One of the big mistakes most Republicans make is how to define who they are when it comes to economic growth, and the economy. The first thing out of most Republicans mouths is business and jobs. Wrong. If we are to reconnect with Joe Everyvoter, Republicans need to make it clear that they are pro-economic liberty, not pro-business. Business and jobs will come with economic liberty, but the principle is one of economic liberty, not business and jobs.
Why? Two basic reasons. First, even business owners are not pro-business. They are pro-their business, and anti-their competitors business. That means they are anti-their present competitors, and anti-any potential competitors. That is why a lot of businesses are not against more regulations, business licensing and sometimes higher taxes. Barriers to competition raise the cost of entering the marketplace, and limit the number of new entrants. I refer once again to Mises, who noted in his book, Planning For Freedom, that even monopolies are controlled by market forces, as long as those forces are not limited by government, because it is not just current participants in a market that limit price, but potential entrants as well. If government doesn’t limit competition by imposing regulatory barriers on potential entrants in the market, the price any current competitor charges for goods and services will necessarily be limited.
Which is why so many “professions” seek government licenses to do business. Government licenses don’t ensure quality. Trust me, as a lawyer, I can tell you that mere possession of a law license does not guarantee that a lawyer knows anything about the law. The same with doctors, accountants, psychologists, and many other professions who constantly clamor for any potential competitor to get a government license.
It is also why many manufacturing concerns are not real crazy to get rid of environmental regulations. Do you think the oil companies really mind having only 4 refineries in California, and a blend of gasoline that makes any gasoline made in any other state illegal in California? Politicians constantly complain that the oil companies are ripping off the paying public, but it is the rules and regulations passed by these politicians that make this rip off possible. If Californians could buy gas made in another state, the cost of gasoline would drop by 50 cents overnight, and never go up again (and that doesn’t even include the 60 to 80 cent/gallon profit that government makes off the taxes it collects on gasoline). Government regulations, by interfering with the market, keeps other refineries from opening in California, and competitive gas from other states from being sold in California, thereby increasing the cost of gasoline to California consumers. Oil companies are complaining about these regulations all the way to the bank.
There is another reason, however, to be pro-economic liberty, and not pro-business. One of the first focus groups I saw when I first ran for office was a group on the perception of Republicans as pro-business. The discussion literally went: Well, Republicans are pro-business, my boss is the business I know about, I hate my boss, so I hate Republicans. That made so much sense to me as the reaction of Joe Everyvoter, that I never used the word “pro-business” again. Being pro-jobs is less obnoxious. However, Democrats buy off the jobless with unemployment and welfare, and Republicans constantly harp about creating jobs. The problem is a philosophy that emphasizes creating jobs does not necessarily buy the votes of the jobless or those with jobs. The ones without jobs are bought by government largesse, those that have their jobs think the economy is doing just fine. Being pro-jobs doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t help either.
Going back to the theme of these articles, being pro-liberty actually connects with Joe Everyvoter. Most people (though not everyone) want to be in control of their lives, and they understand others wanting to control their own lives as well. People (for the most part) don’t like their bosses at work, but they understand that their boss needs to control his or her business for it to survive. As long as Joe Everyvoter thinks they are getting a fair shake from a politician (that is, the politician isn’t giving their boss a leg up because he has money), they will forgive a lack of regulation. The moment they think that the politician is favoring their boss, or big business, because of campaign contributions, that politician loses. Republicans give off the air of being pro-business because they want campaign contributions.
Once pro-liberty is substituted for pro-business, the entire conversation changes. Republicans are no longer promoting business, they are promoting liberty, and liberty helps everyone succeed, not just the boss. People understand freedom, and when personal and economic freedom are the watch words of the Republican party, consistently promoted, Joe Everyvoter will understand. The message will break through the cacophony of media opposition to Republicans, and the whole electoral dynamic will change.