The history had the typical 20th century timeline of independence from colonialism to a long dictatorship to a fleeting democracy. There was extreme poverty and the life expectancy of a male adult was about 50 years.
In the first day of class, there was the introductory slide on human rights which most classes review without discussion. “Here are the basic human rights that all humans should enjoy such as freedom of religion, speech, and assembly,” I said.
To my surprise a hand shot up from a young officer. “Yes, you have a question?” I asked hesitantly. The young officer asked, “What is freedom of religion?” I quickly replied, “Freedom of religion is the freedom to worship any religion or god of your choice without government intervention. This includes the right not to worship any god.”
The young officer hesitated and responded, “We do not have that here.” Another hand shot up, and asked “What is freedom of speech?” From that point on, I had two major revelations. First, this was going to be a long session. Second, to enjoy freedom there needs to be economic security.
As we face another recession, the progressive liberals again bring up the argument of “free.” In other words, free college, free housing, and a free wage – or as they call it a “universal basic income.”
The two basic economic principles when it comes any good or service becoming “free” is: (1) there is no such thing as a free lunch (TINSTAAFL); and (2) the value of anything free is $0.
The principle of TINSTAAFL is that everything has a cost. The thought of free college for young adults may appear laudable, but who will pay for the campus, professors’ wages, and t-shirts with mascots?
Free college is not free of charge, someone will have to pay for it. The honest statement of “free college” is that it is to be paid by the taxpayer.
Let us hold the argument that the taxpayer will pay for all college tuitions. The young adult attending college will now graduate debt free. They paid nothing for college. What is the value of nothing? The answer is $0.
Here is the second economic principle and also a psychological principle of free: people tend to give no value to a good or service when they paid nothing for it.
The free housing now provided by the government and paid for by the taxpayer holds no value in the marketplace. The universal basic income a person receives every day for doing nothing is unappreciated by those who receive it.
Now come full circle to our human rights. Those rights can only exist if there is a strong tax-base to support and enforce those rights. You want freedom of expression and to hang your art in a museum? Well, the funds for that museum are now being used for free college.
You want freedom to worship a minority religion, but the majority locals want to shut down your church or temple? Then you will need to pay for the administration by the courts and judges to protect your rights.
The final argument by the progressive liberals is that the rich will pay more in taxes. First, the billionaires have an army of lawyers and accountants to ensure they will not pay a cent more in taxes then they must. What is truly being asked is to tax the middle-class at a higher rate.
While a person living in poverty may view a person making a $100,000 a year as “rich,” that additional 5 percent in taxes you take removes the funds from other working-class people because that $5,000 was for restaurants, child care, and a weekend getaway.
Finally, to give a universal basic income to people whether they work or not just takes away even further incentive for the middle-class to work harder or at all.
Once the middle class is taxed higher and given money not to work, then there goes even more of the tax base. Then without a tax base, there goes our human rights.
Mike Arcati is chair of the Libertarian Party of Queens and a practicing attorney in Forest Hills.