Fulfill Colorado's promise of liberty
by Linn and Ari Armstrong
The following article was originally published by Grand Junction Free Press on January 22, 2007.
Governor Bill Ritter offered his political vision and outlined his main goals during his January 9 inaugural address. He said, "Our task is to think big, to be bold and to take risks. To ask, 'Why not?' I believe that Coloradans are up to the task." We quite agree.
However, we also point out that the 20th Century is littered with the corpses of big, bold, risky political schemes -- and their millions of human victims. Politics needs to be more than big, bold, and risky. It also needs to be based on the correct principles.
Thomas Jefferson thought big. Thomas Paine was bold. George Washington took risks. And the political system they achieved was one based on individual rights (though the horrific exception of slavery took another century to root out); one in which the powers of government were strictly limited by fundamental law; and one in which the purpose of government was to protect life, property, and free exchange.
Marx and Stalin also took big, bold, and risky steps, yet they achieved a rather different sort of political system, one based on collectivism and unlimited state power. Here in the U.S., Hoover's risky tariff proposal helped send the nation into the Great Depression, and FDR's big and bold New Deal dramatically deepened and extended that Depression. Andrew Bernstein summarizes, "The prohibitively high tax rates, the endless regulations, the wasteful spending... severely damaged the business climate and undercut any significant recovery."
Compared to the Revolutionary spirit of 1776, or the socialist advances of the 20th Century, Bill Ritter's plans are the opposite of big, bold, and risky. They are small-minded and incremental. That's just as well, because most of his ideas aren't very good.
Ritter wants Colorado to be "bolder than any other state when it comes to renewable energy." He wants to make Colorado a "world leader... in renewable energy." Here's what Ritter does not mean. He does not mean that politicians should remove all subsidies for fossil fuels. He does not mean that the state should remove onerous taxes and regulatory burdens that hamper business development. Nor does he mean that government should be restricted to the protection of individual rights, including rights to control one's own income, invest as one sees fit, and purchase goods and services voluntarily in a free market.
Instead, though the details remain unclear, Ritter wants to forcibly transfer people's money to politically selected "renewable energy" firms, and/or impose mandates. Rather than protect the right of individuals to interact voluntarily on a free market to decide which forms of energy are pursued, Ritter wants to subject the energy market to more political favoritism. His is a system in which regulations and tax dollars are doled out for political reasons, in which entrepreneurs must first be adept at navigating the halls of the State Capitol.
Ritter said, "Let's fulfill the Colorado Promise by ending the crisis of the uninsured and enacting comprehensive health-care reform." It is debatable whether there is a "crisis," as many of the uninsured remain so only for a limited period of time. Some people choose to self-fund their own health care for financial reasons. But let us grant that there is a problem.
Why is there a problem in health care? First, the government promoted a system in which insurance is tied to one's job. By contrast, we buy insurance for our cars, houses, and lives as individuals, and that insurance stays with us as we change jobs. Second, the government socialized a huge proportion of health care through Medicaid and Medicare. This increased demand for health care and increased regulation of it, leading to higher prices. Third, the government reduced the supply of health care by arbitrarily limiting the numbers of providers and drugs. Fourth, the government imposed all sorts of regulations on the insurance market. A number of Democratic legislators have called for even more state controls on insurance, even though this will further increase costs.
Is Ritter's approach to repeal the socialist controls on health care and return to a system of individual rights and free exchange? Of course not. His approach is to use the damage of past socialist interventions as a pretext for new ones. The result will be higher costs, more state rationing, and more political control over our money and health.
"Why not?" Because people have rights. People have the right to control their own income. They have the right to spend it, invest it, or give it away as they see fit. People have the right to produce and consume energy and health care on a free market, in which the role of government is to protect property, not forcibly redistribute wealth and put business decisions in the hands of politicians. Liberty is big and bold, but, more importantly, it is right.