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Frank Carroll


Good politics can lead to bad policy. It happens all the time. In our rush to maintain free market capitalism, we hobble the horse with rules and regulations intended to meet political objectives that do not help free markets.

The people who wrote the United States Constitution and subsequent documents acted first, before any other considerations, to make sure property rights — including patents and copyrights — were preserved. Then, they got down to the higher law of the First and Second Amendments, among others, within a republican framework of federalism and common consent.

American capitalism is an operating system, not an ideology, says Bhu Srinivasan. Capitalism is a systematic, and regulated, use of markets to distribute goods and services. An iPhone, for example, is the operating system that merges hardware and software symbiotically to facilitate entrepreneurial energy. It’s an operating system that allows online markets to operate efficiently and to quickly adapt, often in ways never imagined. The iPhone is not a political party.

So, we must separate capitalism as a system from our politically motivated, ideological warfare if we are to compete successfully with other powers, locally and globally. The Chinese are really good at capitalism. They’re proving it every day. The idea that the godless communists could be driving the capitalist bus is confusing if we think of capitalism out of the context of an operating system.

Our internal politics and our confusion about the nature of capitalism can actually slow us down or harm us. Political expediency is often the bad choice. Bad choices can cripple “The Greatest Show on Earth,” as the functional free market has been called. In fact, with the possible of exception of North Korea, most of the planet is in some stage of embracing capitalism, the operating system, whatever else they may believe.

Which brings us to federalism, or the notion that all of us together are stronger than some of us independently. States and tribes have limited rights to self-governance within the context of the Constitution and the supremacy of the federal government. What that means is we can do what we like, mostly, unless what we want runs contrary to or threatens the federation of our common interests.

We used to be SOME united states of America. Now, we’re THE United States of America. It’s another operating system in general use around the world. The Soviet Union was a federation run by a dictator. Great Britain is a federation of countries including Scotland, the only country in history to vote against its own independence. I’m not saying it was a bad vote. I’m just saying….

To illustrate the power of federalism, if the Spanish had landed in Mexico or Peru and been met by the armies of the United Tribes of America, history would have been very different. If the Pilgrims had landed in the United Tribes of North America, a vast army with many resources would have swept them back into the sea.

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It’s an operating system, whatever color it gets painted and for whatever purposes it exists. The Roman bundle of axe handles or arrows is an ancient symbol of strength for a reason.

So, capitalism and federalism are two powerful operating systems designed to help markets and peoples achieve some purpose. It’s the purpose that we fight about. It’s the outcome that we struggle over. It’s the ideology that consumes us on Facebook or Twitter.

Our shared view is that our operating systems and institutions are here to maintain and foster freedom and individual choice. Our politics and policies must not cripple our common purpose.

Frank Carroll is a freelance writer and columnist. He can be reached by emailing or visiting

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