Last year, something truly incredible happened. In the freest country on the planet, the United States’ top money manager, Henry Paulson, called the country’s leading bankers to a meeting at the Department of Treasury. According to one news account, “As the meeting neared a close, each banker was handed a term sheet detailing how the government would take stakes valued at a combined $125 billion in their banks, and impose new restrictions on executive pay and dividend policies. The participants, among the nation’s best deal makers, were in a peculiar position. They weren’t allowed to negotiate. Mr. Paulson requested that each of them sign. It was for their own good and the good of the country.”
In one meeting, in a stunning display of audacity befitting a Third World country, the United States of America nationalized its banks. The banks had no choice. The government was now their business partner.
If anything illustrates the tenuousness of freedom and liberty, this story does. Many Americans accepted this action as necessary to avert economic disaster. But as Benjamin Franklin cautioned, “He who gives up essential liberty for a little temporary security deserves neither liberty nor security.” When times are bad, many are quick to turn to government. Quick to support new programs and higher taxes, to surrender their freedoms, all in the name of a short-term government-guaranteed happiness.
The purpose of the Idaho Freedom Foundation is to remind Idahoans that there is another way. If we rely on the fundamentals of individual liberty, of economic freedom and personal responsibility we can endure any hardship. Our nation’s charter gives us the freedom succeed. It also gives us the freedom to fail. The two are inexorably tied. To deny the latter in order to have the promise of the former is to deny our true nature as free and independent people.
America really is the greatest nation that ever was. Its greatness is derived from the blessings of liberty that have been bestowed upon us by those founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. For all the talk there is these days about the need to “change” the country, we really do have it good. Most Americans have electricity and running water whenever they want it. We have access to the best healthcare, the most technological innovations, the highest standard of living in the world.
Yet, amid the angst about the economy, some have decided that liberty is more a trapping than a blessing. The fact is free markets have not failed. Government failed free markets the moment lawmakers decided the Constitution was written to make sure everyone has the same opportunity to own a home. Congress, in particular, created and abetted a regulatory fiasco designed to give loans to people who could hardly afford repayment.
Ronald Reagan was right, that free market societies are created from the bottom up, not the government down. “Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefiting from their success—only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free,” Reagan said.
We are who we are because of individual liberties. Because of free markets. Because of economic freedom.
We should not abandon freedom in order to save it.