So, what does the Republican Party stand for? The first line of the GOP 2012 Platform (after the Preamble) states: “We are the party of maximum economic freedom and the prosperity freedom makes possible …” The 2012 GOP Platform clearly reflects our nation’s founding principles of economic and political liberty.
Our Founders specifically designed our political system to maximize economic liberty, protect private property and establish a context for economic flourishing. Economic liberty was universally seen as the foundation for individual political liberty. Thinkers from John Locke to Adam Smith informed and reinforced this fundamental American idea. In fact, America is exceptional among nations in how its Constitution protects and promotes economic liberty.
The U.S. Constitution specifically protected private property, encouraged free trade, restored public credit and protected American interests abroad. In essence it established the “rules of the game” for our free market system, insisting on the rule of law, protecting contractual obligations, devising a sound currency, and encouraging economic competition.
Just a few specifics: Article 1, Section 10 protects private contracts. Private property is protected from government “taking” without just compensation (Fifth Amendment). The Constitution established a stable currency through a number of measures. Finally, the Constitution encouraged innovation by empowering Congress “To promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries“(Article I, Section 8). From 1850 to 1860, patents for inventions exploded from 1,000 to almost 4,500. Among these were key inventions in transportation and communication – the steam engine, the railroad and the telegraph – which provided powerful catalysts for Western expansion and the unparalleled economic growth of the 19th Century.
And in what might have been the most important — and revolutionary — act of his political career, Thomas Jefferson in 1785 insisted that all new U.S. territory be surveyed in the Public Land Survey System (PLSS). In other words, parcels of private property had to be identifiable and protected. When the United States opened the Northwest Territory (1787) and later, lands stretching to the Pacific Ocean, settlers knew their property was surveyed and secure.
America’s exceptional economic growth and enduring economic power flowed directly from these provisions for economic liberty. In the decade between 1880 and 1890 – during our nation’s infancy – the United States overtook Great Britain as the world’s leading economic power. And we’ve never looked back.
We live today in a very different America, with a highly over-regulated economic system – high taxes, disincentives to entrepreneurialism, endless bureaucratic red tape, and a stranglehold on small businesses.
I’m not sure what the 2016 Platform will say, but insisting on “maximum economic freedom” would be a breath of fresh air.