I had a dinner with a friend recently and we talked about some of the personality characteristics of those who are for and against Free Enterprise. Since we had both spent time with Anti-Free Enterprise types over the course of our political experience and have since evolved into believing in the Free Enterprise system, we felt somewhat qualified to make a comparison. We did a quick summary and this is what we came up with:
People who believe in the Free Enterprise generally possess the following characteristics:
- Humility – They don’t believe that the marketplace can be controlled.? It is far too complicated to be controlled and fully understood, but it works because individually the marketplace works for most people.
- Modesty – They don’t pretend to have the all of the answers or claim to know how to fix the marketplace. They trust the collective wisdom and decision making of? the participants to do what they need to do.
- Patience – They understand that businesses with make mistakes, that there will be market crashes, and that the long term view is important.
- Positive – They believe that everyone has the capacity to make it their way in the world to the best extent possible. They believe that people find happiness in the market and if they are not happy, they will have the opportunity to change things. Fundamental to this is an assumption that people have the capacity to learn from their mistakes and make their own decisions.
- Introspective – They believe that the high standard of living reached is a indicator of the system’s success. Seeing people thrive when given freedom reinforces their convictions.
- Realistic – They don’t believe that life is about finding perfection, but about reaching the greatest good for the greatest number of people. It is utilitarian perspective.
In contrast, the Anti-Free Enterprisers (socialists, government interventionists, etc) possess the characteristics of:
- Arrogance – They claim to know the answer to finding happiness for everyone. They believe that a complicated system like the Free Market can can be reduced to a simple formula which can then be controlled. They will have answers and complex theories why the Free Market system does not work, even when they have never ran a single business in their entire life.
- Intellectualism – They believe in ideas over experience and that everything can be explained and thus controlled. They are looking for perfect understanding and perfect control. Some are prone to ideological purity.
- Pessimism – They believe that the free enterprise is full of exploitation and dog-eat-dog competition. They believe that perfection is possible and that full-efficiency is attainable. Because the world is so far away from perfection, they tend to be predisposed towards grumpiness and negativity.
- Paternalism – They believe that people need to be protected from the Free Market. They see victimization as a ritual occurrence and must be vigorously countered. They are constantly fighting causes for the weak and disenfranchised, be they the economic poor, the ethnic minorities, and mother nature.
Its a pretty lopsided list against the Anti-Free Enterprisers. While they are speaking from a place of concern and protectiveness (admirable intentions) they make a? fundamental error of judgment: That people can and do evolve to be stronger and self-reliant when challenged to do so.
Alternatively, the people who believe in Free Enterprise have a sensible and intuitive approach, which is based on informed observation and philosophy.
What is interesting is this list has provided for me a litmus test for the type of leaders I think we need to cultivate. I have maintained in other posts (Green Party and Ideology vs Philosophy) that people and their individual qualities are more important than the political ideology they follow. This comparison list allows for these qualities to be tested for, regardless of political party.
The questions could help remind our politicians and citizens that government has an important but limited role to play in the Free Enterprise system. That knowing one’s limits is a sign of humility, and humility is always a virtue.