America! For more than 250 years the word has represented hope, opportunity, a second chance, and freedom. In America the accident of a man’s birth did not have to serve as an inescapable weight that dictated a person’s fate or that of his family. The American identity is shaped, not predetermined. We are a society of the free.
The year that is just closing, 2015, has been full of events that continue to dominate the news, including renewed racial tensions on the streets of American cities, growing fears about terrorist attacks on the territory of the United States, and one of the most fear-focused presidential campaign seasons in living memory.
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.
Russian president Vladimir Putin’s power grab and annexation of the Crimea has filled global news headlines as he attempts to reverse what he has called the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century” – the collapse of the Soviet Union. But it needs to be remembered that this conflict has its deeper roots in two ideas that have plagued the world for over two centuries: nationalism and government interventionism into economic affairs.
The Ukrainian-Russian crisis over the de facto occupation of Crimea by Russian military forces, which has enveloped the concerns and fears of the world over the last weeks, revolves around two conflicting claims of national self-determination. It has, once again, brought with it the danger of war on the European continent.
Forgotten or at least certainly downplayed in the international remembrance of Mandela’s nearly three decades of imprisonment and his historical role in becoming the first black president of post-Apartheid South Africa is the fact that through most of the years of his active resistance leading up to his arrest and incarceration he accepted the Marxist interpretation that racism and racial discrimination were part and parcel of the capitalist system.
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.