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While one can debate the virtues of the free market, there are some things about it that are clear: First, it has raised more people out of poverty than any utopian economic system proffered as an alternative. Second, it does an excellent job at distributing resources — far better than the heavy hand of centralized government planning.
Indeed, “freedom” was largely understood throughout the history of modern political philosophy to mean free markets as well as freedom of conscience and movement and the other essential freedoms. It is no mistake that the most brutal regimes in human history have treated the notion of property rights as little more than an obstacle on the road to human equality.
The competition of a free and open market leads to greater goods to meet greater needs of greater numbers of people. Closing down free and open markets delegates the task of deciding what and how much of something people need to a centralized, and often unaccountable, bureaucrat.
None of this is to say that free market capitalism is without its problems. But it has nothing in the way of meaningful alternatives. The men who speak below understood this. See what they have to say about the benefits — and the comparative pitfalls — of the free market.
Quotes About Capitalism and Government Involvement in Markets
“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of communism is the equal sharing of miseries.”Winston Churchill
“You don’t make the poor richer by making the rich poorer.”Winston Churchill
“Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”Milton Friedman
“After all, the chief business of the American people is business… In all experience, the accumulation of wealth means the multiplication of schools, the encouragement of science, the increase of knowledge, the dissemination of intelligence, the broadening of outlook, the expansion of liberties, the widening of culture. Of course the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence. But we are compelled to recognize it as a means to well-nigh every desirable achievement. So long as wealth is made the means and not the end, we need not greatly fear it.”Calvin Coolidge, Address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Washington, D.C., January 17, 1925
“I want the people of America to be able to work less for the Government …to have the rewards of their own industry. That is the chief meaning of freedom.”Calvin Coolidge, The Mind of the President
“We have had many attempts at regulation of industrial activity by law. Some of it has proceeded on the theory that if those who enjoyed material prosperity used it for wrong purposes, such prosperity should be limited or abolished. That is as sound as it would be to abolish writing to prevent forgery.”Calvin Coolidge, Have Faith in Massachusetts
“That tax is theoretically best which interferes least with business.”Calvin Coolidge
“There is no justification for public interference with purely private concerns.”Calvin Coolidge, The Price of Freedom
“Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.”Calvin Coolidge
“Most people would be glad to mind their own business if the government would give it back.”Ronald Reagan
“Socialism is an alternative to capitalism as potassium cyanide is an alternative to water.”Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics
“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”Ronald Reagan
“Government should be good for the liberty of the governed, and that is when it governs to the least possible degree. It should be good for the wealth of the nation, and that is when it acts as little as possible upon the labor that produces it and when it consumes as little as possible. It should be good for the public security, and that is when it protects as much as possible, provided that the protection does not cost more than it brings in…. It is in losing their powers of action that governments improve. Each time that the governed gain space there is progress.”Augustin Theirry
“When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing; when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods, but in favors; when you see that men get rich more easily by graft than by work, and your laws no longer protect you against them, but protect them against you…you may know that your society is doomed.”Ayn Rand
“When goods don’t cross borders, armies will.”Frederic Bastiat
“There is nothing inherently fair about equalizing incomes. If the government penalizes you for working harder than somebody else, that is unfair. If you save your money but retire with the same pension as a free-spending neighbor, that is also unfair.”Arthur Brooks
“If you think spreading money around by force seems like an odd definition of fairness, you’re not alone.”Arthur Brooks
“The biggest lesson that Sweden has shown is people who want to redistribute a cake have to make sure someone baked it in the first place. If no one bakes the cake, you can’t redistribute it. Sweden has a very productive private market economy.”Dr. Tom Palmer
“One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain.”Thomas Sowell
Quotes About Competition and the Free Market
“The market, if it can be kept honest and competitive, does provide very strong incentives for work effort and productive contributions. In their absence, society would thrash about for alternative incentives-some unreliable, like altruism; some perilous like collective loyalty; some intolerable, like coercion or oppression.”Arthur Melvin Okun
“When once the right of the individual to liberty and equality is admitted, there is no escape from the conclusion that he alone is entitled to the rewards of his own industry. Any other conclusion would necessarily imply either privilege or servitude.”Calvin Coolidge, Address to the Holy Name Society, Washington, D.C., September 21, 1924
“I would like it if the country could think as little as possible about the Government and give their time and attention more undividedly about the conduct of the private business of the country.”Calvin Coolidge, The Talkative President
“Where commerce has flourished there civilization has increased… Today it is not the battle fleet, but the mercantile marine which in the end will determine the destiny of nations.”Calvin Coolidge, Brockton Chamber of Commerce, Brockton, MA, April, 11, 1916
“I favor the policy of economy…because I wish to save people…Economy is idealism in its most practical form.”Calvin Coolidge, Inaugural Address, March 4, 1925
“America is unique because it offers you an economic ladder to climb. And here’s what’s exciting: It’s the bottom of the ladder that’s crowded, not the top.”Jim Rohn, The Treasury of Quotes
“Again, a Prince should show himself a patron of merit, and should honour those who excel in every art. He ought accordingly to encourage his subjects by enabling them to pursue their callings, whether mercantile, agricultural, or any other, in security, so that this man shall not be deterred from beautifying his possessions from the apprehension that they may be taken from him, or that other refrain from opening a trade through fear of taxes; and he should provide rewards for those who desire so to employ themselves, and for all who are disposed in any way to add to the greatness of his City or State.”Niccolò Machiavelli
“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”Gordon Gekko’s character, Wall Street
“Then leave Complaints: Fools only strive
To make a Great an honest Hive.
T’ enjoy the World’s Conveniences,
Be famed in War, Yet live in Ease
Without great Vices, is a vain
Eutopia seated in the Brain.
Fraud, Luxury, and Pride must live
Whilst we the Benefits receive.
Hunger’s a dreadful Plague, no doubt,
Yet who digests or strives without?
Do we not owe the Growth of Wine
To the dry shabby crooked Vine?”Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees
“Free-market capitalism is a network of free and voluntary exchanges in which producers work, produce, and exchange their products for the products of others through prices voluntarily arrived at.”Murray Rothbard
“The process of exchange enables man to ascend from primitive isolation to civilization: it enormously widens his opportunities and the market for his wares; it enables him to invest in machines and other “high-order capital goods”; … it forms a pattern of exchanges – the free market – which enables him to calculate economically the benefits and the costs of highly complex methods and aggregates of production.”Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty
“After all, as Prokhorov said, “Money nowadays comes in two stories.” What Westerners could comprehend “two-story money”? A lathe operator during the war received, after deductions, eight hundred rubles a month, and bread cost 140 rubles on the open market. And that meant that in the course of one month he did not earn enough for even six kilos of bread, over and above his ration. In other words, he could not bring home even seven ounces a day for his whole family! But at the same time he did… live. With frank and open impudence they paid the workers an unreal wage, and let them go and seek “the second story.” And the person who paid our plasterer [at the Kaluga Gates prison camp] insane money [200 rubles] for his evening’s work also got to the “second story” on his own in some particular way. Thus it was that the socialist system triumphed, but only on paper. The old ways—tenacious, flexible—never died out, as a result of either curses or persecution by the prosecutors.”Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation
“Human beings are born with different capacities. If they are free, they are not equal. And if they are equal, they are not free.”Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn