In yesterday’s posting we broke the astonishing news (a mere thirty-seven years old . . . so should it be called “olds” instead of “news”?) that Ronald Reagan, fortieth president of the United States, “the Gipper” in the second greatest movie ever made (the first, of course, being The Quiet Man), and the bane of whoever needs a convenient excuse or target for bane-ing, may have been a not-so-closet distributist! — that is, if you believe columnist John Chamberlain, but he’s a Dead White European Male (DWEM™), so you can believe anything you want . . . and you probably will . . .
|Gilbert Keith Chesterton|
Whatever you choose to believe, the fact remains that Reagan’s positive attitude to expanded capital ownership was compared favorably to the distributism of G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, it was contrasted unfavorably with the Fabian socialism so often mistaken for distributism these days by people with agendas, and it did lead to the Presidential Task Force on Project Economic Justice being formed in 1985 and a report delivered in 1987 to Congress and also presented to His Holiness, Pope Saint John Paul II, who gave his personal encouragement of the work of the interfaith Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ), which had carried out the initiative of the Task Force.
No, not “fake news.”
President Ronald Reagan’s Speech on Project Economic Justice
Transcript of Speech Presented at the White House
Washington, D.C., August 3, 1987
Washington, D.C., August 3, 1987
Thank you. First and foremost, I would like to express my appreciation to Ambassador Middendorf, Norm Kurland, and the members of the Task Force for the time and effort they contributed to this project. Perhaps they could stand. Thank you.
|J. William Middendorf, II|
Scientists say a perpetual motion machine is impossible. Well, considering that this task force completed its work without any appropriation from Congress, I think we ought to introduce Bill Middendorf to a few scientists.
This country’s ultimate resource is the creative talent, hard work, and entrepreneurial spirit of individuals like Bill Middendorf, and like many of you here today. The American character-and that is what we are talking about-is no accident, no fluke of nature.
It was nurtured by the political and economic liberty that has been hailed and protected by generations of Americans. It is the source of power that turned a vast wilderness into an economy that has provided more opportunity and a higher standard of living for more people than any other in the history of mankind.
Today the pivotal relationship between freedom and economic progress is becoming ever more apparent. The root cause of stagnation in the developing world, clearly, is not a lack of resources, but a lack of freedom. In Ethiopia, for example, it has been the Communist Dictatorship even more than drought that has brought about such suffering and hunger.
In so many countries, what will change despair into confidence, deprivation into plenty, stagnation into upward mobility, is a commitment to human freedom and an understanding of how that relates to the economic progress of mankind.
We see evidence of this is the great progress taking place on the Pacific rim. There, competition flourishes, the market is less controlled and the people are freer to invest and to engage in enterprise. They are more confident that they will be permitted to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Freedom of enterprise at an individual level builds countries from the bottom up. A lack of it, on the other hand, has the opposite effect.
|Hernando de Soto|
Economist and businessman Hernando De Soto conducted an extensive study of the economy of his native Peru that confirms this. He found the greatest impediments to progress in his country are laws, regulations, and government controls that suppress the common people’s entrepreneurial activities and prevent social and economic mobility. Those trying to improve their lot are hurt the worst.
Mr. De Soto describes how it took a lawyer and three others 301 days of full-time work, dealing with 11 Government Agencies, to get through the red tape necessary to put into business one small garment-making shop in Lima, Peru. According to Mr. De Soto, when the forms and paperwork were laid end-to-end, they measured 102 feet.
One researcher working on the project then tried the same experiment in Tampa, Florida, the entire process took 3-1/2 hours.
The controls and restrictions Mr. De Soto talks about are certainly not unique to Peru. Such Government intervention is often well-intended, but, in the end, it does not serve the needs of the people, as producers or consumers.
Far too many third world countries are immobilized by the policies that smother individual initiative and drain the private sector of resources. Instead of controlling the energies of their people, lesser developed countries should be freeing up and unleashing those energies.
Andres Bello, an intellectual giant of the last century, once said: “Liberty…gives wings to the spirit of enterprise wherever it meets it, it breathes breath into it where it does not exist.”
To be continued tomorrow, same time, same channel. . . .