As the O leads us towards socialist utopia, I think we ought to reflect a bit on the past and see whether our future will be bright.
Last week we took a trip to the Lake Tahoe area and actually stayed in a town just the other side of the mountains, Genoa, NV. A town is perhaps generous, more like a modet collection of some homes and a few shops mingled in the vast expanses of ranches. Up the 395 is a Carson City, the capital. On the way to Carson City is a couple of other little towns, replete with the Wal-Marts, Targets, etc., that are standard fare for modern life.
Down the way is Gardenerville, and a few other towns, with a decently sized housing tracts and all sorts of small businesses. Carson Valley is really a slice of America that those who are to regulate finance, health care, environmental, and all sorts of other policies will never see.
However, the real beauty in this is that Genoa is the oldest settlement in Nevada, founded in 1851. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must have been like to travel all that way across the continent and then look up at the massive mountain range, decide that this is the place you’ll stay, and make your life there. That is the spirit that drove this country.
Now, Nevada is not known as the Silver State for nothing. Just up the road a ways, is the town of Virginia City, which was a famous mining town a century and a half past. The Comstock Lode delivered hundreds of millions of dollars worth of silver (in 1850’s dollars, not those worthless pieces of scrap that are printed by Uncle Ben’s presses) and a considerable amount of gold too. It was real money, real wealth, real prosperity.
This town was founded and built by miners. We took a tour of a mine and discovered some very interesting things. One, miners were not paid all that well, but when the discovered the silver ore, they needed talented and experienced miners. And so they raised the wages and attracted miners from Europe, men who had centuries of mining knowledge and experience behind them.
Funny how markets really do work. And no, there were no miners unions then.
Then to dig the mines required intense and dangerous backbreaking labor, the kind of things that would be regulated out of existence today. These were hardy, brave, and tough men, who knew what they were doing and what could happen. The voluntarily accepted the risk. So too did the entrepreneurs who organized the operations. It was mutually beneficial trade and exchange. And it generated vast wealth and prosperity for society.
Imagine today trying to do the same. Imagine trying to navigate the byzantine labyrinth of OSHA, EPA, NLRB, et al., all the environmental impact reports, all the zoning and other regulations from the local to the federal. Today those mines would never even be considered.
The men in the mines worked by candlelight to hammer holes into the rock, insert dynamite, and blow the earth apart to reveal its treasure. Man conquered nature. Those mines are a testament to mans’ greatness, his ability to master the world. They stand as monuments of conquest, not of state over state, but of free men over any obstacle. They are a glorious sight indeed: they reveal capitalism at its greatest.
The state was absent: no money, no incentive, no subsidies, nothing. Men were left free to pursue their dreams and take risk and gain reward. Many took risks a failed, left to live and die in misery and poverty. It happens. Many succeeded and amassed great fortunes. Yet, their wealth pales in comparison to the benefits society received.
The lessons from the past are haunting indeed. Quite simply, what happened then could never occur today. The mines would never have been allowed to be dug.
And so we see the broken windows all to clearly when we visit Virginia City. For there are vast untapped resources still left for men to conquer, but with the trillions in debt stifling any creativity and investment coupled with the omnipresent leviathan looming, the next Virginia City will never occur.
Just across the border is California, the Golden State. It too had its Virginia City, a few hundred miles to the west in Silicon Valley. In so many ways it too paralleled the 19th century mining towns. Not in the physical sense to be sure, but in spirit. But today California is becoming one gigantic ghost town, a massive bureaucracy, a large parasitic class, destruction on a grand scale. California chose to break its windows, and now it is immensely poorer.
America will soon follow this path given the current course we’re on. And we’ll look back and ask where are the men who built Virginia City and why are they nowhere to be found.
Left alone, free to rule their lives without government coercion and fear, men can and will accomplish anything. That is the lesson from the past.