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Freedom is a Priority

January 8, 2021
Kent MacDonald, Northwood University President

Kent MacDonald, Northwood University President

New legislatures will be seated this month at both the federal and state levels, and they will immediately face historic challenges. The desire to act quickly should not lead to imprudent action.

A commitment to personal freedom and support for America’s free-enterprise system must be a top priority in the months ahead.

Reasonable people can disagree on the best course of action in any given situation. Diverse viewpoints and healthy debate are cornerstones of the American way of life. We weigh our options, ponder the lessons of history, and advocate for what we believe to be right. Ideally, we come together around a consensus that provides the greatest total benefit for everyone.

Unreasonableness, unfortunately, can have a disastrous impact on reaching those goals. Driven by self-interest and self-righteousness, they can create an impediment that holds back those who are of sound judgment. Too often, what some want is not what the greater good needs.

To suit their own ideological purposes, rather than those of the broader society, some people advocate for heavy-handed “big government” control of the economy. They use the difficult times we face as justification for a brand of modern-day socialism that places the fate of all people into the hands of a few. Historically this has not been the American way. However, in recent decades increased government controls, regulations and a national debt that has grown to well beyond 100 percent of the U.S. GDP give us pause for concern.

Liberty for All

Free enterprise is a cornerstone of the American way of life, and we stray from it at our peril. The evidence is overwhelming that a long-term commitment to economic liberty has raised this country to levels of prosperity that no nation in history can rival. When people and organizations are free to benefit from their enterprise, they invest in themselves and others, they work hard, they innovate, and they collaborate in ways that generally disperse the fruits of their labors. Everyone ends up better off.

The opposite happens whenever government attempts to manage economic activity. Incentive wanes. Regulations stifle productivity and prosperity plummets. All this invariably leads to lower standards of living at all levels of the economy.

Those who grumble about not getting what they consider to be their fair share of the proverbial pie would do well to appreciate that the pie is wide, deep, and rich in sustenance. Inferring that everyone would be better off with the same size piece of the pie may be true for some, but isn’t true for all. Our objective always must be to grow the pie, not try to slice the economy into small pieces, equal for all. It is fallacy to think that rules and laws are instituted for many, when in actuality only a few may benefit.

The Path Forward

Keeping these lessons of history in mind, legislators must resist the temptation to over manage the economy as it emerges from the shadow of COVID-19. On the contrary, they should seek out opportunities to let the power of free enterprise propel us back to prosperity. Following are specific examples of policies that are worth pursuing:

Resist calls to increase the tax burden on individuals and businesses

Taxation reduces incentive and weighs down economic activity, which is never beneficial, and would be especially onerous at this time.

Roll back tariffs and other “trade war” weapons

Any attempt by government to protect domestic producers or anoint specific industries for favored status, beyond the legitimate protection of intellectual property, is wrong and predestined for failure. We learned that lesson the hard way in the 1930s. Free markets result in the most efficient and productive supply chains, powering economic activity and providing the greatest possible benefit for the majority of people.

Government does not belong in the healthcare system

Simply put, the government is not meant to “run things” – let alone do it well. Any proposal that involves government providing all or most health care services is a recipe for disaster. Improve the system we have rather than replacing it with a monstrosity that would benefit very few, if any.

United We Stand

Freedom empowers us to improve the effectiveness of government, starting with our legislators. Let them know that you favor policies backed by free-market principles. That is also the American way. The evidence supporting freedom is clear and overwhelming. Freedom is a right we should defend and fight for no matter the current state of government.

Harmony is only restored and preserved when we reach a state of freedom and economic liberty.

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