From Reagan to Romney: Why Economic Freedom Matters

There has never been any doubt that Mitt Romney has executive experience; from a professional viewpoint we can confidently entrust him with the presidency. But up until last week’s GOP convention, Romney has not come across as particularly engaging or passionate. He has seemed technocratic, much more like a bean counter than a principled visionary.

With his acceptance speech, however, Romney changed that appearance. He went from being a Dudley Dooright to a full-fledged chief executive officer of the world’s most powerful nation, with a full and deep understanding of  what his duties are towrad the the American people.

Here is how he defined what it means to succeed as a president:

We Americans have always felt a special kinship with the future. Whenever a new wave of immigrants looked up and saw the Statue of Liberty, or knelt down and kissed the shores of freedom just ninety miles from Castro’s tyranny, these new Americans surely had many questions, but none doubted that here in America they could build a better life, that here in America their children would be blessed more than they. But today, four years from the excitement of that last election, for the first time the majority of Americans doubt that our children will have a better future. It’s not what we were promised. Every family in America wanted this to be a time when they could get a little ahead, put aside a little more for college, do more for the elderly mom that’s now living alone, or give a little more to their church or their charity.

He went on to mention that college graduates had hopes for a good start, and that we deserved a better future because we have worked very hard through these tough times. He then contrasted Obama’s outlandish promises to what he wants to accomplish:

President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans, and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.

What is so compelling about this measurement of success is that it goes straight down to Main Street. He makes clear that he knows how we, the American people, think of progress in our lives, and how at the end of the day you measure the benefits of economic freedom.

In this way, Romney’s speech was strikingly similar to another important speech from a quarter of a century ago. In 1987, when President Reagan gave his “Tear Down This Wall” speech, he eloquently defined the difference that economic freedom had made to West Berlin:

In West Germany and here in Berlin there took place an economic miracle. The wirtschaftswunder. Adenauer, Erhardt, Reuter and other leaders understood the practical importance of liberty, that just as truth can flourish only when the journalist is given freedom of speech, so prosperity can come about only when the farmer and businessman enjoy economic freedom. The German leaders reduced tariffs, expanded free trade, lowered taxes. From 1950 to 1960 the standard of living in West Germany and Berlin doubled. Where four decades ago there was rubble, today in West Berlin there is the greatest industrial output of any city in Germany. Busy office blocks, fine homes and apartments, proud avenues and the spreading lawns of Parkland. Where a city’s culture seemed to have been destroyed, today there are two great universities, orchestras and an opera, countless theaters and museums. Where there was want, today there is abundance. Food, clothing, automobiles, the wonderful goods of the Ku’damm. From devastation, from utter ruin, you Berliners have in freedom rebuilt a city that once again ranks as one of the greatest on Earth.

Romney shares Reagan’s sense of what matters. In addition to sharing Reagan’s patriotism and optimism, Romney also measures the difference between statism and economic freedom – or socialism and liberty – in much the same way. If he wins in November, this bodes well for the future.