Freefare: Welcome to the Age of Entitlement
by Mark A. Kovel Sr.
Westwood Books Publishing LLC

"Freefare will become not only the means to financially provide for those in need, but it will also provide the control mechanism to properly manage."

Through extensive research and a career advising business enterprises spanning nearly five decades, Kovel proposes Freefare, a concept that is both revolutionary and straightforward, a seemingly disruptive force with the potential to redirect the fiscal future of the economy. Kovel sets up Freefare by providing a thorough historical context of American leaders and a government’s ability to establish control of its citizens. One might wonder why Kovel doesn’t immediately commence with his proposal but rather waits until the latter section of the book to introduce it in detail. However, by providing a plethora of examples throughout history and numerous presidencies, he is creating an environment that will lead readers to fully grasp the purpose of his proposal.

For centuries before the founding of the New World, the common man, as Kovel states, “meekly suffer[s] through their worldly existence.” Following the American Revolution and the establishment of democracy, for the first time ideas of American capitalism, the American Dream, and free enterprise seeped down to the common man who did not hesitate to take full advantage of this unique opportunity. The audience will become privy to the journeys of immigrants turned wealth magnates and icons like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. While their names are now synonymous with success, their early work lives began in the boiler room of a thread factory and in a bookstore respectively. In other words, those who came with the intention to create and innovate were going to have the utmost opportunities in the free enterprise, capitalist society. Perhaps the most intriguing, yet outlandish revelation in this section is that most paychecks “contained no federal-or state-mandated deductions.” With Woodrow Wilson and the advent of the income tax to fund World War I, the audience sees the birth of peaceful wealth distribution ideas, and the history vignettes begin.

Unlike reading from a textbook, the book assumes a conversational tone and delivers clear points that can equip even the least versed individual with the knowledge to understand the historical triggers that lead to Freefare. This clarity is best seen in the explanation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s impact on the United States economy, both at the time and into the future. In many ways, the social reforms he enacted to pull the economy out of the Great Depression, particularly the New Deal, were laying down the guide map to overdependence on government assistance and to what Kovel refers to as the present-day age of entitlement. What began with FDR reached a head in 2008 with President Obama, who tried to regulate the few remaining private industries: banking, health care, and auto manufacturing. To demonstrate the effect of overdependence on enterprising Americans, Kovel juxtaposes the story of Tommy Dowdall—who immigrated to America in 1908 and finds success running his own small business—with what the reality of his financial independence would be in modern times based on the multitude of imposed regulations.

At its core, the historical context provided in this text highlights the glaring wealth gap between the “haves and have-nots.” The question, then, that the book seeks to answer is clearly stated: “Is it possible to devise a meaningful way to improve the financial situation of the underprivileged, impoverished American without destroying the economic foundation of the nation? With the clarity and directness of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Kovel addresses nearly every angle of society that would be impacted by Freefare’s goal of social equality and responsibility. This quest for financial freedom is not drastically different from Paine’s pamphlet encouraging freedom from Britain. In a nutshell, Freefare entails that the individual sign up for Freefare benefits, whether it’s because they don’t wish to work, want to spend more time with the family, etc. In this cashless system, beneficiaries will operate on pre-loaded, individualized debit cards for a range of goods, services, and necessities, including but not limited to entertainment, apartment expenses, food, and education. Under this premise, homelessness would be eradicated, citizens would receive an education, and no one would go hungry, while ultimately increasing overall consumer spending.

In the Freefare system, however, the major tradeoff between those receiving benefits (essentially provided unconditionally) and those who provide for themselves is supervision. For instance, if a Freefare beneficiary is overweight or obese, his food choices will be monitored in an almost Orwellian big brother fashion via the debit card—the sole means of purchase. Thus, by eliminating cash purchases, everything becomes traceable and controllable by the government, ensuring that funds are not misspent. To further provide a crystal-clear image of his vision for Freefare, Kovel presents a series of examples of life circumstances where Freefare becomes the ideal solution for those who would otherwise be facing life on the streets, hunger, inability to rear kids due to work commitments, a lack of adequate education, etc.

Similar to Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, Freefare advocates against regulation and renders it counterproductive to the primary purpose of unhindered growth in an enterprising society. Nevertheless, Kovel adapts Smith’s premise to the age of enlightenment, where while regulation isn’t emphasized, government control of components like housing, food, spending, and education is instrumental in allocating resources appropriately. Furthermore, a hint of Thomas More’s Utopia and its premise of no private possessions can be detected in the Freefare philosophy, where beneficiaries are entitled to all common resources, but privatization is nonexistent.

In a modern society where the economy fluctuates wildly based on social stressors, Freefare is an intriguing concept that has the potential to bridge the wealth disparity, decrease crime, increase spending, and, ultimately, bring permanent fluidity and stability to the economy. Kovel’s book is a must read for its depth of research and thought-provoking ideas, along with crisp and concise writing that manifests generally dense concepts into easily digestible nuggets for the layman.

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