In keeping with Arizona’s long-held position at the forefront of promoting economic liberty and free market ideals, this year’s symposium will address “The Resurgence of Economic Liberty.” The theme is inspired by Frédéric Bastiat’s maxim, “[l]ife, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”
The story of the American founding is inextricably linked with a quest for economic liberty. From restrictions on trade to heavy taxes, tyranny in the economic sphere may be the most common unifying theme among the abuses of governmental power that sparked the American Revolution. Economic theories played a central role in the debates leading to the Constitution’s ratification. In discussing factions, relations among the states, congressional powers, and other fundamental constitutional themes, the Founders recognized the critical ways in which the ideas of liberty, justice, and equality could only be realized through an understanding of markets and related economic interests.
Indeed, the “American Dream” itself can be characterized in terms of economic self- determination, including the right to choose a profession, earn a livelihood, and buy and sell on the same terms as fellow citizens. The twentieth century witnessed a vast expansion of governmental power, the creation of the administrative state, and a distortion of the U.S. constitutional scheme—all with a profound impact on economic liberty and welfare, and thus the way of life of millions of Americans.
Today, Americans remain deeply divided over the meaning and importance of economic liberty, and, as a result, the topic often animates social discourse and decision-making at all levels of government. The question of how much the government ought to intrude into the economic realm is a fundamental fault line dividing American conservatives from libertarians, as well as adherents to various schools of thought within each of those political philosophies. As a matter of constitutional interpretation, even staunch originalists may disagree with one another over the extent to which the nation’s charter protects economic liberty.
The Symposium’s panels will focus on the legal and philosophical roots of economic liberty and explore how those roots should inform jurisprudence and political thought in addressing contemporary issues. The panels will delve deeply into first principles underlying our constitutional scheme as well as explore their application to cutting-edge technologies, regulatory schemes, and business models. We will challenge attendees to deepen their understanding of the relationship between economic liberty and legal rights, and to test personal economic beliefs against commitments to originalism and the rule of law.