Sheldon Richman has this outstanding piece today regarding the concept of freedom vs. compulsion. In it he criticizes comments made by former Bush speechwriter and policy adviser Micheal Gerson. Many of his points will be hard for so-called progressives to swallow (and some of you "compassionate conservatives").
To the point of how best to allocate resources in a society and enable it to achieve the greatest "common good:"
"Some people may find it an unpleasant choice, but choose they must: freedom or compulsion? There is no third way."
Richman then contrasts the very visible hand of government to the role of the "invisible hand" first espoused by Adam Smith and followed up by economists such as Mises and Hayek:
"These men did nothing if not demonstrate that the self-regulating market process yields general social benefits, the common good if you will, without having an overarching goal or intention. When governments have tried to impose a goal on the political-economic system, the effort has always come to grief.
The historical record backs up the economists. Although the market has never been allowed to operate free of mercantilist privilege and other sorts of government intervention, it would be hard to dispute that societies which became substantially market-oriented achieved a general prosperity unprecedented in history."
Richman concludes with this masterfully written critique of Gerson – but you could also substitute "progressives" or "modern-day liberals" – that counters the mindset of so many that it is up to government to "do something" to help those in need:
"Gerson doesn’t seem to realize that he can have it both ways. He can have free markets with full individual freedom and compassion toward those who suffer. If Gerson thinks free people would be incapable of caring for those who can’t care for themselves — or unwilling to — that says more about him than it does about us. He should stop using his low opinion of mankind as an excuse to violate our freedom."