Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Free Enterprise Parable And A Historical Struggle

A parable is a story, or poem, which is used to illustrate a moral or spiritual point, and reveal a hidden meaning.  It comes from the Latin word, parabola, which means comparison, discourse, or placing side-by-side.

When parables are employed, different people understand them on different levels and arrive at different interpretations.  One reason for this is background, but another is feeling.  Sometimes we simply feel the spirit of something and it touches us.

This is the MacGregor escutcheon, or coat of arms.  It features a tree and a crowned sword.

The story is told that in the 12th century the Scottish king was attacked by a wild boar during a hunting trip.  Sir Malcolm MacGregor asked permission to protect the king and was given permission with the statement, "Een do and spair nocht."  This would translate something like - do, and spare nothing.  Sir Malcolm then took an oak sapling and dispatched the boar.  This phrase became the MacGregor motto until the 18th century.

The tree is a symbol used in many eras and cultures.  It can symbolize food, purity, spiritual strength, spiritual struggle, strength itself, life, growth - and on and on.

One historical struggle has been between free enterprise and gubments!  John Kenneth Galbraith, not known as a political conservative, once said, "The great dialectic in our time is not, as anciently and by some still supposed, between capital and labor; it is between economic enterprise and the state."

And so it is. 

Consider this parable.  And as you do, consider this great and historical dialectic (argument) between free enterprise and the state.  And in particular between free enterprise and the imposition of socialism.



There once were two trees that lived side by side.

The one had a very comfortable life.  It lived in a greenhouse.  It was very well cared for by an elderly gardener.  The gardener knew just what to do to help the tree to grow and develop.  It was given plenty of water that included lots of nutrition.  It never wanted for water.  The temperatures in the greenhouse were controlled.  Windows were opened when it got too hot.  Heat was provided when it got too cold.  Shades were drawn when the sun grew too uncomfortable.  Its limbs were regularly pruned and it was beautiful.  It did not have to struggle for anything!  It lived in a pot and did not have to send down deep roots.  It never experienced strong winds so its limbs were weak.  Its bark was thin because it had plenty of water, had no enemies and was never too hot or cold.  The elderly gardener loved the tree.

The other tree's life was very hard.  It had to care for itself as there was no gardener to care for it.  It had to send down long roots to search for minerals and water.  That was sometimes hard to come by.  It experienced the very cold of winter and the very hot of summer.  Its limbs were never pruned and it had a somewhat disheveled appearance.  It developed bark that was necessarily thick and hard, needed to battle disease, insects and the elements.  All in all, it had learned to cope with all of that.  And it took care of itself, as best it could.  The tree was happy.

The two trees were close enough that when the windows were opened they could talk.  The tree in the greenhouse would often mock the other.  It would brag about its comfortable life and living conditions.

"Look at me!  My life is very easy.  I am well cared for.  I want for nothing.  My needs are all provided.  The gardener loves me.  I am happy!

And you - look at you!  I watch you struggle and strain for water.  I watch you fight against the heat and cold and strong winds.  You are besieged by insects and animals and birds.  You are never trimmed and some of your branches go this way and that way.  You never get a rest.  You should be in here where all is well!"

The other would answer.  "Yes, it is hard here.  Sometimes I envy you.  But it is not all so bad.  I have strong roots and a good foundation.  I send my limbs this way and that to get more light, and to protect against the strong winds.  True, my life is more difficult, but I am happy.  I am able to provide for myself."

Things went on like this for some time.  The one tree derided and scoffed and the other patiently went about insuring its survival.

Then, one day, the elderly gardener died.

Jay wrote this original parable, and published it here on his free enterprise blog.  One of Jay's genealogical lines is the MacGregor Clan.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Free Enterprise Allows Us To Pursue A High Degree Of Equality

“A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither.  A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.” 

Milton Friedman (1912-2006)


Equality cannot be demanded.
Equality cannot be mandated.
Equality cannot be legislated.
Equality cannot be forced.

Freedom cannot be forced.
Freedom cannot be imposed.
Freedom cannot be faked.
Freedom cannot be secondary.

Freedom has to be the first objective of a free society.  It is the core of free enterprise.  Primary.

But what's it have to do with equality?  Equality cannot create freedom, but freedom engenders equality?

What does Dr. Friedman mean by that?

When the founding documents of the great United States are based in the "self-evident" idea that "all men are created equal," it has to do with endowed rights more than it has to do with the imposition of anything.   And, further, that our given rights are an endowment, meaning bequeathed, inherited and within our capabilities.

Equality cannot be imposed, or legislated, or forced any more than freedom can.  There can be no guarantee of equality.

So how are all of us created equal?

It is in the self-evidence of certain, inseparable rights.  
It is found in what we can pursue - our lives, our liberty and our happiness.   
>  It is in our acquisition of private property (physical and intellectual) and that to obtain happiness and safety.
It is in the enjoyment and defense of our lives and our liberties.

So, does free enterprise make the scene?  Yes!

Almost everyone is good at something.  Some of us are naturally very good at some things, others of us have to work toward the realization of what we are good at and then develop it.  But almost everyone is good at something.

What if it's loyalty, and constancy, and honesty, and integrity when we work for others?  The world will always desire people with those traits.

In free enterprise, when practiced as a whole, everyone fits in somewhere.  And the cream is free to rise to the top.  But everyone is free to pursue, and make happiness happen.  

And in that pursuit we are equal.  And, as Milton Friedman says, to a high degree.

Free enterprise allows us to pursue a high degree of equality.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Free Enterprise Makes Way For Meritocracy

"An army of donkeys led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by a donkey."

Genghis Khan (1162-1126)

If nothing else was used to manage the Khan army and kingdom, certainly meritocracy was it.

One moved up in the Genghis Khan army and society by performance.

And no matter where one worked.  Khan was very much into putting people in places where they were best suited.  From there they moved up based on merit.

Conquering more territory in just a few years than the Romans did in 400, and killing nearly half the earth's known population, Genghis Khan became the king of the mountain and stayed there.  Along the way he was most interested in the best and brightest, no matter where they came from or their ability.  Some of his most trusted generals were former enemies!

One story surrounding his belief in meritocracy happened after a horse was shot out from under him with an arrow.  Khan was nearly killed.  Later he questioned the prisoners asking who had shot his horse with an arrow.  A man stood, and bravely proclaimed himself the shooter.  So impressed with his bold demeanor, Genghis Khan immediately made him a commander, even nicknaming him "Jebe," which means arrow.

His reign had to do with invention in many forms - paper, printing, gunpowder and a postal communication system.  This came from positioning people where they functioned best, allowing them to make things happen.  He was remarkably generous, very tolerant of other religions, innovative in so many ways, and to this day survives as the model of, albeit ruthless, leadership.  He has never been knocked off his perch.

This is a very free enterprise state of being!

Free enterprise allows all to function where they see themselves as best suited. Talent flows to where it can best bloom.  Promotion happens based on performance, whether the promotion comes by oneself or through others.  And the cream rises to the top.

The highest paid in any meritocracy, free enterprise essentially, is the hardest to replace.  In the corporate world it is the leadership that is typically the highest paid.  And leaders are the hardest to replace.

Name your corporation.  

The same goes for sports.  Who is the highest paid player on any team?  Certainly it is the player who is the hardest to replace.

Name your sport.  

It seems that every industry has its rich participants.  They get there by providing a service and through self interest.  They want to be seen as the individual, company or service provider who sets himself apart by performance, desirability, ability, and for sure reputation. 

Name the company or service provider.

And no matter what or where the king of the mountain is, there are others looking up, plotting and planning, to take the king down.  Take the king down and become ... the NEW king of the mountain!

Free enterprise makes way for meritocracy.
And meritocracy makes way for free enterprise.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Free Enterprise Multiplies Opportunities That Are Created And Seized

"Opportunities multiply when they are seized."

Sun Tzu (544BC - 496BC)

Short and sweet.  From the Chinese war strategist and tactician whose wisdom and brilliance is so often demonstrated in his brevity.

If free enterprise is anything, it is about seizing opportunity.

The battle cry of free enterprise could be Carpe Commodum!

That would mean Seize the Opportunity!

Free enterprise is about finding out what you like to do and do well.  Or developing a technique or product that can be marketed or advanced in its own niche.  And making opportunities happen as personal or others money and reputation are put at risk.

And then, according to Sun Tzu, multiplying those opportunities as other avenues and vistas appear. 

A big part of free enterprise is taking advantage of opportunities and seeing what is coming.  And taking advantage of what things are seen coming!  Anticipation.

Opportunities multiply as one product idea leads to another, or new markets are opened up, or contagion spreads as marketing brings the product to light and new areas become rife for sales, or new people are met and employed as the business expands.  Success breeds success. 

Almost every industry has what seems to be "the way it has always been."  But that way began somewhere at sometime with a risky idea that was developed and implemented.  And then "that way" caught on.  It grew into expectation.  And then dependence.

Now, all this is the bright side of free enterprise!  The dark side can be very dark indeed.  There is so much at risk - personal wealth, personal reputation, personal property, personal everything.  Failure is certainly more common than exploding success! 

We see the fine print at the bottom of the TV screen when some good or service is advertised, and it says something about results not being "typical."  Well, for sure!  People are not equal in their ability to do, or see, or feel, or hear.  Not all are equally motivated, or supported, or visionary.  Results can vary in as many ways as there are those trying to achieve the same goal.

And try as it might, gubment cannot legislate equality in any of those things.  Gubment cannot create a business environment that throws a failure lifesaver to those sinking, not swimming.  Gubment can and should stay out of the way as much as it can, thus providing a tax, legal and regulatory environment that is conducive, not damaging, to free enterprise.  One size does not fit all.  "The same whatever" cannot be applied to every business entity across the board.  Stiff rules, intrusive overreach, and crushing regulation that all must obey can be more stultifying than helpful.  And usually is! 

Business competition is much like war.  There will always be a king of the mountain, and others who want to bring that king down.  Change and adaptation are necessary.  Opportunity must be created and seized.  And those opportunities will lead to others, which lead, again, to more. 

Free enterprise multiplies opportunities 
that are created and seized.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Free Enterprise Is A Spirit That Should Be Seen And Pursued

"A people who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages, may achieve almost anything."

George Washington (1732-1799)

This was a president concerned with "the people" in his country.  And he never forgot that concern.  Forgetting himself he spent his life founding a country "the people" could enjoy.

The key words I see here:  spirit, commerce, pursue, advantages, and achieve.

Put together they indicate a positive people who are free to engage in enterprise.  They would be free to engage in "the pursuit of happiness."

THAT was the country George Washington, and his Founding Brethren, envisioned, conceived, designed and fought to establish.  A country concerned with the new idea that those key words above were preeminent because individuals, whom they called "the people," would finally be protected from tyranny.

Their idea was that this would catch on elsewhere!  In fact, their idea was that it would be a new order for all the world, and for the ages - Novus Ordo Seclorum.

A new age of free enterprise spirit, commerce, pursuit, advantage and achievement.  The pursuit of happiness.

Notice the phrase "pursue their advantages?"

What are our advantages?  Some of us figure out earlier than others what we excel at.  Often it requires our involvement in many different pursuits and fields.  But once our niche is found, how great is it that we can put our efforts there?! 

How great is it that if we want we can strike out on our own to sink or swim?  And to do so without some overlord dictating what we do, how we do it, when we can or can't, or where we set up shop.  Sure, there are guidelines to insure we don't intentionally or unintentionally step on others' toes.  But for the most part, we were to be free.

We are allowed the wherewith all to obtain private property (physical and intellectual), protect it with law, and create our lives.  This goes for our personal life, family life, business life - and whatever other advantage we choose to pursue!

Once possessed of that free enterprise spirit, in any of those contexts, off we go pursuing our advantages and achieving.


And in particular one George Washington.

While he was a Federalist, and in favor, within limits, of a strong federal gubment, he would not recognize the intrusive control we endure today, would not approve and would likely revolt!  And he would wonder how in the world we, the people, could have let such intrusion happen.

Tyranny is what it is, soft, hard and in between.  Statists, to him, would be something to avoid, and even defeat.  They are not apples he would have wanted in the cart.  He understood perfectly well that even one bad apple can spread its defects to spoil the rest in the apples in the cart.

Free enterprise is a spirit that should be seen and pursued.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Free Enterprise Is An Endowment That Eschews Statism And Tyranny

 "I believe that without free enterprise there can be no democracy."

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969)

While free enterprise and democracy are very different, with one being an economic system and the other political, they are not exactly oil and vinegar.

Both are based solidly in the camp of individual freedom and individual responsibility.  Both eschew tyranny, soft and hard tyranny.

This was no accident.  The Founding Fathers knew what they were doing.  How could they devise a political system, with the exceptional ideas of individual rights and limited gubment, and then incorporate some form of socialistic, controlling, regulatory economic system?  While that may be a form of "mixed economy," it was not what they had in mind.  Necessarily!

The idea was freedom!  The idea was natural (God given) rights!  The idea was no tyranny!


This is where "American Exceptionalism" comes from.  It is not the thought that Americans are somehow exceptional to others in the world.  Or that we are smarter, or better able to do things, or able to grow an economy with historic success.  Those who deride American Exceptionalism as something untoward or arrogant simply don't understand it, or pretend not to.

Our country's founding was exceptional in that it was the first time in history that "rights" did not flow down at the whim of, or dictate of, or good graces of, a tyrant!  Our founding was the recognition of the endowment of natural (God given) rights!

And Eisenhower nails it.  Neither free enterprise or democracy would exist without the other.  Each plays into the other.  Each contributes to the success of the other.  They are oil and vinegar that work well together in the tossed salad of our society.

Sure prior to the Founding Fathers such ideas as natural rights flew around.  The great  philosophers of the Enlightenment - Locke, Hume, Kant, Montesquieu, Hutcheson, Hegel and Hobbes - all wrote about free, unalienable and natural rights, recognized natural rights, and wished for societies that enjoyed natural rights.  All these philosophers were read and understood by the Founding Fathers, and particularly their great fan Thomas Jefferson. The thinking of these philosophers found its way securely into the founding documents of the American Enlightenment, and American Exceptionalism.

These philosphers discussed individual freedoms, and individual rights, and unalienable rights, and natural rights.  They DREAMED of the society our Founding Fathers put together.  They would have loved to live here and enjoy what we enjoy.

And so, we, as citizens who have this great endowment bequeathed to us, have more to do than simply complacently enjoy our abilities to do and to become.  We have a DUTY to promote our endowment of rights, to defend our endowment of rights, to teach our endowment of rights as well as live our endowment of rights.  We need to meet HEAD ON the challenge of the statists who want to dismember our rights one by one; dismember our freedoms one by one; dismember and squash our desires, and abilities, and creativity and motivations, and if they can one by one.

The Founding Fathers would see statism as tyranny.  We should too.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Free Enterprise Encourages Everyone To Set And Achieve High Goals!

"The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving it."

Michelangelo (1475-1564)

This defines the human experience.

Some of us want to strive, and achieve, and learn, and grow, and progress, and provide, and earn, and experience, and fail, and fail again, and then succeed.

Some of us want none of that.  Some want life to happen to them, to unfold for them, to bring riches, to provide their wishes, to have the very best, and all when they want it to happen.  If it comes at the expense of another, or because of the work of another, or at the mercy of another -- the better!

Michelangelo sees danger in the latter regard.

But what does he mean by danger?  

Think about our society.  In our "compassion" for others, would Michelangelo see:
  • danger in an ever-growing group that expects to receive from another ever-shrinking group?
  • danger in "free" stuff provided by gubment?  (you name your stuff)
  • danger in people thinking that what belongs to another really belongs to them?
  • danger in an entitlement mentality?
  • danger in a larger group that gets than gives?
  • danger in groups that set goals so low they not only don't achieve much, but never change?
  • danger in funded groups that derive power and control by organizing that thinking?
  • danger in a political group that derives its power and control by organizing that thinking?
  • danger in a gubment that promotes such thinking as "charitable" and "patriotic?"
Read his quote again.  What do you think?

If Michelangelo was the genius so many recognize him to be, what does this say about where our "advanced" society and its "leaders" are now?  How did Michelangelo set his goals?  Were they high or low?  Was his genius expressed in a narrow or broad sense?  There were huge political and religious statements made in his work, particularly the Sistine Chapel, intended to fly in the face of what was going on around him.  Did he shrink from making those statements?  Was he proud to display his accomplishments?

Free enterprise wants everyone to set, and achieve, high goals.  That is how it works!  Success in free enterprise comes in magnifying ones' talents and offerings, growing in importance, popularity, and achievement.  And free enterprise wants this tide to raise all boats.  Michelangelo would see no danger here!

Free Enterprise Encourages Everyone 
To Set And Achieve High Goals!