Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Free to Ask Permission to Conduct Business


The Justice Department has consented to the proposed merger between satellite radio providers XM and Sirius.

Well, isn’t that nice — government officials giving private businesses permission to combine their operations? I suppose that’s what government officials mean by the term “free enterprise” — the freedom to seek government permission to do what you want with your own business enterprise.

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson pointed out what was evident to the English colonists: that people have been endowed by nature and God with certain fundamental and unalienable rights. He pointed out that among such rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. He might also have added the concept of property, given that he had drawn upon the works of the English philosopher John Locke, who had used the expression “life, liberty, and property” to describe some of man’s fundamental and inherent rights.

Our American ancestors understood that liberty included the right to sustain one’s life through labor by furnishing goods and services to others in mutually beneficial economic transactions. In the process of doing so, people would accumulate the fruits of their earnings — wealth — a process that they also considered among the fundamental and inherent right of man, which was why there were no taxes on people’s income.

It was that process — a process unhampered by government permission and interference — that came to be known as “free enterprise.” The term meant enterprise that was free of government regulation or interference.

The thought that people should have to ask permission of some politician or bureaucrat to open a business would have been considered anathema to our American ancestors. If you have to ask the permission of some dictocrat to sustain your life, then liberty couldn’t really be considered a right but rather simply a government-granted privilege.

Unfortunately, today hardly anyone bats an eyelash over the fact that American businesses, such as XM and Sirius, have to curry favor with some government official to do what they want with what is supposedly their own money and property. Most everyone just accepts the fact that kneeling before a government official and kissing his ring is just part of doing business in America’s “free-enterprise system.”

The fact that XM and Sirius must ask for government permission to merge their businesses just goes to show how far we have strayed from America’s founding principles of freedom and free enterprise, as enunciated in the Declaration of Independence. If Americans would only rediscover their heritage of economic liberty, they would scoff at the notion that people must seek the permission of Caesar to exercise rights endowed in them by nature and God.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.