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The Greatest Achievement in Human History?

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 20 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Despite the best efforts of government to restrict or sometimes even outlaw free markets, free enterprise has brought us perhaps the greatest achievement in history: the largest and fastest reduction in worldwide poverty ever.

This good news comes from economist Douglas A. Irwin’s November 2 Wall Street Journal piece “The Ultimate Global Antipoverty Program.”

The subhead gives the essence of the story: “Extreme poverty fell to 15% in 2011, from 36% in 1990. Credit goes to the spread of capitalism.”

Writes Irwin:

The World Bank reported on Oct. 9 that the share of the world population living in extreme poverty had fallen to 15% in 2011 from 36% in 1990. Earlier this year, the International Labor Office reported that the number of workers in the world earning less than $1.25 a day has fallen to 375 million 2013 from 811 million in 1991. …

The economic progress of China and India, which are home to more than 35% of the world’s population, explains much of the global poverty decline. But many other countries, from Colombia to Vietnam, have enacted their own reforms. …

Such stunning news seems to have escaped public notice, but it means something extraordinary: The past 25 years have witnessed the greatest reduction in global poverty in the history of the world.

And free enterprise deserves the credit, Irwin emphasizes:

“To what should this be attributed? Official organizations noting the trend have tended to waffle, but let’s be blunt: The credit goes to the spread of capitalism. Over the past few decades, developing countries have embraced economic-policy reforms that have cleared the way for private enterprise.”

In contrast, “The poorest parts of the world are precisely those that are cut off from the world of markets and commerce, often because of government policies.”

Why haven’t we heard more about this? Why isn’t the world cheering?

Says Irwin: “The reduction in world poverty has attracted little attention because it runs against the narrative pushed by those hostile to capitalism. The Michael Moores of the world portray capitalism as a degrading system in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Yet thanks to growth in the developing world, world-wide income inequality — measured across countries and individual people — is falling, not rising, as Branco Milanovic of City University of New York and other researchers have shown.”

We have often said that spreading the ideas of liberty is “the great Cause that makes all other great causes possible,” and that liberty is literally a life-and-death matter for the people of the world. Here is proof of that.

Everyone working in our great Cause can take encouragement from this extraordinary leap forward — and redouble our efforts to remove the shackles of poverty and oppression from all the people of the world.

Free Market or… Freed Market?

in Business and Economy, Communicating Liberty, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Free MarketHere’s a neat little phrase that can be very handy when talking about economics: “freed market.”

No, not “free market.”

Freed market.

Here’s why.

As we’ve discussed in the past, “capitalism” is often not a very useful word for libertarians to use to describe the economic system we advocate. Sheldon Richman of the Future of Freedom Foundation gives some good reasons for not always using the word “capitalism” here.

A more accurate and more popular (according to a Gallup poll) alternative I’ve discussed is “free enterprise.”  Also good is “free market.”

But even these useful words are often hijacked by big-government conservatives and others who don’t really mean what libertarians mean by genuine free enterprise.

Today’s economic system is nothing like a free market. Yet it is often described as one. So, when people see massive economic problems and scandals all around them — subsidies and bailouts of rich businesses, unemployment, high taxes, dangerous products, corporate favoritism, monopolies — all of which are due to anti-market actions — it’s natural that they would oppose the “free market” system that we supposedly have. After all, the terms “capitalism” and “free market” are frequently used by those who defend this very system.

Ugh! What confusion!

Which makes “freed market” a great phrase to toss into a discussion.

For example, asked about your economic views, you might say: “I believe in the free market. Or, to be more precise, a freed market.”

Your listener: “What do you mean, ‘freed’ market?”

And that gives you the chance to explain what libertarians actually believe. Something along these lines:

“I want to see our current economic system freed up, for consumers and for competitors. A free market — which we don’t have today — would do that, and we’d all benefit.”

You then persuasively share the many ways everyone would benefit from this.

The use of “freed market” lets you point out how government meddling and crony capitalism, not the market, are responsible for today’s economic woes. It frees you from defending the present system, while still letting you use successful examples from that system as examples of what libertarians are striving for.

Importantly, “freed market” also makes it clear that we don’t have a free market today. It makes it clearer that you are talking about a goal, a better future, something different and better than the status quo.

In short, it lets you present the free market as the solution — not the cause — of today’s problems. It lets you offer a vision of a better future — not a defense of current abuses.

It’s a neat little twist.

The word “freed market” and the idea behind it have been discussed a lot at the Center for a Stateless Society. Here’s an excerpt from “Embracing Markets, Opposing ‘Capitalism’” by Gary Chartier that nicely points out the difference between the economic system we have today — and the free market libertarians want to see:

“To a very significant degree, the economic system we have now is one from which peaceful, voluntary exchange is absent. An interlocking web of legal and regulatory privileges benefit the wealthy and well connected at the expense of everyone else (think patents and copyrights, tariffs, restrictions on banking, occupational licensing rules, land-use restrictions, etc.). The military-industrial complex funnels unbelievable amounts of money — at gunpoint — from ordinary people’s pockets and into the bank accounts of government contractors and their cronies.

“Subsidies of all kinds feed a network of privileged businesses and non-profits. And the state protects titles to land taken at gunpoint or engrossed by arbitrary fiat before distribution to favored individuals and groups. No, the economies of the US, Canada, Western Europe, Japan, and Australia, at least, aren’t centrally planned. The state doesn’t assert formal ownership of (most of) the means of production. But the state’s involvement at multiple levels in guaranteeing and bolstering economic privilege makes it hard to describe the economic system we have now as free.”

With the right listeners, the term “freed markets” can help you open minds to a new understanding of genuine economic freedom and the blessings it can bring.

Free Markets Nurture Empathy

in Communicating Liberty, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online Archives by Michael Cloud Comments are off

Free markets(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 19, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Would you like to live in a world where empathy is both virtuous and profitable?

A world where it pays to meet the wants and needs of others?

Look for it in the private sector. Private enterprises. Free markets.

Without empathy, private businesses and free markets wither and die. With empathy, they survive and thrive.

Each business must be guided by empathy for their customers’ wants and needs and budgets.

Or the customers will seek out and patronize a business that does.

Every retail business faces this truth each day.

What would attract customers to our store?

How do our shoppers want to be greeted and treated?

What store layout and merchandising would appeal most to our customers?

What kind of employees would our customers be most comfortable with?

What do our shoppers expect from our employees? Information? Guidance? Courtesy? Close assistance, or room to roam?

What prices and terms make it easiest for our customers to buy?

What do our shoppers think? What do they know? What do they need to know? What do they want? What are they looking for — that no one else has offered them?

Empathy guides businesses toward the right solutions. The answers that open the wallets and purses of their customers.

Private enterprises instill a deep and abiding empathy in each of us who work there.

Free markets nurture empathy.

Word Choices: Pro-Market, Not Pro-Business

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Libertarianism by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarians enormously appreciate the positive contributions so many businesses have made to our

world.

Because of this, libertarians are sometimes labeled “pro-business.”

But this is incorrect — and misleading.

Libertarians are not “pro-business.” We are “pro-market” — a very different thing.

The distinction is a vital one.

Libertarians support a free market where businesses are free to enter a field and offer their goods and services, in competition with any and all others who wish to do the same.

The resulting competition brings ever-better goods and services. Lower prices. Innovation. More convenience and more choice.

The companies that succeed in this free market competition do so by doing the best job of pleasing customers. Those that fail to sufficiently please consumers go out of business. The consumer is king.

This is the market process that libertarians strongly support.

But being “pro-business” is an entirely different thing. Politicians, lobbyists, economists, pundits and others who are pro-business — or who favor a particular business entity — may lobby for special favors for a particular business or area of commerce.

This may be pro-business. But it is anti-market.

Many who are pro-business want government to help particular businesses or industries that are unable to compete effectively. Sometimes they want government to use political power and tax dollars to entice a business to locate in a particular area.

Pro-business forces may want to prop up a favored business with bailouts of tax dollars or with other tax grants. They often call for punitive taxes on competition that challenges the favored business (especially if that competition is foreign). They may offer special zoning privileges to favored businesses. They may call on the government to seize private property through eminent domain and give it to a favored business.

Pro-business forces may endorse licensing, education requirements, regulations and other obstacles that protect favored businesses from competition. It often surprises people to learn that many large businesses love government regulation because it limits their competition. But as Nobel Prize winning economist George Stigler wrote: “…as a rule, regulation is acquired by the industry and is designed and operated primarily for its benefit.”

Governments may declare a business is “too big to fail” and thus deserves a huge taxpayer bailout. Or that a field is crucial to the “public interest,” and thus deserving of subsidies and special treatment; agriculture is a prime example.

You get the picture. All of this is done by pro-business people. And all of it is deeply, profoundly, anti-market.

In an excellent article on this topic, “‘Free Market’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Pro-Business“ economist Art Carden quotes a great passage from the book The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley:

“I hold no brief for large corporations, whose inefficiencies, complacencies, and anti-competitive tendencies often drive me as crazy as the next man. Like Milton Friedman, I notice that ‘business corporations in general are not defenders of free enterprise. On the contrary, they are one of the chief sources of danger.’ They are addicted to corporate welfare, they love regulations that erect barriers to entry to their small competitors, they yearn for monopoly and they grow flabby and inefficient with age.”

The fruits of the pro-business mindset — taxes, unfairness, lack of competition and choice, over-priced goods and services, unemployment — are often the things that people hate most about our economic system. People naturally blame this on free enterprise, on the market system. Yet it is the pro-business mindset — not the market — that is responsible for these ills.

Let me give Art Carden the (almost) final word:

“In a free market, you are welcome, and indeed encouraged, to enter the mousetrap industry if you think you can build a better mousetrap or find a way to make similar mousetraps more efficiently. The other side of that coin is that you will be encouraged to leave the mousetrap industry if it turns out that your mousetraps are not better, but inferior.

“A ‘free market’ agenda is not the same thing as a ‘pro business’ agenda. Businesses should not be protected from competition, losses, and bankruptcy when they fail to deliver for the customer. All three are essential to truly free markets and free enterprise.”

Don’t use the label “pro-business.” And politely but firmly reject it if someone attempts to label you that way. Respond that you are pro-market, not pro-business. And explain the difference.

FREE Libertarian E-Book: The Morality of Capitalism

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In recent issues we’ve reviewed and recommended two outstanding free e-books available through Students For Liberty (SFL): After the Welfare State and Why Liberty.

Now we’re pleased to suggest one more great SFL title to add to your ebook library.

The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won’t Tell You combines the writings of renowned economists, philosophers, historians, policy experts, and entrepreneurs from around the world to make the case that not only do free markets “deliver the goods,” but that true free market capitalism is a just and moral system.

It is clear and highly readable, suitable for students and non-students alike, for newcomers to free enterprise and libertarianism as well as longtime libertarians.

As SFL notes:

“As students for liberty, we are well-versed in defending the free market. Our opponents on campus constantly claim that markets are unfair, that capitalism is exploitative, that competition is inhumane, and that government control and redistribution are the solution to society’s problems. Every day we struggle to explain that a free society that embraces free exchange is the only way to create wealth, peace, and prosperity for all.

“Most people acknowledge, if only begrudgingly, that capitalism does produce considerable wealth and material well-being. But many feel torn between material prosperity on the one hand and living a moral life on the other. The self-interested pursuit of profit that is characteristic of a capitalistic system just doesn’t feel right to them.

“The task before us, then — if we wish to actualize the truly free social system that is laissez-faire capitalism — is to provide and defend its moral justification. We must convince fellow students that capitalism is not just the most efficient system, but a virtuous one as well.”

The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won’t Tell You makes that case, powerfully and convincingly.

Students For Liberty has distributed over 100,000 copies to students around the world since it was first made available.

You can learn more about The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won’t Tell here.

Download it as a FREE PDF ebook here.

Here’s the table of contents: 

Introduction: The Morality of Capitalism by Tom G. Palmer
The History of a Word
Free-Market Capitalism vs. Crony Capitalism

Section I: The Virtues of Entrepreneurial Capitalism

  • Interview with an Entrepreneur featuring John Mackey (Whole Foods CEO)
  • Liberty and Dignity Explain the Modern World by Deirdre N. McCloskey
  • Competition and Cooperation by David Boaz
  • For-Profit Medicine and the Compassion Motive by Tom G. Palmer

Section II: Voluntary Interaction and Self-Interest

  • The Paradox of Morality by Mao Yushi (Translated by Jude Blanchette)
  • The Moral Logic of Equality and Inequality in Market Society by Leonid V. Nikonov
  • Adam Smith and the Myth of Greed by Tom G. Palmer
  • Ayn Rand and Capitalism: The Moral Revolution by David Kelley

Section III: The Production and Distribution of Wealth

  • The Market Economy and the Distribution of Wealth by Ludwig Lachmann
  • Political and Economic Freedoms Together Spawn Humanity’s Miracles by Temba A. Nolutshungu

Section IV: Globalizing Capitalism

  • Global Capitalism and Justice by June Arunga
  • Human Betterment through Globalization by Vernon Smith
  • The Culture of Liberty by Mario Vargas Llosa
  • A Little Further Reading for Fun and Profit (and Better School Papers) by Tom G. Palmer

The Morality of Capitalism: What Your Professors Won’t Tell You is published by SFL and the Atlas Network. We highly recommend it.

Student groups note: SFL offers a limited number of hard copies at no cost to student groups. You can learn more about that here.

Word Choices: “Free Enterprise” Instead of Capitalism?

in Communicating Liberty by Sharon Harris Comments are off

Word choices are very important. Two words might mean the same thing to you. But to your audience, one word may be far more meaningful and positive than another — and may get your point across not just more favorably, but more accurately.

An example is the word “capitalism” to describe the economic system libertarians believe in.

In a past column, I described some of the positive and negative reactions some audiences have to “capitalism,” and suggested some alternatives that are better in some circumstances.

You can read that column here.

Now we have some fascinating information to add.

A January 2010 Gallup poll makes a very good case for using “free enterprise” in many situations.

This January 2010 poll asked a representative sampling of Americans whether their top-of-mind reactions to several political terms were positive or negative. Respondents were not given explanations or descriptions of the terms.

Two of those terms were “capitalism” and “free enterprise.”

Both words, of course, essentially mean the same thing in typical, common usage.

However, they drew considerably different approval ratings.

First, the word “capitalism.”

Says Gallup: “Americans are more positive than negative on ‘capitalism,’ the word typically used to describe the United States’ prevailing economic system.

“‘Capitalism’ generates positive ratings from a majority of Americans, with a third saying their reaction is negative [61% versus 33%].

Ellis Island“Republicans are significantly more positive than Democrats in their reactions to ‘capitalism,’ although majorities of both groups have favorable opinions.

“Conservatives have the highest positive image [for the word "capitalism"], followed by liberals. Moderates have somewhat lower positive ratings than either of these groups.”

Now consider reaction to the term “free enterprise.”

According to Gallup:

“Americans are almost uniformly positive in their reactions to… ‘free enterprise.’”

“Eighty-six percent of respondents rated the term ‘free enterprise’ positively, giving it substantially more positive ratings than ‘capitalism.’ Although in theory these two concepts are not precisely the same, they are in many ways functional equivalents.

“Yet, underscoring the conventional wisdom that words matter, the public clearly reacts differently to the two terms. Free enterprise as a concept rings more positively to the average American than does the term capitalism.

“Strongly positive ratings of free enterprise are generally uniform across both partisan groups [Democrats and Republicans], and across the three ideological groups [liberals, conservatives, moderates].”

Gallup sums up with a lesson effective libertarian communicators cannot ignore:

“Bottom line: As most politicians and many in business have learned, the choice of words to describe a concept or a policy can often make a substantial difference in the public’s reaction. The current research confirms that assumption.

“It is apparent that ‘free enterprise’ evokes more positive responses than ‘capitalism,’ despite the apparent similarity between the two terms.”

NOTE: The same Gallup report I link to above also offers a very useful analysis by Gallup that breaks the popularity of these phrases down further, by political ideology (conservative, liberal, and “moderate”), by party, and so on. I highly recommend this short analysis to anyone seriously interested in using these terms effectively.