Kevin Price
Ronald Reagan articulated a message of economic freedom
By Kevin Price
February 14, 2010

This weekend we celebrated the birthday of Ronald Reagan. There is no question that "the Gipper" had his flaws. Government grew under his administration as it has under every other, but Reagan went far in significantly changing the debate over economic freedom.

One of my biggest frustrations is the reckless abandonment by politicians when it comes to articulating the importance of that freedom. In fact, I haven't heard a Presidential candidate build a message on this theme since Ronald Reagan and I believe that Gov. Sarah Palin may be the first national candidate to do such in her Vice Presidential bid in 2008.

On the eve of the Fourth of July, 1987, President Ronald Reagan delivered an address entitled "America's Economic Bill of Rights." This was an important time for our Republic, because in addition to celebrating the birthday of the Declaration of Independence at this time, we were also commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the United States Constitution on that year. I cannot think of a better time to make such a speech and the need for that message is as strong today as in any time in our history..

Reagan stated right from the beginning what he believed about the Founding Fathers view of economics and noted that the American Revolution had a central theme against "No taxation without representation" and that they "knew that the right to earn your own keep and keep what you earn is central to America's understanding of what it means to be free. This country was built by people seeking to support themselves and their families by their own labor, people who treasured the right to work and dispose of their earnings as they saw fit, people who were willing to take economic risks." In making his case, Reagan focused on "four fundamental freedoms" and he bolstered these with several guiding principles.

Those four freedoms are, according to Reagan:

The freedom to work.

The freedom to enjoy the fruits of one's labor.

The freedom to own and control one's property.

The freedom to participate in a free market.

These four principles were fundamental in the building of this country and they have been under attack long before Reagan went into office and are all the more so today.

In order to secure these rights, Reagan advocated ten different initiatives to reach these objectives that included:

"Reduce subsidized government competition with private citizens." Whenever government could use private companies to do government functions, it should, in order to foster real job creation and to reduce bureaucracy on a state level. There should be no need for such concern on the federal level because of the confines of our Constitution.

"The Freedom to Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor: You have the right to keep what you earn, free from excessive government taxing, spending, and borrowing." The government is waging a war on this right. Some states, such as Michigan, essentially have 50 percent unemployment. The government would rather have that level of suffering than afford people the right to work.

"To protect you from overtaxing by the Government, I will propose as part of the balanced budget amendment submitted to Congress, a requirement for a super majority vote by Congress before your taxes can be raised." I think this was one of the most bold and creative initiatives ever proposed by a President. This strikes at the heart of how our Founding Fathers saw government being conducted. They desired every legislation designed to expand the government to have as much difficulty of passage as possible (this is why they wanted all tax bills to start in the House and not the Senate), this would assist in that effort.

"To protect your right to own and use your property, my administration will pursue our successful efforts in the courts to restore your constitutional rights when the government at any level attempts to take your property through regulation or other means." I don't think Reagan even fully realized how far the reach of government would go in this area. Today, malls are developed in the name of "imminent domain" and people are removed from their property because of birds and "wetlands."

Reagan went on to address welfare reform years before Clinton, the need to strengthen intellectual property rights, and more. The entire speech deserves to be read in its entirety. In our current times, all of our freedoms are endangered in a way we had not seen historically. In a time such as this, we need to be reminded that our economic still freedoms matter.

© Kevin Price


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Kevin Price

Kevin Price is Publisher and Editor in Chief of

His background is eclectic and includes years of experience in both business and public policy, as well as two decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He was an aide to U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) and later went on to work in policy areas with some of the nation's leading think tanks including the National Center for Public Policy Research and was part of the Heritage Foundation's Annual Guide to Public Policy Experts... (more)


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