John Hood: A freedom agenda for North Carolina
RALEIGH — If your tenure in our state stretches back no further than the early 1980s, you may not be aware of the fact North Carolina’s license plates used to say “First in Freedom” rather than “First in Flight.” So you may not fully appreciate why we chose the title “First in Freedom” for the John Locke Foundation’s just-published book of policy ideas for the new administration in Raleigh.
The “First in Freedom” license plate commemorated two events. In May 1775, a group of Mecklenburg County leaders met in Charlotte to fashion a response to escalating tensions with Britain. In a document later published as the Mecklenburg Resolves, they stated that “all laws and commissions confirmed by or derived from the authority of the King and Parliament are annulled and vacated, and the former civil constitution of these colonies for the present wholly suspended.”
Some believe that the Mecklenburg committee went further still, issuing a formal Declaration of Independence, the first of its kind in America. But even if the Mecklenburg Resolves was the only document approved, it was still a courageous act of resistance against tyrannical government and deserves the veneration still evident on North Carolina’s state flag and state seal.
The revolutionary fervor was hardly limited to Mecklenburg. Political leaders across North Carolina expressed their resolve to fight for liberty over the subsequent months. By April 1776, they met in Halifax to decide what North Carolina’s position should be at the upcoming Continental Congress. In the resulting Halifax Resolves, the assembled state leaders instructed the North Carolina delegation in Philadelphia to pursue formal independence from Britain – the first such decision in America. The date of the Halifax Resolves, April 12, is the other date honored on our seal and flag.
Now, in the early 21st century, we face new challenges to our economic vitality, our families, our liberty, and our tradition of constitutional government. Again, it is time for North Carolina leaders to act. In “First in Freedom,” my JLF colleagues and I offer the following action plan:
• Replace North Carolina’s uncompetitive and unfair tax code with a new pro-growth system that targets consumption and encourages investment, business formation and job creation.
• Place stronger constitutional limits on budget growth and the issuance of public debt.
• Continue the process of removing costly regulations that inhibit job creation and raise the cost of energy, food, medical care and other goods and services.
• Enhance North Carolina’s long-term rate of economic growth by investing more wisely in infrastructure and bringing more academic rigor, accountability, flexibility, competition and parental choice to the delivery of educational services.
• Reorganize the operating system of state government to reduce the number of Council of State and Cabinet agencies, sort out the state’s convoluted governance system for education and promote competitive elections.
In short, North Carolina should reclaim our heritage and resume our leadership in the cause of liberty. Let’s be “First in Freedom” once more.
John Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation and author of “Our Best Foot Forward,” a book on North Carolina’s economy. It is available at JohnLockeStore.com. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.