Jan 13, 2013
In the United States today we are facing the usual calculus of impossibility, recited by the familiar aspirants to a master plan. It is said we must abandon economic freedom because our frontier is closed; because our biosphere is strained; because our resources are running out; because our technology is perverse; because our population rises; because our horizons are closing in. We walk, it is said, in a shadow of death, with depleted air, poisoned earth and water, and a fallout of explosive growth showering from the clouds of our future in a quiet carcinogenic rain. In this extremity, we cannot afford the luxuries of competition and waste and freedom. We have reached the end of the open road; we are beating against the gates of an occluded frontier. We must tax and regulate and plan, redistribute our wealth and ration our consumption, because we have reached the end of openness.
But quite to the contrary, these problems and crisis are in themselves the new frontier; are themselves the mandate for individual and corporate competition and creativity; are themselves the reason why we cannot afford the consolations of planning and stasis. The old frontier of the American West also appeared closed at first. It became an open reservoir of wealth only in retrospect, because the pioneers dared to risk their lives and families in the quest for riches, looking for gold (of which there was relatively little in the United States) and finding oil (ten of little use). Only in retrospect were the barrens of Texas and Oklahoma an energy cornucopia, the flat prairies a breadbasket for the world, or Thomas Edison a catalytic genius and Henry Ford the salvation of capitalism is the grips of an earlier closing circle. The future is forever incalculable; only in Freedom can its challenges be mastered.
From the new edition of Wealth and Poverty by George Gilder