Free enterprise, real and imagined

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Arthur C. Brooks's assertion that there is a battle of irreconcilable visions in this country is unconvincing ["The new culture war," Outlook, May 23].

Sure, 70 percent of Americans support a free-market economy. But I will wager that 70 percent of Americans also want rules to govern the free market and programs that assist people who are struggling to survive in such an economy.

Most of us believe that people who provide products, talents and ideas that people want should be rewarded. Most of us also believe that people who produce dangerous products, have talents for chicanery and hold ideas that are faulty should be prevented from harming unwitting consumers. With material success comes a responsibility to provide basic necessities to our fellow citizens upon whom fortune has not smiled.

Where is the battle?

Thomas Tuerke, Baltimore

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Capitalism's friends never had to cede moral ground to its enemies, but they will have to replace the current power structure to make room for a revival. President Obama summarized his understanding of free enterprise in his 2009 commencement speech at Arizona State University: "ruthless competition pursued only on your own behalf . . ."

That markets are built on voluntary transactions -- mutual exchange for mutual benefit -- is an alien concept in the academic environment that produced Mr. Obama and many of his staffers. That one accumulates wealth in a free market by providing value to willing buyers -- the exact opposite of acting "only on your own behalf" -- is another idea unlikely to penetrate the zero-sum mentality that dominates this administration.

Michael Smith, Cynthiana, Ky.


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