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Liberty, Individualism, and the Hispanic Experience in America

We need to understand, as Latinos, that we too have the obligation to learn from the mistakes of our Spanish founders both in economics and in political theory

By Joshua González:

Liberty is one of those curious words that never seems to be defined properly in any context. Politically, we speak of freedom and liberty as if they were interchangeable when this could not be further from the truth. In Spanish, we employ only the correct and most important word of the two: “libertad”. What is liberty and why is it important? What shall we do with those people who openly denounce the ideals of liberty as antithetical to the “collective interest” and the “common good?” Do these ideas possess any merit? These questions have thoroughly been explored and discovered over the course of the past few hundred years by scholars in the Spanish world.

I will never forget the wise words of Spanish economist Jesús Huerta de Soto on the birth of liberalism and its relation to the Hispanic experience. He boldly recounted how scholars at the medieval University of Salamanca laid out the basic principles of what would today become the foundations of political and economic liberalism. Spain is one of the many Western nations borne of the marriage between Rome and Jerusalem, that is, the marriage of the philosophical and scientific findings of classical Greece and Rome with the moral axioms of the Jewish and Christian faiths. Spanish discovery of the merits of liberty coupled with the intellectual prowess of pre-Columbian empires that preceded the Conquest led to the construction of a strong Latino identity that stands firmly on the shoulders of intellectual giants. Now that we have rooted ourselves and our families in the United States, we can also share in the classically liberal tradition that inspired the grandeur of what we came here for: the American dream.

In an economic sense, we as Latinos understand the power of the market, and how it has allowed many of us to self-actualize and find meaning in our work. We are hard-working, studious, and very aware of the necessity of balance in our finances and consumption practices. We understand that the economy is not a car with an engine that can be tampered with at will by the owner. The economy is organic and is driven by our individual experiences and preferences. We work better when we are free, and we are naturally suspicious of political promises to “create jobs” and “provide XYZ good or service free for all.” We are renowned by many across America for our industriousness and creativity. We seek solidarity when necessary but encourage individuality when appropriate. These are all values that build economies and societies. When the government does not restrict us with poor public services and arbitrarily implemented regulations and taxes, we soar to the top. 

While liberty has allowed many of us to rise to the higher echelons of the American economy, there are still those who manage to corral us into racial hedonism that promotes inadequacy through collectivism. These days, Americans are being forced to abide closely by their collective identity groups. Many race essentialists akin to the likes of public intellectuals like Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi base their doctrines on supposed inherent links between moralizing progressive dogma and the quantity of melanin in a person’s skin. For many of us, whose lived experiences testify to the necessity of preserving a liberal and open society based on virtue, this idea is absolutely abhorrent. For example, our support of free markets and expanded individual agency by way of significantly reducing state intervention in the economy is tied to the unfortunate history of slavery and colonization in this country (see the 1619 Project by The New York Times) as if capitalism and its axioms were directly responsible with putting African slaves in chains. This narrow retelling of our history and straw-manning of arguments on the basis of liberty is not only dishonest, but detestable. It is only our dedication to individualism that will triumph over these degrading labels that erode any sense of our initiative and dreams.

We are dedicated to the cause of liberty because our story begins with freedom from the tyrannical Spanish monarchies who misappropriated conquered wealth and lost it all through foreign wars and inflation (sound familiar?) While our cultural and economic ties to Spain should remain steadfast and loyal, we too have the obligation to learn from the mistakes of our Spanish founders both in economics and in political theory. Fortunately, there are a legion of Hispanic freedom activists who stand against the modern socialist latifundistas who replaced the conquistadors, and who threaten the success of our beloved Latin America. Liberty runs in our blood, and what better place than the United States to show how much we care about the cause that has so thoroughly affected our homelands. It is our time to show that we can make it in this country not because of the state or collectivist principles and economics, but despite them.

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Joshua González holds a B.A. in Economics and Public Policy and is President of the Austrian Economics Association

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