Freedom Must Be a Priority

Dr. Kent MacDonald

Northwood University President

Dr. Kent MacDonald
January 8, 2021

Freedom Must Be a Priority

NOTE: A version of this essay was published in the January 2021 edition of When Free To Choose.

New legislatures will be seated this month at both the federal and state levels, and they will immediately face historic challenges. Let us hope that the pressure to act quickly does not drive them to act imprudently.

Support for America’s free-enterprise system must be a top priority in the months ahead.

Reasonable people can disagree on the best course of action in any given situation. Diverse viewpoints and healthy debate are cornerstones of the American way of life. We weigh our options, ponder the lessons of history, and advocate for what we believe to be right. Ideally, we come together around a consensus that provides the greatest total benefit for everyone. Then we work together to achieve our goals.

Unreasonable people, unfortunately, can have a disastrous impact on reaching those goals. Driven by self-interest and self-righteousness, they can hold the rest of us back unless they get what they want. Too often, what they want is not what we need.

To suit their own purposes, rather than those of the broader society, some people advocate for heavy-handed government control of the economy. They would use the difficult times we face as justification for a brand of modern-day socialism that places the fate of all people into the hands of a few. That is not the American way.

Liberty for All

Free enterprise is also a cornerstone of the American way of life, and we stray from it at our peril. The evidence is overwhelming that a long-term commitment to economic liberty has raised this country to levels of prosperity that no nation in history can rival. When people and organizations are free to benefit from their enterprise, they invest in themselves, they work hard, they innovate, and they collaborate with others in ways that widely disperse the fruits of their efforts. Everyone ends up better off.

The opposite happens whenever government attempts to manage economic activity. Incentive wanes. Regulations stifle productivity and prosperity. All this invariably leads to lower standards of living at all levels of the economy.

People who complain about not getting what they consider to be their fair share of the pie would do well to appreciate that the pie we share is wide, deep, and rich in sustenance. Squabbling over how it is divided will shrink its total size. Then everyone is worse off.

The Path Forward

Keeping these lessons of history in mind, legislators must resist the temptation to overmanage the economy as it emerges from the darkness of COVID-19. On the contrary, they should seek out opportunities to let the power of free enterprise propel us back to prosperity. Here are a few specific examples of policies that should be pursued:

Resist calls to increase the tax burden on individuals and businesses

Taxation reduces incentive and weighs down economic activity, which is never good, and would be especially onerous right now.

Roll back tariffs and other “trade war” weapons

Any attempt by government to protect domestic producers or anoint specific industries for favored status is doomed to failure. We learned that lesson the hard way in the 1930s. Free markets result in the most efficient and productive supply chains, powering economic activity and providing the greatest possible benefit for the most people.

Dismiss any thoughts of a government takeover of the healthcare system

Simply put, the government does not run things well. Any proposal that involves government providing all healthcare services is a recipe for disaster. Improve the system we have rather than replacing it with a monstrosity that we would all come to despise.

Let’s Do This Together

Each of us has the power to improve the effectiveness of our legislators. Let them know that you favor policies backed by free-market principles. That is also the American way. Resist the impulse to be combative or confrontational. The evidence supporting freedom is clear and it is overwhelming. We don’t need to scream and shout, we need only present the facts.

Reasonable people should be able to reach a consensus in support of freedom and economic liberty as drivers of a bright future.


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