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Makers and Takers

Makers and Takers How Wealth and Progress Are Made

Makers and Takers: How Wealth and Progress Are Made and How They Are Taken Away or Prevented by Edmund Contoski with forward by John Chamberlain. Quality softcover, cover design by Paul Kielb, $24.95,1997, 464 pages, over 500 references, ISBN 0965500748.

A Brief Synopsis | The First Page | Critical Response | Founding Father Quotations
Amazing Facts Found in Makers and Takers | About the Author

A Brief Synopsis:

Makers and Takers shows how the free market works--and why government intervention doesn't. It examines various forms of economic intervention (taxation, regulation, monetary policy) and their effects on consumer products and services, the health and lives of Americans, and the nation's economic well-being.

The book also explores a broad range of environmental issues. Scientific subjects such as pollution, acid rain, and global warming are explained in clear, non technical language--including some surprising facts that discredit current government policies.

Finally, the author explains the development of the original American system and how that system fostered an unprecedented society of "makers"--the greatest production of wealth and scientific advancement in history. He points out the subtle alterations in our political orientation that now favor the taking of wealth rather than the making of it. We have even taken it from our children and grandchildren in the form of a multi-trillion dollar national debt, which they are going to have to pay. Here is a book that explains what made America great, what went wrong, and what needs to be done for the future.

The First Page:

Chapter 1
An essential fact that stands out  
in all history is that the real sources of  
well being are scientific and economic,  
not political and social.
--Carl Snyder in Capitalism the Creator

Think for a moment about our standard of living, about all the things that make our lives so comfortable and enjoyable, telephones, television, automobiles. Think about all the things which have enhanced human existence from the wheel to the airplane, the printing press to polaroid photography, the microscope to penicillin. Consider the electric light, the flush toilet, nylon, gasoline, rubber, the sewing machine, the refrigerator, and the safety pin. How many, of these were the result of government anywhere in the world?

None. All these and many more were created by a process having nothing to do with political power or methods.

What is this mysterious creative process, and why has there been such a strong tendency to look instead to political action for human advancement? Why has it been so popular to believe that it is progressive to place under political control the production of material goods which governments everywhere have been incapable of creating in the first place? Was it a politician who invented the automobile, the telephone or the electric light? Did government give us Kentucky Fried Chicken or television--or has government merely interfered with such things, as, for example, when the Federal Communications Commission for years delayed licensing television in order to protect the public's investment in radio?

All progress in our standard of living has been due to man's ability to control the materials in the world around him, to grow food, to make tools, to manufacture luxuries.  Political action, on the other hand, aims to control people.  When the control of materials has brought us where we are, why has there been such willingness to believe the control of people will take us where we want to go? The societies where men have been most controlled have been those in which it has been least desirable to live, societies without freedom.

Every step of progress throughout the centuries has always broadened man's horizons and extended the scope of his actions. Every....

Critical Response:

"For those who say 'Get the government off my back,' this book finally details in a well-researched way why we are working more and enjoying it less. A must for people who want smaller government." --Bob Gourley, host of radio talk show Issues Today.

"A very comprehensive and provocative book" --Joe Skelly, host of TV program "Author, Author," speaking of MAKERS AND TAKERS.

"I used to recommend Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson to show the folly of over regulation, but Makers and Takers is more fun to read and offers more concrete examples."--Rob LeGrand
"Makers and Takers is a great book that plugs an important gap in illustrating the practical results of theoretical political principles. I haven't seen anything quite like it before."--Joe Orman, Gloucestershire, England
"Makers and Takers is the observation of reality required to induce the proper philosophy for living."--Al Erkkite
"Contoski begins by presenting a myriad of brief historical examples--from the Soviet Union and Argentina to the U.S. Postal Service and Social Security--to illustrate some of the ways in which government intervention inhibits progress….He demolishes the entire regulatory apparatus of the state….Throughout, he reveals the erroneous facts and arguments that underlie the regulations….Contoski ends his book with an illuminating discussion of how the original American system of capitalism flourished in an environment of individual rights, and then became corrupted by the collectivism and the pressure-group warfare of modern democracy….The overriding value of this book lies in its documentation of many of the ways in which government intervention destroys progress--the ways in which the takers destroy the makers."--Second Renaissance Books
"The most powerful libertarian book in many years is MAKERS AND TAKERS." --John Hospers, Ph.D, the Libertarian Party's first presidential nominee, author of the Party's Statement of Principles, author of nine books, and for 20 years the Director of the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California.
"A comprehensive overview....His economic research here is awesome, and his analysis is sharp.  What is the shape and meaning of our modern government?  How did it get this way?...Contoski speaks perennial truths that are currently unfashionable in these politically correct times: about capitalism, the environment, about the world's resources, schools, about child training, and the burden of bureaucracy....The examples given here span the entire range of human activity under government compulsion.  MAKERS AND TAKERS will become a classic of erudition in the struggle for true individual freedom."  --THE BOOK READER
"Fantastic!!!  I enjoyed it immensely and finished your excellent book with great admiration.  Thanks for the job you have done." --Dr. John J. McKetta, author of over 400 scientific articles in professional journals; co-author of the world-famous ten-volume reference work on petrochemicals and refining; editor of a 45-volume chemical encyclopedia; holder of 50 offices in professional societies, including national president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; listed in WHO'S WHO, INTERNATIONAL WHO'S WHO and 22 other listings of famous people; recipient of many professional honors and several honorary degrees; appointed by three presidents of the United States to important environmental positions, including Chairman of the National Air Quality Management Commission and Chairman of the National Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Commission.
"This is an excellent book!"—Bettina Bien Greaves, the world's foremost scholar on Ludwig von Mises. She made new translations of most, if not all, the works of Mises. She was at the Foundation for Economic Education for more than 40 years, where she was Resident Scholar. She attended all of Mises seminars at New York University, where the chair next to Mises was reserved for her. She wrote a highly laudatory review of extraordinary length (almost 3,000 words) of Makers and Takers in Liberty magazine June 2000. She inherited the rights to all of Mises writings.
"I read Makers and Takers and loved it. It is a book I will give to friends who need to understand how and why freedom works."—Eric Johnson, the Henry Hazlitt Foundation
"In MAKERS AND TAKERS, author Edmund Contoski offers a timely warning.  While the philosophy of individualism promoted the nation's rapid advancement, America has now imperiled itself by turning toward collectivism.  The political drive for 'diversity' aims at social and economic equality, negating what Madison cited as 'the diversity in the faculties of men.' Contoski writes, 'Equal rights, correctly speaking, mean only that men are entitled to equal protection against force, which means: the liberty to be unequal in every other respect.  Any attempt by government to make men equal in any other respect necessarily violates their rights, their liberty.'...
"But now big government has the upper hand, achieved through what Contoski terms the collectivists' 'quiet conquest' of lower education and their domination of higher education, as well as most information media.  Constant propagandizing makes it easy for government to expand through economic regulation.
"The collectivists have indoctrinated enough generations of Americans that the nation's original guiding principles have been nearly expunged.  Contoski is right on target in writing, 'The sad fact is that most Americans have never really understood the American system.  They were fortunate enough to have been born into it and benefited from it, but they didn't really understand it.' Most of our citizens' thinking is so ingrained with statist assumptions that they cannot conceive of any alternative and thus fear freedom.
"This hard-hitting book can break apart encrusted thought patterns.  It refutes an enormous amount of statist disinformation....Read this superb book, then pass it along."
      --Daniel Hager in THE FREEMAN
[Click here to read the COMPLETE REVIEW from THE FREEMAN]

 "A remarkable, well-researched and detailed analysis of how the free market works--and why government intervention does not....divulges new information on every page....written in non-technical style and easy-to-understand format....You will be riveted to each and every chapter.....You won't be able to put MAKERS AND TAKERS down.....MAKERS AND TAKERS is a real page turner! Enjoy!"--A. Heath Jarrett, editor, Jarrett's Journal

"Finally! A book that I can hand with confidence to any doubter of the necessity of free markets for the existence of a free, civil society. MAKERS AND TAKERS makes the theoretical, moral, and practical arguments for free markets in such a clear, convincing, integrated, and, above all, readable way, that any advocate of government intervention in the economy who consents to even browse through its well-documented 450 pages cannot escape with his former views intact."--Chuck Ullery, former chairman, LPMN
"MAKERS AND TAKERS is a study of the economic history of the world and an extensively footnoted catalog of government failures and free market successes throughout history. Even if you have dozed off trying to read textbooks on economics, you will find this book either fascinating or infuriating. You won't be bored. You will no longer think of economics as the dismal science.... If you are a believer in the beneficence of an all-controlling government, you will be either infuriated with frustration or devastated. His documentation is so complete and his logic so clear that the truth is unavoidable."--Rich Osness in MINNESOTA LIBERTARIAN
"I cannot heap enough praise on a superb book by Edmund Contoski, MAKERS AND TAKERS: How Wealth and Progress are Made and How They are Taken Away or Prevented. It will astonish you with its detailed, documented approach to the shocking costs in human lives, the impact on the nation's economy, and so much more that has resulted from government policies and actions which, increasingly, millions of Americans find troubling and even oppressive." --Alan Caruba in BOOKVIEWS
"An impassioned manifesto that is a paean to individualism and libertarian ideals. With dozens of examples to bolster his cause, Contoski rails against government interference in private life and corporate affairs. He contends that government power to tax, regulate, and control the money supply smothers creativity and impedes progress. Nearly a fourth of Contoski's book is devoted to rebutting arguments that industrial growth depletes resources and harms the environment, and he also challenges the reality of an overpopulation problem." --The American Library Association's BOOKLIST, in recommending MAKERS AND TAKERS for library purchase.
"MAKERS AND TAKERS is an important contribution to today's national political dialogue." --MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
"A superb demonstrates in irresistible detail not only that the free market has always done a better job of handling problems, but that expensive, totalitarian solutions generally do more harm than good." --LAS VEGAS REVIEW JOURNAL
"Reading MAKERS AND TAKERS is like eating peanuts. Once you get started, it's difficult to stop." --Minneapolis StarTribune
"I am reading Edmund Contoski's MAKERS AND TAKERS and want you to know that, including Mises, Adam Smith, Hayek and other individual thinkers, I have never read a more significant, cogent, enlightening, and motivational book than this one." --G. K. Ealy, Coeur d'Alene, ID
"In my opinion, this is the kind of intellectual treasure that finds its way into print during few generations....I consider your work to be timeless to a large extent....I'm particularly impressed with your ability to express things so clearly."--Mr. Sherrill Edwards, President of the Fisher Institute
"Ludwig von Mises has made the classic case against government interventionism. He did it in terms of logic. But never, until now in Edmund Contoski's MAKERS AND TAKERS has there been a book to document the Mises points with examples that span the entire gamut of State interference as it has affected the energies of creative individuals."--John Chamberlain in his foreword to MAKERS AND TAKERS. "He was book review editor for The New York Times, co-founder of THE FREEMAN, and wrote the foreword to the first book of Ludwig von Mises to be published in English.
"Contoski argues in the intellectual spirit of Ayn Rand....a fascinating and compelling case for individual liberty....written in such a clear and straightforward manner....well reasoned and thoroughly researched....I regard Makers and Takers as a more principled and consistent case for limiting the power of government than What It Means To Be a Libertarian and Why government doesn't work, among other recent libertarian books."—Scott Van Bergen
"A vigorous and sustained argument for free enterprise, this book marshals such overwhelming evidence as to devastate any rational opposition....Quite riveting."--John Hospers, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Southern California
"Very interesting and most clearly and capably written.... really a stunning job of analysis...."-- Scott Meredith, president of the world's largest literary agency.
"The [principal] metaphor is nicely sustained throughout, you have made wonderful use of quoted material, and your writing is clean and flows well."--Beth Hoffman, Senior Editor, The Foundation for Economic Education
"Makers and Takers will always have a prominent place on my bookshelf! This is work of true brilliance and scholarship."—Josh Klenoff
“The sheer volume of factual information in [Makers and Takers] is breathtaking. Every page is so crammed with facts that the reader would be overwhelmed and confused if Contoski didn't write in such a casual, conversational style....Contoski's style make it easy to absorb these facts and the yet more important concepts they illustrate.”—Ed Wiessman in New Jersey Libertarian.
“If you have a desire to understand how politics and economics affect one another, this book is absolutely invaluable. If you want to know the truth about hundreds of 'scares' being thrown at the American public, such as global warming, the ozone layer, pesticides, environmental destruction, this book is absolutely invaluable....Makers and Takers is well-researched, meticulously referenced and STUFFED full of valuable it as soon as possible.”—Tipsmith Book Reviews

I am a 12-year old living in Carnation, Washington. I have just finished your book... I am the third in my family to read your incredible book. My father and my sixteen-year-old brother have read it. I cannot agree more with the things that you say. Your book keeps remarkably working off itself. The first part is incredible, and addresses the best fundamental flaws in government. The mid section addresses a lot of the facts that were all the rage in "hot debates" that are all to common in, well, everywhere. The final part, at about Chapter Twelve, Send the Bill to the Victims, becomes remarkable....I am now armed with all your spectacular facts. I am trying to exercise my status as the "brain" at school to motivate my peers to consider my preaching. I want them to succeed, for I can see the thirst for success in their faces. I want to badly to give that to them.--P. Carey

This wonderful book, first published in 1997, should be placed in the Christmas stocking of every middle school teenager in America. Not only is the book based on sound, Austrian school economics, but it gives illustration after illustration of the folly of governmental intervention in the freedom of the people to make their lives better as they themselves desire it. For us older folk it is a reminder of past scares, perpetrated by government interventionists, that have since been shown to be completely without warrant.

One such scare that I had forgotten was that acid rain from the industrial Midwest would destroy vegetation in the eastern part of the US. I remember hiking in the Adirondacks around the time that this book was first published and met a young man whose work sounded ideal. He was hired to keep detailed acidic levels of dozens of lakes in the Adirondack mountains. He could drive to some but had to hike to many, which sounded like a really great job. I asked him what he had discovered, specifically if the lakes were becoming more acidic. He responded that they were not becoming more acidic and that the acid level was natural leaching from the rocks. In other words, it was all a big, unsubstantiated scare. When was the last time anyone reading this review heard of the acid rain scare? I rest my case. Mr. Contoski presents example after example of many of these made-up scares. I do not know if that young man or someone else still tests the acidic level of Adirondack lakes, but I wouldn't be surprised that the job still exists. Once a program gets started it seems to exist forever.

One scare that has not gone away is the debasement of money. The chapter on inflation starts with as good a description of what money actually is and how it arises as I have read anywhere. It's all there--the beginnings of trade as direct exchange and the gradual discovery that some commodities can be used for intermediate trade in order to complete another trade at a later date. But the rise of indirect exchange, AKA money, created an opening for fraud, first by goldsmiths and later by governments. The fraud of some goldsmiths was nothing compared to the ongoing fraud of governments, who no longer try to hide their fraud. They have succeeded in corrupting the economic departments at major universities into providing intellectual cover for their crimes. And crimes they are. What greater financial crime was ever committed than FDR's "calling in the gold" in 1933 followed by "calling in the silver" a year and a half later? The intellectual establishment raised hardly an objection.

Today most so-called "mainstream economists" support massive money printing and interest rate manipulation as the necessary role of government to prevent the private economy from imploding. The intellectual foundation for such financial repression is mighty thin and hidden in a fog of statistical chicanery called "econometrics", which is the economic profession's failed attempt to place itself alongside the natural sciences, such as physics. It ignores the irrefutable logic of human action in favor of a place at the side of political power, much like the priestly class that supported the Divine Right of Kings.

Chapters on how regulations have stifled innovation and progress actually make me believe that the US economy is doomed to second class status. Huge industrial projects that previous generations correctly saw as creators of wealth have been abandoned time and time again due to an unnecessarily lengthy and costly (by its own bureaucrats' words!) regulatory process. This has only gotten worse in the last twenty years. US politicians bemoan companies that move existing plants overseas yet fail to understand that they themselves are the cause. Instead they raise the ridiculous bugaboo of cheap foreign labor and foreign currency manipulation as the cause. Furthermore, we don't know what we would have had without these worthless regulations. What wealth was NOT created? Read Bastiat's That Which is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen to understand the totality of the loss.

I have only scratched the surface of the breadth of this book, which the last twenty years have proven to be prophetic. What will the next twenty bring? I shudder to contemplate the almost inevitable and terrible answer.

Patrick Barron is a consultant to the banking industry. For 30 years he ran a major section of the Graduate School of Banking (associated with the Graduate School of Finance) at the University of Wisconsin.

Quotations from the Founding Fathers that you can read in Makers and Takers

Signing of the Declaration of Independence. Credit

"Inequality will exist as long as liberty exists. It unavoidably results from that very liberty itself" --Alexander Hamilton

"The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence." --John Adams

"To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, 'the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.'" --Thomas Jefferson

"When we say, that all men are equal; we mean not to apply this equality to their virtues, their talents, their dispositions, or their acquirements. In all these respects, there is, and it is fit for the great purpose of society that there should be, great inequality among men." --James Wilson

"Our chief danger arises from the democratic parts of our [state] constitutions . . . .None of the constitutions have provided sufficient checks against the democracy." --Edmund Randolph

"A pure democracy . . . can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction . . . . There is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party . . . . Hence it is that such democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been a short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths." --James Madison

"There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under it leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble opinion, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution." --John Adams

Amazing facts that you can read in Makers and Takers

  • A million Peruvians became infected with cholera, and 10,000 died, after chlorination of drinking water was stopped because of EPA policy.
  • In India the death toll from malaria rose from 200,000 to 3 million annually after the U.S. government banned DDT.
  • Worldwide, several times as many people die every year because of the U.S. government's ban on DDT and other pesticides as were killed by Hitler's holocaust, by both sides in all the years of the war in Viet Nam, and by the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.
  • EPA's policy on asbestos removal results in people having greater exposure to asbestos, and to far more dangerous substances!
  • Studies show that seatbelt usage decreases fatalities slightly for drivers, but increases deaths for rear-seat passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians. Analysts say that mandatory safety equipment leads drivers to be more aggressive and take greater risks.
  • Read how EPA falsified sulfur dioxide emission studies in order to force stringent regulations on utility companies and other coal-burning industries.
  • Learn how each $1 billion in interest on the national debt results in about 200 fatalities.
  • Discover one simple fact that would tell you that CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) can't be destroying the ozone layer over Antarctica. And read about the NASA study that found CFCs came in "a very poor last" as a cause for lower levels of global ozone.
  • Read about how the number of personal injury insurance claims increased for various models of automobiles after airbags became standard equipment.
  • There is no evidence of global warming. The world's ice caps are not melting. The Greenland ice sheet has actually thickened by two meters since it was first measured by laser altimetry in 1980. And satellite temperature measurements show no evidence of global warming.
  • Learn how and why the public education system indoctrinates our children with the idea that government is the solution to all the problems of society.