All Commentary
Friday, February 1, 1980

Who Shall Carry My Load?

Mr. Sparks is an executive of an Ohio manufacturing company.

The free market seems to be gaining economic and political favor. But if this is to be more than a passing fad, the full implications of the term must be clearly grasped.

Those who will learn to understand the workings of a free market will find that it can exist to its fullest material advantage only in a society of individual independence and responsibility. A deeper penetration of the subject also brings recognition that any infringement of independent decision-making is not only unproductive in a material sense but is also immoral. It is immoral to place the load one is responsible for on the back of another without his willing consent.

Contrasting pictures emerge. One is an unfree, governmental-interference type of society. This is a society where each is required by government to carry on his back the load of all others—an awkward, nonproductive and painful way to function. Particularly is it nonproductive when those who are able and willing to produce the most in goods and services for themselves and for others are allotted the heaviest burdens, thus restricting their efforts.

On the other hand, a free market society is one in which each is solely responsible for his own load. Only insofar as his own judgment and conscience dictates does he share the burden of another. Unhampered, he finds that his expanded production can benefit himself only as it benefits others—a mighty important, but key difference—since his personal consumption is very minimal compared with the improved quality of life his production brings to all others.

In selecting which society I prefer, I may well ask, “Who shall carry my load?”

When measured by the most productivity for the benefit of all, the answer must be that of a free market society—no one, but me!

When measured by the moral principle of assuming my own responsibility, the answer must be that of a free market society—no one, but me!

Both demand that I carry my own load. To start, let me remove from others any of the burden of my responsibility now carried by them.

  • John C. Sparks, who died on March 27, 2005, served on the board of trustees of the Foundation for Economic Education for many years. In the mid-1980s, following his retirement from business, Mr. Sparks served a term as FEE’s president.