It’s an important distinction to make. Free enterprise is the laissez-faire, free-market ideal, with the peaceful interactions between individuals being wholly unregulated by government. Under free enterprise, anyone can trade with anyone else on mutually agreeable terms. Since all interactions are voluntary, all traders necessarily benefit, and both wealth and welfare are free to increase without the imposition of artificial limits.
Private enterprise, in contrast, means merely that business and the means of production are held in private hands, although the government may make any number of demands on how these individuals go about their business. The fascist governments of Europe in the past century maintained a system of private enterprise, while simultaneously exercising near complete control over business operations. Similarly, the Roosevelt economy during World War II was marked by extensive private enterprise serving at the pleasure of government.
This is not to say that private enterprise is bad — it isn’t — but merely that it is insufficient for economic liberty, and prone to be corrupted by the political process. At first glance, one would think that business owners would favor free enterprise. After all, who wants to be pushed around by the government? But in fact, we see just the opposite. James Buchanan, founder of the Public Choice school of economics, was famous for exposing the incentives for private companies to attempt to manipulate government into playing favorites in the marketplace. A free enterprise system benefits everyone who is willing to be productive. Government controls on business, on the other hand, benefit the few at the expense of the many, which means the few who benefit have every incentive to lobby for, and support such a system. Thus, we see everywhere lip service being paid to free enterprise, but an actual promotion of private, unfree enterprise.
sexta-feira, abril 03, 2015
Private Enterprise versus Free Enterprise
Private Enterprise versus Free Enterprise: