Originally published 03:00 p.m., November 12, 2009
Former President George W. Bush, outlining plans for a new public policy institute, on Thursday said America must fight the temptation to allow the federal government to take control of the private sector, declaring that too much government intervention will squelch economic recovery and expansion.
With the Obama administration establishing far-reaching controls in the auto, real estate and financial sectors, Mr. Bush said that "the role of government is not to create wealth, but to create the conditions that allow entrepreneurs and innovators to thrive."
"As the world recovers, we will face a temptation to replace the risk-and-reward model of the private sector with the blunt instruments of government spending and control. History shows that the greater threat to prosperity is not too little government involvement, but too much," said Mr. Bush, who has remained largely out of the limelight since leaving office and rarely criticizes his successor.
Delivering a speech on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, future home to the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the former president sought to explain his decision to have the federal government intervene at the beginning of the economic downturn last fall.
"I believe in the power of the free enterprise system, which made the decision I faced last fall one of the most difficult of my presidency. I went against my free market instincts and approved a temporary government intervention to unfreeze credit and prevent a global financial catastrophe," he said.
While many economists credit that early action with halting the economic freefall, Mr. Bush said the only answer to returning America to prosperity is to remove government controls on the private sector and continue to force open markets to U.S. goods.
"Trade has been one of the world's most powerful engines of economic growth, and one of the most effective ways to lift people out of poverty. Yet a 60-year movement toward trade liberalization is under threat from creeping protectionism and isolationism," Mr. Bush said.