If you need an example of economic freedom that is found across the globe and in most cultures, Doug Bandow suggests the flea market.

“Almost anywhere you go, people go out, they put out a blanket and they bring out things to sell,” Bandow told guests at the 2016 Mackinac Center Legacy Society luncheon on Nov. 15. 

Flea markets exemplify the true notion of capitalism, he said, because “we can go out there and make decisions about what we want to sell and how we want to labor and make economic decisions with one another.”

Bandow was the keynote speaker at the luncheon, held each year to honor Legacy Society members for their generosity in naming the Mackinac Center in their will or estate plan. The guests — 33 in all this year — heard his speech, “Morality of Capitalism.”

A senior fellow at the Cato Institute, Bandow is a specialist in civil liberty and foreign policy issues who formerly worked as an assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

He used both philosophical and practical grounds to present capitalism as a moral system.

“To my mind, the whole philosophical notion of allowing human beings to control their own labor and their own economic future really affirms the basic dignity and human rights of an individual,” Bandow said. 

But there also are practical benefits of capitalism that can be considered moral, he said. 

“There is extraordinary value in terms of the enrichment of the human person and family and community that comes from economic productivity, new technologies and transformations of one’s economy,” Bandow said. 

When a nation’s economy is not free, we see hardships like those Bandow experienced during a visit to Russia. At the close of a conference there, he and others gave their pens, pencils, aspirin and other everyday items — “anything that we had” — to the Russian journalists they had met because those basic goods were in such short supply.

“There is something that is undignifying in the notion that you can’t even get the necessities of life that all of us agree have extraordinary benefits,” he said. “We’re not talking about wonderful toys. ... We’re talking about things that are important for the operation of our lives, families and communities.”

The Mackinac Center greatly appreciates the role of our Legacy Society members in advancing the freedom and dignity that Bandow described. If you are interested in joining the Society by naming the Mackinac Center in your will or estate plan, we invite you to call our Advancement department at 989-631-0900 for more information.