Speaker encourages conservatives to extol the virtues of the free market

Jeb Morris


BG Independent News

In a building tucked away in the Wood County Fairgrounds, area conservatives gathered to hear a message they feel has too long been hidden.

The topic of the evening’s talk, hosted by the Wood County Young Republicans, was the moral case for capitalism. Set aside talk about greed is good, they’d rather talk about self- free markets have resulted in lifting the economic fortunes of people around the world.

That was the message of Jeb Morris, a senior trainer with the Grassroots Leadership Academy, an affiliate of Americans for Prosperity. He had a willing audience of about 15 people. In the ice-breaker before his talk he asked them to name someone, living or dead, whom they would like to dine with. Several attendees said their spouses, and Jesus had been put off limits.

The others mentioned Lincoln and Washington, economist Milton Friedman, writers J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, basketball coach Bobby Knight, conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza and radio host Rush Limbaugh.

Despite the blandishments of the left, which for Morris includes Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and most of all Bernie Sanders, the way to lift people out of poverty is free enterprise.

With charts and graphs and quotations flashing on the screen, he maintained that as economic freedom has expanded world poverty has plummeted.

“Economic freedom has lifted more people out of poverty” than any other system, he said. This means improvements in quality of life for people around the globe.

Morris traced this process starting with women’s underwear. Sam Walton founded his business on finding products, such as women’s underwear, that he could purchase wholesale for the cheapest price, allowing him to pass that onto his customers.

He didn’t do this, Morris said, “to be altruistic.” Walton did it because it was in his self-interest, just as it is in the self-interest of his customers to purchase his low cost goods.

At the root of this, Morris said, is the notion that the value of goods is not intrinsic but subjective. He then showed a slide with a quotation from Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises: “Value is not intrinsic, it is not in things. It is within us; it is the way in which man reacts to the conditions of his environment.”

Capitalism is a system, Morris said, that is based on mutually beneficial agreements made freely that protect and respect individual rights. “No coercion is possible,” he said.

The United States, he said, is the most capitalistic country, though it is not a fully free market economy.

It is a mixed economy where there is a great deal of economic freedom, but still allows for government interference in economic activities. According to Morris, government interference only leads to stagnation. Morris said the Affordable Care Act was an example of government coercion, forcing young healthy people to buy a product they think they don’t need and can’t afford.

He cited the Great Famine after Mao’s Great Leap Forward that killed about 40 million people as an example of the failure of central government. He also cited, China as an example of a country that has gotten more prosperous as it embraced more free market ideas. Though “China still has problems,” he said.

He traced these back to Xioagang’s Capitalist Revolt when a group of farmers bucked the collective system, and started growing food for themselves. This inspired momentous changes in China’s economy. (Click to read the story.) https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2012/01/20/145360447/the-secret-document-that-transformed-china).

Though Morris mentioned China twice, and used Sanders as a whipping boy, he did not mention those countries the self-described Vermont senator believes the United States should emulate, the democratic socialist countries of Western Europe, such as Sweden, which have high standards of living.

Morris credited capitalism with rising life expectancies and an explosion in consumer goods. “Capitalism has the ability to give us things we didn’t even realize we wanted,” he said. Morris even played a clip of comedian Louis C.K. making fun of people who take this for granted.

Free market advocates, though, have a problem. They have been relying on facts, and not touching people’s hearts, Morris said.

They need to reach out to the “apathetic youth” which are, in his view, brainwashed by liberal professors. Conservatives need to emphasize how the free market has improved people’s lives. “There’s no altruistic system that can hold a candle to free trade.”

That’s the story conservatives need to tell using “powerful imagery,” and examples.  Taking into consideration their listeners’ frame of reference. “We don’t always need to debate.”