Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Republicans Must Embrace Liberty Message

by Rich Bratten, Executive Director, Republican Study Committee of Colorado

 There are some core principles that unify many of the various “grass roots” groups (TEA Party, 9/12, Liberty, Gadsden, Libertarian, etc.), which I submit would include 1) a commitment to a limited, Constitutional role for government that, 2) protects individual liberty and encourages personal responsibility, 3) a commitment to a free market economy that is not strangled by government regulation or distorted by government intervention, and 4) fiscal responsibility in the fulfillment of government’s limited role. Interestingly, these are some of the principles of the Republican Party as well. This is why all of these groups should be able to find common ground in these areas.
One of the biggest problems that we face today as a state, and as a nation, is that many in the Republican Party either do not truly understand these principles, resulting in the ever-increasing misapplication of government, or else they are willing to forgo them for political gain.
While the tag-line of both political parties today is “jobs, jobs, jobs”, the reality is that not only is this not the role of Colorado government (a word search of the Colorado Constitution confirms that job creation is nowhere to be found), but government, in general, is not designed for, nor is it compete
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nt at, “creating jobs.” While our state government could help create an environment that is more conducive to job creation by lowering the regulatory and tax burden on the private sector, protecting personal liberty and property rights, and establishing the fiscal, judicial and statutory stability that businesses need in order to be able to make plans for the future so that capital will be attracted toward investment here, our government does not “create jobs.”
Government interventionist policies disrupt free markets by distorting the signaling mechanism known as “price” so as to create what is commonly called malinvestment – a concept developed in the Austrian school of economic thought (Von Mises, Hayek, etc.) One need look no further than the housing boom and bust that we have recently experienced to see an example of how government and regulatory intervention (in the form of artificially low interest rates, socially driven housing policy, and tax incentives) created malinvestment by propping up something to be more valuable than it really is.
Our political representatives may be well acquainted with the politics of “job creation”, but they seem to be quite behind the curve when it comes to the meaning of a “free market economy” and the role of government. Government intervention in the market for the well intentioned benefit of the common good by allegedly “creating jobs” is misguided at best, and destructive in the end.
What’s even worse, and more insidious, is the path that this mindset of government economic intervention leads us upon. Friedrich A. Hayek wrote, “That the government which claims to plan economic life soon asserts its totalitarian character is no accident — it can do nothing less if it wants to remain true to the intention of planning. Economic life is not a sector of human life which can be separated from the rest; it is the administration of the means for all our different ends. Whoever takes charge of these means must determine which ends shall be served; which values are to be rated higher and which lower — in short, what men should believe and strive for.” [“What Price a Planned Economy?”]
This is not an exaggerated concern. Today’s version of statist policy clothes itself with a combination of euphemistic public policy goals. Especially prevalent is the go-to statist formula of “environmentalism” + “job creation” = “green economy.”
Want to score some political points? Simply create a government intervention into the free markets to “incentivize” some portion of the “green economy”. Throw in some funding by “gifts, grants and donations,” perhaps a little TIF (Tax Incremental Financing, which allows government to issue debt to be repaid by the future anticipated tax revenue increases expected to be brought about by their latest intervention), toss some direct tax-incentives to specific industries to encourage participation, and then of course, liberally apply for “federal money” because it’s just sitting there waiting to be spent and if we don’t do it someone else will, and voila – you have just done something noble and beneficial for everyone by helping the environment and creating jobs (not).
Now, if you’re a Democrat and you just read that last paragraph thinking, “sounds good,” that’s to be expected. A true classical education, complete with critical thinking, will be required. If you’re a Republican and you think that this sounds good, you need intervention. This is the type of Republican (non) thinking that has spawned the current liberty movement!
Republicans must wake up to the principles that are woven through the various patches of fabric that make up today’s liberty movement. Republicans must awaken their commitment to a limited, Constitutional role for government that protects individual liberty and encourages personal responsibility. Republicans must maintain a commitment to a free market economy that is not strangled by government regulation or distorted by government intervention. And Republicans must be committed to fiscal responsibility in the fulfillment of government’s limited role. Anything less would deny the message of today’s liberty movement.