economic freedom

Chatting with Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY)

Thomas Massie

“[T]he House and the Senate control the purse strings. It’s the only check that we have besides some oversight on the Executive Branch. And so I’m going to be part of that group that goes into this August recess and goes back home and says, ‘I will not vote for a continuing resolution that funds ObamaCare.’” - Rep. Thomas Massie

The last couple of election cycles have led to several interesting, liberty-minded Republicans being sent to Congress. On Tuesday, United Liberty had a chance to chat with one of those Republicans, Rep. Thomas Massie, who represents Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District.

Elected last year with strong supports from grassroots groups, Massie quickly established his libertarian tendencies by taking strong stands for civil liberties and economic freedom. He’s an approachable guy and very down to Earth.

Along with Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Massie fought hard to get a vote last week on an amendment to the defense appropriations bill to defund the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance of American citizens.

Massie offered an inside baseball account of how a vote on the amendment, which was offered by Amash, came to pass in the face of fierce opposition from President Barack Obama, congressional leaders from both parties and the nation’s security apparatus.

Profiles in Liberty: Dr. Robert Lawson of Southern Methodist University

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.

bob lawson

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.

Freedom isn’t just economics, it’s a story too

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.

The Land of the Fee and Home of the Slave

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.

New York State commits economic suicide

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.”

Heritage Foundations releases 2012 Index of Economic Freedom

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.

Why Does 1% of History Have 99% of the Wealth?

See Video

The latest video from Learn Liberty features Professor Deirdre McCloskey answering the question: “Why does 1% of history have 99% of the wealth?”

She explains that throughout the vast majority of history, individuals earned an average of $3 a day (in today’s dollars). That is, until the 1800s, when the average earning shot up drastically. Even more incredibly, in the last 30 years, the number of people who are as badly off as our ancestors has been cut in half.

People today aren’t rich because they exploit the poor, as many on the Left like to pretend, Prof. McCloskey explains. There have always been poor people and their presence didn’t cause wealth. The wealth that we enjoy is brought about by innovation, and the economic freedom to prosper.

Club for Growth releases 2013 congressional scorecards

Club for Growth

The Club for Growth released its annual congressional scorecards yesterday, offering concerned constituents a snapshot of how their representatives in Washington voted on issues related to limited government and economic growth legislation during the first session of the 113th Congress.

“2013 saw the emergence of several new defenders of economic freedom as well as continued excellence among old allies,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola, himself a former member of Congress. “Some members have seen their voting records improve and will be honored this year with recognition of their efforts for the first time.”

“While there are more champions of pro-economic growth policy serving in Congress than at any time before, it’s clear that our fight against the big spenders in both parties has a long way to go,” he added.

Like many organizations, the Club for Growth states positions on legislation or other matters as a way to encourage House and Senate members to encourage them to vote in a manner consistent with limited government, pro-growth views. The votes scored in the 2013 include the efforts to repeal or defund Obamacare, the Ryan-Murray budget deal, the farm bill, and the Full Faith and Credit Act.

The scorecards offer a look at who is living up to the limited government rhetoric on which they run each year as well as those are voting to put more debt on the back of the taxpayer as well as future taxpayers.

AL-06: Dr. Chad Mathis makes Obamacare the focal point of campaign

Chad Mathis: Fight Obamacare

In a crowded Republican field, Chad Mathis is setting himself apart from other candidates running in Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District (AL-06), a seat left open by the retirement of Rep. Spencer Baucus (R-AL).

Like most Republican candidates, Mathis has made repealing Obamacare a main focus of his campaign. But what sets him apart from pack is that he is a surgeon and small business owner who believes that Obamacare “will smother the last flame of economic freedom from America.”

In a new web ad from his campaign, Mathis announced the endorsements of 53 doctors and called Obamacare the “issue of our generation.”

“Barack Obama lied to us. He told us that we could keep our doctors, keep our healthcare plan, they wouldn’t pay for abortions, and our premiums would go down,” says Mathis in the web ad. “Obamacare is a wedge between the physician and the patient, and it will destroy the physician-patient relationship.”

Mathis announced endorses for his campaign the Alabama Orthopedic Society, he Alabama State Society of Anesthesiologists, and other physicians from around the state. He also touted endorsements from Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Phil Roe (R-TN), both of whom are doctors.

“The law is about giving power to the secretary of Health and Human Services and to expand the government. It is not about access to healthcare,” said Mathis. “Obamacare is the issue of our generation.”

“For our children and our grandchildren, I will continue my fight to repeal and replace Obamacare,” he added.

Heritage: U.S. drops out of top 10 in economic freedom

The United States has dropped is no longer in the 10 top freest economies in the world, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, a joint annual study from the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal that offers a look at the economies of 178 countries.

Economic freedom in the United States has declined each year since President Barack Obama took office, from 6th in 2009 to 12th in 2014. The researchers explained that new financial and healthcare regulations have “contributed significantly to the erosion of U.S. economic freedom.”

“Over the 20-year history of the Index, the U.S.’s economic freedom has fluctuated significantly. During the first 10 years, its score rose gradually, and it joined the ranks of the economically ‘free’ in 2006,” note the researchers. “Since then, it has suffered a dramatic decline of almost 6 points, with particularly large losses in property rights, freedom from corruption, and control of government spending.”

“The U.S. is the only country to have recorded a loss of economic freedom each of the past seven years,” they added.

Hong Kong has the freest economy in the world, thanks to its fiscal freedom as well as its strong commitment to private property rights, open markets, and free trade. Researchers note that the Chinese protectorate also has a “highly motivated workforce and a high level of labor freedom,” which, they explain, “have added to Hong Kong’s economic dynamism and resilience.”


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