealth.
Wealth (not to be confused with money) provides more freedom to do what you want. It provides more luxuries. It provides better overall health. It provides more safety. It can make life less stressful. This is a generalization of course, but it is all true. Who would give up a life of living in a first world country of today to live in a world 100 years ago or even in a third world country today?
It really is sad to think how much better and easier our lives could be if people would just stop consenting to more and more government. If we ever gain our freedom back and we see a free market economy combined with 21st century technology, the sky is the limit. We are already seeing an explosion in technology with big government around. Instead of missing out on more unseen benefits in the future, let’s withdraw our consent from the government and seek freedom where we can enjoy many more benefits that can be seen.