"What most astonishes me in the United States, is not so much the marvelous grandeur of some undertakings, as the innumerable multitude of small ones."
Alexis de Tocqueville (1809-1859)
In 1831 de Tocqueville was commissioned by the French Parliament to come to America to examine the penitentiaries and penal system.
He stayed two years.
He had an ulterior motive however. He wished more than anything to examine what made America, and Americans, tick.
"I have a passionate love for liberty, law and a respect for rights. Liberty is my foremost passion," he wrote. And he traveled where ever he could to examine that liberty in America.
His book outlining and analyzing his experience was finally published in 1835. It was culled from handwritten notes he had made, even of conversations he had with citizens.
He was particularly taken with how freedom and liberty to express oneself was displayed in how Americans would set up a small shop, or business of any kind. They expressed themselves "through industry."
Using words such as "marvelous grandeur" and "innumerable multitude" express how widespread this practice was in America, and certainly defines the boiled-down essence of free enterprise.
He witnessed America as a "whirling sphere of private entrepreneurship and civilian affairs regulated by civil code." Americans would make laws to make sure free enterprise could thrive! And de Tocqueville was astonished by how well oiled it worked. He said, "Everyone is industrious." And everywhere he traveled he saw it.
He was fascinated by what he called "American individualism." For him individualism was a positive societal force, and his book changed its meaning as regards free market economics and free enterprise.
Without using the words, he described free enterprise, which he described as the "American machine of industry," as "a calm and considered feeling which deposes each citizen to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and to withdraw into the circle of family and friends ... with this little society formed to his taste, he gladly leaves the greater society to look for itself."
So how has he defined free enterprise? As a pervasive system composed of rugged individualism, framed by the rule of laws.
That, brothers and sisters of the congregation, describes Adam Smith's Invisible Hand of free market economics! Many millions are working individually, in concert with other millions who are unseen and unknown, to integrate a small portion of the greater whole into a supremely and finely woven fabric of production, distribution and growth. And de Tocqueville describes that Invisible Hand as "calm and considered." Each individual contributes his part.
THAT IS THE VERY SPIRIT OF AMERICA THAT ATTRACTED SO MANY PEOPLE, FROM SO MANY COUNTRIES, WITH SO MANY DIVERSE SKILLS AND BACKGROUNDS, FOR SO MANY DECADES, TO COME TO THIS COUNTRY TO AID IN ITS GROWTH AND TO GROW THEMSELVES.
This feeling, this SPIRIT, is why even today boatloads of people risk lives and fortunes to come here to America, and boatloads are not leaving to escape.
It was George Washington who appealed for "diversity" of immigration. Not the meaningless diversity of heritage that confined and short-sighted people today think the word defines. He was referring to diversity of skills and abilities to contribute to the building up of his great country and vision for the world.
It was George Washington who said we should have no "hyphenated Americans." He was referring to heritage! He said we should have no Irish Americans, Hungarian Americans, Chinese Americans, Latin Americans or African Americans. Heritage was irrelevant to him. AS IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN. He wanted people to come here to BE Americans! Just AMERICANS!
GEORGE WASHINGTON WANTED PEOPLE OF DIVERSE INDUSTRY, GREAT ABILITY AND UPSTANDING CHARACTER TO COME TO THE UNITED STATES TO HELP FOUND IT AND BUILD IT UP. AND HE WANTED THEM LEFT FREE TO DO SO.
AS PRESIDENT TODAY, GEORGE WASHINGTON WOULD WANT THE SAME THING ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE DISCOVERED - CALM, CONSIDERATE, AND UNFETTERED INDUSTRY, CONTRIBUTING A "WHIRLING SPHERE OF PRIVATE ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND CIVILIAN AFFAIRS."
AS PRESIDENT TODAY, GEORGE WASHINGTON WOULD ENCOURAGE FREE ENTERPRISE.