A Love Letter to Free Enterprise

Oct 13, 2011 | Economy, Government & Policy

“In a free economy, the pursuit of profits and serving people are one and the same. No one argues that the free enterprise system is perfect, but it’s the closest we’ll come here on Earth.”  — Walter E. Williams, John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics,George Mason University.

Capitalism is a beautiful system of human exchange. Millions, even billions, of strangers spread across the globe, acting in their own self-interest help each other. This daily pursuit of self-interest is natural, constructive and largely overlooked as the underlying genius of capitalism.

The uninformed often point to profit motive as selfish and greedy, even manipulative. Basically, they opine, capitalism is about exploitation. That view ignores all sorts of dynamics including free will, the other party’s self-interests and competition. Customers (clients, patients, etc.) bring their self-interests to the table, too. If a for-profit entity doesn’t have what they want at the price the customer is willing to pay, the customer can walk away. They will do business with the company that does meet their needs (self-interests).

Far from being exploitive, both parties work to find some mutual accommodation within the boundaries of their self-interests.

I bring all of this up because free enterprise is under attack in the public square, most recently during the so-called “Occupy Wall Street” protests and their several offshoots. Apply your own values to those events. I’ll largely spare you from mine other than to declare that I love free enterprise. Dr. Williams’ quote at the beginning of this post captures my sentiments exactly.He made that statement in a speech he delivered a few years ago called “The Entrepreneur as American Hero.” It’s a classic.

After a recent dose of inane anti-business rhetoric it was restorative to re-read it. If you need the same kind of tonic, I recommend Dr. Williams’ speech to you. You can find it here.