But free enterprise is more than a nebulous concept trotted out to bedazzle the public and win elections. Free enterprise is the backbone of the industrial wealth-producing system – often referred to as Capitalism, or industrialism. Free enterprise embodies the freedom of producers to produce what they choose, the freedom of workers to profit from partaking in the wealth creation process, and the freedom of consumers to purchase whatever wealth they choose. This last freedom is known as a free market, and it is a critical – perhaps the most critical – component of the free enterprise system.
Free markets are the source of competition. And competition is the source of progress. If everyone has to compete for your dollar, everyone is incentivised to improve their product or service. Without the incentive of the free market, producers and providers would lapse into a torpor of apathy and uniformity. There would be no invention or innovation.
Furthermore, free markets are self-policing, self-improving, and self-economizing. If butcher A consistently short-weighs or overcharges his customers, they can go to butcher B to buy their meat and butcher A will soon be out of business. And if widget manufacturer A devises a new and cheaper method of manufacturing widgets, all the widget manufacturers will have to adopt that method to stay competitive. And the first widget manufacturer to increase his market share by passing the savings of that innovation on to the customer will force all the other widget manufacturers to drop their prices as well.
Moreover – and perhaps more importantly – free markets prevent the consolidation of power, which is one of the prime objectives of a free society.
Those same politicians who ballyhoo free enterprise in election years, in off-election years attack free markets with paper tigers of alleged marketplace corruption. "We must control the rampant epidemic," they bleat, "of charlatans defrauding the consumer."
But as noted above, the free market is self-policing. Why then do politicians advocate intervention in the market?
The answer is power. The easiest way to fleece the public is with government assistance. 'Hey, Congress. We'll contribute to your campaign fund if you'll restrict foreign pharmaceuticals (that work) so we can sell our drugs (that cause heart attacks and strokes) at a higher price."
Virtually all government regulation of the free market, which is always touted as being in the interests of the consumer, is blatantly purchased facilitation of larceny against the consumer – and a consolidation of the monopoly of that larceny in perpetuity against all comers.
And if the restriction of a free market is a method of power consolidation, then the maintenance of a free market is seen as a tool to prevent the consolidation of power. A free market forces everyone to play by the same rules, with no other advantage than your own wit and ingenuity. And the benefit is better and less expensive wealth for all.
It's a pity we can't find a way to apply the free market concept to Congress.