the review – 2 of 1999

First Published: 1999-07-15

Socialism and the Rule of Law

The Institute for Economic Freedom is the result of recognition that arbitrary power in the hands of elected representatives… men of good will but with little or no economic understanding… is as dangerous as if it were in the hands of declared despots.

The Industrial Court legislation and the Minimum Standards Labour Act are two "political socialist" Acts that deprive law abiding citizens of their right to make choices freely in the conduct of their daily lives. That there has been so little resistance must be attributed to an understandable ignorance of the effects and consequences of such laws. A government dedicated to "transparency" has the obligation to inform its citizens of laws intended to change their economic behaviour.

As an economic idea socialism has been defeated… as a political idea socialism lives. Almost everywhere Socialists have openly embraced private market economies, innovation and economic growth, at the same time favouring expansion of government power to protect individuals from bad corporations, relieve poverty, protect the environment and promote "equality." It is in such a guise that the Minimum Standards Labour Bill will be written into the law of the land. The irony is that such "compassionate" legislation will cause "bad" corporations to get worse, poverty to increase and less capital for environmental improvements.

A.V. Dicey states the Rule of Law "means in the first place the absolute supremacy or predominance of regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power." It excludes "the existence of arbitrariness, or prerogative, or even of wide discretionary authority on the part of government." ("The Rule-of-Law", The Law of the Constitution, 8th Edition, p. 198) A thoughtful review of Bahamian history over the past thirty years is witness to the gradual replacement of the rule of law by arbitrary power in the hands of a government intent on achieving an ideal of "social justice." The Industrial Court legislation and the proposed Labour Bill together become the critical mass that moves the country from the "rule of law" to "the rule of men."

What is Economic Freedom anyway?

It is not a term frequently used, and its importance to civil society not generally understood. Usually economic freedom is only recognized by its absence. We are so named in order for Bahamians to become familiar with the term and learn to identify policies that erode economic freedom. It is economic freedom that protects citizens against the tendency of well-meaning governments to promote the interests of specific citizens at the expense of all citizens.

The central elements of economic freedom are personal choice, protection of property and freedom of exchange. Individuals have economic freedom when –

  • The property they acquire without the use of force, fraud or theft is protected from physical invasions by others.

     

  • They are free to use, exchange or give their property to another so long as their actions do not violate the identical rights of others.
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