Economic liberties a part of freedom

As civil liberties are central to our society, property rights are fundamental to our way of life.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Nick Woomer, in his Tuesday column, seems to think this applies to civil liberties but not economic liberties.

A free market economy is based on the fundamental right of property. That you have a right to what you produce is foundational not only to the United States, but to mankind. Without it we are subject to thievery and fraud, human progress stagnates and we return to a dark age where wealth can’t be earned, it can only be taken.

Woomer equates economic downturns with terrorist attacks, school shootings or stampedes. He argues that, unlike the weather, these tragedies are all controllable and, to some extent, preventable.

But do we handcuff children’s hands to prevent school shootings? Should we lock people in their homes when a terrorist threat is at hand? No, because although such precautions would undoubtedly save lives and prevent disaster, they infringe upon rights.

If someone suggested “taming” our civil liberties, as Woomer suggests we do to our economic liberties, there would be outrage. To him, the right of liberty is more important than the right of property. But why should we pick and choose whose property rights to protect? We don’t take one innocent life to save a less fortunate life. By that same token, our government shouldn’t steal from an entrepreneur in order to save an economically less fortunate individual.

That is not to say we should have economic anarchy. Laws against employee mistreatment, theft, embezzlement and fraud are and should be enforced to their fullest extent. These crimes infringe upon the property rights of others, whether the thief is in a back alley, a chief executive officer’s chair or a legislative office.

But because Woomer’s argument doesn’t hold up to facts and common sense, he is left to rely on inaccuracy and exaggeration. He claims that economic conditions determine whether the poor starve to death. Of course he ignores the fact that starvation and even malnutrition due to economic conditions are nonexistent in the United States. Even hunger, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as temporary discomfort caused by an empty stomach, affects less than 1 percent of Americans every day.

Woomer continues by claiming that economic freedom is touted by ideologues, while hypocritically proclaiming that every U.S. citizen is entitled to free health care, unemployment benefits and influence over their employers. What is that claim, if not ideological?

As handcuffing school children to prevent school shootings limits those it seeks to protect, handcuffing our economy with regulation and exorbitant taxes limits our nation’s economic progress.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 46 percent of poor households in the United States own a home and 73 percent own a car. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 97 percent own a color television. Economic progress makes that possible. Handcuffing the economy, even with the best of intentions, serves only to keep prices high and wages low through artificial regulation.

If civil liberties are protection from government interference, why does Woomer define economic rights as a demand for government interference? Every U.S. citizen is entitled to the protection of their own property, and nothing more.

Benjamin Franklin also said, “The U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.” I suggest Woomer stop trying to hitch a ride and start running on his own two feet.

Dave Couillard is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]