Does Freedom Trickle Down?

"Freedom" statue atop the dome of the United States Capitol Building - Sculptor:Thomas Crawford Date:1863 © dbking | Flickr

Freedom is an integral part of American consciousness and national identity. Thus, legislation and policy proposals are often debated in terms of their ramifications for freedom. Yet, most Conservatives believe this ideal is their private property and pertains only to private property. They hold a narrow view, which privileges the business class. Freedom for the rest of society will magically flourish so long as corporations have their way. This particular approach to freedom, economic freedom, has been brought up repeatedly by Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has warned that economic freedom in the United States is in danger of disappearing. This claim has twice earned Romney a “Pants on Fire” rating from Politifact.com.  Of course, this will not deter Romney or other Republican candidates from extoling the virtues of economic freedom, warning us of its impending extinction and the tyranny which will ensue. Because the conservative’s “freedom” has been so politically consequential in recent years, it deserves close scrutiny,

According to the ascendant conservative ideology, the size of a government stands in inverse proportion to the liberties of its people. Hence, more government means less “freedom.” The corollary to this maxim is that the lifeblood of the government is tax revenue. Hence, if you want to limit the size of government, you must keep taxes as low as possible. Add the claim, following Cold War logic, that restrictions on economic freedom lead to a decline in general freedom, and you have “freedom,” which will then somehow trickle down on the rest of us. The case for economic freedom has its appeal. Yet, the implicit claim that economic freedom necessarily leads to other freedoms, political or otherwise, does not stand up to scrutiny, as revealed by two recent reports on freedom: Freedom House’s “Freedom in the World 2011” and the Heritage Foundation’s “2011 Index of Economic Freedom.”

A comparison of the two lists is quite instructive as it undermines claims that economic freedom is the basis of other freedoms, that socialist . . .

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