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Manhattan Institute

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Oren Cass on Economic Freedom, Property Rights, and Trade

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Oren Cass on Economic Freedom, Property Rights, and Trade

August 5, 2019
EconomicsOther
EducationOther

Editor’s note: Oren Cass joined the Heritage Foundations Liberty & Justice for All podcast to talk about his book The Once and Future Worker. The following is an excerpt from their conversation.

If we want to achieve high levels of economic freedom, one thing we need to be attendant to is our capacity for self-government. If we care about our capacity for self-government, we need to be attendant to things like education. I would argue we really need to be attendant to, for instance, the health of our local communities—the families that are raising kids. Now, if being for economic freedom means we need to be attendant to the conditions in which families form and kids are raised, I think that is exactly the conversation to have. But which policy is therefore more or less ultimately attuned to economic freedom? I think that’s when it becomes a much more interesting question.

Patents are something I write a fair amount about in the book because I think it it's such an interesting example. I agree completely that it's a question of property rights. But at the same time, it's a question of what we define as a property. So it's circular to say, because we've defined patents as a property, it’s therefore a matter of economic freedom when the question is: what counts as a patentable idea and therefore deserves that protection?

When we move to the international context, for instance, obviously more free trade would be the economic freedom stance. But what do you do when the counterparty to the free trade doesn't respect patents? Which policy is more economic freedom-oriented? Is it saying we're going to support the free trade even if the other side isn't respecting the property? Or do we say, no, economic freedom means actually constraining trade to those who are respecting property rights?

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Oren Cass is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of “The Once and Future Worker.” Follow him on Twitter here.

Photo by primeimages/iStock

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