Perspectives: Why the free market holds the moral high ground

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OPINION – Teaching the morality of right and wrong is relatively easy. The rule of not doing to others what we wouldn’t want done to us is simple enough that a child can understand it.

Teaching this principle in the context of what is proper and improper for government to do can be trickier.

Nowhere is this more apparent than when the discussion turns to free market economics.

I like how Richard Ebeling of the Future of Freedom Foundation teaches the morality of free market economics to his students.

Ebeling starts by pointing out that there are essentially two ways human beings can interact and associate with one another: through the use or threat of force or by mutual agreement and voluntary consent.

He asks his students, “Who woke up this morning wishing someone else would kill them?”

No hands are raised.

He asks, “Who started the day hoping they would be stolen from or otherwise defrauded?”

Again, no hands go up.

He asks, “Who got up today looking forward to someone putting a gun to their head and informing them that they were now a slave and would be told what to do, how to do, and when to do whatever the person holding the gun told them?”

By now the students are getting the picture that no one in their right mind would consider being murdered, robbed, defrauded or enslaved to be a good or just outcome.

Ebeling says:

All of them, in other words, I suggest, would prefer to be a free person whose life, liberty and property were respected by others from the use of force or its threat. Each of them, I state, are implying that they consider it right, good and just that each of them be left at liberty to manage and direct they own lives, in their own ways, peacefully and unmolested by others in society.

I then explain that the economic system that most closely offers an implied right and security for each to be that free individual is the free market economy, capitalism.

Why? Because the philosophical and moral premise underlying transactions in the marketplace is that each participant has the right to say, “Yes” or “No” to an offer and an exchange.

This means that each of us have inviolable individual rights to life, liberty and honestly acquired property. This has not been the form of most political systems throughout human history.

Free market capitalism is the polar opposite of collectivism which subjugates the individual to the will of the majority.

Free markets, also referred to as free enterprise, are what you have when people are free to exchange voluntarily with no interference whatsoever from government at any level.

This means competition drives the need to create the greatest value for the greatest number of people at the most competitive price.

Free market capitalism used to refer to the ability of honest people to accumulate capital, either money or privately held property, and to put it to the best use of their own choosing.

Today, the word “capitalism” has come to mean something very different.

It means that our laws are written to favor those with capital, particularly corporate interests, who aren’t shy at all about using their money to purchase influence in our national and state legislatures.

There’s a lot of lip service given regarding the free market, but we do not currently live under a free market system. If you doubt this, publicly announce your intention to start any kind of money-making enterprise.

Like moths to a flame, the bureaucrats and regulators (or their enablers) will be drawn to you as they pressure you to obtain the necessary permits and permission to start and operate your business. Be prepared to grease their palms as part of their legitimizing process.

The fees they collect are actually taxes, but we seem to submit to this fleecing when those holding the shears dress it up in softer language.

Ostensibly, every bit of regulation and oversight that government provides is to “help protect us” from predatory individuals and businesses. In reality, free markets will not support dishonest or unethical practices since every transaction is purely voluntary.

The choice ultimately comes down to whether we favor using government force or voluntary persuasion.

Ebeling summarizes the why the free market holds the moral high ground:

The watchwords of capitalist free market morality, therefore, are liberty, honesty and humility. The freedom of each individual to live and choose for himself; the ethics of fair dealing – that is, human relationships on the basis of force and fraud are banned in all their forms; and the modesty to admit and accept that none of us is wise enough to arrogantly claim the right to plan and coercively direct others in society.

Whatever risks may accompany the greater amount of individual freedom, they’re still preferable to the sedate misery of collectivist equality.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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13 Comments

  • comments May 1, 2017 at 11:51 am

    “The watchwords of capitalist free market morality, therefore, are liberty, honesty and humility. The freedom of each individual to live and choose for himself; the ethics of fair dealing – that is, human relationships on the basis of force and fraud are banned in all their forms; and the modesty to admit and accept that none of us is wise enough to arrogantly claim the right to plan and coercively direct others in society.”

    So assuming everyone is moral and good and honest and nice everything will turn out just swell? You have to factor in greed, idiocy, and malice as these are parts of human nature. Why is it that free market capitalism left to its own devices always seems to lead to monopoly and oligarchy? In a perfect world Bry with rainbows, and unicorns, and puppies, and cotton candy I’m sure it would be swell. What we have today is free market globalist capitalism, and it always seeks out the absolute cheapest labor sources in the world–at the expense of society as a whole. Keep on daydreaming Bry.

    • comments May 1, 2017 at 11:53 am

      and I’m aware this wasn’t you’re quote, but you cite it like it’s a gold standard.

  • comments May 1, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Plus you go right from capitalist free markets directly to collectivism? It’s one of the most extreme forms of communism. I think none of us want collectivism but there are a lot of in-betweens between that and free market globalist capitalism. I gotta give this article an F –it’s useless. Have a good day, Bry 😉

    • desertgirl May 1, 2017 at 12:34 pm

      Your comments are common liberal remarks; when you don’t like the opinion and argument you give it an F and are disrespectful “Bry”. Ugh to you comm. Now make your case for a government body controlling your and my life. 21st century and the big gov, socialist/communist/fascist folks throughout history have never made it work.

      • comments May 1, 2017 at 4:40 pm

        I’m not gonna sit here and write an essay on it just for your amusement, and what’s wrong with Bry?

  • Sapphire May 1, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Sounds nice on paper. In the real world, money and power rule. And the purchasers of goods and services are at the mercy of those who own the companies that produce them. Companies can increase their profits by limiting availability and creating a shortage thus increasing costs because of supply and demand. They can use many money-saving techniques that include polluting our water and air, using inferior materials, adding unhealthy chemicals and fillers to food, drugs, and health and beauty products, paying low wages and eliminating benefits. As long as there are no controls, people tend to do as little as possible to get the largest profit as possible. There is no guarantee that companies will compete with each other… they tend to band together and keep prices similar. It would be nice if everyone operated with conscience and fairness, but one of the first things we learn as children is that there is no such thing as fair. And most people don’t have the time or the interest to research every single item or service they use to find the best deal based on not only price, but also quality.

  • Henry May 1, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” — Winston Churchill, October 1945.

  • commonsense May 1, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    Bottom line, capitalism works and collectivism doesn’t. Laziness and complacency should never be rewarded. Liberals always assume rich people were just handed their wealth. Truth is rich people work harder and smarter. We all have equal access to wealth. Most are not willing to pay the price. Free markets allow all to choose and gives them the option to fail. To underwrite this failure weakens society.

  • NotSoFast May 1, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    Reminds me of old western movie town scenes where a gentleman outside of the town bar is trying to sell special tonic juice that will cure all your wants. A hand- full of the bustling town folks stop to consider the sales pitch. Most just pass by thinking, ‘what a crock’. Some buy into the sales pitch and buy. Of those who buy the tonic, some are mind happy with the results. Others yell ‘I’ve been coned ! This is just a damn laxative. A free capitalism society gives all the opportunity to buy something they want and need at a agreeable price, those who fell for the sales pitch before and who would never buy from that vendor again. (been there, done that) and the majority of folks just passing by, thinking ‘I don’t need no damn laxative, just give me a beer’ i.e. everybody is free to make up his or her own mind.
    That’s what I think a Free Capitalism Society means to me. Have you ever notice the small fine print in/ on the bottom of the product before buying? You should.

  • comments May 1, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    I still can’t believe you all are talking about collectivism. its as if Bry has gone back in time to the russian revolution and the lenin and stalin era. I love how a lot of Hannity loving, AM radio-listening, dodge-diesel-driving wingnuts with blather on all day about the evils of socialism, but if ever they come on hard times where they need a leg up from the gov’t they are first in line for socialistic benefits. It’s a bit like mesaman living off a fully socialist state pension system and yet he blathers on all day about the evils of socialism–talk about biting the hand that feeds. It makes him and many other wingnuts into total hypocrites. cheers to all 🙂

  • commonsense May 2, 2017 at 6:50 am

    Liberals like name calling (wing nuts) and metaphors (selling snake oil) but the reality is that socialism has created a financial nightmare in Russia, Europe and really around the world. Most European countries are broke and no one wants to give up their benefits. Trump is reversing most of Obama’s policy which doubled the national debt in 8 short years. If repeal of the ACA can happen it will reduce the debt by trillions.

    Sorry but the government can underwrite all of your health and personal issues. It has no money other than that which it takes from you. And you don’t want to work.

    • comments May 2, 2017 at 10:32 am

      The gov’t makes the money (indirectly, the Fed actually “makes it”). The gov’t can never “run out of money”. You blather on about the national debt as if it’s just like a big credit card debt the gov’t owes. That aint how it works, bud.

  • commonsense May 2, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    Comments you are 100% wrong. The treasury actually borrowed money from China and US Treasury bond holders to fund your food stamps, foreign aid and other budget expenditures.
    The USA treasury owes the money. It’s low information liberals like you that are a big problem.
    P.S. Currency is printed relative to treasury assets. It’s not monopoly.

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