Thanks to free enterprise we are witnessing an age of dizzying technological innovation, and material abundance, a decline in global poverty. Despite abundance, millennials are being tempted by the siren song of socialism. According to a 2015 Reason-Rupe poll, some 58% of college aged Americans have a positive view of socialism. It is not sufficient to lecture the young on the human rights abuses and poverty in socialist regimes such as Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. Rather, it is critical to explain to the young the benefits of a free society and free enterprise – probably for the first time in their lives. Free enterprise leads to prosperity. Equally important, a free market is a necessary to a self-governing free society because it empowers individuals to take control over their own lives.
No political party has a proprietary claim on freedom and economic opportunity. If our society is to continue to enjoy prosperity and stability, each major party needs to be invested in the concepts of personal freedom, pluralism and economic empowerment. Too often, politicians and voters follow an impulse that every imaginable social ill should be addressed by new laws. (How often have you heard the refrain “There ought to be a law…”). Worse, some partisans abuse lawmaking to punish opponents or reward supporters.
Each major party uses the language of freedom, rights and choice, but is selective about which freedoms it actually supports. Although it won’t help political parties in their fundraising, citizens would benefit from policies judged with a rebuttable presumption in favor of liberty and empowerment. Rather than presuming that the optimal solution to all societal issues is an additional law, we should begin with the presumption that free citizens and free market will adequately address issues and efficiently allocate resources. When it can be shown that people cannot be trusted to govern themselves, or must be protected from the privations of powerful interests, then the government should act. Even then, such laws should be narrowly tailored to avoid overreach, unintended consequences, or unwarranted restrictions on individual liberties.
As we judge policy proposals on occupational licensing, economic regulations, education reform and privatization of public services, freedom and opportunity will be our gauge. Rather than judging policies based on which political party is their author, we will critique proposals based on whether they expand or restrict personal liberties and economic opportunities. Similarly, when we author our own policy solutions, we will guided by our motto: “Free Markets, Free Texans”.
Doug McCullough, Director Lone Star Policy Institute