Review of When We Are Free by Rodger Mangold

When We Are Free

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Paperback: 479 pages Publisher: Northwood; 4th edition (2001)

We hear them all the time; terms like free enterprise, capitalism, limited government, socialism, etc. But, when asked to define these terms and relate them to today’s current affairs I admit I would have been hard-pressed. That is of course is prior to having read the book, When We Are Free.

At first glance I thought When We Are Free to be just a collection of essays that would prompt discussion about issues related to the market, but after having read the entire book I find it to be more of a creed by which those that enjoy freedom could further enhance and appreciate what “true” freedom, as it relates to the market could mean. Every-day things we take for granted; full shelves at the local Wal-Mart, interstate and global commerce, supply and demand, currency value, market fluctuations and trends, if left uninhibited by government have proven to be more effective than government policy, legislation, or regulation. When government seeks to overstep its Constitutional boundaries, as it so often is willing to do, the market is adversely affected as has been demonstrated throughout history.

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The collection When We Are Free, edited by Dale M. Haywood, Timothy G. Nash, and R. John Amin, is a book about freedom, as the editors note in the Preface. They state that their book is "an unapologetic endorsement of freedom and all of its corollaries" (vii), but a central issue in the book is economic freedom and how it relates to those corollaries--individualism, morality, the rule of law, responsibility, private property, free markets, limited government, and enterprise. In keeping with this theme, the book is divided into sections that develop the idea of capitalism as the economic ideal and freedom as a necessary condition for capitalism. The readings develop the ideas of the importance of property and its relationship to human life, the role of government, systems of economic organization, the specific nature of the American system, and various elements in the marketplace. The editors introduce the ideas in each section and then present the readings which elaborate on the central issue. The book is a good and comprehensive overview of the ideas presented, shaped around the agenda of the Northwood Institute, founded in the late 1950s as "an important executive proving ground for young men and women seeking careers in American and global enterprise" (xiii). Many of the readings were written for a publication published by the Institute.

When We Are Free is centered on capitalism. As it is described in this book, capitalism is a theory of economics that is not without its criticisms. Some assert that capitalism is rooted in greed, self-interest, and waste. In the chapter entitled, Nine Lies About Capitalism by Madison Pirie, I found the best evidence to support capitalism than anywhere else in the book. Lie, by lie, Pirie combats each with truth, truly dispelling commonly held myths about capitalism. Those that take a seemingly pious view of capitalism and claim it is immoral, according to the author, fail to see how capitalism actually encourages us to put the needs of others above our own. Granted, we are expecting compensation when that need is met, but if we are not sensitive enough to meet that need, or if the incentive were not there (due to capitalism), neither we nor our neighbor benefit. Capitalism is truly the fairest way for both parties to be equally benefitted. Time would escape each myth to be dispelled, but suffice it to say, capitalism versus any other type of economic environment does the best job of creating a fair and balanced playing field for those that wish to invest the time, energy, and capital to improve their lives, and the lives of others.