|Kauffman Foundation’s “Rules for Growth” Is Roadmap Out of Recession|
By Ashton Ellis
Thursday, February 10 2011
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s new book, Rules for Growth: Promoting Innovation and Growth Through Legal Reform, should be required reading for every federal policymaker trying to get America’s economy growing again. That includes you, Mr. President.
The product of three years of intense study by experts in several disciplines, Rules for Growth announces a heady aim in its preface: “to help redirect and expand the ‘law and economics’ field to refocus on the connections between the law and growth.” That alone would be a great service. Typical insights from law and economics focus on what government does wrong when it comes to regulations. Rules for Growth promises something more.
The book’s central premise – simple but all-too-often forgotten – is that economic growth is good. It raises living standards and increases life spans. Thus, government policymakers should not just get rid of rules that stifle productive activity; they should be replaced with a regulatory system that promotes growth.
This change in focus amounts to a paradigm shift. Rather than have policymakers constrain themselves to removing disincentives from the law, the essayists in Rules for Growth want judges, politicians and bureaucrats to reorient themselves and their work in favor of innovation. In this respect, their effort recalls Britain’s industrial era approach to regulation: When conflicts arose between British economic dominance and the legal system, the legal system was changed.
Every branch of the law that touches innovation and entrepreneurship comes under review. Immigration quotas should be reconfigured to increase the amount of visas granted to entrepreneurs. University faculty should be free to license their patents and retain all ownership rights over their discoveries. Taxes should be consumption based. Independent regulatory agencies should be required to conduct cost-benefit analyses before making new rules. Perhaps most interesting is the recommendation that the legal services market should be opened up by replacing state licensing requirements with a federal standard. (If auto insurance companies can compete across state lines, why not lawyers?)
One way to verify is to hand President Obama a copy of Rules for Growth and demand he implement its recommendations. At the very least, House Republicans could introduce legislation based on the book’s findings, and hold televised hearings debating their substance. It’s time for the free market to receive a full-blown defense in the halls of Congress. For inspiration, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) need look no farther than former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
In 1975, newly elected Prime Minister Thatcher served notice on a “pragmatic” Conservative Party colleague counseling a moderate course on economic policy. Reaching into her briefcase, the Iron Lady held up a copy of F.A. Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty for all to see. “This is what we believe,” declared Thatcher as she banged the book down on the table.
In this era of runaway deficits, out-of-control spending and crushing entitlements, the conservative majority in the House of Representatives has a historic opportunity. Like Thatcher, Speaker Boehner can crystallize his party’s opposition to statism with a document that points to what’s right about free enterprise. For fiscal conservatives looking for a roadmap out of the recession, Rules for Growth is it.
Download a free copy of Rules for Growth from The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s website here.
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