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Acton Notes - President's Message

The economic downturn of 2008 unleashed a furious attack on free enterprise, one that has only gained momentum in 2009 with the ascension of Barack Obama to the presidency. The moralizing against capitalism is both deserved and not. On the one hand, the activities of the commercial class have never been morally pure in all respects. There are crooks and criminals in all trading sectors, and this is a fact that should not surprise anyone who understands human nature.

On the other hand, it is complete foolishness to believe we can do without a strong commercial sector. It is commerce and entrepreneur ship that bring society the blessings of prosperity: food on the table, medicine for the sick, transportation, and extra income for charitable giving, education, and the funding of religious institutions. If govern ment could provide in this respect, totalitarian societies would have been the most prosperous instead of the poorest.

It is extremely dangerous for any national leader to rail against com mercial society, especially during an economic downturn. If the U.S. economy is to recover, it will be the work of enterprise, not members of congress and bureaucracies. Loose talk of expropriation frightens capital and stirs up reticence about the future security of profits. What’s more, the whole model of “stimulus” presumes a market that doesn’t work. But the reality is that the market is working, even in a downturn, as a response to excesses created by follies from the Federal Reserve and the government’s own lending institutions.

There is also a moral problem to consider. Denouncing “capitalism” is another way of denouncing the freedom to invent, trade, contract, and grow wealth. This is not a prescription for recovery, nor is it compat ible with human rights. Your support of our work has never been more important than it is in these times.