By Marius Lazau
For two years in a row, I have skipped the American Free Enterprise Day at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Actually, two years ago, I did stop by, but it was mainly because my friends and I were told there would be free food available. I didn’t really know what the event was about, so that probably doesn’t count.
Last year, I learned the history of AFE and knew all about what was going to happen, but for some reason I thought it was at a different time, so I missed it.
I heard it was great, though, and they had free food again, so I ended up regretting it. This year, I am not exactly in a position to persuade anyone to attend.
Yes, I’m planning on being there, and I hope to see you too. It should be a cool event and I think the food will be free again.
But I am not really worried about who’s going to show up. What I do worry about is the decreasing popularity of the spirit of free enterprise.
It’s kind of hard to defend an abstract concept. However, now more than ever we must not allow apathy to soar. There are some excellent reasons to care.
Here are three of them:
1. It’s not about business. It’s about talent and dedication to a dream.
David Hernandez, who will be honored at the event this year, came here from Cuba with nothing. He used a credit card to start his business, and now he is the CEO of a multi-million dollar company.
Not everyone can do that. But David did it. He had the talent and the energy, and he was willing to take a risk that could have backfired. It was our system of free enterprise that gave him the freedom to try.
Admittedly, David Hernandez is a businessman. But it was this same system that in 1886 allowed Dwight Moody to pursue his dream of starting his Bible institute.
Our system of freedom enabled the New York Philharmonic Orchestra last year to travel to the darkness of Pyongyang and deliver a message of hope and common humanity through their music.
A good friend who is a ministry major told me the other day that she does not believe women should become senior pastors. I told her that I find it highly ironic that she is majoring in a field where, according to her beliefs, she would never be able to reach the top of her profession.
She replied that we don’t all share the same values and that some people aren’t in it for the money. She is right. And I felt bad because, frankly, I kind of forgot that for a minute. But what I am realizing is that the American system of free enterprise is allowing both my friend and I to pursue our different dreams.
2. It’s not about money. It’s about being rewarded for your work.
Everyone needs incentives to do well. It is unfair that, on average, teachers and musicians don’t earn as much as accountants or company executives. But I think the answer is not to decrease the salaries of businesspeople. What good would that do? It would reduce donations to charities and creative arts and it would also not help teachers at all.
Instead, maybe we should work to increase the rewards for the creative professions, and not be so harsh on the business types.
3. It’s not us vs. them. It’s about a shared freedom.
If you are tempted to think that American Free Enterprise Day is simply an occasion to celebrate wealthy donors who help PBA, resist the temptation.
One day, your student loans will be paid off and you will begin achieving your dreams.
On that day, you may find a new appreciation for the freedom you’ve enjoyed to pursue your calling. Their freedom to do what they want is your freedom to do what you want.
From what I hear, becoming a millionaire when you start with little is no easy task. You and I may not want to work 65 to 70 hours a week for the next 30 years to build a business.
But if someone has that kind of dedication, I think they should have the freedom to pursue what they want. After all, they are trading their lives for it.
People like Karl Marx have suggested that capitalists have achieved their dreams on the backs of the working class. Therefore, the thinking goes, the workers of the world should rise against the “capitalist pigs” and end the abuse.
Today’s reality suggests the opposite. If anything, normal folks thrive because of capitalists. It is the capitalists’ entrepreneurship and financial resources that brought us everything from iTunes and Publix to jet skis.
Because a businessperson took a risk, today we have affordable missions trips and quick Facebook updates when traveling on choir tours.
The system of free enterprise that allows businesspeople to succeed is the same system that enables the rest of us to do our own thing. Unfortunately, freedom is an anomaly in history and one day we may wake up and find that it is gone.
That is something we should all care about.