Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Liberty And Engaged Citizens

Prosperity and liberty go together well in cultures that tolerate experimentation and respect for the individual.  Writing about investment theories and market action is probably not enough to galvanize support for the enabling culture of economic prosperity.  Two writers who may be able to help have recently crossed my radar.  Charles Murray, author of By the People, and Larry Gerston, author of Reviving Citizen Engagement, recently spoke at the Commonwealth Club about how to re-energize Americans' concern for public life.  I will offer my own thoughts below.

Mr. Murray approaches freedom from the conservative / libertarian right.  Curtailing the intrusive power of government regulation would indeed be a boon to the US economy.  I suggest he put his ideas to the free market test and crowdfund his proposed legal defense fund.  I am generally not fond of those who thumb their noses at the rule of law, but Dr. Martin Luther King elevated it to a moral necessity in the face of unjust laws.  Funding his legal defense while he contemplated action in Birmingham's jail would clearly have been a morally correct action.  I must also caution those who think human history is an unbroken line of progress to higher states of maturity, freedom, and organization.  Things do collapse sometimes despite the best efforts of well-meaning leaders.

Mr. Gerston arrives from the progressive left to critique Americans' disengagement.  I agree with him that corporate tax loopholes and the erosion of economic security for workers are bad for prosperity and freedom.  I would add that they are just as bad as over-regulation.  I am totally on board with his idea for mandatory national service.  A couple of years in the US military or a community service program would teach many otherwise entitled Americans that their rights come with civic obligations.  Tax reform would work if it dramatically simplified the tax code but I doubt Mr. Gerston's proposed tax increase would pay for the unfunded GAAP liabilities of our entitlement programs.  He would benefit from reading David Stockman's critiques of income inequality before he offers solutions emphasizing wealth redistribution.

I recently blogged about what a just society means.  Real solutions throughout American history have come from both the right and the left at various times.  Diagnosing social problems and working for solutions requires a citizenry engaged in guarding its own liberty.  I would very much like to see my fellow citizens assume the task.