Core PrinciplesFree People | Free Markets | Good Government
The principle that individuals have an unalienable right to act in their own interest with complete control over themselves and their production (i.e. property), and are the sole arbiters of what is best for themselves so long as their actions do not infringe upon the liberty or property rights of others. Individual liberty means the freedom to make wise decisions, to make foolish decisions, to succeed, and to fail.
The principle that individuals who are free to determine their own courses of action are vested with the responsibility for the consequences that ensue from those actions. Individual liberty is symbiotic with personal responsibility. In the long run, one cannot flourish without the other. Actions have consequences. Personal responsibility means owning the results of those actions. To ameliorate the consequences of an individual’s actions is to steal the very essence of liberty and replace it with tyranny, no matter how benevolent the intent.
The principle that the right to determine one’s actions (liberty) extends to one’s production. Production comes from an individual’s mind and efforts and is as unique to that person as any other aspect of that person. As such, production is the domain of its creator and property acquired via voluntary transactions between parties is the domain of its new proprietor. This is the essence of property rights – the right to maintain ownership, control, and determine the use and disposition of one’s property as long as in doing so you do not infringe upon the liberty or property rights of others.
Free markets are the natural product of property rights and liberty. Political freedom and economic freedom are inexorably intertwined. Property rights dictate a free market economy in which a property owner may freely use and dispose of his property as he sees fit. Government’s role with respect to the free market is to defend and preserve property rights and to uphold the rule of law. It is reasonable for government to enforce/adjudicate contracts, protect property rights, enforce justice and restitution for fraud, and execute other similar functions. It is not the role of government to create barriers to entry, disturb free market mechanisms such as price signaling, compete with private enterprise or distort the marketplace through regulation or other intrusions. It is not the role of government to regulate the free market in order to advance social or political agendas.
To quote Jefferson, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.” The premise of this statement is that for liberty to be preserved, government must be held in check. A government that exists solely to protect life, liberty, and property is inherently limited. Once government begins to take actions beyond the scope of its proper role, it inevitably expands and “gains ground.”
Government cannot “provide” anything that it has not first taken from the people. This means that we must always evaluate the opportunity cost of the government’s takings from the people. Private markets are subject to competitive pressures on price, services, products, quality and profitability; the government is not. It is largely because of these pressures that the private market is more efficient than government. Therefore, government should only take that which is necessary to perform its proper role, minimizing the opportunity cost to the people. Government has a moral and a fiduciary duty to be responsible and accountable to the people for that which it has coercively taken from the people. In order to help minimize inefficiency and opportunity cost, the people must hold government accountable for fiscal responsibility.
Equal Protection/Rule of Law
This is the principle that all citizens should receive equal protection under the law, and that no groups of people receive favorable or unfavorable treatment from government. This is not to be confused with the narrower “equal protection clause” codified by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Principles of Liberty uses the term equal protection/rule of law in a broader sense. It is not the role of government to create special groups or classes of citizens for protection or punishment, special treatment or penalties. The force of government is only legitimate if it executes a proper function of government and is applied equally to everyone.
State vs. Federal Balance of Power
Our catchphrase for the principle that the state exists to protect the rights of the citizens, and may not give up its duties and powers to the federal government. As outlined in the U.S. Constitution, the powers of the federal government are few and enumerated while the powers left to the states or to the people are broad and undefined. The founding fathers of the United States who argued for ratification of the U.S. Constitution based much of their case upon the premise that state governments would hold the limited powers of the federal government in check. The states and the federal government are to act as counterweights against one another, each checking the other and thus helping limit the scope of government to its proper functions.