The Prosperity Congress
House Chamber, Washington, D.C. January 6, 2011. M. Speaker:
I rise to express the hope that historians will look back on the 112th Congress as the session that restored American prosperity – and to express my strong agreement with the new leaders of this House who have declared that every action of this body must be measured against this goal.
We speak of “jobs, jobs, jobs,” but jobs are a product of prosperity. And prosperity is the product of freedom.
Government does not create jobs or wealth – it merely redistributes them. Jobs and wealth can only be created through the free exchange of goods and services in a free market. Government’s role is to create and protect the conditions which promote prosperity.
If I give you a dollar for a cup of coffee, what’s going on in that transaction? I’m telling you that your cup of coffee is worth more to me than my dollar. And at the same time, you’re telling me that my dollar is worth more to you than your cup of coffee. We make that exchange and both of us go away with something of greater value than we took in – each of us goes away richer.
That is the freedom that creates prosperity. That simple exchange – whether for a cup of coffee or for a multi-billion dollar acquisition – is what creates wealth.
But now suppose some third party butts its nose into this transaction. “The coffee must be between 110 and 130 degrees; it has to include a swizzle stick; it must be covered if it is to be consumed more than 25 feet from the point of sale” – and on and on. Every one of these restrictions reduces the value of that exchange for one or both of us.
That’s the fundamental problem that we face today. Our government has not only failed to protect the freedom that creates prosperity, but it has become destructive of that freedom.
To create jobs we must restore prosperity and to restore prosperity we must restore freedom.
We must restore the freedom of choice that gives consumers the ultimate say over the output of our economy. In a free and prosperous society, consumers vote every day with their own dollars on what kind of light-bulbs they prefer, on how they wish to get to work, on what foods they like, on how much water they want in their toilets, on what kind of cars they want or on what kind of housing they desire. These consumer choices signal – every day – what things are actually worth and what our economy will actually produce. Government is destroying the elegant simplicity of this process, and this Congress must reverse that destruction.
We must restore the freedom of individuals to enjoy the fruit of their own labor so that they can make these decisions for themselves once again.
That’s why excessive government spending is so destructive to prosperity – it destroys the freedom of individuals to make their own decisions over what to spend and where to invest their own money. It robs them of both the ability and incentive to create prosperity.
Presidents like Coolidge, Truman, Reagan and Clinton who have reduced government spending relative to GDP all produced dramatic increases in productivity, prosperity and the general welfare of our nation.
And Presidents like Hoover, Roosevelt, Bush and Obama who have increased government spending relative to GDP all produced or prolonged or deepened periods of economic recession, hardship and malaise.
Our government is embarked on the latter course, and this Congress must reverse that direction.
Government has an important role to play in the marketplace. It is there to assure that representations are accurate and that contracts are enforced – in other words, you have to tell the truth and you have to keep your promises. Government exists to assure that the currency is stable and reliable and that property rights are secure.
When it fulfills this fundamental role, it maximizes the freedom that a buyer and a seller have to assess their own needs and resources and to make those exchanges that allow both to go away better off than they were. When it steps beyond this role, it destroys the conditions that maximize prosperity.
M. Speaker, let us together revive and restore the freedom and prosperity of this nation and fulfill that sacred command inscribed on our Liberty Bell: “To proclaim liberty throughout ALL the land, and unto ALL the inhabitants there of.”