This time of the year, whether in good economic times or bad, is when Americans gather with their families and friends and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together. It marks a remembrance of those early Pilgrim Fathers who crossed the uncharted ocean from Europe to make a new start in Plymouth, Massachusetts. What is less appreciated is that Thanksgiving also is a celebration of the birth of free enterprise in America.
Author: Richard Ebeling
Many in the media and some among the voting public are focused, now, on the field of candidates who are offering themselves as the presidential nominees of the Republican and Democratic Parties.
Bill Gates of Microsoft is one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, so when he speaks it is not surprising that the world tends to listen. In a recent interview, Gates has said that capitalism is inherently unable to solve the problem of global warming, and instead there have to be world-encompassing government-business “partnerships” to save Planet Earth.
We are currently marking the hundredth anniversary of the fighting of the First World War. For four years between the summer of 1914 and November 11, 1918, the major world powers were in mortal combat with each other. The conflict radically changed the world. It overthrew the pre-1914 era of relatively limited government and free market economics, and ushered in a new epoch of big government, planned economies, and massive inflations, the full effects from which the world has still not recovered.
Free, competitive markets have been the engine for both freedom and prosperity. In addition, free market capitalism is morally based on the principle of individual rights to life, liberty and honestly acquired property, in which all social relationships require the voluntary and mutual consent of the participants.
There is no way to describe current Federal Reserve policy other than as monetary confusion and misdirection. In a nutshell, Janet Yellen and the other members of the Fed’s Board of Governors have no idea what to do. Do they raise certain interest rates over which they have some direct influence? Do they keep them at their current rock bottom levels, as they have for the last six years?
Since the economic downturn of 2008, the critics of capitalism have redoubled their efforts to persuade the American people and many others around the world that the system of individual freedom and free enterprise has failed.
When is the price of some marketable good or service at or near zero? When either the supply of it is so plentiful that virtually any demand, no matter how great, can be satisfied. Or when no matter how large or small the supply of it may be, people’s demand for it is so low that nobody is willing to practically pay anything for it.
For over a decade, now, the American economy has been on an economic rollercoaster, of an economic boom between 2003 and 2008, followed by a severe economic downturn, and with a historically slow and weak recovery starting in 2009 up to the present.
With the seventieth anniversary this year of the end of the Second World War, a number of commentators have focused on the presumed “unity” of America seven decades ago to “win the war” against global tyranny and international aggression by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Individuals put aside their individual personal and petty interests to support and fight for a “greater collective cause.”
There is little that happens in society in general and the market economy in particular that most on the political “left” do not think needs more government intervention, regulation, and redistribution to make “better.”
One of the great voices for personal liberty was that of the British economist and political philosopher, John Stuart Mill. His essay, “On Liberty,” though penned well over 150 years ago, is a classic statement that the individual should be respected in his right of freedom of thought, speech and action.
The immigration issue has once more bubbled to the surface in America because of the provocative statements and assertions by one of the Republication contenders for their party’s presidential nomination.
For months, now, the mass media and the financial markets have anxiously watched and waited to see the outcome of a war of words, accusations, and threats that have been fought between Greece and its Eurozone and European Union partners.
Many forms of personal liberty are under attack today, from economic regulations that hinder people from their peaceful pursuits of earning a living and improving the material conditions of life to an increasingly intrusive surveillance state that is seems to follow every step we make and every breath we take.
It is seventy years, now, since near the end of the Second World War Austrian economist, and much later Nobel Prize winner, Friedrich A. Hayek published his most famous article, “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” in September 1945, demonstrating why it is impossible for a system of socialist central planning to effectively manage a complex and ever-changing economy better than a functioning, competitive free market order.
Many Social Democrats believed that democracy was both compatible with and an essential complement to a humane socialism, a socialism that did not reduce humanity to obedient cogs in a giant collectivist wheel directed by a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” They wanted socialism with traditional civil liberties, personal freedom and democratic politics.
American “progressives” portray themselves as “forward-looking,” advocates of a higher and better freedom than the traditional American conception of liberty as freedom from government coercion and control. In fact, they are the intellectual great-grandchildren of the “reactionary” nineteenth century Imperial German “Iron Chancellor,” Otto von Bismarck.