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The Freedom Nobody Wants

This essay is by Reverend Edmund Opitz, author of The Libertarian Theology of Freedom and Religion and Capitalism: Allies, Not Enemies, and is adapted from a seminar lecture de­livered as a mem­ber of the staff of the Foundation for Economic Education. It was published in the November 1966 issue of The Freeman. Read more from the Edmund Opitz Archive.

Freedom today has what might be called a good press; everyone speaks well of freedom. It is in the same category as motherhood, Sandy Koufax, and pure water. Nobody will admit that he is "agin" freedom. In modern times there has been a booming market for the Four Freedoms, and for Freedom Now. There is a vocal Free Speech Movement on college campuses. We celebrate freedom of the press and condemn censor­ship; we cherish religious liberty and hail academic freedom. The mood of our time is favorably dis­posed toward every freedom ex­cept one, and that outcast freedom is Freedom of Economic Enter­prise.

Economic freedom suffers attri­tion from within and attacks from without. Individual businessmen often seek to evade market man­dates, and intellectuals do not want people to have complete lati­tude for their peaceful economic transactions. This is how Profes­sor Milton Friedman views the problem: "It has often seemed to me that the two greatest enemies of the free market are business­men and intellectuals, for opposite reasons. The businessman is al­ways in favor of free enterprise—for everybody else; he is always opposed to it for himself. The in­tellectual is quite different; he is always in favor of free enterprise for himself, always opposed to it for everybody else. The business­man wants his special tariff or his special governmental commission to interfere with free enterprise, in the name, of course, of free enterprise. The intellectual, too, wants such commissions to control the rapacious man. But he is against the idea of any interfer­ence with his academic freedom, or his freedom to teach what he wants and direct his research as he wants — which is simply free enterprise as applied to him."¹

I wish to focus first on economic freedom and demonstrate that maintaining the integrity of the free market is essential to the preservation of every other lib­erty. Later I shall deal with some of the things on which the free market depends.

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Thoughts on Censorship

By Rev. Edmund Opitz, author of The Libertarian Theology of Freedom and Religion and Capitalism: Allies, Not Enemies. This essay was originally published in the June 1966 issue of The Freeman. Read more in the Edmund Opitz Archive.

The effort to prevent people from obtaining certain kinds of reading matter on the grounds that its perusal may inflict dam­age on the minds exposed to it, springs from a “father knows best” psychology. Men of this per­suasion assume that they know what is bad for people — even if the people themselves do not—and, further, that they are called upon to invoke statutory safeguards to prevent these latter from injuring themselves unawares. Paternalism is not limited to a concern for the purity of literature, however; the “father knows best” attitude is rampant in every sector of our society, and it is the key to the “liberal” mentality.

The liberal draws a clear dis­tinction between himself and the average man. The average man, in his ignorance and innocence, is at the mercy of his employer; he is gulled by the hucksters of the advertising profession; he is re­garded as fair game by the patent medicine men, food faddists, hid­den persuaders, and other such extremists. The liberal, therefore, attempts to regulate industry, fix wages, control profits, enforce so­cial security, and otherwise pro­tect the consumer against the wily agents of Madison Avenue and the obscene lure of tail fins.

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Our Disordered Lives


Rev. Edmund Opitz

By Rev. Edmund Opitz, author of The Libertarian Theology of Freedom and Religion and Capitalism: Allies, Not Enemies. This essay was originally published in the July 1973 issue of The Freeman. Read more in the Edmund Opitz Archive.

The colonists had won a war and, desiring to set up a republican form of government, they installed a Constitution designed to limit the public authority and thus maximize personal liberty.

Now that they were free, what did these early Americans do with their newly won liberty? For one thing, they worked. They had to provide their own food, clothing and shelter, so work was a necessity of survival. Moreover, these people remembered the poverty endured by their ancestors in Europe and how life was demeaned thereby. Now that these Americans were free to enjoy the fruits of their toil they became more productive, and with the gradual increase of wealth came a new sense of human dignity which accompanies modest economic success. The Puritan Ethic was sound when it endorsed work, thrift and frugality. This ethic fitted in well with the burgeoning interest in the new science of economics, masterfully set forth in 1776 by Adam Smith. It is significant that more than twenty five hundred copies of Wealth of Nations were sold in this country within five years of its appearance. Obviously, the book addressed itself to a real need.

Economic activity is fundamental to human existence. A Robinson Crusoe could get along without politicking, but if he did not work he would die of hunger and exposure. Emerging from economic activity are the concepts of rights to property and claims to service around which many political battles are fought. Economics, on the surface, deals with prices, production, and the operations of the market as determined by the buying habits of every one of us. In reality, however, economics is concerned with the conservation and stewardship of the earth’s scarce goods; human energy, time, material resources and natural forces.

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Six Ideas to Keep Us Human (Part 2) Edmund Opitz, author of The Libertarian Theology of Freedom and Religion and Capitalism: Allies, Not Enemies. This essay was originally published in the December 1972 issue of The Freeman, and continues from his previous article.

Part One of this essay presents a diagnosis of the present malaise in terms of a loss of contact with six vital ideas. The ideas which keep us human may be summarized as follows:

  1. Free Will. Man’s gift of free will makes him a responsible being.
  2. Rationality. Man is a reasoning being who, by taking thought, gains valid truths about himself and the universe.
  3. Self-responsibility. Each person is the custodian of his own energy and talents, charged with the lifetime task of bringing himself to completion.
  4. Beauty. Man confronts beauty in the very nature of things, and reproduces this vision in art.
  5. Goodness. Man has a moral sense, enabling and requiring him to choose between good and evil.
  6. The Sacred. Man participates in an order which transcends nature and society.

It is no secret that a great many philosophers and scientists deny free will and affirm determinism; it is also a fact that no one can really bring himself around to believing that he is an automaton. A philosopher who announces himself as a determinist presumes to offer us a conclusion he has arrived at after observation, after marshalling the relevant evidence, after reflection, and as the end result of a chain of reasoning. Each of these steps reflects the action of a free being, and these free actions can never be pieced together so as to contrive an unfree result. Man’s will is free; it is so free that it can deny this freedom!

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Six Ideas to Keep Us Human Edmund Opitz, author of The Libertarian Theology of Freedom and Religion and Capitalism: Allies, Not Enemies. This essay was originally published in the November 1972 issue of The Freeman.

Most people live lives of quiet desperation, Henry David Thoreau told us. If there was truth in that observation, in the pleasant, spacious old New England of Thoreau’s day, how much more truth is packed into those words in these melancholy days! Events have gotten out of hand and the world lurches into chaos.

Things have fallen apart faster than any of us would have dared predict, and we are seized by pangs of guilt and self-doubt. So many promising experiments have gone sour, from the New Freedom of Woodrow Wilson to the latest ukase of the present administration. The statesmen of this era talked peace and sought to outlaw war, but they let the twentieth century break down into the bloodiest period of all the twenty-five hundred years of warfare studied by Pitirim Sorokin. “We live,” wrote this great scholar, “in an age unique for the unrestrained use of brute force in international relations.”

The threat of protracted international conflict is bad enough, but there is also the well-founded fear of domestic violence and crime. And even if we are lucky enough to escape actual robbery, we know that inflation is steadily draining our wealth. We’ve seen the race issue go from integration to Black Nationalism; we’ve witnessed the emergence of the sex and drug cult, the rise of astrology, witchcraft and voodooism; V.D. has reached epidemic proportions among the young; and then there is abortion, homosexuality, the campus crisis, the environmental crisis, the inner crisis in man himself. For is it not true, as Yeats says in a famous poem, that “The wicked act with dreadful intensity, while the good lack all conviction.”

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