Who are we?
The South Carolina Policy Council was founded in 1986 by the late Thomas Roe of Greenville as a traditional think tank. The organization’s purpose was – and still is – to publish research and analysis showing the relevance of the American republic’s founding principles: limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty and responsibility.
But while our principles haven’t changed – nor will they ever – the times have. The internet allows groups like ours to publish new analysis immediately, and social media enable us to reach a wide audience of citizens and public officials as events are happening. Gone are the days when a research organization could publish the occasional lengthy white paper full of dense analysis and remain effective.That’s especially true in South Carolina, where experience has taught us that the political elite of Columbia simply don’t care if the research proves that free market policies work. Typically, it’s not that they disagree or that they find the arguments for state intervention more compelling. It’s that they don’t care. For many of them, unfortunately, the financial and other benefits they receive from the present system of expansive government, entrenched bureaucracy, and high taxes simply outweigh the benefits of unleashing our state’s economy.
Our principal audience, therefore, isn’t the political elite of Columbia but the citizens of South Carolina. We believe that it’s only when citizens have a grasp on what their government is doing and where their money goes that the status quo will begin to change.
The Policy Council’s purpose is to promote freedom, to protect freedom, and to prove that freedom works. In short: we want South Carolina to be the freest state in the nation.
It’s that simple.
Equally simple is our view of government. We don’t think of it as some impersonal force. It’s a real factor in all of our lives, and its value or intrusiveness is determined by the real people who lead it: politicians. Our aim is to make our politicians the most accountable – and therefore the least powerful – politicians in the country.
Accordingly, we don’t believe South Carolina’s economy will be unleashed through the implementation of complicated “policy solutions.” The problems created by an overbearing and expensive government may be complicated, but their remedies are not. Those remedies are: lower taxes and fewer regulations for all, not just for those with effective lobbyists; separation of powers and clear lines of accountability; independence from federal money and micromanagement; and the expansion of individual choice.
We don’t design policies. We identify barriers to freedom.
The South Carolina Policy Council is a new kind of research organization. We keep our eyes on those who run state government, we try to understand exactly what they’re doing – for good and ill – and we communicate what we find to a wide array of citizens and activists.
It’s the nature of our mission that we’ll spend a lot of time exposing bad ideas and standing in the way of new efforts to expand government’s role. Yet we’re not content to simply say “No.” There is a way forward, and that way is toward freedom in every sphere touched by government.
Clear limitations on government. Every state agency ought to have a crystal clear mission. Core services ought to be our politicians’ first priority; nothing else is worth taking citizens’ income. And every government entity should be fully transparent, in every detail.
Freedom from dependency on federal money. Well over a third of South Carolina’s state budget consists of federal money. All that money comes with strings attached. So when it comes to artifact museums and artist development and tourism marketing, South Carolina makes its own decisions. But when it comes to educating our children and maintaining our roads and bridges, many of the key decisions are made in Washington. That can change only when state politicians learn how to say “No” to Washington’s welfare.
Choice. State government actively limits individual choices in an array of areas. In health care, the consequence of burdensome regulations mean you only have a handful of health insurance providers to choose from. In education, the public education system effectively forces taxpayers to pay for a product that is oftentimes mediocre or poor or simply unreflective of parents’ wishes for their children. Government has neither the wisdom nor the right to limit individual choices in these ways, and we believe ending these limits will encourage prosperity and a higher quality of life.
Citizen control of government. When citizens can’t hold their elected officials accountable for those officials’ decisions, the founders’ ideal of self-governance is at an end. We’ve outlined eight ways in which South Carolinians can regain self-governance: judicial independence, an executive branch accountable to the governor, shorter legislative sessions, an end to the secretive incentives process, an end to legislators’ self-policing privileges, full income source disclosure, an abolition of legislators’ exemption from the state’s FOIA law, and an open (and legal) state budget process.
Prosperity through the free market. Through corporate welfare and a state-driven “economic development” machine that costs South Carolina more than $300 million every year, elected officials are trying to run the state’s economy – and succeeding all too well. The result is that South Carolina remains at or near the bottom of every relevant economic ranking. What’s needed isn’t further government “management” or more bright ideas from politicians and their consultants, but the dismantling of the entire government-run machine.
Protected individual freedoms. In recent decades the state has chipped away at individual liberties. Proponents of these infringements have justified them with a variety of quasi-meaningless terms, especially “economic development” and “safety.” But the economy won’t “develop” when the state can take your land, and there’s no “safety” where government officials have the power to know everything about you. Preserving freedom means rolling back these laws.