POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY

Adapted by Carl Graham from Lawrence W. Reed

Modern political trends have generated much confusion regarding political labels. The liberal-conservative dichotomy is, in our opinion, an incomplete and misleading paradigm that fails to adequately describe the progressive trends at work in Montana, our nation, and, indeed, our world. The following is a brief explanation of the MPI’s approach to public policy, the principles which guide our work, and why the term “free-market” best describes our institute.

The Montana Policy Institute focuses its research on economic policy, broadly defined (see note below). It does not address issues that are primarily questions of social ethics such as abortion, censorship, and gambling. While these are important issues, the MPI has adopted an inclusive strategy. By gaining the support of all who recognize the importance of sound economic policy–despite their disagreement over social issues–we are able to more effectively accomplish our key objective: to establish a more sophisticated level of political and economic understanding among citizens and decision makers.

Modern economic experience demonstrates overwhelmingly that the free-market is a powerful engine of economic prosperity, and nations the world over are clamoring to shed the chains of central planning and unleash the creative energy of free men and women. The principles of the American Revolution–individual liberty, limited government, the free market, and the rule of law–have become the dominant paradigm of enlightened society.

We see, therefore, a transformation taking place in American politics. The black-and-white division between contemporary liberals (desiring little government intervention in personal affairs but extensive government involvement in the economy) and conservatives (desiring little government involvement in the economy while seeking government restraint on personal affairs) no longer works, if it ever did.

The new economic reality is creating a growing population in the classical liberal tradition: socially tolerant, economically sophisticated, desiring little government intervention in either their personal or economic affairs. Focusing as it does on economics, the work of the MPI draws support from these classical liberals, conservatives and even moderates. The MPI staff, directors, and scholars reflect this diversity of viewpoints. It is therefore inaccurate to call the Montana Policy Institute”conservative.”

Today no one calls an American political research institute a “democratic” institute because it has embraced democracy over monarchy. That battle was fought long ago, and democracy is the deserving winner. We believe that the verdict is also in concerning economic systems, and the free market has won. To play on Churchill’s famous quote, the free market system is the worst type of economy, except for all the others. The MPI works to advance solutions that meet human needs while preserving the benefits of sound economic policy.

We look forward to the day when the myths and fears of free-market capitalism are dispelled, along with the misplaced faith in a benevolent, omnipotent state. By focusing on the actual problems and understanding the proper role of public and private institutions, we can give all Montana citizens the greatest opportunity for peace, prosperity, and freedom.

(Note: It is important to understand that economics is not the study of dollars and cents; it is the study of human behavior. Economics deals with how we use scarce resources to meet the needs of people in a complex society. Broadly defined, economics includes the incentives and systems used to deliver not just commodities, but also education, social assistance, and other services. It also encompasses the vital political prerequisites of a free-market economy such as respect for private property, freedom of contract, and the rule of law.)