Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon.
Capitalism has been called a system of greed – yet it is the system that has raised the standard of living of its poorest citizens to heights no collectivist system has ever begun to equal.
W. Cleon Skousen:
When Karl Marx was asked what his objective in life was, he said, “To dethrone God and destroy capitalism!”
Free enterprise* is the right to open a gas station or a grocery store, or to buy a farm .. or to change your job .. Free enterprise has nothing to do with politics nor wealth nor class. It is a way in living in which you as an individual are important .. Free enterprise has nothing to do with how much money you have or don’t have, nor what your job is or is not. Free enterprise means the right to be yourself instead of some nameless number in a horde bossed by a few despots. Free enterprise is a sum of many little things—but how miserable you’d be if someone stole it from you.
Joseph F. Merrill:
Socialism is an enemy of free enterprise in the development of which, I repeat, this country has become the greatest on earth. Then why does any honest, patriotic, intelligent citizen of America prefer socialism to free enterprise? Is it not in free enterprise that free agency, a divine gift to every human being, finds an environment favorable to growth and development and to living in harmony with our beautiful doctrine of eternal progression?
Stephen L Richards:
The capitalistic system in its inner essence, is little, if anything, more than a man’s free right to work, to choose his work, and enjoy the rewards of his efforts. In my estimation, it is a most precious thing .. It is not the capitalistic system itself that makes some men rich and some men poor. The men themselves do that, again with some exceptions. The system merely offers the opportunities.
Mark E. Petersen:
How many of the Latter-day Saints truly believe in the Constitution of the United States? That Constitution stands for free initiative. That is free agency. In a business sense we have spoken of it as free private enterprise. Are the Latter-day Saints as a people willing to accept the principle of free enterprise? There are some among us who are teaching that free enterprise is wrong. These same individuals would do away with the capitalistic system setting forth its many abuses. It is true that many abuses of the capitalistic system have taken place. Nevertheless, capitalism is an outgrowth of free enterprise in business. Free enterprise in business is an outgrowth of free enterprise in a general sense, and free enterprise in a general sense is free agency—the principle to which Latter-day Saints are committed.
If we were to ask those who oppose free enterprise in business, including the capitalistic system, what they would put in the place of these things, they have but one answer, which is socialistic. They would have government-operated and government-controlled business,* which is Socialism. Socialism is a step on the road to Communism. Communism is anti-Christ.
Are the Latter-day Saints willing to engage in a program that would lead to Communism? Are they willing to aid and abet the antichrist in any sense? Are they willing to accept Socialism instead of freedom? Not if they understand their religion.
George Albert Smith:
Consider the condition in the world, the number who are determined to take from the rich man not what belongs to themselves, but that which belongs to the others. God has permitted men to get wealth, and if they obtained it properly, it is theirs, and he will bless them in its use if they will use it properly .. We must not fall into the bad habits of other people. We must not get into the frame of mind that we will take what the other man has. Refer back to the ten commandments, and you will find one short paragraph, “Thou shalt not covet.” (Exodus 20:17) That is what is the matter with a good many people today. They are coveting what somebody else has, when as a matter of fact, many of them have been cared for and provided with means to live by those very ones from whom they would take away property.
Ezra Taft Benson:
No fair-minded person contends that the private enterprise system is perfect. It is operated by human beings who are full of imperfections. Many of us deplore the fact that a few of our corporate entities seem to lack that social consciousness proportionate to their power and the privileges granted them by the state. Some businesses apparently still fail to recognize that there are social and spiritual values as well as profits that should be considered in their operations. Neither do our needs always correspond to our demands under the free enterprise system..
With all of its weaknesses, our free enterprise system has accomplished in terms of human welfare that which no other economic or social system has even approached. Our freedom of individual opportunity permits us to draw upon our natural resources and upon the total brain and brawn power of the nation in a most effective manner. This freedom of individual choice inspires competition inspires shrewd and efficient management p. 164 which is conducive to the production of the best product possible at the lowest price..
Are we to discard a system that has produced so much simply because it has not worked perfectly? We all admit there are abuses. One should not condemn an entire system because of the abuses of a handful of those who do not play the game according to established rules.
I am thankful for this country which has given more persons opportunity to raise themselves under an individualistic, capitalistic, free enterprise system from menial to commanding positions than any other nation in the world, past or present.
Ezra Taft Benson:
During the past few years, particularly, loud voices have been calling attention to the weaknesses of private enterprise without pointing out its virtues. We have been teaching our people to depend upon government instead of relying upon their own initiative as did our pioneer forefathers. Our freedom to work out our individual destinies has been abridged. We have been looking upon government as something apart from us and have failed to realize that we, the people, are the government.
We have also been making individual success unpopular. There has been a tendency to refer to men who have cash to invest in tools and equipment for the use of workers as “coupon clippers,” “economic royalists,” “capitalists,” and “profiteers”—as though there were something inherently bad in it.
Evidence of this fact is found in the writings and discussions of our high school and college students, the majority of whom, it is reported, believe private enterprise is a failure, although they don’t have a clear understanding of what private enterprise is. With them, as with many adults, there is a vague notion that it is some unfair system which tends to give special advantage to big corporations and wealthy individuals. This attitude is encouraged by certain textbook writers who hold the idea, in many cases, that a government-planned economy is the remedy for all of our economic ills and the weaknesses in our American way of life, to which they readily point without referring to the beneficent fruits of the system.
Ezra Taft Benson:
Some say the free enterprise system is heartless and insensitive to the needs of those less fortunate individuals who are found in any society, no matter how affluent. What about the lame, the sick, and the destitute? Most other countries in the world have attempted to use the power of government to meet this need. Yet in every case, forced charity through government bureaucracies has resulted, in the long run, in creating more misery, more poverty, and certainly less freedom than when government first stepped in. Charity can be charity only when it is voluntary, and it will be effective only when it is voluntary.
Gordon B. Hinckley and Brigham Young explained how welfare in the Lord’s way could solve all welfare problems:
Gordon B. Hinckley:
Is it too much to ask of anyone, any member of this Church, that you actually fast for two meals a month? It will only bless our lives if we do so. I am satisfied that if every man and woman and child in the United States of America were to observe this great and marvelous practice, which costs no one anything, not a thing, that it would take care of all the welfare problems of this nation.
We need to learn, practice, study, know and understand how angels live with each other. When this community comes to the point to be perfectly honest and upright, you will never find a poor person none will lack, all will have sufficient. Every man, woman, and child will have all they need just as soon as they all become honest. When the majority of the community are dishonest, it maketh the honest portion poor, for the dishonest serve and enrich themselves at their expense.
A somewhat oversimplified definition of capitalism, but one sufficiently accurate for present purposes is that capitalism is the economic and social system under which an individual’s free agency includes not only his person, but also his property. It doesn’t matter whether he’s the boss or the worker, or whether the fruit of his efforts comes to him as wages or profits. Actually, the implications of capitalism are more far reaching than the above simplified definition may seem to indicate. Most government regulation and control of people is through laws pertaining to their property rights. Under capitalism those laws are kept to a minimum with the result that in a capitalistic society a person has the right to live the sort of life he chooses with a minimum of compulsion.
Joseph F. Merrill:
America has become great in many lines of human endeavor, in fact the greatest nation on earth, due unquestionably to its free enterprise or capitalistic system.
“No person shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”* There is included in this the right to property. It is pure unalloyed capitalism and is wholly repugnant to every principle of communism and of socialism, or fascism and of marxism. It is so sacred to Americans that twice they have amended their Constitution to preserve it unto themselves. The first occasion was in the 5th amendment just quoted, and the second in the 14th amendment which decrees, “No state shall … deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” We cannot do away with the capitalistic system of free enterprise without first doing away with the supreme law of the land, the Constitution of the United States.
Ezra Taft Benson:
We should pay no attention to the recommendations of men who call the Constitution an eighteenth-century agrarian document — who apologize for capitalism and free enterprise.
W. Cleon Skousen:
Anyone who says the American Constitution is obsolete just because social and economic conditions have changed does not understand the real genius of the Constitution. It was designed to control something which has not changed and will not change—namely, human nature.
Attempts have been made for many years by those who would destroy freedom to give a false impression of what capitalism means. They have tried to promote the image of a capitalist as a wealthy, heartless tycoon greedily increasing his wealth by taking advantage of his poor struggling employees. Unfortunately, many well meaning people, particularly those aware of instances where employers have been less than generous with their employees, have accepted one of the various forms of this class struggle concept of capitalism. In doing so they have failed to realize that they were falling for a cleverly planted idea. The two concepts are not so connected. The fact that some employers take advantage of their employees does not mean that capitalism is the system under which greedy bosses take advantage of poor struggling workers. A similar illogical conclusion is that free agency is bad because some people abuse it. In fact, this really is a variation of Lucifer’s argument that it is to people’s advantage not to be free. He argued that people would best be served by protecting them from the unwise choices they would make if they were given the right to choose. This is, of course, also one of the basic arguments in favor of socialism—that because the people cannot be relied upon to make right choices, government planners should make right choices for them.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thought.
No wonder Isaiah, speaking under inspiration, declared, “Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” Isa. 55:8 Unchangeable, God-centered principles and ideals adopted by our Founding Fathers not only form the basis of freedom but are the rivets that hold it together. There is a vast difference between principles that are unchangeable and preferences where there is a choice. There should be no question about our standards, our beliefs—about who we are!