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.
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.
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