By Edmund Opitz, author of The Libertarian Theology of Freedom and Religion and Capitalism: Allies, Not Enemies.

The World we live in is divided. The major division, the division drilled into us by journalistic usage, separates the planet into the iron curtain countries versus the free world. Soviet Russia and its satellites plus communist China and its satellites are geographically separate from the nations comprising the free world, but the differences are not merely geographical.

The iron curtain countries are fiercely devoted to an ideology which is at war with the philosophy of liberty which the free world professes, but to which the free world gives little more than lip service. Communism is a fanatical, crusading faith which activates millions behind the iron curtain; nothing of like intensity inspires the citizens of the so-called free nations. I say “so-called,” having in mind that Britain is socialist, France has a socialist president, and America continues welfarist despite the good intentions of Mr. Reagan and many of his henchmen.

Why does government continue to expand? Why does it cost us more with each passing year? It’s no mystery; more and more people are dependent on government give-away programs which the taxpayers have to pay for. Social Security is a costly program and it’s here to stay, at ]east for the foreseeable future; it has now become compulsory for those formerly outside its grasp—like FEE. Then there is our permanent bureaucracy, with its multiple alphabet agencies empowered to regulate virtually every facet of our lives. There are various and growing numbers of people and groups encompassed by the entitlement programs; many businessmen enjoy special privileges conferred by government; millions of former government employees and politicians dig deep into the tax fund for their pensions. Everyone who feeds at the political trough has a stake in bigger government and higher taxes.

Freedom at the Fringes

Freedom is marginal in modern societies; it survives on the fringes of life. We can widen the margin of freedom only insofar as we deepen our understanding of the free society and its imperatives, and then act wisely in terms of what it demands of us. Recovery of freedom will not be easy, for the people of this nation are not of one mind as to the merits of a society of free people. There are Marxists in America and they show renewed vitality. One of them, a professor at New York University, has recently (1982) written a book entitled The Left Academy, describing Marxist scholarship on American campuses, in the departments of economics, political science, sociology, history and psychology. He tells us that:

In political science, for example, four Marxist-inspired textbooks in American government have been published since 1970, whereas before that there were none. In the same period, Cambridge, Oxford, and Princeton University Presses, the three most prestigious university publishers, have among them brought out over fifteen books on Marx and Marxism, almost all of them quite sympathetic. There are over 400 courses given today in Marxist philosophy, whereas hardly any were given in the 1960s.

Socialists and liberals in our nation are more numerous than Marxists: they are also more respectable. They regard themselves as intellectuals, and they write and they talk. Using the written and the spoken word from a variety of podia and pulpits they virtually dominate the various avenues of communication—radio, television, movies, the press, schools and churches. They report the news they want us to hear and tell us how to think about it; they write most of the scripts for Broadway, radio, television and the movies; they write speeches for people in public life; they compose the songs and the slogans that stir popular emotions. They manufacture the public opinion which determines political action.

In short, millions of Americans today—for reasons of their own—do not want a market economy; they are financially dependent on an over-extended government, massive Federal spending, and high taxes.

That’s the bad news. Now for the good news. The good news is that the philosophy of the market economy and the free society is in better shape than ever before. It is more intellectually rigorous, more solidly based, spelled out more clearly than ever. And it is available in an increasing number of books, pamphlets, and periodicals. Hundreds of organizations are now hotbeds of free market activity, promoting a set of beliefs on the highest mental and moral plane, and reaching down into the deepest wellsprings of human nature—the firmly rooted aspiration of every man and woman for the elbow room necessary for them if they are to achieve their personal goals.

The Socialist System versus The Free Market Economy

Socialism or communism is easy to understand; a socialized society is one where the government owns the means of production; government operates the factories, the banks, the farms, the mines; it generates the power and controls transport and communication. In a socialist or communist system government runs the country. The system doesn’t work.

The free society, by contrast, is not run by anyone. Yet, it runs more efficiently than any politically planned economy. The free society operates within certain rules which safeguard life, liberty and property; individual decisions within these rules marvelously coordinate—as if guided by Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.” Individual ownership is a key concept of the free society; manufacturing, business and trade operate under private auspices; productive property is owned by scores of millions of individual persons. The market economy is not a “system,” but it works. It is the market economy which created and continuously renews the prosperity we enjoy, and which the world envies.

Our forebears in the 18th century talked a lot about property. The political war cry of the period was “Life, Liberty, and Property,” with major stress on property. There was a reason for this. These people knew that the chief distinction between a slave and a free man was the fact that the slave had no right to own things. The slave worked and he produced things, but he had no right to possess them; the product of the slave’s labor belonged to his owner. On the other hand, any person with the right to own whatever he produced was a free man; his survival did not depend on another’s whim: he was his own man. And being free, he had every incentive to become more productive, and thus more prosperous.

Personal liberty cannot exist except on a private property foundation, and that foundation is badly eroded in 1984. The fact that in our nation today the productive people of this society work approximately five months out of each year for government, before they are allowed to keep the fruits of their toil for themselves, would have seemed to our forebears a monstrous injustice. Private property is a pillar of the free society idea, but it’s a shaky pillar in today’s world.

Everyone desires a place in society which gives him the widest range of opportunities over the greatest possible latitude to live the life he has chosen. Everyone knows that he must be free if he is to fully realize his personal goals. I suppose that the average citizen of Moscow or Peking has his dreams, just as we do, and presumably he does achieve some of his ambitions. But the state exercises almost complete authority over his life, determining his training, the kind of work he does, how he shall live, with whom he associates, and what he reads.

Interrelated Freedoms

Although we in this country are not as free as we say we’d like to be, the opportunities here to live a full and well-rounded life are infinitely greater than they are in collectivist nations. We are free to read what we please, to speak our minds, to attend the church and school of our choice. These intellectual and cultural freedoms of ours are directly related to the degree of freedom we enjoy in the economic sphere. Economic freedom is important in itself, because every freedom is important. But economic freedom is doubly important because the higher freedoms depend on it.

Take freedom of the press, for example—and I use the term “the press” broadly, to include not only newspapers and periodicals, but also TV and radio. The press is the communications industry, and it is big business; it’s one of our largest industries. People in the communications industry often display an inflated notion of what freedom of the press means; their understanding of responsible journalism is very vague. Those of you who read the newsletter, Accuracy in Media, are aware of the extent of irresponsible journalism in contemporary society. Despite which, believers in the free society uphold the doctrine of freedom of the press.

A free press is what you have when there is no government censor telling reporters what to write and editors what to print. No American publisher, to my knowledge, advocates that the Washington bureaucracy be empowered to control and operate the publishing business. But a lot of people in the newspaper trade editorialize in favor of the government regulation of business—their own excepted; and we find the same kind of advocacy journalism on radio and television. People in the press are left of center, by and large.

Suppose the country accepts the advice of these people and nationalizes coal, steel, the automobile industry, the airlines—one industry after another till all business is run by the government. Should this happen can anyone believe that a now all-powerful government will exempt the gigantic communications industry from its controls and allow the press to remain free to criticize it? Not a chance. The press too will be nationalized, becoming the government’s agency of information and propaganda, specializing in Orwell’s newspeak to program the minds of people.

Academic Freedom

An analogous situation exists with reference to academic freedom. I’ve never heard of a professor opposing the concept of academic freedom; he might not understand what academic freedom means, but he’s all for it. Academic freedom means that a professor is allowed to teach, research and publish as he pleases without having to go to the government for permission—so long as some academic institution is willing to pay him a salary and provide him with such classroom and laboratory facilities as he needs. Academic freedom does not mean that the professor is entitled to a teaching job in an institution that doesn’t want him; it means only that the government shall keep hands off the campus.

Professors, like their counterparts in the press, tend to be left of center; they believe that business and industry should be regulated by the government. Suppose their wishes come true; suppose government does control the nation’s business and industry. From whence will come the funds to support our colleges? From one source only: government. Government controls have dried up the private sources which once bankrolled education, so government will have to finance the schools. Whoever pays the piper will call the tune, so when government pays the bills it will eventually dictate the curriculum. Teachers then become political flunkies and our colleges and universities become an arm of government, something like the Post Office.

The situation in the churches is similar, but somewhat more complex. I have many friends in the parish ministry, and I know them to be devout, honest, hardworking and devoted to the traditional values. There are some left-wing clergy in the parish ministry, turned in that direction by their professors in college and seminary, and by the materials foisted on them by certain departments in their respective denominations. But if you are looking for hard core left-wing churchmen go to the denominational hierarchies, to the religious press, to theological faculties, to the various local councils of churches, and especially to the National and World Councils of Churches. Collectivist churchmen have a monopoly of the positions of influence in these sectors of ecclesiastical life.

These people profess their devotion to the ideal of religious liberty; they believe in the independence of the churches from government interference; they don’t want a state church—they say. But if we get what they are striving for—government control of business and industry—private funding of churches will give way to taxpayer funding. When this happens the churches will no longer be free institutions; they will become branches of the government bureaucracy.

The Most to Lose

Who has the greatest stake in the free economy? Businessmen? No. Industrialists? No. It is the scholarly class that has the greatest stake in the free society and market economy. I’m talking about teachers, preachers, researchers, writers, of independent mind and character—the genuine intellectuals. When a nation succumbs to communism or any other form of totalitarian tyranny, it is no longer business as usual, but business of some sort must continue.

Every industrialized society needs managerial and technical expertise to keep it going. Someone has to operate the factories, someone must keep the wheels of industry turning, and someone must maintain a certain level of productive efficiency. Who will do this: professors of sociology, preachers, Dan Rather, Jane Fonda? Successful industrialists and businessmen, technicians who know how to get things produced—such people have a pretty fair chance to get good jobs after the Revolution. But what happens to independent intellectuals when the communists take over? A totalitarian society has no place for people of searching mind and high character; they vanish into the Gulag.

What a paradox; those who would have most to lose in a collectivist society are working hardest to bring it about. It’s a kind of social suicide for these folk.

The market economy happens to be the most productive, most prosperous economy. But even if it were not, even if the market economy left us poor but honest, there’s not a one of us here who would not choose to live under it, because only the free economy is compatible with freedom of worship, only the free economy permits a variety of independent educational systems, only the free economy allows the free mind to function in the areas of speech and publishing.

Economics is only a part of life, but it is the part which sustains and makes possible all the rest—the intellectual, the spiritual, the cultural. If we want to be free in these areas we must maintain economic freedom. John Maynard Keynes, in his backhanded fashion, lends support to this contention by declaring that his theory of economic planning adapts nicely to a totalitarian political order. He wrote a special foreword for the 1936 German translation of his General Theory, and had this to say: “The theory of aggregate production, which is the point of the following book . . . can be much easier adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state than . . . under conditions of free production and a large degree of laissez-faire.” If the planned economy adapts nicely to Nazism, it is obviously incompatible with the institutions of a free society.

If you look behind the iron curtain you will see several species of communism. Russian communism has a Slavic flavor. The communism of the late Mao Tse-tung contains elements unique to the culture of China. There’s a Latin beat to Castro’s communism. Yugoslavian communism is, to a limited extent, in business for itself; and the same is true of the communisms of various Third World nations. Those who happen to have an interest may make comparisons between the communism of one nation and that of another.

The situation as regards the free society and market economy way of life is quite different; there’s only one capitalism in history, and only one today. Japan, I regard as a branch grafted onto our stem. I yield to popular usage and for convenience use the term “capitalism” for the social order I have briefly sketched—the free society and market economy way of life. The word “capitalism” is today a little less confusing than the word “liberalism” which was intelligible to our forebears, but which now means the opposite of what it meant in the 19th century. Capitalism became explicit about two centuries ago when the political ideas of The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution joined forces with the economic ideas expounded in The Wealth of Nations.

The American Idea

Capitalism is a shorthand term for the kind of society based on this combination of the market economy with a limited government of equal justice, and it appeared in just one place on the globe. It would be more accurate to say “one culture, the Anglo-American, separated by the Atlantic Ocean.” The colonists thought of themselves as Englishmen until just before the Revolution. Many had come here from England; they shared their institutions and their history with England. But liberty attained a purer form here than in the mother country, for England was bogged down in the remnants of feudalism. So, let’s focus on the free society as it took shape in America, and nowhere else on the planet.

The American idea of government was unique. Trace the history of political institutions as far back as you wish; every one is based on the philosopher-king idea. It was Plato who pinned this label on the universally accepted belief that “cities would never have rest from their evils” until they found some man who possessed the wisdom of a philosopher and at the same time wielded absolute power. The philosopher, as Plato uses the term, might be defined as a very smart fellow who really does know what is good for us. Trouble is, we ignore the philosopher; we don’t want to know what is good for us; or, if we do know we are too lazy or too wicked to live the life that is good for us. What’s the answer?

Simple! Find the man who embodies the ultimate in wisdom and goodness. Then vest this man with all the power he needs to extend his benevolence, as dictated by his wisdom. He will then use his power to force us to be free; he will make us good—at which point we’ll have our heaven on earth.

The people we refer to as our Founding Fathers took just the opposite tack. They threw out the philosopher-king idea, lock, stock and barrel. They rejected altogether those who advised: “Increase the powers of government in order to magnify its capacity to do good.” Believing that authoritarian politics is intrinsically evil, they said: “Limit the powers of government drastically, by the rule of law, so that those who rule will have no opportunity to do evil.” This was the unique political formula which took root on our shores. My own thumbnail formulation of this point is: “Never advocate any more power for your best friends than you would be willing to see wielded by your worst enemies.”

The Containment of Power

The critical issue here is the containment of power. Each person should be regarded as an end in himself, and in a truly free society individual autonomy is respected. But in a power situation people are reduced to a mere means to serve the ends of others. The philosopher-king idea of unlimited power to run the lives of others is based upon a profound distrust of the ability of people to run their own lives. People must be made to feel little before governments can grow big. As the power of government increases the power in the people diminishes.

Now, it may be true that a lot of people exercise but little wisdom in running their own lives, but it is a non sequitur to deduce from this that A’s situation will be improved if B runs A’s life for him against A’s will! We know that this cannot work because it violates the basic law of life, a law as fundamental in human affairs as the law of gravity in Newtonian physics: Each person is in control of his own life, and if he doesn’t take charge of himself no one can assume this responsibility for him.

The original American idea was based upon the profound conviction that people really do have the latent talents and abilities which, properly schooled and utilized, enable each person to take charge of his own life and accept responsibility for his actions; each person has within him the necessary ingredients for living a truly human life of growth, fulfillment and joy. The potential for life of this quality is built into human nature itself as an original endowment. What we do or fail to do with that original endowment is up to the individual man or woman, and only a free society provides the maximum opportunity for the fullest attainment of what we have it in us to become.

Before people accept a caretaker government they must be convinced that they can’t take care of themselves; independence, resourcefulness, self-reliance, fortitude, endurance, hardihood, and similar personal qualities must be programmed out of them. Our 18th-century forebears possessed these and other traits of character which enabled them to stand on their own two feet; so they conceived a government that would keep the peace and otherwise let people alone to run their own affairs.

What was the source of their beliefs about themselves; where did their ideas about life come from? We know from the books they read that the Greek literature of the classical age was familiar to them. In Latin literature and in the history of Rome they saw their own situation as in a mirror. And even those who were comparatively unlettered were steeped in the Old and New Testaments. It has often been observed that the Western intellectual and spiritual heritage is a triple cord woven of ideas and a vision of the good life derived from Athens, Rome, and The Bible.

On Becoming Human

The human nature we are born with is raw material; it’s the elemental stuff each of us works with toward the achievement of adulthood and maturity. Very few people realize their potential fully, but the degree of our attainment depends on the ideas we have as to what it means to be a human being. If we believe ourselves to be helpless pawns in the grip of fate we will be less effective personalities than if we believe ourselves masters of our own destiny. If we blame childhood poverty, or parents who didn’t understand us, or the wrong crowd, or an uncaring society, or our glands, or whatever, for our personal shortcomings we will never strive to convert our minuses into pluses.

No person reaches his full stature of humanity unless he maintains a lively contact with a set of ideas as to what it means to be a person, ideas we have absorbed from our cultural heritage. And it is a fact that great numbers of people in this favored land of ours no longer believe in the ideas that made Western civilization unique. What are some of these ideas?

Our forebears learned from their educational sources that we live in a purposeful universe in which human beings are the most meaningful representation of a mighty cosmic design. They believed that we are created beings, not mere chance collocations of atoms. As embodiments of the Divine Creativity we are gifted with reason and free will. By the exercise of right reason we can think God’s thoughts after Him and thus gain precious nuggets of truth. And by the exercise of free will, we can overcome environmental handicaps and become responsible beings. They believed that it is within the power of every person to fashion his own character, and that he has a moral obligation to do just that.

Our forebears believed in the moral law. They knew that the very existence of a free society presupposes that most people most of the time will not murder or assault or steal; they will keep their word, fulfill their contracts, tell the truth, lend a hand to a neighbor. These moral imperatives were believed to be expressions of the will of God.

Every human being has a unique role to play in the Divine Plan, and because of this, each private life is lived within a sacred precinct. Acknowledging the inviolability of this personal domain, the Declaration speaks of rights endowed by The Creator which governments are morally bound to respect. Given the premise of individual rights it follows that the primary responsibility of the law is to secure the rights of every man, woman and child.

It was upon a foundation of these basic ideas about the unique sacredness of human life, the efficacy of reason, the reality of free will, the moral law, and the inviolable rights of persons that the solid citizenry of the 18th century structured the free society—with the free market as its economic corollary. We have carelessly allowed this precious heritage to dribble away, but the hunger for freedom has not been lost; it will never be lost, for it is born anew with every child who comes into the world. The recovery of our heritage of liberty may exact a cost in blood, sweat and tears; but of one thing I am certain—when we want freedom desperately enough, nothing will stop us from getting it.

Originally published in the May 1984 edition of The Freeman. Read more from the Edmund Opitz Archive.

Dr. Norman Horn

Norman founded LibertarianChristians.com and the Libertarian Christian Institute, and currently serves as its President and Editor-in-Chief. He holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from the Austin Graduate School of Theology. He currently is a Postdoctoral researcher in Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • I am Christian and I hate hypocrisy. That said, I will attempt to show that the extremely popular union of the cult of political conservative ideology with so many Christians or other moralists and religions is misguided. I will focus on one primary conservative tenet, namely the virtue of a so called, “free market”. Let’s start with a biblical definition of freedom. True freedom is actually being bound by the laws of the One; all loving, all just and powerful God. Believers who are adhering and following His laws and commands are, as He promises, sowing seeds of everlasting prosperity through Him.Let’s contrast this with the insane notion that these values have anything at all to do with a complete, unfettered market which so many on the right espouse to be an ideal economic scenario. Prices are “free” to be set by the insane whims of the greedy and grossly overpaid (another issue of contention). The market blindly sets prices that are “free” to be governed by the motivation of pure profit and greed, no matter how much artificial poverty it creates. Housing (shelter), and many other basic essential item values are then “free” to be inflated and overinflated way above and beyond the means of most working people and still they are “free” to skyrocket with no mercy.This greed bubble is now “free” to keep on sucking in others, like a vacuum on steroids, to join in the market “ride” growing bigger until it finally; always bursts. Then, everyone affected by this burst has to endure the untold economic chaos that ensues in the aftermath. How can you uphold this evil tenet, when Jesus talks about the weightier issues of justice, mercy and faith. How can you serve two masters? You can’t! My God is not the god of chaos…the market god is the king of it!I am sick of hearing all the blathering and repeated inane droning 

    on about a failed tenet that doesn’t even actually exist. There is no case in history where libertarianism ever worked at governing effectively. This ideology inanely assumes that most people will morally decide to magically “do the right thing”…because people are just naturally so good at governing themselves? Hello? There is still enough regulation in place that keeps our current market economy here in the US from totally imploding. We are truly not “free”….nor do we want to be….thank you!In fact, if we would have had a progressive tax on income, real estate, and consumption; like they have in more civilized countries; we would never have seen this insane housing crisis that has finally imploded in the last few years. This crisis and others are simply the reaping of the bad, toxic seed that was sown to begin with.Circa 1950 through the early 1970’s, the average cost of housing was about 25% of average income and mostly afforded by a one income household. For over 30 years now, two or three household incomes are needed to buy a house that is at least an average of 40% or more of income and it still takes 30 years to pay off the debt. Wake up conservatives….you’ve been scammed by the cheap lure of materialism and a quick profit and you have become slaves of your own misguided values. What a bad “price” to pay….(pun intended).It’s pretty sad, that I can listen to atheists and unbelievers on the radio who can see right through this economic scam that has all but decimated the (under)”middle” class and the overall quality of life in many places, especially here in the U.S.Do me a favor, stop whining about our current President, that a majority elected. Stop spouting the lie that progressive taxes are harmful, when they were extremely successful during the 

    unparalleled economic growth from the end of Great Depression in 1938 until “The Gipper” began the regression to the economic insanity that we call “normal” now. Realize that it’s our inept, corporate-bought-and-paid-for Congress that legislates these unjust laws, and instead, pray for Him and them; and please, get deprogrammed!

  • Cynthia

    Mr. Horn,
    I am completely in agreement with you that freedom is, perhaps, for us Americans, the number one most important value. However, I’d like to clarify how I define freedom. Freedom is absence from necessity, coercion, or constraint. I believe that in this, I differ radically from my more libertarian American brothers and sisters, whose definition of freedom is the right to engage in economic markets without government interference.  Please correct me if I’m wrong. It’s vitally important that if we’re going to debate “freedom,” we use the same definition.

    Freedom from Necessity
    Using my definition of freedom, freedom is expanded when human beings, who have access to clean water, clean air, nutritious food, and affordable and effective health care, live long lives free from chronic disease or disability. A healthy, long life is the number one determination of freedom. Therefore, any political-economic system worth its salt, should, in comparison with other other political-economic systems, have low abortion rates, low infant mortality rates, high life expectancy rates, and low chronic disease and disability rates. The United States does very well in most of  these indices, but is certainly not at the top. We could do better. The U.S. government has a role to play to ensure that, in comparison to other countries, we continue to do well and even improve in the most important indices of all.  

    Freedom from Coercion
    Using my definition, freedom is expanded when human beings, who have access to free or affordable education, are literate, understand math and science, and are taught to critically think about the circumstances of their lives. Therefore, any political-economic system worth its salt, should, in comparison with other other political-economic systems, have high literacy rates, and perform well in math, science, and critical thinking. Among developed countries, the United States does not perform that well in these indices.  

    Using my definition, freedom is expanded when human beings are empowered to criticize and analyze ideas and powerful entities within their societies, whether they be government, corporate, or religious actors. And the way to do that is to develop and maintain independent institutions with the mission to ask questions, explore new ideas, and question authority. Historically, in the past, those institutions have been the press, universities, non-profits, and businesses. Currently, in our society, however, these formerly independent institutions are disappearing, becoming more profit-maximizing, or merging into fewer and much larger entities. Most newspapers are gone. Universities are, more and more, instead of engaging in basic or original research, seeking to profit off their academic work; or, they are surviving through corporate not-so-independent funding. The media and entertainment industries now comprise six corporate leviathans, most of which are focused on entering the Chinese markets, and bowing to the Communist authoritarian regime’s dictates. While we live in the age of the Internet, and there are now many more eyes willing and able to report what they see, the practice and profession of investigative reporting has been severely damaged. Moreover, the ability of “internet eyes” to make up somewhat for the downfall of investigative reporting is threatened by the concentration of ownership of internet companies (AT&T, Facebook, Google, Apple). Therefore, any political-economic system worth its salt, should, in comparison with other other political-economic systems, have a large number of institutions independent from the government and concentrations of ownership, wealth and power, devoted to asking questions, exploring new ideas, and questioning authority.  I’ve never seen any indices on this, but I bet you dollars to donuts, that America’s “Independent Institution” index has fallen dramatically over the past ten years. 

    Freedom from Constraint
    The rule of law, the law that ensures that every member of society, from the President of the Country to the lowliest agricultural worker, is subject to the same code of justice, is an incredibly important index of freedom. And, I’m afraid to say, that, in comparison with other developed countries, our beloved nation does not do very well in that regard. 

    First, we hold to the death penalty, which takes away the highest freedom of all: life. In spite of knowing that again and again some poor innocent, economically disadvantaged man or woman was put to death because he or she couldn’t afford the right lawyer, and the prosecuting attorney was looking to score a big one. Second, because jury trails are so expensive (and, in spite of the requirement in the U.S. Constitution that we hold jury trials), poor people charged with crimes are encouraged to plea bargain to avoid long sentences, even if they adamantly affirm their innocence. Third, blue collar crime is treated far more harshly than white collar crime: steal a car and go to jail for 3- 5 years, but if you, as an investment broker, defraud your clients or bet against the American economy in speculative financial deals, no jail time for you (possibly a million dollar parachute deal though). And don’t even get me started on the War on Drugs in which people (often African Americans) charged with selling 2.5 grams of crack cocaine face the same charge as people (often European Americans) selling 425 grams of powder cocaine.  Therefore, any political-economic system worth its salt, should, in comparison with other other political-economic systems, have a high “Rule of Law” index, the index that determines how fairly the law treats you, regardless of your wealth, power, gender, race, religion, or ethnicity. Fourth, our punishments for crime are often more “constraining” than those in other highly developed countries. Even for non-violent crimes, our first choice of punishment is imprisonment. Why not community service and electronic monitoring? Wouldn’t that be more conducive of freedom (not to mention a heck of a lot cheaper)? And why, after a person has served his or her sentence are they no longer able to vote?

    Sure, the right to engage in economic markets free from government interference is important. But, it’s not the end all or be all of freedom. It’s not more important than freedom from early death and a life free from disease or disability. It’s not more important than the freedom to critically think about your life’s circumstances and to criticize those in power, a freedom enabled by a good education. It’s not more important than the freedoms granted to us by independent institutions such as the press, universities, non-profits and businesses committed to local communities. It’s not more important than freedom under a fair and just rule of law.

    And, our government has a role to play in ensuring that we, as Americans, enjoy those freedoms.  Along with its ability to protect us from foreign threats, the U.S. government should be judged on the following “freedom” indices:

    1) The life expectancy and health of the Amercican people.
    2) The literacy rates, understanding of math and science, and critical thinking skills of the American people.
    3) The number of influential institutions at the local, state, and federal level independent of government, and concentrations of wealth and power, that are devoted to asking questions, exploring new ideas, conducting basic research and questioning authority.
    4) The rule of law, as measured by how fairly people of different financial, ethnic, religious, gendered, racial backgrounds are treated in our legal system.
    5) The right to engage in economic markets.

    Mr. Horn, you write “Economics is only a part of life, but it is the part which sustains and makes possible all the rest.” While this is generally right, it ignores core truths. Politics, in times of crisis, trumps economics. When faced with the juggarnauts of the socialist, nationalist Nazi Germany and the militaristic, authoritarian Japan, the United States chose to direct (I won’t say “nationalize”) its economy to make aircraft carriers, fighter planes, and bombs. Was it wrong to do so? Surely, the U.S. government’s decision to control the country’s economic output during WWII “sustained” us and “made possible all the rest”?
     
    Is promoting the freedom to engage in economic markets as the most important value really wise? Over the past 10 to 15 years, American corporations have agreed to transfer their technology and partner with Chinese Communist Party-State run enterprises in order to access the vast Chinese market. They have also laid off hundreds of thousands of American workers in order to employ Chinese workers, who are far less blessed when it comes to political and economic rights. I believe that China, in the long term, would like to make America her vassal state.  I don’t see the right of American Corporations to transfer American technology and jobs to a Communist, authoritarian regime as promoting freedom at home. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Also, the freedom of financial institutions to enter into speculative trading in the derivatives markets has imperiled the world economy. Has their economic freedom to do so enhanced or hurt America’s ability to promote the five freedoms outlined above?

    Anyway, thank you for the platform (I should proabably just get my own blog)!

    All the best,

    Cynthia in San Francisco