Perspective: Essay Contest Winners
JUNE 01, 1986
FEE has long been dedicated to helping people improve their understanding of the freedom philosophy, and their ability to express it in the modern idiom. In this issue of The Freeman, we are proud to present the first fruits of a new endeavor to this end—the first-place essays from the 1985-86 FEE student essay contest, “Foundations of a Free Society.”
Contestants were asked to “present the positive case for individual liberty and responsibility in a free economy,” choosing whatever subject matter they wished within that concept. Accordingly they addressed a wide variety of topics, from abstract themes such as the proper role of government, the meaning of freedom, and the morality of capitalism, to such topical issues as private vs. “public” charity, the problems with American agriculture, and international trade.
The contest drew 184 entries from 36 states, Canada, Argentina, and South Africa. California, Florida, Texas, and Virginia were most heavily represented (thanks, in part, to the promotion efforts of FEE supporters there). Of these papers, 110 came from high school students; 74 from college undergraduates. They were carefully judged by the FEE senior staff.
The main value of such a contest is to provide students with the opportunity and incentive to discipline their thoughts on liberty into written form. Also it helps FEE identify bright young people with a commitment to liberty, whose development we can assist. We have invited the five top entrants from each division to FEE sum mer seminars at our expense. For the award winners, of course, there is also the benefit of the awards themselves: $1000 to Sarah Lindsey in the high school division, and $500 to second-place winner Mary Jane Massey and $2000 to Peter Heinecke in the college division, and $1000 to second-place winner John Majewski. A particular benefit for The Freeman is that the contest has been a source of fine ar ticles. We hope our readers will enjoy the work of Sarah Lindsey and Peter Heinecke published herein, and a number of other excellent articles to be published in forthcoming issues.
A Little Trust
According to newspaper reports, the Greek economy is in a shambles. The government is spending beyond its means, inflating the currency, and borrowing overseas to pay its bills. Prices are rising about 20 per cent each year. Socialist Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou professes to favor “reasonable” profits, but businessmen don’t trust him.
Businessmen who want to expand their enterprises hesitate because of state control of some industries, state support of others, and the ever-pres-ent threat of increased state regulation. One successful Greek businessman has rejected the prospect of expanding, saying: “If you expand, you hire more people and you have less control over your business. You can’t give your people raises and you can’t fire them.” (Wall Street Journal, March 28, 1986)
When government policies lead to economic stagnation, critics blame it on the people, saying they lack energy, initiative, and skills. However, a successful Greek manufacturer of farm machinery, who has turned down the thought of expanding because of the prospects of direct state competition, has a different interpretation: “People say there’s no money in Greece. I disagree. People say there’s no management skills. I disagree. People say there’s no initiative here. I disagree. There’s only one thing lacking here, and that’s trust.”
Many countries now suffer from the same “disease” as Greece—economic stagnation, government intervention,and inflation. It’s not that the people lack energy, ingenuity, or skills, but that they lack the confidence which comes from knowing that government will not place obstacles in their way.
It’s a Barnum and Bailey world. At least it is in New York City’s South Bronx, where local officials have pasted decals over the windows of abandoned apartments. The decals, paid for by a $300,000 Federal grant, depict curtains, shades, shutters, and flower pots. To a passerby, it almost looks as if the buildings are inhabited.
But, tragically, these buildings aren’t inhabited. Forty years of rent control, combined with escalating taxes, have forced New York landlords to abandon thousands of apartments. In the real world, landlords respond to economic incentives—a fact which no amount of decals can paste over.
In the past few years, articles and reviews by FEE staff members have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, New York Tribune, The Indianapolis Star, The Register, and dozens of other newspapers around the country. In coming months, we will be circulating articles from The Freeman and other FEE publications on a more regular basis. If you see one of our articles in your local paper, we would appreciate it if you would send us a clipping.
We are pleased to offer reprints of John W. Sommer’s article, “Disasters Unlimited,” which appeared in the April Freeman. We also have reprints of James L. Payne’s “It’s Not Our Money,” which appears on page 213 of this issue. Prices are 50¢ each or 25¢ each on orders for 10 or more.