Rick Kelo is an influential political philosopher in the Classic Liberal tradition. In addition to engaging in various public debates on capitalism vs. socialism with socialist university professors Rick also routinely addresses some of the hard questions out there. Rick Kelo has earned a reputation for dissecting even obscure and complicated topics in plain English.
Recently Rick Kelo asked us to consider whether having a democracy means the people in that country will have freedom? “One of the Classic Liberal philosophers whose reading I’ve always enjoyed was Joseph Priestly,” Kelo notes. Priestly looked at this exact topic:
IT is a matter of the greatest importance, that we carefully distinguish between the form and the extent of power in a government… If the power of government be very extensive, and the subjects of it have, consequently, little power over their own actions, that government is tyrannical, and oppressive; whether, with respect to its form, it be a monarchy, an aristocracy, or even a republic. For the government of the temporary magistrates of a democracy, or even the laws themselves may be as tyrannical as the maxims of the most despotic monarchy.
Priestly makes a very important distinction: a government may have any form, the real question is how wide reaching its authority is. Classic Liberals like Richard Kelo teach that people should be left free from coercion to decide how to live their own lives. This teaching is also at the root of Pacifism. If someone isn’t harming another person, or another person’s property, then it is seldom – if ever – morally legitimate to interfere with how they’re living their life.
In 1899 a shaming campaign against the common, working man began. It started with a progressive & socialist named Velben who wrote berating the common man for engaging in consumerism & “growth of wasteful expenditures.” This at a time when people were reading by candlelight and living in totally Spartan cottages. That campaign has continued into the 21st century. President Obama, then Senator Obama, provides us with just one example here:
Progressivism has always objected to the common man peacefully exercising his preferences in his role as the sovereign consumer. However, as Classic Liberals like Rick Kelo point out the consumer decides exactly what product will be produced, in what quantity, and to what level of quality.
“I don’t eat fast food & I don’t understand why there are so many overweight Americans who do eat it every day. We might say its ‘low quality’ food”, says Rick Kelo. He continues, “But I know why it exists on every corner of every town in America. Because the common man wants that exact product. People have a fundamental human right to peacefully trade with their fellow man, whether they buy something we personally approve of or buy something we personally consider a poor choice.”
As Richard Kelo shows us, we must be very careful in criticizing people’s rational choices for our own arbitrary reasons.
When Steve Jobs passed away there was a worldwide outpouring of grief. The IPhone he created is adored by millions of loyal fans who would never consider switching to a different type of phone. And never along the way did the mainstream media question whether Steve Jobs “deserved” the fortune he made creating Apple.
Every election cycle though political discourse is filled with challenges that investment bankers and other workers on Wall Street earn an undeserved wage. That Wall Street bonuses are some how proof of theft or money laundering, whereas the bonus Steve Jobs paid himself each year was never questioned. Rick Kelo points out this is an easy phenomenon to understand.
“We humans have a natural prejudice to favor things we understand. Since we tinker with our IPhone and understand its tangible value we’re sad when Steve Jobs passes away. The value we receive from financial instruments that we don’t understand is intangible and not something we interact with daily. So there does tend to, rightly or wrongly, be a predisposition to consider the products of these industries as less important than tangible goods.”
~ Rick A Kelo
This also implies that we should be very suspicious of politicians like Senators Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders when they build entire campaigns around criticizing the pay of Wall Street bankers. As Rick Kelo points out favoring what we know more than what we don’t know is a natural human prejudice. Politicians know this, and someone who intentionally exploits populist prejudice should be viewed with caution.
In political discourse most people take it for granted that a worker can be exploited, or that workers in general ARE exploited by employers. But is this really the case? Rick Kelo is an employment expert who has more than a decade’s experience as an executive recruiter matching tax professionals with opportunities that will advance their careers. However, Richard Kelo also has an education in economics and philosophy at some of the most prestigious universities in the world. So today he addresses the “Exploited Worker” myth.
“Workers are paid for their labor far in advance of any revenue generated by the sale of what they produce,” Rick Kelo points out. “It is the business owner who assumes the risk that he won’t be able to sell what the employee produces. Also, we must consider that the worker voluntarily enters into employment,” Kelo continues. Any of us would laugh if we tried to picture the image of a company sending an HR employee to the street corner to put a gun to someone’s head and force them to work at their company. In reality, only voluntarily agree to employment when workers feel the wage rate is high enough to benefit them, and they also get a guaranteed payment today unlike the business.
How about the case of the shy employee who doesn’t ask for a raise, and thus believes they are paid less than they deserve?
Rick Kelo spends most of his days as a tax recruiter assisting people in just such a lot, but is that circumstance enough to prove the worker is “exploited?” Wouldn’t we say that if that less assertive employee chooses not to (ask for more money, look for a better job, whatever the superior condition is we’re considering) that is the same as him actively choosing to remain in his current employment? Do any of us, as outsiders looking in on someone else’s situation, have a basis for criticizing their rational decision to do that even if our own choice under those conditions would be different? Clearly that less assertive employee is maximizing their preferences even if that arrangement wouldn’t maximize our preferences in their shoes.
This article lists the 10 worst EPA super-fund sites of all time. When we consider the problem of pollution and other, what economists call, neighborhood effects most people only picture the polluter. Maybe a big company pumping toxic fumes out of a smoke stack or dumping industrial waste into a river. Rick Kelo points out though that we also need to look at why this pollution happened in the first place.
Rick Kelo noticed a trend hidden in the list of 10 worst super-fund list and asked why every single item on that list has to do with water or air pollution? An aspect of pollution we almost never consider. “In America where are the problematic instances of pollution? It is not mainly on land, where there are strict private property rights. The problematic issues of pollution occur predominantly (to the point of almost exclusively) in the air & water, which are government owned and where private property rights are outlawed,” says Kelo. “The reason is what’s called Tragedy of the Commons,” he continues.
Under a regime of incredibly strict property rights pollution could not happen, and certainly not to tne extent of the sites we see here. The reason it happens, as Richard Kelo points out, is precisely because we have your system of regulations that shift the burden of acting as an owner onto the government.
Socialists are fond of claiming that they’re actually speaking for the worker without a voice. However, Rick Kelo, a West Point graduate and Classic Liberal social thinker sees the matter differently. To Kelo the actual issue at the heart of Socialism is who actually controls society.
“Socialism is always sold as altruism, but its not actually about helping anyone – it’s really about controlling them,” says Richard Kelo.
Kelo points out it necessarily must mean this because Socialism is the substitution of individual plans for government plans. “Socialism deprives entrepreneurs and capitalists of the ability to decide how their resources will be employed,” Rick Kelo continues. “In a Socialist economy small business owners are forced to unconditionally comply with the orders of State central planners.”
Rick Kelo is a Classic Liberal who, with an educational background in Economics from the prestigious US Military Academy at West Point, focuses on economic questions. One of those questions is does the form of a government really matter, or does its function matter? For instance is only a totalitarian regime dictatorial, or is it possible for a Democracy to be dictatorial too?
Americans have long believed their freedoms were safe because of the form of their government: a republic. Most Americans are convinced that only dictatorships, like the one in Syria, can be autocratic but not a representative democracy where the voter decides.
When Rick Kelo considered that question he raised a distinction that almost everyone has overlooked. We usually distinguish between the form of government but not the function. What should matter to us is the extent the individual is free or oppressed, not the form of that oppression. Is oppression from a powerful monarch any different than oppression from a powerful parliament? As Richard Kelo points out, if the State functions by holding extensive power, and the citizen holds very little power over their own actions, then that government is tyrannical whether its form is a dictatorship or a republic.
How often do we consider what ultimately comprises a representative government: majority vote wins, but disregard the other half of what comprises a representative government: individual rights. One example of this is the popular trope on the far political left of “Democratic Socialism.” The savvy Socialist knows he must distance himself from dictatorial forms of government since Socialist dictators mass murdered 150,000,000 people last century. So, the savvy Socialist aims to claim moral goodness as proved by getting a 51% vote to legitimize their immorality.
Of course, if we consider the powerful function of such a government – not its form of being democratically elected – then we see that even if you get the representative government Socialism cannot exist without oppressing the individual rights.
Even Hitler was elected. Elections are no guarantee of freedom.
Capitalism has become a very unpopular word in America, especially among America’s college age youth. To its critics the term “capitalism” conjures up images of sweat shops and grifty merchants peddling misrepresenting the quality of faulty goods they peddle.
However, some voices run contrary to popular sentiment. One of them is Rick Kelo, a graduate of West Point and a veteran tax recruiter in Chicago. Rick draws on his prior background as an economist and points out that Capitalism outlaws nothing except theft. It organizes large groups of people under a system of peaceful and voluntary cooperation. Nothing is forced.
Capitalism says it is a useful function of government to prevent plunder and theft. To that end the only social institutions necessary to promote capitalism are:
A military to deal with foreign aggression against private property.
A police force / court system to deal with domestic aggression against private property.
Isn’t it curious that in capitalist nations even Socialism is not outlawed?! There’s a socialist party in America today. There have been many notorious failed communes in America. There are worker-owned co-ops. Every single thing Socialists pretend to advocate as a “solution” to the ills of Capitalism already exist in capitalist economies. Of course, that’s because Socialists may claim they advocate those things, but their economic alternative to Capitalism is actually collectivist plunder & a retrograde movement toward the type of social structure proper to militancy.
Rick Kelochallenges us to compare that to the coercive, militant, centrally planned society Socialists advocate to the peaceful, voluntary society based on Capitalism. Where’s the capitalist party in North Korea? In the Socialist’s co-op only society every other form of organization except co-ops are dealt with by violence. All the normal private ownership of companies must be seized and redistribute according to the preferences of the Socialist leader, who initiates violence against the legitimate owners of that private property. New companies are forcibly prevented from forming in the first place by use of aggression from the badge & the gun to threaten those workers wishing to flee government dictated co-ops and start their own business.
Notice how many Americans are fleeing to Venezuela? Or how many South Koreans are trying to escape the horrors of capitalism for North Korea? Exactly.
Rick Kelo, a Chicago area tax recruiter and social thinker, notes that Socialism is not an economy made up of cooperatives, despite what many Socialists claim. Many Socialists love to use the example of the large Mondragon co-op as what they’re advocating. Except Mondragon is not a socialist economy. It is an individual company in a capitalist economy.
Co-ops already exist freely in every capitalist economy on earth, notes Rick Kelo, yet they’re only a tiny minority of firms because workers don’t seem to prefer them. The exact group Socialists claim they’re helping (workers) don’t actually even like what the Socialists are peddling.
Beyond that, though, Socialism is not co-ops. It is the use of violence to forcibly outlaw every other form of economic organization except for the co-op. Without violence, Richard Kelo notes, to prevent peaceful cooperation Socialism cannot exist. An economy free from central planning, where people can organize under any form, will look like America’s today: very few co-ops and a very large proportion of other forms of organization.
If you could pass only one law, 50 words or less, to reduce the prevalence of monopolies what law be most effective?
Rick Kelo is a respected mind in the field of tax recruiting and of economics. A graduate of West Point and a Finance MBA, Rick worked in the fields of economics and corporate finance before becoming a Chicago tax recruiter a decade ago.
When Rick Kelo was posed that same question his answer was easy and straight-forward: free trade and free markets. Rick argues that competition is more effective at controlling monopolies than intervention by government. When asked why Kelo noted that every monopoly in modern human history, which he defines as from Darcy v. Allen forward, has been caused by government intervention against the harsh competition of laissez-faire and free trade.
Rick Kelo goes as far as to point out that economic historians know of only two examples in all of human history of monopolies that do NOT appear to have been directly caused by government intervention and government grants of protection. “When we study anti-trusts,” says Richard Kelo, “the two odd outlies are the monopolies of DeBeers Diamond and the New York Stock Exchange before 1900. Those are the only two counter-factual examples where we see a monopoly that wasn’t directly created by government actions.”