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Category — Libertarianism

Independence Against Big Government

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

- Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

Most Americans easily recall these eloquent words with which the Founding Fathers expressed the basis of their claim for independence from Great Britain in 1776. But what is usually not recalled is the long list of enumerated grievances that make up most of the text of the Declaration of Independence.

The Founding Fathers explained how intolerable an absolutist and highly centralized government in faraway London had become. This distant government violated the personal and civil liberties of the people living in the 13 colonies on the eastern seaboard of North America.

In addition, the king’s ministers imposed rigid and oppressive economic regulations and controls on the colonists that was part of the 18th-century system of government central planning known as mercantilism.

“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States,” the signers declared. [Read more →]

July 4, 2014   1 Comment

Big-Picture Policy: Talking Points for Economic Liberty (energy included)

“[T]here are, at bottom, basically two ways to order social affairs. Coercively, through the mechanisms of the state … and voluntarily, through the private interaction of individuals and associations…. Civil society is based on reason, eloquence, and persuasion, which is to say voluntarism. Political society, on the other hand, is based on force.”

- Edward Crane (quotation), founder, Cato Institute

The worldview for entrusting consenting adults with energy is, broadly speaking, libertarian. Consumers are more knowledgeable than government agents on what (energy) products are most valuable in terms of convenience, price, and reliability. And as experience has shown time and again, politicizing energy creates problems rather than solves them. Restated, there is government failure in the quest to address alleged market failures.


Arguments about energy also apply to health care, money and banking, and other pillars of the modern economy. And so the science of liberty is at the center of the debate writ large. And it is at odds with President Obama’s out-of-the-closet Big Government model as stated in his second inaugural address.

After paying lip service to the American ideals of freedom and the pursuit of happiness, Obama stated:

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. [1]

Is Obama talking about civil society, that huge engine of goodness and progress standing between the “selfish” individual and “good” government? Hardly! He assumes, fallaciously, that economic freedom is the enemy of broad-based  progress (including for those most vulnerable to poverty through no fault of their own). He assumes, romantically, that government redistribution can take care of the indigent and elevate the masses. [Read more →]

March 1, 2013   2 Comments

Libertarian Party: Economic Freedom, Energy, and the Environment (Romney/Ryan, are you listening?)

“While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy. We oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.”

- Libertarian Party Platform (2012)

While Romney/Ryan haven taken a lead in many polls over Obama/Biden, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is polling well ahead of Green Party candidate Jill Stein for third place. If you add the Libertarians to the Republicans, the majority widens against the Democrats and Greens. Greater economic and energy freedom anyone?

Today’s post examines the Libertarian Party platform on economic liberty, energy, and the environment. Next week, the Green Party’s Green New Deal will be studied.

The LP platform begins with this statement on economic liberty:

Libertarians want all members of society to have abundant opportunities to achieve economic success. A free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner. Each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market. The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected. All efforts by government to redistribute wealth, or to control or manage trade, are improper in a free society.

And then speaks to property and contract rights: [Read more →]

October 25, 2012   4 Comments

Law over Power: Liberty’s Work

“I was asked once by some skeptics what the most important libertarian accomplishment ever was. I said ‘the abolition of slavery.’ OK, they conceded. Name another. I thought more carefully and said ‘bringing power under the rule of law’.”

- David Boaz, “Power and Law,” Cato Policy Report, July/August 2012, p. 2.

[Friday posts sometimes take a more general, big-picture look at the science of liberty and 'why we fight.' Cato executive vice president David Boaz is featured today in his recent editorial for Cato Policy Report. The Cato Institute has played an important role in energy and energy/environmental scholarship in the last several decades.]

At Public Policy Day, our event for Cato Sponsors held after the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty Dinner, I thanked our Sponsors for our beautiful expanded building.

But as they always say about a church, a think tank is not a building. Cato is ideas — the ideas of peace, liberty, dignity, tolerance, human rights, property rights, open markets, and limited constitutional government.

And it’s the people — the people who have spent the past 35 years building the Cato Institute into what George Will called “the foremost upholder of the idea of liberty in the nation that is the foremost upholder of the idea of liberty.” That didn’t happen by accident. Led by Ed Crane, a lot of people have put a lot of effort into developing the books and studies and ideas that have put Cato on the map — and into developing the institutional infrastructure that makes it possible to deliver those ideas.

Now don’t get me wrong — the building is an important part of that institutional infrastructure. It’s not just 76,000 square feet of a generic office building. It’s a building designed for the needs of a think tank, especially with its multiple public event spaces, audio and video studios, and state-of-the-art multimedia capabilities. It’s all here to help the people advance the ideas. The Cato Institute’s success is built especially on three factors: commitment to libertarian principle, nonpartisanship, and independence. [Read more →]

August 17, 2012   2 Comments