The Foundations of Free Enterprise
by Allen, Armstrong, and Wolken
The American economic system today is vastly different from what it was 100 years ago, and 100 years from now it will be far different from what we have now. Change seems to be one of the few constants associated with our economic system, and evidence suggests the rate of change has speeded up in recent years. Certainly this system has changed more in the last 50 years than in the first 150 years of our nation’s existence.
Though specific changes have been varied, there has been a persistent pattern over the past half century: ever-increasing involvement of the government in our economic affairs. This raises serious questions as we consider the economic future of our country. Is this a trend we wish to encourage, or oppose? What kind of specific actions do we wish to take? The decisions we make in response to these questions are among the most important we will ever make. Our answers will help shape our lives and the lives of our children in the years ahead.
These decisions cannot be made responsibly unless we know something about our economic system. We must know how the basic system works and what are the disadvantages and advantages associated with every available option. As we seek basic information to use in making decisions about alternative economic futures, we need answers to three basic questions: (1 ) What is economics all about? (2) What elements are basic to a “free enterprise system,” and how does a “free enterprise system” really work? (3) How can we compare our economic system to others? Answers to these questions will help us make informed decisions grounded on information that goes beyond emotion, conjecture, or misconception.