Free Enterprise is the Key to Freedom
Part III of a Series on Free Enterprise by Buddy Pilgrim
Near the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He carried out a simple but profound activity recorded in Luke 4:16-22. He went into a synagogue and read this passage from the prophet Isaiah:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
because He has anointed Me to preach
Good News to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." RSV
He then closed the book, sat down and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Although many in the crowd later turned against Him, Luke tells us that upon hearing His initial reading and comments, everyone fixed their eyes upon Him, marveled at His words and spoke well of Him.
By quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, Jesus declared His purpose for coming to earth. It was to bring freedom! He mentioned four broad categories of people, and declared freedom of some type for each. He brought good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, and liberty to the oppressed. In two of the four situations (captivity and oppression), He proclaimed freedom in an outright manner: Release from captivity is a literal example of freedom; as is being liberated from those who would trod upon or oppress us. The other two situations at least infer something about freedom: Poverty is a form of bondage that limits or restricts what a person can do. It would be good news indeed to learn how to be freed from such bondage. Blindness (whether literal or figurative) also limits a person’s freedom. Recovery of sight restores freedom.
It is clear to me that Jesus desires for us to be free people. He came to save (or free) us from the bondage of sin and wrong doing. He came to bring us spiritual, emotional, physical and financial freedom. He does not want us in bondage of any kind; but freedom does not mean we can do anything we want, any time we want, to anyone we want, no matter the impact. Doing so would infringe upon the freedom of other people. Ultimate freedom for all mankind comes from following the continual, clear and life- giving direction of the Holy Spirit, rather than the stagnant rules and restrictions of man.
I’ve often said that you can’t write enough rules, regulations, laws, policies, procedures or guidelines to cover all the situations that will arise in business or in life in general. The better alternative is to equip people with sound principles to guide them, and then give them plenty of freedom to operate. All the principles for good decision making are found in the dynamic and living Word of God. Laws and rules made by governmental bodies, civil institutions or business organizations are weak attempts to compensate for not heeding Heavenly instruction.
The Holy Spirit will ALWAYS tell us the right thing to do. We just need to listen and obey. The more diligently mankind follows Godly guidance, the less need there will be for regulatory interference. But when mankind fails to follow Godly guidance, the response from society often leads to new laws or regulations aimed at preventing or punishing future wrongdoing. Although they are usually brought about with the best of intentions, many of the regulatory responses are more harmful than helpful. Ultimately they may not even be all that effective in deterring a determined and unscrupulous person from a path of unethical behavior.
By now you may see where I am going with this logical progression of Biblical truth: Freedom, to the extent that it is exercised or carried out in a proper (Biblical) manner always generates the greatest good. Therefore, I believe it is both logical and correct to say that God is a supporter of the FREE ENTERPRISE system, and free enterprise is a key to some of the freedom Christ wants us to experience. He came that we might be free, and free indeed.
Let me be very careful not to be misunderstood in this. I am NOT equating business regulation to sin and death, which according to Romans 8:2, are the things from which Jesus has set us free. I am simply recognizing that the reason we have burdensome manmade laws and regulations is because people DO NOT live according to the Word of God. Since Jesus wants us to live according to the Word, He also must want us to experience more of the freedom that will result — including free enterprise.
I am also not saying that there is no need for any regulation of business. Regulation is an inefficient alternative to people just doing the right thing on their own, but it is a necessary response to a world filled with misguided people. Just as I cannot claim that we have no need for regulation of business, I also want to urge caution about swinging the pendulum too far in the direction of over regulating business. Free enterprise works best when it operates unfettered and… free.
This is the third article in a series on Free Enterprise. I began this series with a discussion of PROFITS. Although it has become politically correct to demonize companies (especially large ones) for making large profits, we found that profits are in fact the life-blood necessary for any business to survive, expand and create new career opportunities for its people. Mom and pop stockholders, 401- K accounts, employees, suppliers and customers all benefit when a company is successful and profitable. Profits are a very, very good thing.
In the second installment, we delved more deeply into the topic of CAPITALISM. Simply put, capitalism is the private ownership of business resources. It is a system that properly rewards effort, risk, investment, work and results. It is the antithesis of socialism and communism, in which the government owns the resources. Neither of those systems provide the rewards or incentives necessary for high quality output, or for efficient and productive use of resources; nor do they attract capital necessary for growth. Capital is naturally drawn to efficient and profitable endeavors.
In this article I’m finishing up with the more general topic of FREE ENTERPRISE. Just as capital is naturally drawn to efficient and profitable businesses, free enterprise is the enabler that does the best job of creating such conditions. Free enterprise is defined as: Private businesses operating in a freely competitive market, governed principally by the laws of supply and demand, and with a minimum of government intervention.
Genuine free enterprise is characterized by free trade, open competition, and regulation limited to that which is genuinely necessary to protect the public interest. The laws of supply and demand ensure that over the long haul, businesses that efficiently meet the expectations of the marketplace survive and thrive. This also infers that businesses which are inefficient or ineffective at competing in a free market will not survive.
This latter point is where free enterprise offers both its greatest advantage, and generates it most ardent and myopic opponents. We constantly see politicians (here and abroad) trying to erect artificial trade barriers to “protect” certain domestic industries and/or jobs from foreign competition, or even from larger domestic competitors. The motive sounds noble but the result is almost always counter-productive:
When the U.S implemented import tariffs on low cost Russian steel in 2002, the Russians responded by banning U.S. meat and poultry products. As a result, food costs rose in Russia and steel prices went up here. The tariffs were said to be “necessary to protect American jobs” (in the steel industry), but they ended up displacing jobs in other industries. High cost steel made it more expensive to manufacture U.S. automobiles. This raised the cost to American consumers and reduced the sale of U.S. made autos. The auto industry lost jobs. The higher steel prices negatively impacted every industry that used tin cans or steel machinery. Longshoremen worked fewer hours unloading Russian steel or loading U.S. meat and poultry, truck drivers made fewer trips to U.S. ports, truck stops sold fewer meals, and the ripple effect went on and on...
In the end, consumers and businesses in both countries suffered. They usually do. The best intended efforts to restrain free enterprise almost always do more harm than good. The competitive nature of free enterprise is constantly in the process of bringing better value and quality to the marketplace by displacing jobs and businesses that can’t compete; while creating new jobs and businesses that can.
This process of growth and change is sometimes painful, but there is no better system for delivering value to the marketplace and raising our overall standard of living. It does not even necessarily favor big businesses over small ones. As big businesses grow and gain economies of scale, they often find it more difficult to be flexible or to handle specialized needs. This opens up market niches for small companies to come in and compete on a whole new set of criteria. This is so much better than the government forcing a big company to still service a small market that they cannot handle efficiently. Free enterprise works, and it creates prosperity and freedom like no other system on earth.
My hope and prayer is that this series on free enterprise, which has differed from my normal teaching, has been encouraging to you. The liberals in media, politics and entertainment (all of whom are in business) are waging a war against capitalism, free enterprise and business profits. They would prefer to have government ownership and/or heavy government control of businesses. And of course their view of government is for it to be purely secular. Failure to recognize their agenda, runs the risk of turning over our economic system (and the freedom it provides) to those who do not know our Lord. We must continue to increase our Christian influence in the land of business, and do so in a manner that will slow the efforts to stifle free enterprise. We have a charge to keep! Let’s keep it.