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.