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FreeCons tackle critical issues
Signatories and allies discuss trade, debt, regulation
Faced with resurgent authoritarianism abroad and at home, we crafted a set of general propositions that articulated not only what we are against but what we are for: decentralization, the separation of powers, the rule of law, equal opportunity, fiscal responsibility, strong families, free speech, and free enterprise, just for starters.
How to apply these broad concepts to particular issues is where theory becomes practice. Among the hundreds of signatories of the FreeCon statement are experts with decades of experience converting principles into policy at the local, state, and federal levels.
Moreover, other experts didn’t sign the statement — often because of their institutional affiliations — but welcomed its release and are themselves Freedom Conservatives in word and deed.
Today, we present recent articles by FreeCon signatories and allies that expand on principles in our statement and apply them to current policy debates.
FreeCons v. NatDebtCons
Ryan Bourne, a columnist for The Times of London, holds the R. Evan Scharf Chair for the Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute.
In a recent article for National Review Online’s Capital Matters section, Bourne contrasted the FreeCon statement’s warnings about “the skyrocketing federal debt” with the fiscal recklessness of National Conservatives, who exhibit little concern about the debt’s likely effects on growth, household incomes, and economic opportunity.
Indeed, Bourne pointed out that chronic deficits also pose a grave threat to the health and stability of American families and the capacity of the U.S. military to defend our homeland and interests — both traditional concerns of conservatives.
Citing Edmund Burke’s description of society as a partnership “between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born,” Bourne praised Freedom Conservatives for elevating runaway spending as a “frontline policy issue.” As for our rivals, he suggested a better name might be “National Debt Conservatives.”
Make trade free again
Samuel Gregg serves as distinguished fellow in political economy at the American Institute for Economic Research. The author of 16 books — most recently The Next American Economy — Gregg is also affiliated with the Acton Institute and Heritage Foundation.
In a recent Law & Liberty essay, Gregg described the “free trade with free people” phrase from the FreeCon statement (which he signed) as a “starting point” for the United States to “pursue a wider free trade agenda.”
That is to say, while conservatives may have good-faith disagreements about how best to structure economic relations with potential military adversaries such as China or Iran, there should be little dispute about the benefits of trade with Canadians, Japanese, and residents of other friendly or neutral countries. Alas, populist politicians and activists have, in fact, disputed such benefits.
Gregg cited economic history and academic studies to rebut their objections. As countries embrace trade, their economies surge and per-capita incomes rise. Consumers pay lower prices while exporters earn more sales and their employees and vendors earn more money.
In short, as Gregg explained, removing trade barriers will make Americans better off both economically and politically:
If the United States can steel itself to make trade free again, Americans as individuals and America as a nation will win in the long term while special interests and their armies of D.C. lobbyists will lose.
Unclog America’s arteries
Alexander William Salter is the Georgie G. Snyder Associate Professor of Economics at Texas Tech, a Young Voices contributor, and a FreeCon signatory. At NRO, Salter called for a new “supply side revolution” to promote economic growth and the opportunity it provides for individuals and families to improve their standard of living.
While talk of supply-side economics tends to center on marginal tax rates, Salter argued that regulatory reform and spending restraint are at least as important.
Citing the FreeCon statement’s opposition to a “corrosive combination of government intervention and private cronyism,” Salter called for regulatory reform that embraces clear, predictable, and nondiscriminatory rules.
As for reckless spending, he faulted it not only for increasing deficits but also for “diverting capital from productive purposes to failed crony enterprises” that clog America’s economic arteries:
Reaganomics was too dovish on deficits and the administrative state, not too hawkish. We need to roll back unproductive spending and regulations and ensure what remains actually serves the American people, rather than lobbyists or too-big-to-fail banks.
In a separate piece for the American Institute for Economic Research, Salter also called for “ambitious reforms” of the Federal Reserve’s monetary and banking mandates.
Another signatory and Young Voices contributor, Parker McCumber, wrote about the FreeCon statement last week for the American Thinker. An entrepreneur and U.S. Army veteran, McCumber said the statement offered “hope for those disheartened by the disarray in the conservative movement,” singling out for praise its call for Washington to devolve power to states, localities, families, and private associations.
The journal Spotlight on Poverty & Opportunity interviewed Avik Roy, president of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, about the FreeCon project he helped organize. Roy discussed its origins, principles, and future plans. “We don’t prescribe a specific agenda in the statement of principles,” he explained, “but what we do say is we commit to building an agenda.”
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