Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rome...circa 2012 (from the January 17, 2012 Orlando Sentinel)

Last month I traveled to my hometown in Southeastern Oklahoma to visit with old friends and friends of my family. While I was there I had the honor of spending time with a 94-year old gentlemen who used to raise bees on my family's land back in the 1970s. In my youth he represented all that was good about small-town America. "Joe" was a gentle giant of a man, full of good humor, kindness, humility and wonderful stories.
However, he was never willing to tell any stories about his time spent in Europe during World War II. It did not help matters much that when I was in elementary school I once asked him if he ever killed anyone during that war.

This visit proved to be very different. He told me and my family how he had served in General George Patton's Third Army and what it was like to race across all of Europe fighting against German resistance. He mentioned that he was paid $21 per month for the more than four years he spent in the Army and that he could not believe that he never got a scratch while so many of his friends never got to see their wives and children again.

Two weeks later - back in my college economics classes - I handed out an essay question to 137 students that asked them if they would be willing to support a law that BANNED THE RIGHT TO OWN PROPERTY and imposed heavy, progressive income taxes on people in order to bring about a reduction in poverty and "greater sense of community".

Some of my students recognized that the wording of much of this question came directly from The Communist Manifesto written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848. These students eloquently pointed out the severe and dangerous consequences of abolishing property rights and punishing productive human beings with the tax code.

Yet, 28% of my students - college students who are supposedly studying in order to earn more income and acquire property later on - wrote that they would support, enthusiastically in some cases, the elimination of the right to property for Americans and far greater taxation.

If almost three in ten college students support such severe measures in order to impose equality on all of us, one can only imagine what the rest of the population of citizens - many of whom are far less educated - might support.

This week I spent most of day two of my classes reading to my students the story of the Fall of the Roman Empire. Many were astounded to hear about the source of Rome's wealth - free trade, modest taxation and private property rights. Equally surprising to many was the progression towards a massive welfare state, rising taxes, onerous regulations and the wildly out of control creation of money to pay for Rome's expansion of plunder.

I sincerely hope that in the weeks to come they will come around to a greater understanding of the concepts of free markets, the dangers of the Welfare State and the historical proofs of the superiority of liberty over the tyranny that comes from the good intentions of elected officials.

Before I left the home of the World War II veteran he said to me and my family that "some things are about to happen to the United States that the American people are not going to believe."

I could see the concern and sadness in his eyes as he said this. I can only imagine what it must be like to be part of the last generation of Americans who had to lay their lives on the line for the liberties this nation enjoys only to see the gift they gave us fading away.


  1. We already don't have the right to own property. Something that I bought and paid for over a 30 year period may seem to finally be mine, but now I will pay $200 a month forever to continue "owning" that money-pit. I am limited to what I can do on my property by zoning laws. I am limited to what I can build on my property by building regulations. If the government finds a better use of my land such as a path for a freeway or as a greater tax revenue as a PUD, then I will lose it completely.

  2. Very well said. I took your class last semester and it was a life changing experience that provided me with an entirely new outlook on life. The majority of my friends are liberals and are huge Obama fans, much like most of America's youth seem to be, and oftentimes when I hear what they have to say regarding subjects like taxation it makes me feel very alarmed and worried for the future of this country.

    Professor Chambless, I'd like to hear your thoughts on President Obama's recent signing of the National Defense Authorization Act. Personally, I don't see how anyone who values their liberty can vote for Obama again. His quiet signing of indefinite detention into law recently was the last straw for me. The NDAA tramples all over our constitutional right to due process and is quite possibly one of the worst bills ever passed in the history of this country.

    I fear the Feds will soon pull up into my driveway in a black van and detain me just for typing all of this.

  3. The idea that our military can detain, indefinately, U.S. citizens without a trial in the name of fighting - forever - the concept of terrorism, is just one more nail in our nation's coffin. Mr. Obama said that his administration will not use this law to detain American citizens on our soil and will not allow the military to become the nation's de facto police force. However, since this law DOES allow for that, who is to say that some president 20 or 90 years from now will not use this to trample our rights? Every day it seems that the movie V for Vendetta is more and more realistic in terms of where our government is taking us.

  4. Just discovered your website and blog and enjoying both. I'm not entirely on board with some Libertarian views but have to admit that Ron Paul struck a chord with me more than once during the debates. Enough so that I'm looking into this a little more seriously.

    Curious what you read to your students regarding the fall of Rome--from a book, essay, etc.? Thanks--