President Obama recently dismissed Republican praise for economic freedom, limited government, and fiscal responsibility as “an agenda that was better-suited for the last century.”
Actually appeals such as Senator Marco Rubio’s “that every person has God-given rights, that power belongs to the people, [and] that government exists to protect our rights” weren’t 20th century ideas, but those that prevailed more than 200 years ago during our nation’s founding.
Ironically, the 20th century was not the century of free markets and limited government – it was the century in which Communism spread, the countries of Europe developed into social welfare states, and progressivism took root in America. It was the century in which — to different degrees — government became the vehicle for progress and the citizen was subsumed by the state.
Americans have long been familiar with the decimation of life, property, and spirit that took place under communist governments such as the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba. Today, we can also witness the destructive consequences of milder forms of government redistribution and bureaucratic intrusion in Europe and the United States.
Years of deficit spending to finance unsustainable social welfare programs have left the citizens of Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland with anemic growth, bankrupt governments and high rates of unemployment. The high levels of taxation necessary to support these “progressive” policies are stripping France of its most important job creators. Hundreds of thousands of business owners and educated young people are leaving the country to seek their fortunes abroad.
Yet Americans don’t have to look abroad to see the consequences of statism. Here in the United States, government entitlement programs and profligate spending have saddled future generations with 16 trillion dollars of debt. And the push for government intervention and control has resulted in a federal code of regulations — more than 160,000 pages in length — which protects the politically connected, pushes business overseas, and makes it difficult for small entrepreneurs to succeed.
Even Hollywood elites, who have long touted the virtues of redistribution and regulation, are unable to bear the burden that the policies they support entail. Thousands of film industry workers have been left with no immediate hope of employment as television producers are taking their business out of state and even out of country to reap the benefits of better tax and regulatory incentives elsewhere.
Ultimately, the repudiation of individual rights, personal responsibility, and limited government has brought nations and states to the brink of economic insolvency and has severely restricted opportunities for current and future generations. Even worse, it has led to a culture of dependency in which learned helplessness dominates, while the merits of sacrifice, perseverance, and hard work are often trivialized. And finally, it has weakened the connections of community, faith, and family as individuals become alienated from one another in their reliance on the state.
In contrast, the principles of liberty, individual rights, and limited government – though they may be old — are tried, and true. They are the principles that led to the creation of the most prosperous nation in the history of the world. They are the principles that enabled individuals like Nikki Haley, Mia Love, Marco Rubio, Condoleezza Rice, and even Barack and Michelle Obama to achieve the American Dream. And they are the principles that have inspired millions of immigrants to risk everything to come to our shores because they believed — in the words of Governor Susana Martinez — that “en America todo es posible.”
In so far as the president continues to celebrate the repudiation of these principles, it is he who is espousing the failed agenda of the past.