Dr. Robert Lawson is the Jerome M. Fullinwider Chair in Economic Freedom in the O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom at the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business. Also, Lawson is co-author of the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World annual report, which provides a widely-cited economic freedom index for over 140 countries. The CATO Institute has been partners in its publication since 1996.
As my former academic advisor, Dr. Lawson is a mentor and friend who introduced me to libertarian philosophy. A happy warrior with a dry sense of humor, his love of economics and freedom is inspiring.
Lawson is a member of the prestigious Mont Pelerin Society. He also writes at the popular economics blog, Division of Labour, which you should subscribe to.
Matt Naugle: How did you become a libertarian?
Robert Lawson: I actually wrote about this in a little book that Walter Block edited titled, I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians. As with most people, I can trace this to a couple of influential teachers. First, Mr. Eaton at Princeton High School (Cincinnati) who gave me my first copy of The Freeman. Second, Richard Vedder at Ohio University.
Usually, when we argue for the cause of freedom and liberty, we do so by engaging in arguments using economics. The broken window fallacy, third-party payer problems, supply and demand, etc. They do work, to an extent, and they are good tools. But they aren’t the only tools in the basket.
My good friend Sean Malone, the Director of Video Production* over at the Charles Koch Institute, has put together a new series of videos for the Economic Freedom Project, which tell the stories of small business entrepreneurs who are forced to survive in an environment marred by over regulation, cronyism, corruption, and a far too large business. The first had yours truly as a video assistant, which really meant that I went into the break room to steal the “guest only” Coke Zeros for Sean. But don’t tell anyone.
We have to remember that we’re not fighting for liberty just because it’s more economically efficient, or that it fits some philosophical message. (Well, it does, but…) We’re doing it because there are people out there, people who are legitimately suffering from too much government and not enough freedom. If more Americans see this—hell, if more homo sapiens see this—then maybe they will wisen up and realize that the “1%” or whomever is the target of today’s Two-Minute Hate is not some intangible, inanimate object, but is in fact a real human being, and deserves to be treated as such.
That’s what really matters. And that’s what we need to be telling people.
In the days leading up to the IPO (Initial Public Offering) of Facebook stock as it became a publicly traded company, much of the news surrounding the company was made not by founder Mark Zuckerberg, but by Eduardo Saverin, a young man who became very rich after he invested his life savings in that unknown company running out of a Harvard dorm room. Saverin had announced that he was renouncing his U.S. citizenship, preferring to make his ties with Singapore instead.
In the aftermath of his announcement, it was claimed that he was doing so in order to avoid the heavy tax burden placed on his wealth by the United States. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a man of whom former Senator Bob Dole once said that “the most dangerous place in Washington is between Charles Schumer and a television camera,” wasted no time in turning this into face time with the press to score political points, joining with fellow Democrat, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) in announcing their intention to submit the “Ex-PATRIOT” Act.
According to Schumer, this law would “re-impose taxes on expatriates like Saverin even after they flee the United States and take up residence in a foreign country.” Like a modern-day Rasputin, this would enact into law the assumption that politicians have supernatural powers of mind-reading, and would presume any person who renounced U.S. citizenship, while having a net worth greater than $2 million, or an average five-year income tax liability of at least $148,000, had done so for the purpose of tax avoidance. The law, eviscerating the Constitution’s presumption of “innocent until proven guilty” principle, would require the individual to prove to the IRS that they’d not done so for tax avoidance purposes, or risk additional capital gains taxes on any future investment gains.
It’s pretty hard to kill oneself when you’re already dead. I suppose some vampires have tried it, to end their miserable existence, but I don’t recall any zombies doing so. New York state may be the first to try, however.
The reason being is that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (the Assembly being New York’s equivalent of a “House of Representatives”) has introduced a bill that will raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $8.25 an hour:
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, joined by dozens of colleagues from his chamber controlled by Democrats, said census data show nearly half of the U.S. population has fallen into poverty or joined the ranks of the working poor. He said New York’s minimum wage has risen 10 cents in the last six years, it is lower here than in 18 other states, and increasing it is “a matter of human dignity.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has supported previous proposals to raise the minimum and his office will review this one through the legislative session, spokesman Matthew Wing said Monday
Scott Reif, spokesman for Republicans who control the Senate, said the Senate GOP would “continue to promote policies that encourage job growth and make New York a more business-friendly state, just as we did last year partnering with Governor Cuomo.”
The New York Farm Bureau and the state Business Council said raising the minimum wage would hurt small businesses, farms and nonprofits that are struggling to meet payrolls now. Farm Bureau President Dean Norton called it “a stealth tax.”
On Thursday, the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal released the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, an annual report on economic freedom across the globe that measures interventionist government policies and ranks countries accordingly.
Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, gives us an idea of what we’ll find in this year’s report, and it’s not pretty:
As Friedrich A. Hayek foresaw decades ago, “The guiding principle in any attempt to create a world of free men must be this: a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.” Thus, the battle of ideas must also be a battle for the meaning of the very words with which we debate. Is it “progressive” to utilize the coercive power of the state to redistribute and level incomes within a society? Is it “liberal” to build a massive state apparatus to regulate conditions of employment, usage of energy, and access to capital? The answers to such questions will determine how we live as individuals in the 21st century.
The 2012 Index of Economic Freedom documents a global economy that is engaged in this evolving battle between the forces of government and free markets. Today’s troubles have been neither accidental nor inevitable. The problems we face are the outcomes of politically driven and economically self-defeating policy decisions that have turned an economic slowdown into an accelerating decline.
Unfortunately, the report shows that the United States has, once again, lost more economic freedoms as corruption, cronyism, government spending, and a poor monetary policy continue to drag us down. While we are still ranked as “mostly free,” we can no longer say our economy is the ambition of the world.
Do you live in a free state? This question would receive a variety of answers because, after all, the 50 states make up our Union each have their own versions and views on freedom.
Politicians on the “left coast” view freedom as “freedom from want,” which is why they have set in place a vast — and costly — welfare state and burdensome regulatory policies. The north isn’t too dissimilar, especially with its emphasis on nanny state policies.
States that comprise the “libertarian west” and the south tend to have fiscally conservative-leanings and the approach toward personal liberty is, while not great on every issue, generally much less regulated.
So how do you determine if you live in a free state? The Mercatus Center has released its annual report, Freedom in the 50 States, which serves as a guide to weigh various aspects of freedom — fiscal policy, regulatory policy, and personal freedom.
The authors of the report, William Ruger and Jason Sorens, explained their findings yesterday and concluded that states that clamp down on freedoms are seeing people leave for states with more freedom.
“The more a state denies people their freedoms, increases their taxes or passes laws that make it hard for businesses to hire and fire, the more likely they are to leave,” wrote the authors of the report. “And while there’s clearly more to life than drinking oversized beverages and eating foie gras, the states that won’t allow you to often cause trouble for their residents in other ways.”
The Club for Growth, one of Washington’s most high-profile conservative organizations, released its annual scorecard earlier this week, providing a measure of who in Congress is fighting to reduce government spending and regulation.
The scorecard shows how members of House of Representatives and the Senate voted during the 2012 session on key, pro-growth issues ranging from keeping the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts in place to capping transportation spending to expanding free trade to banning earmarks.
“Whether it was the GOP’s support of massive tax increases or the constant assault on liberty by the Obama administration, the pro-growth caucus in Congress has a lot of work to do in 2013,” Club for Growth President Chris Chocola explained in a statement. “The Club’s scorecard is intended to help our members and the general public understand who talks a good game on limiting government and passing pro-growth policies, and who backs up their words with votes.”
So who in Congress have been working for the taxpayer? Obviously, we can’t list everybody who scored well, for sake of space, so we’re going to limit it to the top in each chamber. You can find the 2012 scorecard by clicking here.
Best of the Best in the House of Representatives
Written by Daniel J. Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Because of Obama’s class-warfare tax hike and additional tax increases by kleptocrats at the state level, many successful taxpayers will now lose more than 50 percent of any additional income they generate for the American economy.
I discuss the implications of this punitive tax policy in this CNBC interview.
Normally, this is the section where I highlight certain points I made, or bemoan the fact that I failed to mention an important fact or overlooked a key argument. Today, though, I want to address the do-taxes-impact-growth issue raised by Robert Frank.
“If it’s not accepted that big government, fiat money, ignoring liberty, central economic planning, welfarism, and warfarism caused our crisis we can expect a continuous and dangerous march toward corporatism and even fascism with even more loss of our liberties.” - Ron Paul, in his farewell speech to Congress
Yesterday afternoon, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) gave his farewell speech in the House of Representatives. Paul, a two-time Republican presidential candidate, announced last year that he would not run for re-election. During redistricting last year, Republicans in the Texas legislature broke up the 14th District, bringing in some 300,000 new voters.
During his 48-minute speech, Paul hit on familiar themes, explaining the dangers of our current foreign policy and promoting free markets. Paul also said a couple of very profound points by noting that “our Constitution has failed” to protect Americans from government overreach and knocked “religious organizations, secular organizations and psychopathic authoritarians” seek to abuse our personal and economic liberties:
You can watch Paul’s farewell to the House below:
What is the proper role of government? As libertarians, we believe that the answer to this questions is simple — government is exists to protect individual liberty and private property, solve disputes amongs its citizens, and provide for the common defense. But as government has grown, our rights and liberties have been diminished.
The growth in government that we’ve experienced, especially since the New Deal, can be attributed to the politics of fear that come with economic hardships, natural disasters or a terrorist attack. Politicians use these events an excuse to push legislation that they say will protect Americans from some foe.
Recently, the James Madison Institute hosted a debate between Michael Grunwald, a correspondent at Time Magazine, and Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of FreedomWorks, on the proper role of government from the economic side of the question. It’s a little long, but worth watching: