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A Practical Way to Advance Freedom


Ideas matter. They have consequences. Thus, essays on liberty are vitally important in moving us toward our goal of achieving liberty. However, is there a practical way to advance liberty? Is there a method by which people in their respective communities can move our nation toward freedom?

Yes. A practical way to advance liberty at the state and local level is through initiative and referendum. At the local level, initiative and referendum permit people to enact amendments to the city charter. At the state level, it allows them to do the same to the state constitution. The advantage of this procedure is that citizens can bypass public officials in an attempt to end political programs. All that is required to get an issue on the ballot is a certain number of signatures by registered voters. Once that is accomplished, public officials must put the measure to the vote of the populace.

Why is this a practical way to advance liberty? Consider some possibilities at the local level. Ballot measures could prohibit the following: subsidies for the arts; subsidies to businesses; subsidies to everyone; zoning and other land-use restrictions; receipt of federal monies.

What about the state level? There are even more exciting potentials. Ballot measures could prohibit such things as: income taxation, sales taxes, property taxes, public schooling, subsidies, welfare, drug laws, economic regulation, and receipt of federal monies.

Would the fights over these types of measures be difficult? Of course. But the struggle for freedom has always been difficult. However, these types of ballot measures would provide an excellent opportunity to debate the real issue: What should government be doing and what should it not be doing?

And they would provide an excellent opportunity to wear down the opposition. For if a ballot measure is defeated (which may be likely the first couple of times), the proponents simply have to gather up the necessary signatures to place the measure on the ballot the next time. At some point, the opposition will most likely become weakened and demoralized. What is important is that the advocates of freedom never give up — and that the proponents of political control realize that they never intend to give up.

When the vote is on an issue, rather than on the selection of candidates, there is a big probability that think tanks across the country will assist the advocates of freedom through the publication of pamphlets, issue papers, and the like.

Initiative and referendum, of course, do not exist on a national level. But suppose, for example, that one community prohibits the receipt of all federal aid. Not only would this community receive large amounts of publicity, it would also serve as a leader and a model for cities and towns all across America. And suppose that one state repealed its income tax. The message would be heard all across the land — including Washington, D.C.: the citizenry are rebelling and assuming control over their lives and fortunes.

Indeed, ideas are vitally important. But, ultimately, the task of regaining our freedom lies with the individual citizen. Initiative and referendum provide a practical way to move in that direction.

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    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.