Economic Freedom: Fundamentally Important and the Most Attacked

Anno XLVIII, n. 208, settembre-dicembre 2013
Centro Einaudi
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The author dedicates his essay to the memory of a great liberal thinker and a statesman, Luigi Einaudi. He starts with noting the conceptual confusion surrounding such basic terms as freedom, state, law, democracy. He stresses against this background that conceptual clarity is of great analytical and political value. He then discusses the tendency, present both in the public and in academia, to treat the state as a deity, while criticizing its functionaries. A section deals with individual freedoms and links its variation to various institutional systems. He then discusses political and civil liberties—the stepping stone to the analysis of economic freedom, and especially of the threats this freedom is exposed to, even in democratic capitalism. A section is dedicated to a more thorough discussion of economic liberty as this concept is far from clear in most debates. This brings him to the Paradox of Economic Freedom—to the fact that this liberty is especially important because of the consequences in its variation to the millions of ordinary people, and, at the same time, the most attacked under democratic capitalism. The author then discusses the importance of economic freedom by pointing out how socially costly are the restrictions of this institutional variable, i.e. consequences of various statist regimes. The penultimate section deals with the attacks on economic freedom coming from the statist pressure groups. The essay ends with a note on how to defend economic freedom under democracy and capitalism.