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Readers of Mountain States Policy Center’s work will see certain economic and governance terms used frequently. To help provide context for our recommendations and analysis, here is a description of what these terms mean.

Capitalism – An economic system driven by individual actors using market factors (supply and demand) to determine the free exchange of goods and services, rather than economic activity dictated by central government control and intervention. A hallmark of capitalism is private ownership of both property and the means of production.

Communism – An economic system developed by Karl Marx that focuses on class warfare with the goal of government ownership of all property and centralized planning of economic activity. The theory of communism is that each person will work and be paid based on their abilities and needs instead of the economic value of their actual production.

Core functions of government – The core functions of government are those activities not easily replicated in the private sector such as public safety, coordinated infrastructure, general order, and the protection of private property and individual rights.

Education choice – Education choice is the principle that parents, no matter their economic status, should have the ability to choose how best to educate their children. Education choice options include the freedom to attend any public school (not be limited by zip code), public charter schools, private schools, homeschooling, Education Savings Accounts, and other tools that empower parents to meet the individual educational needs of their child. Education choice recognizes that families and parents are in the best position to determine the individual educational needs for their child’s success.

Federalism – Federalism is the governing process that defines specific limited powers for the federal government with the remaining governing authority reserved for state governments. The U.S. Constitution embraces a balance of power shared by the national and state governments. The strong role provided for local governance is protected by the 10th Amendment.

Free market/enterprise – The free market/enterprise is best understood as an economic system that allows individual actors to voluntarily engage in the exchange of goods and services with prices determined by supply and demand instead of government restrictions. A key component of a free market is voluntary economic activity instead of government coercion on the exchange of goods or services.

Individual liberty – The concept of individual liberty is the freedom to make decisions for oneself and exercise control over daily activities free from undue government control or manipulation. The role of the government in a system that respects individual liberty is to limit any intrusions only to those activities that protect individuals from the encroachment of actions from others.

Limited government – Under a system of limited government, legal restrictions are placed on government bodies and officials to avoid abuses of power and consolidation of influence.


Open government – The foundations for an accountable government can be found in strong citizen oversight, and one of the most critical tools for this goal is open government laws. Requirements for access to public records, open meetings, public comment periods, and legislative transparency are critical tools necessary for citizens to maintain control over the government they have created.

Republican form of government – Power held by the people and not a select few is the underpinning of a republican form of government. Citizens elect representatives to serve the public interest and the government remains responsive to the people via regular elections to reflect the will of the electorate.

Separation of powers – A critical protection to avoid government abuse is the separation of powers. This is commonly referred to as checks and balances and is a division of government power and responsibility between distinct branches of government to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a few.

Socialism – Socialism is a political and economic system that provides the government with the authority to make all economic decisions about the production and distribution of goods and services. Under socialism, some private control and ownership of resources are allowed, whereas under communism everything is owned by the government.

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