Today we're talking with Svetoslav. S. Elenkov, author of Theft is Legal: Gain Perspective from 13 Economic Stories and Concepts
FQ: You obviously feel very passionate about "Economic Terror." What made you decide to publish a book about the topic?
I have spent an enormous amount of time researching the causes of economic collapses and searching for an answer to the madness we see in our daily lives. I came to a point where I felt I was ready to share some of my findings and personal stories with the public in an effort to bring greater awareness and start some conversations on topics of dire importance.
FQ: Would you tell our readers a little about your life in Bulgaria - what you saw, the hardships, the mood of the population.
Poverty. Pacifism. Sense of peace and security. Economic stagnation. Social stagnation. No upward mobility whatsoever. Crushed and deceased entrepreneurial spirit. Strict government schools armed with big rulers and sticks. Indoctrination of socialistic values in all levels of schooling. Rewriting of history. After 1991 this started to change, but the "wild capitalists" would only be alive for a year or two until the printing press and corrupt congress with empty promises took power once again.
FQ: I was struck by your description of the marble walkway in your hometown of Plovdiv as well as the marbling at the train station in your grandmother's home city while all around the marble, buildings were crumbling. Did people talk about this and how things used to be or was it something that was never discussed?
Yes, it was discussed, but not very often, because under communist rule people were not able to freely express their opinions if they were considered anti government (a bit like libertarians are sometimes seen as traitors and terrorists when this couldn't be further from the truth =) ). My grandmother would sometimes talk about how good life was under King Boris (assassinated during WW2 we believe by Germany). However I think most of the expensive infrastructure was built with the money acquired when politicians nationalized all of the private wealth. There was a great amount of wealth to squander, and they sure did.
FQ: You talk about the cycle of capitalism and socialism and how it seems to happen over and over. I suspect that you see this happening in the United States now. What can be done to stop the cycle here/now?
That is correct. I do see this happening in the US. We seem to be in the middle of the socialization process. It happens differently and at different speeds in every country/empire, but it happens. The only thing I can think of after so much research is awareness. If people are aware of the true mechanics behind politics and economic incentive, then we would be much less susceptible to current policy and current and future oppression.
FQ: I found your suggestion about starting up your own insurance company interesting. Playing 'Devil's Advocate,' if this were instituted, what would happen to those with little or no income as well as those who had chronic illnesses that required constant medical attention?
Well, I don't believe it's a good idea to institute this kind of action per se. People should take the initiative to manage their finances on their own if they wish. It should be a personal choice. I am a big supporter of people taking responsibility for their own actions, and this is just one way way to do it. I hope it's clear that by "starting your own insurance company," I don't mean register the business name, acquire business license, open a business account, and pay taxes on it. I propose quite the contrary. The point of moving your own finances is to escape all of the red tape, and simplify your life.
Charitable organizations are a product of the free market. In the 1800's when the world witnessed unprecedented accumulation of wealth, private individuals driven by compassion organized the greatest effort to help those in need. We must keep in mind that without wealth and profits, there are no resources that can be donated and put to work for the good of the populace. So in effect, the best thing we can do for the poor and underprivileged is to ensure we have as free and vibrant market economy as possible. Where I grew up, no one would even speak about charity, because the notion almost didn't exist. Sure, an act of kindness was present here and there, but the kind of charity organizations on a massive scale like we see in the US were not present. We must ask ourselves, why? Under a socialist system, there simply isn't much concentration of wealth, and therefore no excess wealth which can be put into charitable action. Excess wealth was only generated by government.
If we recall, Batman asked "Why did Wayne Enterprises stop donating to charity?" "Because to donate, you need profits, Mr. Wayne."
At the moment, the government "crowds out" legitimate charity with its disability and unemployment insurance etc. Once the weeds are lifted, we will uncover the beautiful flowers that are underneath, which is human compassion.
FQ: I can imagine some heated discussions between you and your liberal friends about what to do to help the poor. The age old "they need to be taught to care for themselves so the cycle can end," vs. "we need to help them, give them handouts." What are some of the arguments you'd use to convince others that the poor need to be taught to help themselves?
You are right about the heated arguments. Nearly 100% of my family and friends argue passionately with me on such issues. I understand them, because a long time ago, I had sympathy with their positions, but as I researched more and more, and looked at more and more data, my views began to shift, and now I stand at nearly the opposite side of the compass. My intentions are still the same, as are theirs. We all want to help the poor. The difference is in the method as you pointed out.
Some things I like to point out are that, we are broke as a nation. You can't help anyone out of poverty if you are poor yourself. I also go into discussions about "enablers," and the consequences they bring about in other people's life when it comes to drug/alcohol addiction, or even extreme obesity.
FQ: You talk about the interference of government and their meddling with business with all sorts of regulations. Do you feel that there should be no regulations, a minimal amount, or ?
No regulation. However, there should be courts and a justice system to determine if an individual or a group of individuals ( a company/corporation ) is actually doing harm(which includes lying, deception, pollution, destruction etc.) onto others.
Other than the outlined crimes, there is nothing the free market cannot handle. Consumers will be protected by consumers, or consumer groups which quickly point out the flaws of malicious producers. If a business is to be profitable, they would need to provide quality or risk losing everything to the wrath of bad reputation.
FQ: Government seems to be its own worst enemy, with nobody to regulate them. They feed the populace with entitlements and that keeps people happy, and keeps the government growing. Is there any way to stop this?
Unfortunately I don't believe so. There is no example in history that I'm aware of where the creep of socialism has been completely reversed before a systemic collapse. I think the best thing we can do is try to educate ourselves and our friends and families of what is actually happening. I think learning about the virtues of capitalism, and dangers of socialism will allow a new more aware people to rise from the ashes. Hopefully in the future the cycle can be broken by help of technology or some kind of global awareness, and we could get rid of government for good. I hope one day we accept that social cooperation and not social dictation is what's best and most profitable in every way to humans. Until then, I think it's necessary we keep government at bay as much as possible.
FQ: Government officials again and again claim that they have created jobs. You argue that government can't create jobs. Would you elaborate on this?
Of course. First, we must understand that jobs are not an end, but a means to an end. If government hires a person to stand in one place all day and pay them, that is not a net benefit to society. In fact, it is a net negative. Nothing productive was achieved by a person standing in one place for a day. In a free market, no one would hire people to stand in one place all day, because an entrepreneur needs to gain more value from the worker than he/she is paying them. It's like renting a person. If I rent a person, I expect that person to provide to me more value than the money in my pocket, otherwise I wouldn't dish it out. Hair stylists are a good example of this, or personal trainers. In a free market, I would never rent a person to stand in place for an hour and not do anything productive. In reality, however, government does just that. Government is not very concerned about the productivity of their new worker, they just care that now they have bought a vote in the next election. We can see how this can lead in incredible waste and corruption. The money (taxes of productive citizens) have to be allocated somewhere, and many people with special interests compete for the troth.
We also have to remember that the money to pay for the government workers has to come from somewhere, and we must ask ourselves "Where does that money come from?" and "What would it have been used for if government didn't take it?" I discuss these two questions in length, so I think unfolding the answers here might be beyond the scope and intent of the interview.
Thank you so much for the questions! It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to shed some light on a perspective I've come to acquire through the years.
To learn more about Theft is Legal: Gain Perspective from 13 Economic Stories and Concepts please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.