Phyllis Schlafly is known primarily for her work on social issues. Many remember her for her decade-long fight against the Equal Rights Amendment, her spars with feminists, and her hand in creating a coalition of religious conservatives. Before ERA and her pro-family policy fame, Phyllis wrote about defense issues during the Cold War.
Yet, throughout her writing career, she never shied away from talking about economic issues. Phyllis’s positions are the pinnacle of conservative economics applied to current events. She covered a host of issues in recent American history, and all conservatives should study her writings so we may learn how to apply her lessons to contemporary economic conflicts.
Phyllis was always a vocal critic of the Soviet Union and the deadly communism it promoted across the world. In a 1974 column titled The Soviet Gas Deal, Phyllis criticizes the decision to import gas from Siberia, because American energy should not be economically reliant on communist production.
She celebrated Americans’ opposition to socialism in another 1974 column, Rejection of Socialism. Americans, in Phyllis’s view, rejected socialism “NOT because government solved our problems, but because government stayed out of the way and let the initiative and inventiveness of man solve our problems ourselves.”
Phyllis wrote about the pitfalls of the Soviet regime until its very end. In the March 1989 Phyllis Schlafly Report, Americans Should Say NO To Financing the Soviet Economy, she discusses how the Soviet Union was able to increase its global hegemony through loans coming from the West, including the United States. “The biggest banks in the United States have been lending vast sums to Communist countries on easy terms not available to any U.S. firm or farm,” she said. In addition, due to the inconvertibility of the Russian Ruble at that time, American firms that conducted business in the USSR would only be able to spend their ruble profits on the Soviet economy.
It was clear to Phyllis that until the downfall of the Soviet Union the United States should not emulate it, become economically dependent on it, or help its economy in any way. She always recognized how dangerous communism is and refused to give it any breathing room in the United States.
Even the most basic economics class will teach the way that prices influence and coordinate people and capital within the economy. They allow for the optimal amount of goods and resources to go to the place where they are most valued. Yet today, this is often forgotten. The importance of free prices was also frequently forgotten by legislators in the 1970s. In the July 1973 Phyllis Schlafly Report, Why Brezhnev Came to America, Phyllis explains that the reason for rising food prices and food shortages is price controls.
At the end of 1973, she writes on the folly of price controls on both food and gas. By December, as she writes in Gasoline Price Controls, the removal of price controls had allowed food prices to return to normal. Phyllis explained that the “best long-term solution for gasoline and fuel oil shortages is the same solution that worked for the beef shortage: remove price controls. The price system enables millions to cooperate voluntarily with one another in our common interest.”
The nature of the price system seems all-too-easy for our legislators to overlook, but the markets work the same in 2022 as they did in 1973. “The principal cause of most economic problems is Government interference,” she says, and the best solution to economic problems is “to eliminate Government interference.”
Phyllis Schlafly wrote extensively on pointless or inefficient government programs and bureaucracy that hurt the American economy. If Congress passed a new federal spending program between the years of 1973 to 2016, you could be sure that Phyllis was ready to point out how poorly thought out and terrible it was in her weekly column.
In a 1974 column on Federal Spending for Education, Phyllis demonstrated that “In education, Federal spending is not only not working on the solution, but it is part of the problem.” Just as in the price system, government involvement in basic societal programs creates a litany of problems. She wrote through the next decades about how government involvement in education only leads to inefficiencies and to pushing a progressive agenda.
Another 1974 column titled Welfare points at the faults of a system that has only gotten worse. The welfare system, Phyllis argued, “is unfair to the taxpayers who are forced to provide a better standard of living to the welfare recipients than the taxpayers have themselves.” She emphasized the moral hazard of putting people in a position where the financially wise decision is not to get a job but rather to “persist in a life of dependency or sin.”
The January 1990 Phyllis Schlafly Report Look Who’s Lobbying for Federal Daycare shows the absurdity of the extremely expensive proposed federal daycare program. “Congress should come out of its cocoon and face the real world where Americans want tax relief instead of new spending proposals,” Phyllis stated. The program would force everyone to pay, including parents who don’t want their children to be raised by the government. Instead, Phyllis advocated for (and succeeded in) lowering taxes on families with children through a tax credit so they would have more resources to raise them as they see fit, instead of just throwing money at the minority of parents who would use government daycare.
Phyllis’s 1993 column Managing the Economy, Reich Style criticizes the Clinton-appointee Robert Reich. Reich, Phyllis says, “talks about ‘investment’ in infrastructure as targeted investment in strategic structural components of the economy, as determined by government professionals, but you might recognize it by another name: ‘pork’ of course financed by taxes.” She described this as just another instance of a lifelong bureaucrat trying to control the private sector which he knows nothing about.
No federal spending plan was beyond the criticism of Phyllis Schlafly. Government is not meant to be an infinite bread basket for solving everyone’s problems. She made sure to note that all such programs came at a cost: a larger burden on American taxpayers.
Phyllis’s fight against the feminists and the Women’s Lib movement is what many remember her for. She stood for traditional family values against those who wanted women to turn away from everything a woman should be. She also made sure to take aim at the very easy target of buffoonish feminist economics.
The June 1979 Phyllis Schlafly Report titled Changing Social Security to Hurt the Homemaker demonstrates the pernicious ways the Women’s Lib movement worked diligently to change the roles of men and women. One of the ways that they did this was advocating changes to social security that would reduce retirement benefits significantly for women who are homemakers in traditional families. Phyllis wrote that this is part of a ploy by the “Women’s Lib movement and Federal Bureaucrats… to drive the Homemaker out of the home and… into the workforce because that is the only way that Federal taxes can be realistically increased or even maintained.”
Phyllis wrote against an early form of wage gap lamentations in the July 1985 Phyllis Schlafly Report, Comparable Worth: Unfair to Men and Women. The feminists want to lower the wages of blue-collar men while raising the wages of white- and pink-collar women, because they do not think it is fair that a plumber or a truck driver could make more than a college-educated woman. This can only be done, Phyllis noted, through ignoring all market conditions that lead to a wage. Determining the real “worth” of work is done on completely subjective ground by evaluators thirsting to find discrimination against women.
The implementation of comparable worth in Wisconsin was disastrous, because, in the name of equality, it boxed low-skilled women out of the economy and women working nontraditional jobs were also harmed. Phyllis emphasizes that subjectively and arbitrarily choosing the “worth” of a given job is far less effective than letting the market naturally determine efficient wages.
Phyllis Schlafly was an America First advocate throughout her career, and sacrificing the sovereignty of the American economy for special interests, especially foreign, was never tolerable.
In the aforementioned column The Soviet Gas Deal, Phyllis writes about how America should not be energy-dependent on foreign countries, especially when we have access to natural resources within our own territory.
In her column Exporting U.S. Jobs, Phyllis blames Democrat lawmakers for tearing jobs away from American workers and shipping them to foreign countries. “One of the strange quirks of liberal politicians,” Phyllis states, “is the way they have deliberately caused the exporting of thousands of American jobs to foreign countries by writing provisions into Federal laws which make it more profitable for industry to make capital investments in other countries than in the United States.” The American economy should work for Americans, not for foreign nations.
In Phyllis’s 1992 column Foreign Giveaways to Russia, she writes against the IMF and World Bank for taking money from the United States (meaning U.S. taxpayers) and giving massive loans to former Soviet countries, rather than opening up business dealings. “Those who are determined to send U.S. cash to help the Russians have an obligation to get something for the taxpayers’ money they propose to spend,” Phyllis stated. International agreements that the United States engages in should work for Americans, rather than ship their taxpayer money overseas in the form of loans.
Phyllis was also critical of NAFTA. Despite having “free trade” in the name, Phyllis pointed out that it lacked free trade in the actual agreement. Instead, Phyllis said, we should call it “a thousand pages of specific advantages for some powerful financial interests and disadvantages for others.” No wonder the details of NAFTA were kept secret, she says, because the point of NAFTA was to benefit special interests through trade favors for Mexican and Canadian special interests, rather than putting the interests of the American taxpayers first.
Central Banking and Inflation
Phyllis was very critical of what she called the “headless fourth branch of government which has no checks and balances: the Federal Reserve.” Her 1974 column The Federal Reserve described the ways in which hikes in the interest rate led to higher prices on all goods for all Americans. Phyllis advocated for an audit on the Federal Reserve, as well as transparency.
Her 1977 column about the Carter administration titled Who Pays for Inflation says that “Federal deficits are the principal cause of the inflation which is a secret, heavy tax on the American people.” Legislators do not have to pay the slightest penny for this inflation, because Congress, with its power of the purse, can raise its salary steadily above inflation rates.
Phyllis’s 1998 column Fed Bailout Requires Full Investigation is about the Federal Reserve’s bailout of the LTCM Hedge Fund. The Fed assured the American public that it absolutely needed to do so to protect the economy, yet it was very cagey as to why. This was odd, especially considering Warren Buffett’s proposal for a private purchase. Phyllis said that the “Fed’s derailing of a private purchase of LTCM in order to advantage its politically well-connected friends is both an outrage and an endangerment of our country’s economic well-being.”
Patents and Inventions
In the July 1997 Phyllis Schlafly Report, What Americans Owe to Inventors, Phyllis demonstrates the amazing benefits of America’s free market by describing innovations in agriculture, communication, transportation, home, industry, energy, military, and health that were made possible due to the economic model of the United States. History has repeatedly vindicated Phyllis’s support of inventive freedom by showing numerous new inventions in each of these domains in the last two decades. This is thanks to a strong patent system that lets innovators know that their big breakthroughs will be financially viable.
In the 1998 column Copyright vs. The Public Interest, Phyllis indicates the dangers of changing copyright laws to benefit special interests, rather than using them to protect innovation and intellectual property.
Another 1998 column titled The Ominous Attack on American Inventors exposes that Japan’s economy relies on imitation. Japanese special interests working backroom deals with American legislators is a threat to the secure patent system, trying to shorten patents down to 18 months, after which all information about an invention would be public. This would remove incentives for Americans to innovate and would harm everyone’s wellbeing as a result.
This is only a glimpse at the expansive corpus of Phyllis Schlafly’s writings on economic issues. We can glean much advice for our present day, even though many of these columns and reports are dated. That is because the laws of economics do not change, and conservative economic positions continue to be correct.
Tampering with market pricing, spending more than the budget allows, shipping American jobs overseas, allowing American companies to economically favor Communist regimes, weakening intellectual property laws, and entertaining foolish feminist economics are all still issues today. Phyllis’s economic arguments apply just as well today as when she wrote them.
Read more: The Economic Philosophy of Phyllis Schlafly