All Commentary
Wednesday, October 1, 1986

Perspective: Food from Thought

A recent ad for a seafood restaurant noted that more than 70 per cent of the earth’s surface is water which, in their words, “teems with millions and millions of lunches and dinners.” But, the ad went on, “it takes genius to get them out.”

What the ad didn’t say is that the “geniuses” who supply consumers with seafood as well as other goods and services are entrepreneurs who hope to earn a profit. Fish and shellfish have lived in the oceans for millennia. It took profit-seeking entrepreneurs to bring them to dinner tables across the nation.

Now, as growing demand endangers some species—shrimp and Pacific salmon, for example—other entrepre neurs see the potential shortages as opportunities. One entrepreneur is raising shrimp as a commercial venture in Hawaii. Another has transported salmon eggs from the Pacific Northwest to South America, where the cold rivers of Chile offer conditions similar to those in the Columbia River. At last word, young salmon had returned up river to spawn in Chile where they had hatched.

When entrepreneurs are free to seek profits, they will risk their own resources to try to meet consumer needs. But if they are discouraged by rules, regulations, and confiscatory taxes, we consumers will be the ones to suffer.


A Little Doubt

Sometimes a little doubt can be the beginning of great wisdom.

Consider the case of Leszek Kolakowski, a Polish philosopher. For years he was hailed as the top Marxist theoretician of his country. But quietly seeds of doubt took root in Kolakowski’s mind. He became a “revisionist Marxist,” regarded with suspicion and barely tolerated by the authorities. Then came his departure from Poland and, in time, the publication of a three-volume study tearing Marxism—classical and revisionist-to shreds. More recently, Kolakowski has been uttering sentiments to which students of the freedom philosophy can only warm. Doubt, for him, was a pathway to truth.

“The world is flat.” Copernicus dared doubt, and a new vision of our planet and solar system came to life. “No person can sail beyond narrowly determined limits!” Columbus doubted, and a new continent destined to be the home of a free people was discovered. “If one party to an economic exchange profits, the other party must have lost!” Adam Smith doubted, and an economic system capable of enriching all drew nearer to its realization. “The laws of physics have been stated once and for all by Newton!” Einstein doubted, and an exciting new understanding of energy and its transformations was born.

Hence the “doubt” the freedom philosophy applauds. We cherish the truths we have discovered—an open mind, after all, is not to be confused with an empty head! Yet equally we cherish the knowledge that further truths await discovery by those humble enough to doubt that they already know it all!

John K. Williams

Freedom to Fail

We Americans tend to take our liberties for granted. We have enjoyed so much liberty for so long and have been so sheltered from real oppression that we have lost to a great extent an understanding of the nature of liberty and the reverence for liberty that was so deeply rooted in our forebears. In particular, we don’t seem to appreciate as a people the trade-offs between freedom and security. We have “progressed” from seeing government as merely the securer of our basic rights to life and the liberty to pursue happiness in our own ways so long as we respect the rights of others to a perverted perception of government as the securer of a host of new “rights” that might be lumped together as the achievement of happiness as opposed to the altogether different right to pursue happiness. These so-called rights to “decent” housing, a “decent” meal and a “decent” job at “decent” pay would readily have been seen as the insidious threats to liberty that they are by the founding fathers of this country whose philosophical insights were infinitely deeper than are those of the shallow politicians who govern today.

It is not so surprising that Americans have lost their intellectual moorings insofar as liberty is concerned. Few people understood at the time of the Great Depression that it was essentially produced by the government (the Federal Reserve had been created less than fifteen years earlier) and fewer still were able to understand that an amalgam of New Deal legislation enacted under a personally appealing President effectively dragged out an economic recovery that would doubtless have proceeded much more rapidly under a more free and efficient market. Traumatized by the prolonged economic insecurities of those times, people were willing to trade some liberty for a square meal—and the image of government as economic savior has persisted despite mounting evidence of its inability to fill that role.

William Chidester

Market Vantage

July 4, 1986

(Ed. note: For further insights into the importance of the freedom to fail, see Dwight R. Lee’s “Freedom and Failure,” beginning on page 392.)