All too often defenders of free-market capitalism base their defense on the demonstration that free markets allocate resources more efficiently and hence lead to greater wealth than socialism and other forms of statism. While that is true, as Professor Milton Friedman frequently pointed out, economic efficiency and greater wealth should be seen and praised as simply a side benefit of free markets. The intellectual defense should focus on its moral superiority. Even if free markets were not more efficient and not engines for growth, they are morally superior to other forms of human organization because they are rooted in voluntary peaceable relationships rather than force and coercion. They respect the sanctity of the individual.
...acts such as murder, rape, and theft, whether done privately or collectively, are unjust because they violate private property. There is broad consensus that collective or government-sponsored murder and rape are unjust; however, government-sponsored theft is another matter. Theft, being defined as forcibly taking the rightful property of one for the benefit of another, has wide support in many societies that make the pretense of valuing personal liberty. That theft, euphemistically called income redistribution or transfers, is often defended by lofty phrases such as: assisting the poor, the elderly, distressed business, college students, and other deserving segments of society. But as F. A. Hayek often admonished, “[F]reedom can be preserved only if it is treated as a supreme principle which must not be sacrificed for any particular advantage. . . .” Ultimately, the struggle to achieve and preserve freedom must take place in the habits, hearts, and minds of men.
Or, as admonished in the Constitution of the state of
: “The frequent recurrence to fundamental principles is absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty.” It is moral principles that deliver economic efficiency and wealth, not the other way around. These moral principles or values are determined in the arena of civil society. North Carolina
For individual freedom to be viable, it must be a part of the shared values of a society and there must be an institutional framework to preserve it against encroachments by majoritarian or government will. Constitutions and laws alone cannot guarantee the survival of personal freedom, as is apparent where Western-type constitutions and laws were exported to countries not having a tradition of the values of individual freedom.
Societies with a tradition of freedom, such as the
, have found it an insufficient safeguard against encroachment by the state. Why? Compelling evidence suggests that a general atmosphere of personal freedom does not meet what might be considered its stability conditions. As is often the case, political liberty is used to stifle economic liberty, which in turn reduces political liberty. United States
If we were to rank countries according to: (1) whether they are more or less free-market, (2) per capita income, and (3) ranking in Amnesty International’s human-rights protection index, we would find that those with a larger free-market sector tend also to be those with the higher per capita income and greater human-rights protections. People in countries with larger amounts of economic freedom, such as the
United States, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan, are far richer and have greater human-rights protections than people in countries with limited markets, such as Russia, Albania, China, and most countries in Africa and South America. That should tell you something.
Economics, politics and social order are all intertwined. Economic freedom can be foundational to advancing political freedom and human rights. These are all effected by culture and attitudes.