Friday, April 10, 2015

Free Enterprise Has Its Own Spirit And Energy

" people in the world have made such rapid progress in trade and manufactures as the Americans.  In the United States the greatest undertakings and speculations are executed without difficulty, because the whole population are engaged in productive industry, and because the poorest as well as the most opulent members of the commonwealth are ready to combine their efforts for these purposes.  But 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. Almost all the farmers of the United States combine some trade with agriculture.  The Americans make immense progress in productive industry, because they all devote themselves to it at once; and for this same reason they are exposed to unexpected and formidable embarrassments. As they are all engaged in commerce, their commercial affairs are affected by such various and complex causes that it is impossible to foresee what difficulties may arise."

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
from Democracy in America, Book II, Chapter 19

Tocqueville was a classical liberal, the equivalent of today's political conservative.  He was sent by the French government to the United States in 1831 to study the prison system.  He spent two years, spending very little time doing that, and most of his time traveling the country and examining what made Americans, and their unique form of democratic exceptionalism, tick.

His book, Democracy in America, was the result of those travels, and was published in 1835.  I got it downloaded to my Kindle for free!  It is a GOOD read!

He saw Americans as basically agricultural, but with a free enterprise spirit and energy unrivaled in his European travels and experience.  Everyone was busy doing something!  Everyone was finding a niche, and pursuing it.  America, in his view and experience, was composed of "an innumerable multitude of small" businesses.  Its people were indeed pursuing happiness.  He was seeing private property rights at their best.  Americans were increasing in value, and passing that value along to the next generation.

Isn't that true today? 

The United States Constitution set up the perfect venue for the natural development of free enterprise.  Such freedoms, expressed as God-given and natural rights, were never before pursued so universally by a people.  This is the essence of the "rugged individualism" and "American exceptionalism" that we hear of today.  Such exceptionalism is NOT  that Americans are somehow uniquely exceptional.  Quite the contrary.  We are as ordinary as anyone else.  But when given the freedom to pursue unique talents and become unique individuals, and expressing ourselves via legally PROTECTED natural rights to do so, the nation flourished and became rich as its individual components, i.e.(id est, or "that is") its people, flourished and became rich.  The ordinary can indeed do extra-ordinary things.  This so-called political and economic "experiment" was TRULY EXCEPTIONAL.


Free enterprise folds naturally into this arena.  It is the mother's milk of individual freedoms and the pursuit of happiness.  It is, along with our other protected rights and freedoms, what makes this country tick.


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