Those who have been waiting for one of the Republican presidential candidates to offer a full-throated defense of free-market capitalism — only to see Newt Gingrich sniping at Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, and Romney returning fire about Gingrich being a “very wealthy man” given his line of credit at Tiffany and Co. — may have to settle for an excellent op-ed from a non-candidate: Jeb Bush. (Or is he?)
Writing in the Wall Street Journal today, Bush riffs on the phrase coined by another Republican who flirted with a run at the White House next year, Rep. Paul Ryan: “the right to rise.”
We have to make it easier for people to do the things that allow them to rise. We have to let them compete. We need to let people fight for business. We need to let people take risks. We need to let people fail. We need to let people suffer the consequences of bad decisions. And we need to let people enjoy the fruits of good decisions, even good luck.
That is what economic freedom looks like. Freedom to succeed as well as to fail, freedom to do something or nothing. People understand this. Freedom of speech, for example, means that we put up with a lot of verbal and visual garbage in order to make sure that individuals have the right to say what needs to be said, even when it is inconvenient or unpopular. We forgive the sacrifices of free speech because we value its blessings.
But when it comes to economic freedom, we are less forgiving of the cycles of growth and loss, of trial and error, and of failure and success that are part of the realities of the marketplace and life itself.
This is the anti-bailout, anti-cronyism, anti-overregulation, anti-”do something” mantra we need to hear from the Republican alternative to Barack Obama next year. (To those who note the irony of Jeb Bush opposing the kinds of bailouts his brother implemented as president: I didn’t miss it; I’d only point out that, as many Republicans have noted ruefully over the years, Jeb is not George.)
Finally, Bush demonstrates exactly how someone in the GOP field needs to frame the debate:
In short, we must choose between the straight line promised by the statists and the jagged line of economic freedom. The straight line of gradual and controlled growth is what the statists promise but can never deliver. The jagged line offers no guarantees but has a powerful record of delivering the most prosperity and the most opportunity to the most people. We cannot possibly know in advance what freedom promises for 312 million individuals. But unless we are willing to explore the jagged line of freedom, we will be stuck with the straight line. And the straight line, it turns out, is a flat line.
ADDED: I meant, then forgot, to note that Ron Paul of course makes similar arguments. If nothing else, I wish his arguments would prod one of the candidates riding higher in the polls to follow suit.
– By Kyle Wingfield