Happy New Year.
The word for 2013 is “freedom.”
Economic freedom. Personal freedom. Freedom.
We have a tradition. Each year on New Year's Eve, we announce at a family gathering our word for the year — the one word that describes how we are going to focus our lives during the New Year.
In our humble view, all of America should adopt the word “freedom.”
It is becoming increasingly lost in American culture and certainly lost in the minds of the American electorate and barely taught in the generations behind us.
Sure, out of the 127 million votes cast last November for a presidential candidate, you almost could expect 127 million different reasons why each voter selected the candidate he did. And while the following may be presumptuous, it also is correct to conclude that 50% of the Americans who voted in last year's presidential election clearly did not make freedom their top priority when they cast their vote for Barack Obama.
If they truly believed in embracing and defending the principles that our nation's founders inscribed and adopted in the U.S. Constitution, the outcome would have been far different. Freedom for the individual is nowhere to be found in Barack Obama's philosophy.
This is not to devolve into a harangue against Obama. Rather, it's to make the case that among the primary reasons the United States is an unstoppable train chugging down “The Road to Serfdom” toward the Europeanization of America (i.e. bankruptcy), is because too few people are advancing and too few people are living the cause for freedom — especially economic freedom.
How many times, for instance, did you ever hear Barack Obama or Mitt Romney even say the word “freedom” or “liberty” in their campaign sound bites?
Read the Republican and Democratic parties' platforms. They are devoid of any references to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” You have to look hard even to find the words “freedom” or “liberty” or references to founding principles in the Constitution. The Republicans came closest to articulating founding principles in their preamble:
“We possess an owner's manual: the Constitution of the United States, the greatest political document ever written. That sacred document shows us the path forward. Trust the people. Limit government. Respect federalism. Guarantee opportunity, not outcomes. Adhere to the rule of law. Reaffirm that our rights come from God, are protected by government, and that the only just government is one that truly governs with the consent of the governed.”
“Respect federalism”? “Guarantee opportunity”? Not a mention of freedom.
The absence of the defense and promotion of individual and economic freedom from our cultural-political lexicon is alarming enough. The absence of the teachings, or even debate, about economic freedom and free-market capitalism in our public education systems is criminal. If Americans truly believed in and understood the nation's founding principles, if they truly believed in and understood free-market capitalism, we would not be where we are today — $16 trillion in debt.
Today, the United States is a nation of government entitlements, not at all a nation of free-market capitalism. Redistribution of wealth (taking from one to bestow an unearned benefit on another) and government confiscation of property (the income tax, estate tax, Social Security tax, Medicare tax, etc.) are thought of as normal, social norms, rights. But that makes us wonder: What would John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton say if they saw all of this? When they drafted the Constitution, they knew that American colonists would revolt a second time at even the suggestion of an income tax — it was so repulsive.
And yet, it's astounding today that so many Americans believe “the rich” should be forced by the government's gun to forfeit larger percentages of their income than everyone else. So much for equal treatment under the law.
Unequal treatment for all
You can thank Abraham Lincoln for initiating this “ability-to-pay,” progressive tax doctrine.
Start with Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution. It said, “No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.” Translated: When taxed, everyone was to be treated the same.
But when Lincoln needed funds to execute the Civil War, he persuaded Congress to adopt an ability-to-pay income tax (3% on anyone earning more than $600 a year); they called it an “excise” tax to skirt the Constitution. Luckily, the tax ended in 1872.
But 25 years after the war, proponents of ability-to-pay taxation and class warfare had gained full acceptance as political causes. The Populists of the 1890s targeted the “robber barons” and “bloated rich.” In 1893, newly elected President Grover Cleveland asked Congress for an income tax. It approved a 2% income tax. The Supreme Court later ruled it unconstitutional.
Class warfare continued. In 1913, the Populists were victorious again. The 16th Amendment became law, allowing Congress to tax incomes “without regard to any census or enumeration.”
Since then, Americans have not been “created equal.” It has become an article of belief in America that those who earn more than others must contribute more to the common good. Barack Obama says haughtily: “They can afford it.”
On this point, it's worth invoking philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand:
“America's abundance was not created by public sacrifices to 'the common good,' but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes.
“They did not starve the people to pay for America's industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented,” she wrote.
Most people forget that side of the coin. While the late Steve Jobs may have accumulated billions upon billions of dollars in personal wealth, look at the hundreds and hundreds of millions of “free riders” who are able to afford and have the benefits of his creations? Through free-market capitalism, the iPhone became affordable; it was not just for the rich. All those voters who think the rich should pay more forget how they have benefited from the ingenuity of the creators and producers.
The Mitt Romneys and Jeff Bezoses (Amazon) and Larry Pages (Google) of this country are not the villains. They shouldn't be punished. They're heroes.
Shout the meaning of freedom
But Americans don't get that. The man in the White House doesn't talk about individual freedom or economic freedom. He doesn't embrace the concept that the freer we are, the more prosperous we become.
“Freer” means less taxation, fewer regulations, less government spending — removing as much of the state from our lives as possible.
In their 2011 detailed study of personal and economic freedom by state, authors William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens (“Freedom in the 50 States,” George Mason University), offered this unsurprising conclusion:
“Two of the most intriguing findings of our statistical analysis are that Americans are voting with their feet and moving to states with more economic and personal freedom and that economic freedom correlates with income growth.”
As you watched Washington's incompetence on “the fiscal cliff,” you had to become disgusted and disheartened. Look at that horrific mess we have let our “public servants” perpetrate on us, and then look at your children and grandchildren. They are destined to be slaves to the state and to a declining standard of living.
This is why freedom should be the word for 2013, 2014 and beyond. If the next generations do not understand and know the truths of our nation's founding principles or the miraculousness of free-market capitalism, they are doomed. We will have doomed them.
We need to teach and shout the meaning of freedom.
The narrative on Florida freedom
Here's what the Mercatus Center's analysis of freedom in Florida concludes:
Despite lacking a personal-income tax, Florida is average in almost all fiscal categories, rising well above average only on decentralization, local budget constraints and government employment.
Property and general sales taxes are higher than average.
Florida's gun laws are about average nationally, but below average for the South.
Marijuana laws are generally quite restrictive, and there is a Salvia ban.
Florida is one of the few states to mandate personal-injury coverage in auto-insurance plans.
Other than mandatory registration, Florida's regulation of private schools is minimal, and homeschooling is also lightly regulated apart from record-keeping requirements.
Land-use planning has gone very far in Florida, and greater room for local flexibility in development plans is probably warranted.
Florida has improved by allowing the federal minimum wage to catch up, and the state also benefits from right-to-work laws and a relatively good workers' compensation regime.
To its credit, Florida has gone further than any other state in reforming eminent domain.
Health-insurance coverage mandates have gotten much worse, with an 8.5% jump in policy-attributable premium costs between 2007 and 2009. Contribution limits on grassroots PACs are unnecessarily restrictive for such a large state.
Smoking bans exist, but there is some local flexibility for bars, while cigarette taxes are low.
Florida has RFRA and bans raw milk.
(1) Stop adding health-insurance coverage mandates and consider repealing the ones that exist.
(2) Raise campaign contribution limits to candidates, particularly for individuals and grassroots PACs.
(3) End mandatory registration of private schools.