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How Economic Freedom Translates To Our Personal Freedom

by Thomas Campenni

posted in News and Society

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In his first inaugural address, Jefferson stated that "a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government... " All levels of government have strayed from that principle. But that Jeffersonian truth is as true today as it was in 1801.
In the 2015 Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom, the United States is ranked 12th in the world. This falls between Denmark and the United Kingdom. The US, a supposed bastion of free enterprise, has descended into the land of commercial subsidy and nihilistic crony capitalism. The individual's needs in our society have been pushed aside to make room for our largest private companies to graze at the government trough. This has resulted in less political individual freedom in order to insure the special interests of government bureaucrats, politicians and corporate welfare recipients.
The U.S. needs to stop subsidizing business in any way, shape or form. The unforgiving free market should decide. In a truly free society, there will be individual economic dislocation. People will lose jobs, businesses will close and towns and regions will suffer. If the economy is left to market forces, any dislocations will be brief and temporary. Governmental interference with the markets only prolongs economic downturns.
What should be the role of government in our economy? First and foremost, similar to a doctor, it should do no harm. Government should do nothing to impede business from operating in a fair and responsible manner. There is a place for regulation, but it should be limited to providing an open environment for businesses to compete in an unfettered market place. Government should stop predatory behavior so that markets do not become corrupt. Taxation policies should be transparent and simple with the sole purpose of raising revenue not dictating policy and outcomes. There should be no governmental subsidies of any kind to business.
Free markets are efficient but ruthless. Therefore, government needs to protect individuals by having a social safety net. The countries listed ahead of us on the Economic Freedom Index have not sacrificed the individual for the corporation. In fact, just the opposite is true. Singapore, Canada, Australia, Switzerland and Chile, which ranked ahead of us, all have better health care systems than the U.S. Each of those nations has a stronger individual safety net than the U.S.
Beginning in the late 1970s, the United States mistakenly began to believe that we could curb governmental power by cutting taxes alone. This did not happen, and that policy has resulted in increasing the deficit but without any societal benefit. Government didn't get smaller, it has grown increasingly larger. Individuals who were most in need were seen as "loafers" and "welfare queens". The government cut individual benefits. At the same time the amount of money needed to run for office became larger and larger. The average American has less influence on the process because of the ever-increasing contributions from big business, public sector unions and the very wealthy.
Our national and state elected leaders are beholding to those special interests. The politicians began to enact policies that harm the individual but maintain the status quo of their contributors. New business formation is half as what it was in 1978. The World Bank has ranked the U.S. 46th in new business formation with New Zealand #1 and Canada #2. An article in the Atlantic proves that a safety net allows people to take the economic risks necessary to start a new business because their families will have their basic needs met in case of failure. Since we do not have that, entrepreneurship in the U.S. has suffered.
Our government needs to return to the basics. It should look after the welfare of people rather than companies. The government needs to go back to transferring risk to business instead of individuals. Tax policy has to be neutral and simple. Regulations should be written not to keep new businesses from forming but to make sure the field is level for all.
In the world's most successful and freest economies, there is a free flow of capital, labor and goods. The building of walls to try and keep those elements in or out of a country is doomed to failure. Tariffs, corporate subsidies and any price supports do not work. They inhibit the necessary destruction of the old and the creation of the new. Stasis is the enemy of government and economies. Ultimately our individual freedoms depend on it.
About the Author: Tom Campenni has been a small business owner for over 40 years. He has had ownership interest in real estate and other businesses during his career. He currently serves as an elected commissioner of Stuart, Florida.
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