“You didn’t build that”…your community did. Those quickly famous words reflect Americans’ debate over whether we want a society dominated by government or shaped by free choice. They also disparage the contributions of business men and women who embrace the risk, reward, creativity and work that drive our economy and sustain our quality of life. In that attitude, the president reflects much of America’s elite, who celebrate the public and nonprofit sectors, while harboring indifference or disdain toward business.
That worldview is a long way from our cultural and constitutional roots. In choosing the blessings and risks of independence over the security and servitude of dependence, the founders crafted a constitution carefully structured to protect property, contract, and economic rights.
The founders understood something we’re in danger of forgetting: fundamental to pursuing happiness is the right to choose our labors, keep their fruits, and make the arrangements we choose to perform those labors. The rights of property and contract are a necessary foundation to express and enjoy all other rights.
Some misguided voices dismiss economic liberty as merely business—less precious or important than civil rights like speech and privacy. But considered clearly, economic freedom is the backbone not just of our survival but our pursuit of happiness.
Commerce. Design. Production. Distribution. Sale. Purchase. Service. Enterprise touches so much of what makes life full. The ways we avoid hunger and enjoy plenty; the means we use to overcome bitter cold and wilting heat, to appreciate comfort. The fabrics we weave and stitch to cover our skin, so we can savor fashion and beauty.
Even the ideas we explore and words we speak depend on commerce to be shared. Almost everything we enjoy is enhanced by our freedom to exchange to pursue what we want. Economic activity and gainful pursuit are as much the blood and oxygen of freedom as are verse, art, and song.
Freedom is not confined to the steps of a dance, or the words of a poem. Freedom is exercised in building the concert hall, in printing books, in loading delivery trucks, in operating computer servers and fiber-optic cables spreading words and images, ideas and aspirations. There is hardly freedom to express without the freedom to produce, distribute, and exchange.
These truths aren’t just philosophical or moral. They’re practical. Freedom works. It succeeds. Those struggling colonies, clinging to the e