January 17th, 2014 // 10:00 am @ Oliver DeMille
It happened on the same day.
Two people, who as far as I know don’t know each other, asked me the same question. Or, to be more precise, they asked two different questions that have the same answer.
In truth, this is a question that a lot of Americans have on their mind right now. Many of them don’t even realize it, but every time they watch the news, hear about current politics, or discuss Washington’s latest antics with friends or at work, they feel a growing sense that our government is becoming less and less likely to handle really big challenges.
The first question went something like this: “Oliver, I just don’t understand your logic in a recent article you wrote. I understand your concerns about big government, but why do you think business is any better?”
The second question was similar: “In your book, LeaderShift, you and Orrin Woodward have James Madison say that as business leaders go, so goes America. Why did you single out business leaders, instead of parents, academia, media or the government?”
This is an incredibly important question. Of course, I won’t presume to speak for Orrin — he can answer this question however he wants. His answers are always excellent. As for me, here’s my answer:
Where there is freedom, there is progress.
Where freedom is lacking, there is decline.
Yes, a little regulation can increase freedom — to the extent that it protects people and keeps contracts and agreements honest, and safe from crime. Beyond this, however, increased regulation means decreased freedom and therefore decline.
During the 1990s and 2000s, for example, the computing technology sector was probably the freest major industry in the world — and it brought us our greatest new fortunes, our major new technologies, and the biggest new advancements that drastically changed our world.
During that era, for example, most other sectors were highly regulated — and in decline as a result. Communications and media were highly regulated, banking became highly regulated after 9/11, transportation and manufacturing was highly regulated, and so was education, health care, farming, law, engineering, etc.
In fact, rewind a few decades, and note that the freedom in home construction and land development before the 1990s made real estate a major part of the economy. Huge fortunes, millions of jobs, and a lot of widespread prosperity came from this freedom. Not to mention widespread home ownership — the kind where people could actually afford their homes.
This kind of growth always happens where there is freedom.
And the increase in overbearing real estate regulation began before the housing bubble — it may well have caused it.
Remember: Where there is freedom, there is progress. Where freedom is lacking, there is decline.
Earlier in world history, America rose while Europe declined — precisely because America was free and most European nations were highly regulated. The same had happened when Greece and Rome chose high regulations while the European nations maintained relative freedom.
In the 19th century when Americans went west and found free lands to till, develop and improve, American prosperity soared. Later, when a Civil War gave a higher level of freedom to all Americans by ending slavery, prosperity skyrocketed. It took a while, but in less than eighty years the United States became the world’s leading power.
Freedom brings progress.
When industry, farming, education, and health care were only barely regulated (just enough to provide basic, obvious protections), all of these sectors made huge wealth, built a strong America, created millions of good jobs (where one working adult could support their whole family), and spurred increased innovations and technologies.
While big-government Europe watched its people live in apartments, small-government America watched its citizens build and own independent homes, often with large yards.
In big-government Europe well-to-do families owned a car; in small-government America even many lower-middle-class families owned several.
Freedom brings progress; decreasing freedom brings decline.
So many more examples from world history could be discussed. Sectors free from regulation lead a nation, at least until politicians figure this out and find ways to regulate them.
Today, there are at least five sectors that have higher-than-average levels of freedom:
- Home businesses
- Network marketing businesses
- Online businesses
- Businesses that operate across borders in many nations
Note that politicians are already scheming ways to tax online businesses, force people to buy an electronic stamp for each email or Facebook update/relationship change, charge fees for various actions of international companies, and many others.
All such attempts to increase regulation actually reduce freedom and bring decline.
But for now, business is the sector of society with the most freedom. If progress is going to come, it will happen in the entrepreneurial sectors.
Bill Gates said that
“One sign of a healthy industry is lower prices. The statistics show that the cost of computing has decreased ten million fold since 1971. That’s the equivalent of getting a Boeing 747 for the price of a pizza.”
So why can’t all of us afford a jet today, just like we afford a computer? The answer is that during the past thirty years the aerospace industry was highly regulated while the computing sector was not. You can argue that airplanes should be highly regulated; after all, they can be weapons. But, in rebuttal, so can computers.
The principle remains: Where there is freedom, there is progress. Where freedom is lacking, there is decline.
If you want to promote freedom today, think entrepreneurially — and encourage your youth and others to do the same. The future belongs to entrepreneurship, because freedom leads to progress.
This is what’s really going on in our nation, and only those who understand this realize what’s coming — and what to do about it.
Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.
Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.