America began as a country founded on special, radical principles. More importantly, these principles are true – they aren’t merely myths or superstitions men and women held for a period of time.
That we all have basic rights to our lives, liberty, etc., is true and not just some fiction. After all, nearly all of the criminal law across the globe recognizes it, at least implicitly. But few countries incorporated these truths into the daily fabric of their citizens’ economic lives.
Of course, not even in America was the economy fully free. Nor did freedom of speech or even religion rule the realm completely, without some serious exceptions.
But today more and more countries are adopting legal principles, institutions and public policies that resemble those favored by the American founders and framers.
In some regions of the globe, such as India and China, some of these principles, especially those bearing on economic matters, have been embraced quite adamantly. That wouldn’t yet make them fully free countries; not even the U.S. can be so called, given its oppressive drug laws and some other public policies.
But in certain vital areas of human affairs, such as commerce, science, technology and the like, embracing even less than fully the principles of liberty will mean a great deal.
And one thing it will mean is that the people of these countries will become far more productive – and they will also consume a lot more – than they used to. So America is gradually having to face people from elsewhere who are competing in the global economy. And they are enjoying the fruits of this competition and making matters more difficult for those in the U.S.
Just as when America fielded the famous basketball “Dream Team” but eventually faced teams from other countries that played equally well, so America has been enjoying considerable advantage in many areas which it no longer does, if only because the obstacles to being part of the competition are being removed in other places.
That would mean, among other things, that Americans will have to work harder and smarter in all areas of production than they did previously in order to keep up their standard of living.
In addition to these geopolitical changes, there are also all the technological developments people face in many industries. No one can sit on his or her laurels and expect to coast to success. As with a marathon race that is being run now by millions more than earlier, so with the global economy the contestants are facing a great deal of pressure now.
All of this would of course be welcome news to those who find it thrilling to face new challenges in life. But if status is one’s habit or preference, if one wants to be settled into a job, business or profession without making adjustments, without having to be alert to the new opportunities that keep coming up, one will not enjoy the current marketplace.
In fairness, of course, one needs to acknowledge that quite apart from the global economic changes facing us, there are also all the obstacles we face that bureaucrats, meddling politicians and their cheerleaders in the media and the intellectual arena place before us and that make matters doubly difficult as we come to terms with challenges in the marketplace. Free men and women are more likely to meet these than are those whose minds and bodies are in partial bondage to malpracticing governments.
So beside learning to deal with new peaceful developments around the globe, it is also vital to work on removing the artificial, indeed criminal, intrusions that make it difficult to adjust to novel situations. This is why politics is no luxury but a realm where vigilance in making improvements is as necessary as anywhere else in our lives.
Tibor Machan holds the R.C. Hoiles Chair in Business Ethics & Free Enterprise at Chapman University and is a research fellow at the Pacific Research Institute and Hoover Institution (Stanford). He advises Freedom Communications, parent company of this newspaper.