By Evelyn Pyburn

Shortly after the break-up of the Soviet Union, I read about how the US was sending advisors to Russia to tell them how to do it – how to build an economy. One was left to assume that meant a free market economy, but when one saw who all was involved, it was puzzling what the US government was really up to.

There was no doubt that none of the advisors being sent to advise had anything to do with free markets, entrepreneurship or business enterprise… they were all bureaucrats and politicians of one sort or another. They were undoubtedly experts on top-down, control and command economies. What they thought they could teach the communists about that is unfathomable.

It wouldn’t have been surprising to learn that the expert advisers involved believed their regulations, taxes and edicts were the reason the US had a strong economy. It is scary how few people understand what makes for a strong economy or what it takes to run business.

It is truly sad to realize how few people recognize the beauty of free markets and Capitalism.

Nowhere in the reports did it mention the basic element that Russia or any nation has to have in order to have a vital, vibrant economy – freedom.  There was no mention of advising Russia about the need to establish a foundation of individual freedom that would allow citizens to pursue dreams.

That is the secret that was discovered with the establishment of the world’s strongest and most successful economy in all history.

As we celebrate the entrepreneurship of Montana business people in this issue, we are fundamentally celebrating freedom. To encourage entrepreneurship and nurture businesses to great heights requires the freedom to make choices and decisions. Individuals have to be free to try, to succeed and to fail and to start all over again, if they choose. None of that requires government intervention – in fact, quite the contrary.

Successful businesses need an environment in which the law of supply and demand rules rather than rules and regulations and skewed tax laws, through which government picks winners and losers. Entrepreneurs need a society in which citizens are free to act and to conduct voluntary exchanges of value for value.

A system that results in a strong, rich economy is one in which government is restrained to a very few basic roles, the most important of which is shoring up and protecting private property rights. Without private property rights there is no chance for the country or its citizens.

Part of the protection of private property rights includes protecting all citizens against criminal acts and fraud and the use of force one against another, except in cases of self-defense.

And a vibrant economy needs government to recognize and enforce private contractual agreements.

Only when government performs its legitimate roles in those regards, only then do citizens have the predictability, security and confidence to take risks, to explore, to create and to labor in ways which result in new products and services and efficiencies that raise the standard of living for all, including surpluses so large that they overwhelm private and institutional benevolence.

When we celebrate those among us who take it upon themselves to start and manage a business, to produce and to employ, it is all those things that we celebrate, in addition to their creativity, hard work, courage and achievements.

So to all of you, thank you. Thank you for all that you do and most especially for having the audacity to pursue your dreams and to affirm the freedom to do so.


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