The Democratic Freedom Caucus (DFC) is a progressive, pro-freedom caucus in the Democratic party. The purpose of the DFC is to promote individual liberty, constitutional democracy, and social responsibility.
Individuals should have the freedom to live their lives the way they want to, as long as they respect the right of everyone else to have the same freedom. Each person should have personal liberty and economic liberty. Liberty also requires social responsibility.
1) Personal Liberty
Personal liberty includes the right to control your own body, and make your own choices about how you live.
a) Freedom of Speech, Belief, and Lifestyle. The government should not favor any religion, belief, or philosophy over others, and should not restrict freedom of speech or of the press, or the freedom to practice any peaceful religion, belief philosophy, or lifestyle.
b) Equal Freedom. People of any race, ethnicity, minority opinion, gender, or lifestyle should have the same legal rights as everyone else. Laws should not discriminate against any group, and should also not favor one group over another.
c) Privacy. The right to privacy, as implied by the Bill of Rights (Articles 4 and 9), should be upheld.
d) Reproductive Rights. Each individual should have the right to control his or her own body, including making choices about family planning. The decision of whether or not to have an abortion is an extremely sensitive one, and should remain chiefly with the woman and her doctor, not the government.
e) Food and Medical Decisions. Each individual should have the right to make decisions regarding what foods or medicines to put into his or her body, which medical treatments to use, and when to stop treatment.
f) Freedom from Crime. One of the basic functions of government is to stop crime. In order to use police resources wisely, the government should distinguish between victimless crimes and crimes in which there is a victim. Murder, bodily attack, kidnapping, vandalism, robbery, and fraud all involve victims. However, gambling, pornography, and use of tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana in private are victimless crimes, if no one is forced to participate.
Police resources should focus on crimes that involve victims. It is usually impractical to enforce victimless crime laws. For example, if many people wish to use a particular food, drug, or beverage that is prohibited by law, the demand creates a black market. Since the courts will not handle black market disputes, rival gangs then settle disputes with violence. Furthermore, the black market price becomes so high that people commit robberies in order to obtain enough money to afford the artificially high price of black market products. The harm of many prohibition laws, then, outweighs the benefit. Therefore, government should only prohibit particular foods, drugs, beverages, etc. if there is overwhelming evidence of a public benefit in doing so.
Freedom from crime includes the right to self-defense. Since criminals can always find ways to obtain weapons, it is unwise to unilaterally disarm honest citizens, since police cannot be everywhere. Law-abiding individuals should have the right to own hand-held weapons, including rifles and pistols. This right should only be restricted when there are compelling and demonstrably effective reasons of public safety. For example, government may restrict children and convicted criminals from access to weapons.
g) Freedom from Involuntary Servitude. There should be no military draft, which is a form of slavery. A military draft is often used as a means of forcing American soldiers to fight unpopular wars in far off countries. When the military is restricted to its proper role of defending U.S. territory, then military duty is a patriotic service.
2) Economic Liberty
Just as an individual should have the right to control his or her own body, each individual should also have the right to control the fruits of his or her labor. People should have the freedom to engage in voluntary economic exchanges, and to form voluntary economic organizations, whether for non-profit or profit purposes, as long as they respect the equal rights of others.
a) Property Rights Based on Justice. There are two forms of property:
1) human-made products, such as cars, houses, and machinery; and
2) land, which refers to spatial locations, along with the natural resources within those locations – therefore, land was not produced by any person.
Out of justice and practicality, it is proper to allow an individual to keep the rewards from his or her labor. So, there should be the least taxes possible on labor, because taxes on labor take the fruits of labor. Such taxes are not only unjust, but also lower the incentive to be productive. Taxes on income, sales, or buildings all take away the rewards of labor and productivity, so they are the most harmful kinds of taxes. The least harmful tax is a tax on land location value or on extraction of natural resources, because those are not products of labor, but are fixed resources.
Land is fundamentally different from products made by human effort, because no person can produce land, meaning locations and natural resources. So, property in land needs to be treated somewhat differently from other types of property, in order to prevent over-concentrated ownership of land and natural resources.
b) End Corporate Welfare. Government should not subsidize special interests. For example, corporate welfare should not be provided by government. Also, government should not protect corporations from competition, by such means as monopolistic types of licensing laws, not related to safety or consumer protection. For example, license fees should be no higher than administrative costs, and there should be no arbitrary quotas on the number of licenses issued.
c) Consumer Protection. There should be strong laws against business fraud and false advertising, which violate agreements made with others.
d) Worker Protection. There should be strong laws against fraud in employment practices. For example, no company should be allowed to mislead a worker into believing that working conditions are safe if there are chemical or other hazards the company is aware of.
e) Environmental Protection. There should be strong laws against polluting the air or water that others must use. In addition, we should remove government obstacles that prevent individuals from suing companies for polluting. For example, we should repeal the Price-Anderson Act, which severely restricts the right of victims of nuclear accidents to sue the owners of nuclear plants. In addition, we should remove laws that require victims to first spend time asking government administrative bureaucracies to look into a situation, rather than letting the victims immediately pursue a court action against a company. The government also should not subsidize developers.
f) Free Trade with Free Countries. We should phase in free trade with other free countries, at the same time that we are phasing in more freedom within our own country. It is unjust and impractical to suddenly allow open imports of goods from other countries before we have removed the obstacles that hinder productivity within our own country, such as high taxes on production, and hoarding of land (see 2-a). Also, it is unjust to allow imports of foreign products made using slave labor. There are shades of gray in defining slave labor. In countries that have very little freedom, such as those with high taxes on labor, or monopolistic licensing and landownership patterns, the workers’ lack of freedom can sometimes border on slavery. U.S. policy on tariffs and free trade should be based on general standards of how free a country or foreign industry is, rather than on arbitrary criteria or special interest protectionism.
3) Limited Government
a) Essential Government Services. Government should provide any necessary services that cannot currently be provided adequately by the non-government sector (non-profit or for-profit groups). However, government should not provide any services that can be provided adequately by the non-government sector.
b) Government Incentives. For those essential services that need to be provided by government, we should attempt to introduce incentives for government efficiency.
c) Constitutional Democracy. The U.S. government was founded as a constitutional democracy, which means a democracy that respects the wishes of the majority of voters, as long as the rights of minorities are not violated (including minorities based on race, religion, lifestyle, or opinion). That is why the U.S. Constitution includes a Bill of Rights, which lists individual rights that are not allowed to be violated. Since everyone is in the minority on at least some issues, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us. The Bill of Rights should be strictly enforced.
d) Fully Informed Juries. Juries should be informed of their traditional right and duty to judge the law as well as the facts. If a jury believes a person is being prosecuted for a law that is unconstitutional, then the jury has the right to let that person go free. The jury’s right to judge the law was considered by some of the writers of the U.S. Constitution to be one of the most important checks to prevent the government from violating the Constitution and individual rights.
The right of juries to judge the law has played an important historical role: protecting newspapers against censorship laws (such as the famous Peter Zenger case); protecting runaway slaves against pro-slavery laws – in cases where they were allowed to have jury trials; and protecting workers against laws that prevented them from forming unions.
Juries should be selected at random, rather than carefully packed by the prosecution or the defense – who should not be allowed to screen out prospective jurors except in very limited cases, such as when a prospective juror has a close relationship with the defendant. (Some outrageous cases of jury-packing have involved selecting all-white juries for trials of racially-motivated crimes.) When citizens become informed of the full rights, powers, and importance of juries, it is likely that more citizens will see jury service as a part of responsible citizenship, like voting. With fewer people trying to get out of jury service, and less packing of juries, the quality of juries would also be likely to improve.
e) U.S. Defense, Not World Police. The military should defend the territory of the U.S., rather than being the world’s policeman. The U.S. military should only be involved in situations where there is a direct threat to U.S. territory. Our military should certainly not be used to prop up foreign dictators, or to subsidize multinational corporations.
4) Social Responsibility
Individual liberty can only be upheld when there is also responsibility. Individuals should be responsible for helping themselves, and for cooperating in ways that help each other. In the case of essential services, such as assistance for the needy, there should only be cuts in these services if adequate services can be provided by the non-government sector. Recipients of government help also have a responsibility to help themselves if they are able. The goal of government assistance should be to try to get people to the point where they can help themselves, if at all possible. In general, able-bodied people should not be on welfare, with the possible exception of certain emergencies, in which case government help should only be temporary, until the person has been helped through the emergency situation. In cases of able-bodied people, government assistance should be conditioned on responsibility on the part of the recipient.