SCPC and The Basitat Society Co-sponsor Event With Reason Magazine

The Policy Council was delighted to sponsor a book signing, round table discussion, and reception featuring Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, longtime editors of Reason Magazine and authors of the recently released book The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America. The event was sponsored by our friends at The Bastiat Society of Charleston, and attended by members and supporters of both organizations.

The premise of The Declaration of Independents is uncommonly simple for a political book:  that there has been a broad trend everywhere in society toward more personalization, innovation, and freedom of choice – except in politics. The unchallenged domination of unresponsive, inflexible parties allows politics to remain stagnant while other things change, and every realm of our lives in which the government plays a major role is far less innovative and efficient than those in which consumers  and citizens rule.

For those of you who couldn’t attend the event, here’s what you missed:

Dr. Peter T. Calcagno, editor of the Policy Council publication Unleashing Capitalism, led a roundtable discussion of the book with the authors. Much of the discussion centered around the premise of independence, both in politics and from politics. Gillespie described independent voters and movements (like the Tea Party) as a “weapon” for political change, capable of exerting influence over the major parties by breaking free from unthinking partisan loyalty.

Welch described the wellspring of innovation that flows when the government decides to step out of an industry, using the example of microbreweries in America (he’s a big fan of Palmetto Pale Ale). Government regulations left over from the prohibition era made it prohibitively difficult for small-time brewers to make and sell beer well into the 1970s: a deregulation slipped into a bigger bill and signed, perhaps unknowingly, by Jimmy Carter is responsible for one the fastest-growing and most entrepreneurial industries in the nation today.

The discussion later turned to the role of the internet in fostering freedom, despite some largely failed attempts by government to regulate it. Both described the internet as one of the most deregulated public spaces available, and a powerful force for innovation and independence. “Every place that there’s a gatekeeper,” said Welch, “out there telling us the one thing that we should think, that person is undermined by the internet.”

When asked to explain the broader motivation behind the book, Welch articulated that while politics is important, it should be the smallest part of our lives: The Declaration of Independence reads, after all, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” not life, liberty, and the pursuit of political power.  In Gillespie’s words, The Declaration of Independents’ concept of freedom from politics means the freedom to pursue happiness free of the state by taking the insights of competition, choice, and freedom found in the market and mapping them onto the entire world.

The roundtable ended with a rousing question and answer section, in which attendees asked questions about the definition of limited government, the role of the state in research, the consolidation of political power, and where the nation is headed next.

One audience member brought up innovative private organizations, like Underwriters Laboratory, which provides certification of the safety and quality of goods completely independent of government. Gillespie noted that such private ratings agencies both add value to products and act as a free-market alternative to monolithic state regulatory bodies like the FDA.

SCPC was lucky enough to catch Gillespie and Welch for a brief interview afterward, and we got their views on the Occupy Wall Street Movement, independent politics, and how states can be business-friendly without sweetheart economic “incentive” deals. Check out the videos below!


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