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Political Economy

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The Trader and the Thief

Mr. Jusuf Kalla, Indonesia’s current Vice-President, has been accused by an anonymous group of people—whose members speak separately—as someone who has the “trader mentality.” The accusation was made with an unhappy, negative tone. Indeed, Mr. Kalla was and still a trader, i.e., a businessman and it’s no surprise that he carries his “trader mentality” to his Vice-Presidency. It’s not a bad thing either.

            Since the accusation was negative, the anonymous group obviously demands the alternative. They demand Mr. Kalla to kill his “trader mentality” and adopt another mentality that, the group will claim, fits Mr. Kalla’s position as Vice-President. I have few questions for this group: What is “trader mentality?” Why should Mr. Kalla kill it? What are the alternatives? No answer was given to the 1st and 2nd questions. And the answer to the 3rd question is indefinite and obscure, with the answerer’s tounge twisted all the way.

            What do traders do? They make profits. How? By being productive and by spending their money and resources on the right place, on the right time and for the right thing. Traders create value. They give their values to others in exchange for other values. They take values from others only when they can give other values in return, unless what they take is charity. But traders don’t rely on charity, they rely on their own productive efforts, on the values they created. This is the exact meaning of trade: voluntary exchange of values.

            There are only 2 alternatives to trade: slavery and thievery, and both are done involuntarily. These are the alternatives demanded by the anonymous group from Mr. Kalla. The bottomline of their demand is that Mr. Kalla must have the poor and the needy as his 1st and primary concern instead of “siding with the Bakrie Brothers.” How should Mr. Kalla (and the rest of the government) cater to the poor? By providing them for their needs, by prioritizing them. Where can Mr. Kalla get the money to do so? From tax, taken by legalized force out of the big businesses and the rest of the productive people—i.e., by enslaving the productive and steal their profit to give to the unproductive. Modern day Robin Hood-ism can never be justified on any ground other than altruism and collectivism which are being promoted by the anonymous group.

            It is true that our constitution gives a duty to the government to provide for the people’s needs. Continuing the Santa Claus program called Bantuan Langsung Tunai (Direct Cash Aid) is one way to do it. But to whom does the productive’s money go via taxation? It is true that some of the poor are poor due to the government’s own misconducts, e.g. corruption. They were impoverished by such misconduct. But only some of them are, and the rest were just victimized by their own unproductiveness. Look at the drug addicts, the violent gang members, the high-school students who hang on the street side in their school uniforms when classes already begin. The productive’s money go to subsidize these parasites.

            Mr. Kalla, and the rest of Indonesian government, must retain their “trader mentality”—i.e., they must always spend state’s (i.e., the taxpayers’) money on the right place, on the right time and for the right thing. They must never give any value when the state (i.e., the taxpayers’) won’t get anything in return. Government doesn’t, and must never, do charity especially when the money wasn’t created by the government’s own productive effort via BUMN (State-owned Ventures) but by forcing (with law) the private productive people to give some of their profit away and hand it over to any other party without the taxpayer’s consent. Would you give your money to a violent gang member? I sure as hell won’t—not even for charity.

            But our constitution dictates that the productive should be taxed and the unproductive should be catered, you say? True, but that is the same as saying that the productive should be enslaved for the sake of the unproductive and that it’s just (since it’s according to the constitution). Every law system and constitution must be open for change, i.e. it must adapt. Adapt to what? To the supremacy of individual rights and consent, since consent is the foundation of every law. If our constitution isn’t open for change, and won’t be opened, then our Founding-Fathers and Founding-Mothers and our government must’ve never recognized that individual consent is the only basis and justification of any law.

            Such is the consequence of our, and every, mixed economy, of Welfare Statism. The damage caused by corruption, or any other misconduct, in a welfare state government will always be taken by everyone in the country, including the innocent. If Indonesia adopts laissez-faire capitalism or Minarchism or other form of minimal state, corruption and other misconducts in a private business will never be a national problem. Only the businessman will suffer. A true businessman, i.e., one who holds “trader mentality” firmly, is unlikely to allow corruption and other misconducts. If he allows them, he himself will perish. And who will perish if a welfare state government allow any misconduct? The entire nation. Indonesia is leaning closer to that, thanks to the “thief mentality” that desires for the unearned. 

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The Cult of Economy Grayness

There had never been a time when Indonesia, its government and intellectuals, screams so frantically calling for more entrepreneur like nowadays. It is believed that if Indonesia has more entrepreneur then this country might get a better a chance to escape the cause of its demise: poverty. We can take that believe for granted because entrepreneurs can, and have always, save this country, provided that they run their businesses with honesty.

            Entrepreneurs do create wealth, and we know that wealth, with the right management, will create more wealth. More importantly, entrepreneurs do open up job opportunities. If one is qualified one can fill that vacancy. One can be a manager or a janitor, according to one’s qualification. One can labor with one’s brain or with one’s muscle, depending on one’s ability. Whichever position one fills, no matter how low, one has a job and one has the entrepreneurs to thank for providing such job, i.e., for providing one’s source of living. This nation’s desperate scream for more entrepreneur is just right.

            Yet observe how some of our governor candidates are promoting and promising to their local people that they will provide education and health care services for free. They say that education and health care are fundamental needs so they should be open for free-access by the people, i.e., the needy and the poor. At first glance, it looks like a desirable goal. It seems like a beautiful goal. But you should recognize the ugly truth within if you believe that nothing is for free. Ask this question to those candidates: at whose expense? They’ll remain silent or answer with their tounges twisted all the way.

            People (the consumers) will enjoy and benefit from free education and health care. Granted. But who’s paying for the teachers, the nurses and the doctors? Who’s paying for the schools’ and hospitals’ maintenance? Who’s paying for the text books, uniforms, medicines and medical equipments? The one and only answer would be: the government by subsidy. But where does the government get the money to do so? The most important source among others: tax money, i.e. money taken by legalized force from the productive people which, in this case, is taken to provide for the unproductive. And who are on the front line of a nation’s productivity? The entrepreneurs.

            Every productive effort has only one goal: success. In other word: longevity. How can we expect our new entrepreneurs to flourish and last if we drain—via taxation—their resources, their capital, from the very beginning of their businesses with nothing to return to these entrepreneurs, to the very people that will save us from poverty? The unproductive has nothing to return, and the free education and health care services program, when established, will undoubtedly include the unproductive, i.e. the parasites.

            Heroes are being called yet their own safety and interests are never concerned. This is a phenomenon that Ayn Rand, the founding-mother of Objectivism, would classify as moral grayness. I classify it as economy grayness (mixed economy), which is no other than a logical consequence of moral grayness. Moral grayness is so widespread in Indonesia, including in the government body, that it has become a cult. The members has no moral consistency, no adherence to principles and fundamentals, but only act on the range-of-the-moment. Such attitude is shown by those candidates who make their promises only to win the people’s heart, not the people’s mind—i.e., not the people’s rational judgment—in order to satisfy their range-of-the-moment interests: to be elected and to hold political power. Believe me!