Economic Growth

The fundamentals necessary for economic growth are a stable currency, the enforcement of contracts, the security of property rights, the accuracy of information in the market, and above all, the freedom of individuals to enjoy the fruit of their labor and to negotiate freely with others to exchange their goods and services under mutually acceptable terms.

We know how to fix an economy because we have done so many times before. Whenever we have reduced the tax and regulatory burdens on the economy, it has thrived and expanded. And whenever we have increased those burdens, the economy has withered and declined.


How Reaganomics Saved America

Young America’s Foundation – Rancho Del Cielo – August 13, 2015

A year after Ronald Reagan died, the U.S. Postal System issued a memorial stamp with the iconic image painted by Michael Deas.  It is Reagan at his happiest – a broad smile, eyes twinkling – he was the essence of a confident, optimistic leader on top of the world.

Deas based his portrait on a photo taken by White House photographer Jack Knightlinger right here at this ranch, 34 years ago today, August 13, 1981 – the moment when President Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act – better known as Kemp-Roth – best known as “The Reagan Tax Cut.”

A gloomy fog engulfed the ranch that morning, as if to symbolize the despair most Americans felt after four years of what was called “stagflation:” double digit unemployment, double digit inflation and interest rates approaching 20 percent.

As Reagan signed the bill, they say, the clouds parted and a beam of sunlight caught Reagan’s face.  Knightlinger said that’s the moment when he pulled out his telephoto lens and started taking one picture after another.  And what he captured was the first glint of a new morning for America – the Reagan economic recovery.

Reagan had taken office just seven months earlier.  In his famous inaugural address he had diagnosed the nation’s condition with the memorable words, “In this great economic crisis, government is not the solution to our problems – government IS the problem.”

Reagan instinctively understood that the more burdens an economy bears, the worse it performs.

Let me repeat this complex economic principle: the more burdens heaped on an economy, the worse it does.  The fewer burdens, the better it does. Are there any questions?

If that sounds like simple common sense – it IS.  But common sense isn’t commonly shared by many policy-makers on the left – in either party.  It wasn’t then and it isn’t now.

Reagan’s economic team drew heavily from the work of legendary economist Arthur Laffer, famous for the Laffer Curve, who served on Reagan’s economic advisory board.

What Reagan understood instinctively, Laffer understood analytically.

The Laffer Curve explained a simple economic phenomenon.  A zero percent tax rate, of course, produces zero revenues.  But so does a 100 percent tax rate.  If all income is confiscated, there is no point to produce it.

As the tax rate rises, the incentives to produce new wealth slowly diminish and the incentives to avoid or evade the tax slowly increase until the curve reaches a point of equilibrium in which any INCREASE in tax RATES actually produces LOWER tax REVENUES.

History teaches us that lesson very clearly.  In the last sixty years, the top income tax rate has been as high as 91 percent and as low as 28 percent, but income tax revenues have stayed remarkably steady at between 13 and 20 percent of GDP.  Indeed, some of the lowest income tax revenues came when the top tax rate was at its highest.  Some of the highest revenues came when the top rate was quite low.  But although the tax rate within this envelope has remarkably little effect on revenues, it has a huge impact on economic growth.

On that historic August day in 1981, the top income tax rate stood at 70 percent.  At the core of the “The Reagan Tax Cut” – was a phased in 25 percent across-the-board cut in tax rates.  He also slashed the windfall profits tax, that day, he indexed tax rates for inflation, and he more than tripled the amount of an estate protected from the death tax.  No wonder he looked so happy.

Combined with later legislation in 1986, Reagan took the top marginal rate from 70 percent down to 28 percent.

Kemp-Roth became the centerpiece of the Reagan roadmap for economic recovery.  Supporters called this supply-side economics.  Detractors called it voodoo economics; or “trickle down” economics.

We now remember it simply as “Reaganomics,” a term that Reagan’s political adversaries used derisively.  For a while, anyway.  But as Reagan once quipped, “you can tell (our policy) is working, because…they don’t call it ‘Reaganomics’ anymore.”

Reaganomics wasn’t just tax cuts.  It was a combination of policies that Laffer calls the four kingdoms of the economy: fiscal policy, regulatory policy, monetary policy and trade:

Reagan and Laffer understood:

That fiscal policy must recognize the role of incentives in productivity;

That regulatory policy must recognize the hidden costs on commerce;

That monetary policy must be conservatively applied to protect the integrity of the dollar; and

That trade benefits all who engage in it.

Reagan was an unabashed free trader.  He aggressively expanded American trade around the world and based his policy on what he said was “the inescapable conclusion that all of history has taught: The freer the flow of world trade, the stronger the tides of human progress and peace among nations.”

Meanwhile, against the dire warnings of the Keynesians of the day, Reagan backed the Federal Reserve as it wrung the excess dollars out of the monetary base, taming a savage inflation rate that had peaked at 13 percent and stood at just four percent the day he left office.

But Reagan’s two greatest successes were in reducing the tax and regulatory burdens on the economy.  And in this, he wasn’t alone.

John F. Kennedy pursued the same policies in the early 1960’s.  So had Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge in the early 1920’s.  All produced periods of profound economic expansion.

So did Harry Truman, who abolished the excess profits tax in 1945 and slashed federal income tax rates a year later.  In Fiscal Year 1946, Truman cut federal spending from $85 billion to $30 billion, firing ten million federal employees – it was called “war demobilization.”  The Keynesians at the time predicted 25 percent unemployment and a second great depression.   Instead, we had the post-war economic boom.

And lest we forget, Bill Clinton raised the income tax rate in 1993, and quickly realized that his policy wasn’t working after he took a drubbing in the 1994 congressional elections.

After that, Clinton channeled his own inner Reagan, and in his 1995 State of the Union address to the newly-elected Republican Congress, he proclaimed — in Reaganesque terms — “The era of big government is over.”

He reached across the aisle and together with Newt Gingrich accomplished miraculous things.  They cut federal spending by four percent of GDP.  They approved what amounted to the biggest capital gains tax cut in American history.   They slashed entitlement spending by — in Clinton’s words — “ending welfare as we know it.”  Once again, the result was rapid economic expansion.

(In fact, if you look solely at Bill Clinton’s economic policies AFTER his 1994 epiphany, a strong case can be made that he was not only the MOST Republican president since Ronald Reagan – he was the ONLY Republican president since Ronald Reagan.)

Reagan’s policies weren’t perfect, of course.  Instead of taking effect immediately, the tax cuts took two years to fully phase in.  Arthur Laffer remembers the day Reagan called him with the news that Kemp-Roth had passed.  Reagan told the subdued Laffer, “What’s the matter Art?  I thought you’d be more excited.”  And

Laffer said, “Well, of course, Mr. President, it is a great victory.  But the tax cuts won’t take full effect for two years.”

“That’s right,” said Reagan.  “It’s a compromise we had to make.  Is that a problem?”  And Laffer replied, “Well, Mr. President, let me ask you this: How much shopping do you do at a store TODAY when you know they’ll be slashing their prices TOMORROW?”

Laffer’s concern turned out to be well-founded.  As the country pulled back to await the phase in, the economy languished, revenues slumped, the deficit soared, and Reagan’s adversaries had a field day.

To compound their woes, tough monetary policy was necessary to extinguish the raging inflation that was decimating savings.  And at the same time, Reagan had to take decisive action to stop the disintegration of America’s armed forces, a move now credited with winning the Cold War.

Democrats – and some Republicans – proclaimed Reaganomics a dismal failure and demanded the tax cuts be rescinded before they had fully taken effect.  Reagan had broken every rule in the liberal economic textbook, and the country was paying the price, they said.

Yet all the while, Reagan, remained supremely confident.  “Stay the course” was his response.  “Stay the course.”  America stayed the course.  And one day it awakened to the realization that Reaganomics was indeed working.  When the tax cuts finally culminated, pent up demand exploded, productivity soared, and the economy boomed.  One day we awakened to realize that it was indeed morning again in America.

While the top income tax rate plummeted under Reagan from 70 percent to 28 percent, personal income tax revenues soared from $285 billion to $456 billion.  Total federal revenue increased from $599 billion to $991 billion.  Put more simply, Reagan cut tax rates by more than half and tax revenues nearly doubled.

Liberals accused Reagan of being a “rich man’s President.”  Ironically, because the tax cuts made tax shelters less appealing, the share of personal income taxes paid by the top 1 percent of wage earners nearly doubled, from 17.6 to 27.5 percent.  The share of income taxes paid by the bottom 50 percent of all wage earners dropped during the same period.

So what can we learn from the events that began here on this spot 34 years ago today?

Two in particular.  The first is that policy matters, because policy determines outcomes.  The second is that elections matter, because elections determine policy.

As a simple, practical matter, conservative economic policies produce prosperity; liberal economic policies produce poverty.  Or as Churchill put it long ago, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings.  The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

We are again living through another round of the same sort of liberal economic failure that Jimmy Carter’s policies produced and that finally gave way to the Reagan Revolution.

In 2009, Barack Obama diagnosed our nation’s economic problems very differently than Ronald Reagan did in 1981.  Instead of reducing the tax and regulatory burdens on the economy as Reagan did, Obama dramatically increased them.

Remember the earlier economics lesson: more burdens – bad; fewer burdens, good?  Obama missed that class completely.

It shouldn’t surprise us that the opposite policies have produced the opposite results.  Indeed, Phil Gramm observed last year that “if Mr. Obama’s recovery had been as strong as the average of the Reagan-Clinton recoveries, (an average individual’s income) would be ($6,700) higher (than it is today) and 15.8 million more Americans would be at work today.”

Once the Reagan tax cuts took effect, annualized economic growth took off like a bat out of hell.  In the quarter before Kemp-Roth kicked in, annualized economic growth barely registered at less than a half percent.  The quarter immediately following the tax cut, growth jumped to over five percent and the next quarter to over nine percent.  Real GDP grew 35 percent during the Reagan years.  It has grown just 10.7 percent during the Obama years.

Under Reagan, unemployment dropped by half from 10.8 percent to 5.4 percent.  That’s about where it is today—with one important difference: during the Reagan years, the unemployment rate fell DESPITE the fact that millions of workers were flooding the market.  During the Obama years, unemployment has fallen specifically BECAUSE millions of workers are FLEEING the market.  Obama’s policies have produced the lowest labor participation rate this country has seen since – you guessed it – Jimmy Carter.

Young people are particularly harmed by these policies.  During the Reagan years, youth unemployment dropped from 18 percent to 10.7 percent.  Today, it’s back to 18 percent.

And just to keep this bi-partisan, just as Reagan’s policies produced prosperity under both Republican and Democratic administrations, we should remember that Obama’s policies have produced misery under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Lest we forget, Herbert Hoover approached the recession of 1929 with stunning tax hikes, beginning with the Smoot-Hawley tariff act that imposed a steep tax on some 20,000 imported products.  Hoover increased the federal income tax rate from 25 percent to 63 percent.  He increased federal spending by 60 percent in just four years.  And he turned the recession of 1929 into the depression of the 1930’s.

The Reagan economic recovery came to an end when George H.W. Bush broke his campaign promises, reversed Reagan’s policies and imposed a crushing tax increase in 1990.  The broken promise and the recession that followed ended what could have been an American Golden Age.

The second lesson, then is that elections matter. How different would have been the course of our nation if Republicans had nominated Jack Kemp – author of the Kemp-Roth bill that we celebrate today – rather than George Bush — to succeed Ronald Reagan in 1988.

Kemp was the ideological heir to Reagan, who exemplified Reagan’s optimistic belief in the fact that freedom produces prosperity – and that prosperity is the only answer to improve the lives of the millions of Americans trapped in poverty by government policies and programs – no matter how well-intended.

As Peggy Noonan ruefully observed, Bush had been elected to serve Ronald Reagan’s third term, but he never understood that, he never appreciated it and he utterly squandered it.

As a new election approaches, this is a lesson to take to heart.  The policies of Barack Obama have mirrored those of Jimmy Carter and so too, have the results of those policies.

But there is hope in that.  As Laffer observed, “It took four years of Jimmy Carter to give us eight years of Ronald Reagan.  Which means that eight years of Barack Obama should give us the second coming of Christ.”

Or at least, a fleeting opportunity to restore the policies that Reagan once used to save our nation.

I remember the Carter years.  I remember grocery store prices going up almost every week.  I remember waiting hours in gasoline lines because government regulations had botched up distribution.  I remember graduating in 1978 into a hopeless job market.  I remember Jimmy Carter telling us that it was OUR fault for being too materialistic and selfish and polluting.  I remember how, as America declined, our enemies rallied.  And I remember wondering what was to become of my nation.

And I watch my children, today, at about the same age as I was then, wondering the same thing.

But I also remember when Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy and began the campaign of 1980.  We all realized that this election mattered – that it might be the last chance our generation had to set things right before it was too late.

And I remember what it was like to awaken one day and realize that after this long cold night of doubt and despair that it truly was morning again in America.

There was no other feeling like it in the world.  Our country was back.  The future began looking bright again – all things seemed possible again.

I miss that feeling – and more importantly, I want my children to know what that day was like when we realized the country was turning back in the right direction.  I want to grow old knowing that our children will inherit an America just as prosperous, strong, happy and free as the America our parents gave to us.

The good news is that our nation hasn’t been struck down by some mysterious act of God beyond our control.  These are all acts of government – deliberate policy choices that we make through the votes we cast in every election.

And because of what happened here 34 years ago, we have the promise that we can choose to make the world over again – that we can still choose that a bright and promising prosperity for the 21st Century.

You see, the Reagan Revolution wasn’t about economics or policy or politics.  It was about something far more profound than any of that.  It touched upon the very heart of the American experiment in freedom and self-governance.

Reagan could see the plain common sense of these policies clearly because of his deep and abiding belief in the uniquely American principles of individual liberty, constitutionally limited government and personal responsibility that had built the most successful and prosperous society in human history.

For Reagan, this wasn’t about the Laffer curve, GDP growth, or macro-economic theory.  This was about freedom.  The right of an individual to enjoy the fruit of his own labor.  The feeling of dignity and accomplishment that comes from a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s labor.  The uniquely American notion that individuals are endowed by their creator with the inalienable right to make their own decisions, chart their own course, pursue their own happiness.

He believed in the American people.  He believed that each of them is more capable of making their own decisions in their own lives than he could ever be trying to make their decisions for them.  He understood that prosperity is created by the freedom that two individuals have to enter into voluntary exchanges of their goods or labor without politicians butting into those decisions.  He understood that Freedom works – and he put it back to work.

The Reagan revolution was really about renewing the American Revolution, and by so doing, renewing America and all the promise it has for the future of mankind.

During the 1980 campaign, Reagan told the story of the little girl who said to her mother, “You know that vase that you said was passed down through our family from one generation to the next?  Well, this generation just dropped it.”

Let that not be the epitaph of our generation.  Of our generation, let it be said that just when it looked that America had lost the vision of the American founding, this generation of Americans rescued it, renewed it, and passed it on inviolate to the generations to come.

The Miracle of Markets

Auburn Chamber of Commerce – Auburn, California – January 14, 2016

Lincoln told of being absolutely terrified by a meteor shower when he was a small boy.  It was so intense it looked like the heavens were falling.  His kindly step-mother took him outside and pointed out all the stars that were still solidly fixed in the firmament and told him to keep his gaze on them and all would be well.

In difficult times like these, that’s still good advice.  So I want to take a few minutes just to marvel at the natural miracles that each of you perform every day by engaging in commerce and industry through free markets and the free exchange of goods.  Transient governmental policies can make a mess of it – and they have – but it’s important to keep our eyes fixed on the steady laws of nature that produce the prosperity and happiness of any human society.

And perhaps a good place to start is the mystery of human language, because it so clearly illustrates what Adam Smith described as the invisible hand of markets.  It really is an amazing thing, human language.  Think about how miraculous it is that hundreds of millions of human beings often separated throughout the world and throughout history have somehow managed to agree on how to combine sounds to form hundreds of thousands of words in scores of languages that can then be linked together in an order that expresses not only everything in the physical world, but the most esoteric and theoretical concepts the mind can imagine.

Did you notice that all this happened without a government Department of Language?  It happened without a Language Court to prosecute and punish bad syntax.  There are no language police prowling conversations for infractions of grammar.

It was through the untold cooperative, voluntary transactions made between people day by day, that we human beings created this remarkable achievement that makes it possible for each of us to exchange experience and ideas and to profit from the wisdom of others.

Don’t free markets work exactly the same way?

Milton Friedman used to ponder the miracle of a simple pencil.  He pointed out that this very simple implement only existed because of the cooperation of hundreds of people who had never met each other and most of whom didn’t even know they were making a pencil.  The miner in Pennsylvania digging for graphite that a worker in Tennessee would turn into the pencil core; the farmer in Brazil growing rubber trees that would eventually become the eraser through the work of still others; the lumber jack in Oregon cutting down trees that a millworker in California would turn into pulp, and that another worker would form around the core; the steel plant in Ohio smelting the ore that would become part of the brass ring that holds the eraser; and many others who transported these products across oceans and continents all to come together for a ten cent pencil he held in his hand.

And then think about those ten cents.  Why just a dime?  Who came up with that price?

That by itself is a miracle that you perform every day.  You agree on prices for everything you do that encapsulates an incredible wealth of information which in turn makes it possible for every consumer and worker to make rational choices about where to put his time and money.  Without a single government study or report, without a “Federal Commission on Pencils” setting prices and quotas, that simple 10-cent price computes everything from the effect of the drought in Oregon on timber yields, the cost of diesel fuel to haul it to the pulp mill, and then across the country for manufacture; political instability in Brazil and its effect on labor to tap the rubber; not to mention the corresponding cost of alternative products and what the guy down the street is charging.

Because you do that in every transaction, you give me as a customer the accurate information that I need to make rational selections as I go through the day.  But those decisions can only be rational if the information in the price is accurate.  It is guaranteed to be accurate as long as every participant in that market is free to decide for themselves at what price it is in their interest to sell and at what price it is in their interest to buy – from the lead miner to the clerk behind the counter.

Here’s another miracle that you perform every day.  You determine how the resources of the world will be put to their highest and best use for the prosperity and advancement of all mankind.  The price you set not only allows every consumer to make rational decision about the allocation of his own resources, it also empowers them to direct the allocation of society’s resources toward its greatest needs.  If society needs more pencils, you begin to raise the price of pencils.  As the price rises, more people devote more time and energy to producing more pencils and to look at more efficient ways to make pencils or to make something even better.  If society needs fewer pencils, the price begins to fall, and people who had been making pencils begin making other things instead.

And in each transaction — in this case the pencil seller and the pencil buyer — both benefit.

Is the pencil buyer a dime poorer from that exchange because he now has one less dime to spend?  On the contrary, he has something more valuable to him than his dime – he has this miracle of a pencil.  If it wasn’t of greater value to him than his dime, he would have bought something else or not bought anything.

Is the pencil seller now poorer for having relinquished his pencil?  Of course not – he has something of greater value to him than his pencil – he now has that dime.   That’s the miracle of commerce — both parties go away richer for it – both sides go away with something of greater value than they had before.

And that’s what I marvel most of all about what you do: that profit you manage to make, after you’ve paid all your taxes and fees and met all the requirements that government has heaped upon you.  That evil, greedy profit you made today by selling me that 10-cent pencil.  What does that profit do?

That dime put food on the table and a roof over the heads not only for you and your employees, but for all of those hundreds of people whose work and vision and enterprise brought that pencil into being and placed it in my hand.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what you do every day.  You not only make yourselves more prosperous – you make every client, every employee, and every customer that comes into your shop or your business better off and more prosperous at the same time.  You constantly assure that the most important needs of our society are being met and you constantly and efficiently and accurately adjust the allocation of resources to meet those needs.  By competing with others, every day you assure that every consumer can have the widest selection of goods and services to meet his needs at the lowest possible price.  That is an awe-inspiring thing and we shouldn’t get so consumed by the daily grind that we don’t celebrate and appreciate what the free exchange of goods and labor makes possible or what we owe to those who engage in it day in and day out.

We used to praise and esteem and encourage free enterprise and industry and commerce.  We used to devote a lot of attention teaching our children and our fellow citizens the miracles that free markets perform every day.  We used to honor those who risked their time and money to create businesses.  We used to recognize that profit is not waste and it is not greed; that on the contrary, profit is that essential thing that creates jobs and opportunities for millions of people every day; that spurs innovation and research and advancement; that drives and fuels a growing economy that promises that our children will be better off than ourselves.

I think it’s a universal truth that the freer the society, the more prosperous it is; and the less free, the less prosperous.  Alexis de Tocqueville noted that difference in 1836 when he traveled down the Ohio River.  He observed that the Ohio divided the same fertile valley; the same equitable climate, and the same bountiful resources.  The only difference was that on the right bank was the free state of Ohio and on the left bank was the slave state of Kentucky.

“Thus,” he wrote, “the traveler … may be said to sail between liberty and servitude, and a transient inspection of surrounding objects will convince him which of the two is more favorable to humanity.

“Upon the left bank of the stream the population is sparse; from time to time one descries a troop of slaves loitering in the half-deserted fields; the primeval forest reappears at every turn; society seems to be asleep, man to be idle, and nature alone offers a scene of activity and life.

“From the right bank, on the contrary, a confused hum is heard, which proclaims afar the presence of industry; the fields are covered with abundant harvest; the elegance of the dwellings announces the taste and activity of the laborers; and man appears to be in the enjoyment of that wealth and contentment which is the reward of labor.”

When I first read this, it occurred to me that the same division can start to be discerned in our own time.   Up the road from here is the community of Lake Tahoe.  A few years ago, when I visited with a group from their Chamber of Commerce I asked what it was like to conduct business in a community divided between two states.  A businessman immediately replied, “It’s really very simple.  On the Nevada side, they ask, ‘How can we help you,’ and on the California side they ask, “How can we stop you.”

One of the ski resorts literally straddles the state line.  It is quite conspicuous in this respect.  The ski lifts and buildings are concentrated on the Nevada side of their property.  When I asked about this, one of its executives explained, “It’s so much easier to get permits in Nevada.”

A Chinese businessman put it this way as we discussed the economic expansion going on in China and the stagnation of the American economy.  He said, “You Americans have an export-import problem.”  I said, “What do you mean?”  “Well, for years you have been exporting capitalism and importing socialism.”

The prosperity of a society depends upon its commerce, and its commerce depends upon its freedom: the freedom of individuals to make their own choices in pursuing their own happiness.  Governments cannot create wealth but they can create the conditions that support free markets: representations made in the marketplace must be true; contracts must be enforceable; property rights must be secure; the currency must be reliable and stable.  But free societies – truly free societies — recognize that once government has secured the conditions that make commerce possible, it then leaves to each of us — as buyers and sellers, as employees and employers – free to decide for ourselves what products we will buy or sell and what price we are willing to pay or charge; what jobs we will accept or not accept, hire or not hire; what we will pay or not pay, and what we will be paid or not be paid.

I think that’s what Jefferson was driving at in his first inaugural address. After he had reviewed the bountiful resources and blessings of the new nation, he asked, “With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people?  Still one thing more, fellow-citizens – a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.  This is the sum of good government.”

When the chief architect of Alexandria presented his plans for the city to the great Alexander, he proudly described its centerpiece.  The entire city was to be laid out around a great fountain that featured a gigantic statue of Alexander.  Water from this fountain would then flow outward from this central square to all parts of the city.

Alexander seemed unimpressed.  The architect proudly said, “You see the symbolism, of course.  All water, the life’s blood of the city, flows from your image.”

Alexander shook his head and said, “No, water is NOT the life’s blood of a city.  COMMERCE is the life’s blood of a city.”

The statue of Alexander was placed at the entrance to its great port instead.

Commerce IS the life’s blood of any human society.  No great civilization has ever risen without great commerce, and no civilization has endured that has not maintained its commerce.

And isn’t commerce just another word for freedom?  The freedom of any two people to come together, to decide on terms they find mutually advantageous, and to make an exchange based on their own best judgment without the interference of some well-intentioned but meddlesome buffoon?  And isn’t it that freedom that is the engine of any civilization’s prosperity?

True, sometimes we make bad decisions.  Sometimes we pay too much for our pencils – or charge too little for them – or realize we didn’t need them after all.  We don’t ask others to bail us out; rather, we go away from these experiences sadder and wiser.  And aren’t the bad decisions we sometimes make, a very small price to pay for the freedom we have to make all the good decisions in our lives?

If our prosperity isn’t what we’d like it to be, maybe that’s because something is interfering with that freedom of commerce that produces our prosperity.  And if that’s the case, maybe we ought to do something about that.

I know these are difficult and uncertain times for commerce and for each of you struggling in the eighth year of this economy.  But these challenges are because of transient public policies – and in that respect they are very much like the shooting stars that frightened young Abraham Lincoln on the prairie of Illinois that night so many years ago.  They are a temporary phenomenon that will ultimately pass like a meteor shower.

Living it day by day, I know it must seem like the heavens are falling.  But when it seems that way, I urge you to reflect on the miracles you perform every day in the commerce you conduct, and keep your eyes fixed on the natural principles of freedom that are still shining bright and unwavering in the firmament beyond.  Steer by them, and rest assured that they will guide our nation back to the prosperity, happiness and freedom that we once took for granted.

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