Is America headed toward economic freedom—or the road to serfdom? That was the provocative title of a presentation made by W. Michael Cox, Ph.D., director of the O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom at SMU’s Cox School of Business, at a forum hosted yesterday by the North Texas Commercial Association of Realtors.
Cox addressed a variety of topics regarding the future of the capitalist model in modern American economics, including big government vs. economic freedom, equality vs. opportunity, redistribution vs. production, dependence vs. responsibility, and poverty vs. wealth.
He began with a variety of statistics outlining Texas’s economic growth and standing relative to other states, and challenged national aggregated data that ranked Texas 30th in student testing scores by providing a breakdown of scores divided by students’ race and ethnicity. Those showed score rankings of first for white Texan students, sixth for Hispanic Texan students, seventh for black Texan students, third for Asian students, and second among all other states in data that ranks demographics separately rather than aggregating.
He then discussed motivators behind the economic philosophy behind both capitalism and socialism, saying that socialism stems from lofty humanistic goals regarding helping those less fortunate, while capitalism stems from money-motivated individuals who put themselves and their financial stability first. He explained that socialism, in theory, aims to uphold the principles of altruism and freedom but, in practice, yields coercion and greed, while capitalism, in both theory and practice yields freedom and greed, the latter of which Cox calls an “artifact of humanity,” or natural byproduct of the human condition.
Cox said capitalism is an economic strategy that “lifts the social well-being of the masses through voluntary exchange.” His presentation emphasized, through the use of examples of implementation of either philosophy by governments in Chile, the former Soviet Union, and Cuba, that capitalism, rather than socialism, does the most effective job creating wealthy individuals and distributing overall wealth most evenly among many—an assertion he supported with the statistic that the poorest 5 percent of Americans are better off than two-thirds of the rest of the world.
Cox shared a translated quote attributed to philosopher Cicero: “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and assistance to foreign hands should be curtailed, lest (the nation) fail. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”
Cox wrapped up his presentation with a list of do’s and don’t for the audience: Do, he says, understand how the capitalist model works. Do support, defend and appreciate it, and be grateful and generous when it yields strong returns. Don’t, however, act without a rational understanding of the model, show off or make a public spectacle of the wealth it facilitates, envy, or become complacent or apathetic about the capitalist system. By abiding by these simple guidelines, Cox says citizens can fulfill their responsibilities of saving the capitalist system to create and fuel a better America.