My Turn: An Economic Police State

Wriston, Walter B.

1975

THE GRAND ILLUSION

American life is a unique amalgam of political, religious and economic pragmatism. Each sector contributes to and indeed forms part of the other sectors. A concerted attack on one sector inevitably undermines the others. To think that the bell does not toll for academic freedom or for freedom of the press if the free market is shackled is an illusion. The American experiment, which is rooted in the individual's right to be himself, has produced the largest measure of freedom and the highest standard of living for more people than the world has ever known. As America continues to feed the world, it might be noted that no nation with centralized economic planning under whatever guise has been able to feed itself for long. That is no mere coincidence; it is cause and effect.

All proposals for a managed economy rest on a basic underestimation of the intelligence of the American people. It is asserted directly or by inference that you and I are just not smart enough to decide how to spend the money we earn. Therefore the wise government through centralized economic planning will decide for us. The wonderful people who brought us price and wage controls, which so severely disrupted our economy, now wish to extend the chaos on a permanent basis. We would be told what we needed and who could make it.