All Commentary
Friday, May 1, 1992

What Free Enterprise Means

I believe the universe demands that each person become a responsible individual by making decisions about the course of his life—big decisions, little decisions, all decisions. To make decisions, one must be free to choose, and it is through this decision-making process that character is developed. Character, in the final analysis, may be all we shall be able to take with us, and its development should be our prime goal in life.

Those who framed our Constitution were well aware of the need to be free in matters of conscience and, therefore, the need to protect individuals from the fetters of authority in areas where authority should play no part. With such principles as guidelines, they weaved a fabric of freedom that became our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

To produce and exchange, to save, to invest, to create, to innovate, to profit—these are a few parts of the whole fabric. Those having to do with productive matters we call “free enterprise” because, through them, enterprise is free. And so we find that free enterprise is not big business, it is not small business, it is not a system; it is the framework within which people produce and exchange; it is the atmosphere in which society carries out its productive efforts.

In creating the most nearly free society in history, the goal of those remarkable, far-sighted men was not material prosperity but that man should be free to fulfill himself, to realize his full potential. Nonetheless, the Founders’ extension of freedom gave rise to a general living standard that remains the envy of the world.

Socialism is the order of the day in many other nations, and in virtually every case such economies are a shambles. It is no accident. Only the free market, which is a compendium of the free-will decisions of buyers and sellers, brings material prosperity.

In America, enterprise is not truly free—simply more so than in most other countries. It has been shot through with the nostrums of those who believe they know more about what people should do than the people know themselves. Their “cures” threaten to destroy the fabric of freedom, always tenuous at best. Changes may be needed, but never those that reduce freedom.

Entrepreneurs’ decisions on when to take risks, producers’ decisions on what to make, consumers’ decisions on what to buy and when to save, all add up to an unpredictable mix that produces a predictable result—prosperity—when freedom is the main ingredient. Because decision-making is so frequent and so vital in the earning of our livelihoods, free enterprise takes on added importance as a key to growth—both spiritual and material.

—E. W. Dykes, Canton, Ohio


Teens and Sex

We are morally bankrupt, indeed, if we cannot stand in front of our children and say that birth control is when girls keep their pants on and when boys keep their zippers closed. No government can give motivation or a sense of self-worth to a child. It’s up to parents and church leaders to say, “Son, your problem isn’t society, your problem is you.” It’s our obligation at all times to impress a moral standard on our young, in spite of what’s popular.

—Rev. Buster Soarres, quoted in the summer 1991 issue of Issues & Views


The Political Process

As we enter another political season, and Americans stand ready to expend millions of dollars and untold man-hours in support of their favorite candidates, we might do well to reflect on Leonard E. Read’s advice on how best to effect political change:

“Legislatures, laws, courts, constabularies, bureaucracies can do little more than exert a mild influence along lines consistent with the current consensus. The consensus moves this way or that in accord with its content; it rises when filled with truths and virtues and sinks when bogged down with nonsense. So, what I can do about the government depends upon the quality of the ideas I feed into the consensus. This defines both my limitation and my potentiality.”

Meditations on Freedom, p. 23


The Fundamentals

Education is important, but it isn’t everything the world needs so desperately today. We must have insight. And courage. And stamina. And perseverance. None of which you get from books.

—Vern Hansen Los Gatos, California


Spreading the Word

The Freeman op-ed program is beginning its sixth year. Results have been heartening: More than 1,800 Freeman columns have been published in over 260 different newspapers in the United States and Latin America. Freeman newspaper columns reach more than a million readers a month.

In recent months, material from The Freeman has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Detroit News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Houston Post, Orange County Register, Arizona Republic, Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Peoria Journal Star, Mobile Press Register, Colorado Springs Gazette, Camden (N.J.) Courier-Post, and many other newspapers across the United States. Internationally, Freeman articles appeared in Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Bolivia, Bulgaria, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Great Britain, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, and South Africa.

  • Mr. Dykes of Canton, Ohio is an energy consultant and Chairman of Total Energy Management, Inc.